If your idea of having dogs for protection is colored by movies in which pent-up attack animals are released barking and snarling from a kennel to ruthlessly assault intruders, think again. The cream of the crop in protection canines are dogs trained as family companions, but ready to go into action on a moment’s notice.
Harrison Prather, founder of Harrison K-9 Security Services, says that the dogs they train are “99.9 percent family pets, but should there be a problem they know what to do.” For the past 36 years, Prather has been training German shepherds of high-pedigree in his 25-acre South Carolina facility to act as docile companions to familiar adults and children, but to attack interlopers on command. The dogs can even sense danger, according to Prather, picking up on such cues as strange behavior and the smell of adrenaline. “They know what’s normal and what’s not.”
Such companionship coupled with peace of mind comes at a price: from $35,000 to as much $200,000, depending on training and lineage. What you get is a dog born in Germany and guaranteed to have a detailed pedigree. The country’s meticulous standards for recordkeeping, that notes sound health and temperament for the last 60-70 years of its breeding.
Some of the secrets of producing dogs who act well in situations of play and peril lie in their training. The dogs live in family situations in Germany and the United States before they are sold and are trained in real life venues like homes and offices. Women teach Harrison K-9 dogs to insure that they can be handled by small people. Male trainers tend to teach through intimidation. Females train through positive reinforcement. This means that the dog will respond to commands, not just size. It also instills confidence, not fear, in the animal. “I’m not selling killer animals,” says Prather. “We can’t sell crazy.”
New owners are also trained, either at the Harrison K-9 facility or at their home. The dogs, who learn to respond to 15 different German commands, will warn off suspicious people by barking. If more persuasive means are necessary, they will bite and hold, but only when told to do so or when threatened, and will release on command. The pets can also track a lost child and will search an area before you enter.
Great effort is also expended to ensure their dogs and their future families make good pairings. “We care as much about the dogs as the clients,” says Prather, who is an occasional cigar smoker. “I’m sort of like a matchmaker.”