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Ivan Balabanov | Credentials and Experience!

Protection Dog FAQ

The Protection Dog FAQs page, or How to Spot a Con Artist!

Is a top ranking Protection Dog website on Google really the top? Paying advertisement and Google placement are blinding many people, are you going to be next? A word of caution: In the Protection Dog business everyone’s an “expert/guru/internationally-known, award-winning, highly regarded” … The internet is churning out Protection Dog businesses with the speed of light! My jaws can only drop so many times in awe before it starts to hurt. I’m thinking, “Really?!” If these business are as immense powerhouses as their websites makes them – how come I haven’t heard of them?! Who am I to know? Well, you can clearly read About me, and fact-check my Credentials Before investing $$$$ and getting attached to a dog, I encourage you to take the time to read the following:

If I’m in the market for a protection dog, how can I identify a reliable dog company?

First thing first – an “About Us” page should be easy to locate on the website. It should clearly give you information about the Person behind the operation, their credentials and their experience! If you find yourself reading some general statements, or breed characteristics I seriously would suggest that you close that window/browser, and move on. Make sure that you do not confuse brags and fancy titles with true Credentials and Accomplishments! “CEO”, “President”, “Head Trainer” of a company with catchy name, that has sold 100’s of dogs, means nothing! Don’t bother reading testimonials or references, instead – First thing to do is a simple Google search with the persons name, you might be surprised of what you’ll find.Anyone can open a business with a catchy name, pay someone to build a state-of-the-art website, and target someone like you to buy a “fully trained level 3 dog”, with many guarantees. Don’t be a victim of such scams.  Investing $30,000 to $60,000 in a dog is not a guarantee that the dog is worth this kind of money. I will be the first to tell you that for sure a well trained dog can be expensive, but the fact is that such highly valuable dogs are very rare. When you browse the Web long enough, you will see many dogs in this price ranges, the truth is that the majority of these dogs, are probably worth $6,000 at the most. There are simply not that many highly trained dogs out there.  I also can assure you that most of the people who are trying to sell “protection dogs” have laughable credentials to say at least, and this is a scary truth.

What about all these European imports, are they better?

It always has amazed me how easily people get impressed when they hear “European import”, unfortunately I am going to break this myth for you. Buying a dog from Europe is NOT the same as buying a Ferrari or whatever luxury car or boat comes to mind! Here is the most typical scenario, dog sports a more popular in Europe than in USA, when a dog is not suitable for top competition then they are offered to dog dealers who then go on to offer the dogs to protection dog companies in USA and the army. Yes these dogs are basically rejects, meaning they have failed  to be competitive , probably lack courage, or have poor quality biting, possible health problems, or fake pedigrees etc. There are many reason why a dog is for sale but whatever the reason is,  the dog was not selected, bred and trained to be a Protection Dog and that’s the truth.  Average buyer has no way of  finding this out and is always presented with some amazing story of this particular dog is so special …. But let’s not forget that even the person who is trying to sell the dog has limited expertise and if you pay attention you will catch all the inconsistencies in their stories. Some will be intentional lies and some purely because they lack expertise. I have no interest in bringing a reject here and then try to sell it as the next super dog. I have far more access to dogs for sale around the world than any of the protection dog companies. Why? Because I am very well known in the dog world, not as a buyer of rejects but as one of the few true experts in the field, I go to Europe to give seminars and workshops and basically teach them how to become better dog trainers, I also go and compete very successfully against the Europeans.

Watch out for the misleading taglines!

“30 years of combined experience” If someone has 30 years of successful experience (or, in the case of “combined” experience, if several people together have worked for a sum total of 30 years), one would expect numerous valid accomplishments that can be verified easily. The statement on its own means nothing. What has been achieved? That’s what counts. “Master Trainer” is one of the most misused titles in the dog-training world. For example, it can mean that someone is in charge of the training of a large number of dogs and handlers in the army. It can also mean that someone has his own business with one employee and he is in charge of the training. The second obviously has no merit. Remember ANYONE can call themselves “Master Trainer”! “Expert Trainer” This must be someone who has expertise, right? So ask the person who considers himself an expert and see for yourself it this is true. People like this should provide you with references and credentials of the people/companies who see them as experts. “Training Director” is normally associated with the person in charge of the training in Schutzhund, Ring, or any other dog sport club. He is generally also the helper or decoy who works the dogs in protection. “Members of xxxx Club” Being a member of a club in most cases involves simply joining the organization and paying annual dues. It is in no way a measure of training skill or achievement. There are many such dog clubs out there. Some, of course, are better than others. In some instances it takes three people to form a club, but not one of them may have sufficient knowledge of dog training. As with all other credentials, research the club to determine if the training director is likely to be a qualified trainer.

How can I compare dog trainers and companies?

As you have been browsing the web about Protection Dogs, You sure have already noticed that almost everyone who offers Protection Dogs for sale is a “World Champion”. But let me be clear  – Nobody that lives and sells dogs in USA has ever become a world champion! If they lie so bluntly about their accomplishments how can you trust what they tell you about the dogs they sell? Becoming a World Champion in conformation show or Karate, does not attest to the knowledge or expertise of a protection dog trainer. The average dog owner is not aware but, yes Dog Trainers do compare each others skills and abilities, through a variety of international dog sports. A Dog trainer that wins first place at a local dog show does not say much. Winning a national or a world championship is a whole different story. Competing against the best 120 dog trainers in the world and winning is a statement for sure! While such win doesn’t bring any money, it brings the recognition and envy among other trainers. The fact is that the last 20 years there are only 20 world champions. As client who is willing to invest serious money in a dog, You deserve accurate representation of the trainer’s expertise. Schutzhund, Ring sports, KNPV and few others are competitive protection dog sports that exist to determine who the top trainers are.  Some of the sports are recognized internationally and some are pretty much local mediocre events. Sometimes trainers will use the term World Champion in their credentials ( as I do). Simply ask the question : “did you become world champion in the individual placement or as a team?” A team title, means that at least two of the team members were good enough to put the team in 1st place. But it is the individual placement that matters most. As an example I have won 2 individual world champion titles, and the team from Germany was the 1st place team. The point is I was better as an individual than all of them. When it comes to Protection Dog training – Selecting the best trainer to teach the dog is paramount.

Sport or Real World trainer, what matters?

Being a sport trainer is not enough! Training the dog for real scenarios means the trainer has to know how to teach the dog to fight for real. Working on a full body protection suit does not mean a dog will function in real situation. Bad guys do not look like the Michelin man! A dog that bites a hidden sleeve will also lack complete fighting education. Watched some cool videos on someone’s website of a dog that works great on a bite suit? There are few protection sports in which the dogs bite a full body suit. Please DO NOT be fooled – they are still sport dogs! Believe me, there is a huge difference between sport and personal protection training. This is where a skilled and honest trainer will tell you about the dog in question. Unfortunately most people who are trying to sell protection dogs are there to make some quick cash.Take a look at the training videos on our YouTube Channel to see some of the techniques and skills a dog must have.Involvement with Police, SWAT teams, ATF tactical , Secret service, the army is valuable but also could be quite misleading … Just as in the Dog world competitions – don’t be fooled by someone who was holding the leash of an already trained dog during patrol. Look for the instructors who teaches them all. It is really the combination of the two fields Protection Dog Competitions and Police K9 work that you should look for. Take a look at our Credentials! Owning a protection dog does have some similarities with owning a gun. Although the dog should do the job – you still need to learn some dog training skills but even more important there is a whole part of tactical training that needs to be learned and it is something that requires knowledge as a dog trainer and as tactical instructor. For example if you have your gun next to your bed at night, you must practice an important drill where you are laying in bed, grabbing the gun, rolling down on the floor and then shooting as you are kneeling by the bed! Practicing target shooting standing up at the shooting range will only give you a false felling that you know what to do. If you truly like to utilize dog’s abilities, the tactical aspect in Protection Dog training is even more complicated than when using firearm.

What do I look for in the dog?

You have already seen “Level 1” , “Level 3”, “Executive protection”, and so on, right? Unfortunately these are once again catchy words! There is no unified system for rating the level of the protection dogs! One company’s “Executive Dog” might very well be the reject dog of another. The best way to judge a company’s standards is by checking out the knowledge of the trainers, which will first become evident to you only though their accomplishments! In the video bellow you will see our training and our dogs for the ATF One thorny issue is that of the sport dog versus the “real” dog. Contrary to the way you should judge the skills of a trainer (competition accomplishments), dogs that have done well in certain sports may actually not be suitable as protection dogs. In a nutshell, many dogs that do well in dog sports may be only “sport” dogs, meaning they will not protect you or your family if needed. They will not bite an intruder or attacker without a sleeve or a bite suit. Even police K9 dogs with the highest performance records in Police K9 competitions may find themselves chasing a suspect in a dark alley. But when the dog finally catches up with the criminal, it becomes highly confused and stressed, because it wants to bite him, but it doesn’t see the familiar equipment. These cases are NOT rare, they are the proof of how important is to select trustful source for your protection dog. Another thing to note here is that most Police and army dogs are not suitable to live in a family environment, because most of them are the “Go Go” type that will not settle down at your home and try to bite anything that moves too fast. On another hand a very laid back easy going dog will not protect you either. The best protection dogs are the ones that have a switch “On” and “Off”. They can be ferocious when needed and chill out the rest of the time. We find this type of dog to be hard to find, this is why we prefer to breed and select dogs from our own Ot Vitosha Malinois kennel most of the time.

What about videos and pictures of the dog for sale?

So you go to a website that claims they sell protection trained dogs, all you can see are pictures of pretty dogs with a high price tag. The videos will come later to you because most of them are actually embarrassing and/or revealing a spam. Being arguably the most accomplished dog trainer in USA , I will be the first to tell you – I can’t be fooled by watching a video of a dog, but 99% of the people on the market for protection dog will be fooled.  For all these 99% of the people, watching a video clip will not help you make a sound decision, you will most likely go by the quality of the video and the looks of the dog. This will be a mistake.  First off You most likely have no idea what to look for. The dog may have very little desire to bite, but trainers can make big Hollywood style production (moving fast, yelling, gun shots etc.) and make him look amazing. Ultimately when it comes down to judging the dogs character and abilities you will need to trust the company and trainer(s) you’re dealing with. This is why once again there is nothing more important you need to look than the “About us” and double checking all claims made there by doing a simple google search will safe you from all the incompetent people trying to make big $$$ off of you.

What breed should I look for in a family protection dog?

malinois ferrari ot vitoshaPretty much any self confident dog with sound temperament can be used to some extent as a protection dog, or at least as an alert dog. The smaller breeds (up to 50 lb) obviously would not be man stoppers. Any larger-size dog could be a protection dog. Most dogs must go through vigorous training in order to understand when they are needed and how to be of help.As an example, on occasion police K9 dogs with the highest performance records in trials will be purchased by a police force and find themselves, say, chasing a suspect in a dark alley. But when the dog finally catches up with the criminal, it becomes highly confused and stressed, because it wants to bite him, but it does not see the familiar equipment. These cases are rare but they are evidence of how important is to select the right training source for your protection dog.The dog has to have natural protective instincts, be pack-oriented, and/or territorial. Even an Afghan Hound could do it (a rare case, but I have seen it done). Generally speaking, and only generally speaking, some breeds make better guard dogs, (meaning they would do well protecting their territory), and others would make better owner-protection dogs (meaning they would do well protecting their owners).The top two breed of dogs that have proven to be highly trainable and functional are are the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. At present, these are the two breeds that stand out from the rest. Around the world it is not an accident that 99% percent of the police and army dogs are mostly Malinois or German Shepherds. Yes, a Doberman Pinscher or a Bouvier, among others, could do just as fine a job, but the temperament of these breeds has been compromised in recent years by breeding for their looks, and the prevalence of genetic illnesses such as hip dysplasia has risen dramatically. A dog from a mastiff breed can be very strong and a great deterrent, but their trainability level does not come close to that of a Malinois or a German Shepherd. Therefore, they are limited in what they can be used for in terms of protection. Another plus for the Malinois and the German Shepherd is that they have double coats, meaning they can function in any climate: snow or desert. They have been bred and used for protection from the late 1800s, and through the decades and around the world they have been selected for their temperament, trainability, agility, strong bite and scent work, and their lack of fear. It is a fact that in recent years, the Malinois has become the number one choice for protection work due to their work ethic, trainability, and natural protectiveness. In any case, you might find a dog of almost any breed that can serve as a protection dog. But please take the following qualities into consideration:
  • Stable temperament – The dog should not be performing out of fear, and it should be easy to handle and live with.
  • Balanced Energy Level – Your dog should not be bouncing off the wall at all times and at same time he should not be sleeping if someone is ringing the door bell.
  • Good size – A dog has to be big enough to be effective.
  • Speed – As with an athlete, the weight and speed of a dog have advantages and disadvantages. A dog that has a bit of both is the most universal type, therefore the Malinois are clearly the breed of choice.
  • Health – The Malinois have fewer health problems than any other working breed.