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On Guard: Inside the World of Elite Security Dog Training


Life & Style

Security comes in many forms, from armed guards to bulletproof windows to technology that can monitor every corner of a sprawling estate. But among the most ancient forms of security are specially trained canines, offering their owners far more comfort than a fleet of drones. An elite group of specialists supply an exclusive clientele with animals of impeccable breeding and training.

South Carolina-based Harrison K-9, founded by Harrison Prather in 1975, provides home security dogs to high-net-worth individuals, professional athletes and entertainers with Grammys or Oscars on their shelves. The company deals exclusively with a refined bloodline of German Shepherds from Europe, resulting in exceptionally keen, agile and intelligent dogs free from some genetic issues facing Shepherds bred in the U.S.

November Holley, Harrison K-9’s president, insists that a premium home security dog requires a different style of training than military or police dogs, and her company’s animals are specifically bred and trained for family environments.

“We don’t want a soldier and we don’t want a robot,” states Holley, who adds, “We focus primarily on providing a companion, but one that will be there for you when you need help.”

Prices for Harrison K-9 pooches generally range from $37,000 to $47,000, but a dog of unrivaled pedigree named Julia was sold to a client for $230,000. Holley maintains her clients recognize local police departments are overburdened and feel the need for frontline security that is compatible with their children and other pets. Female German Shepherds are particularly well-suited to homes for which there is a perceived kidnapping threat, suggests Holley, who explains the dogs’ maternal instincts result in a natural tendency to hover near small family members.

During a rigorous three-month process, animals at Harrison K-9 are trained by both male and female staff — they sometimes even involve their children in these sessions — to encourage dogs to respond to handling skills rather than fear or intimidation.

“Our dogs are trained in English, German and hand signals and understand that commands from a woman are just as important as those from a man,” explains Holley. She reports that commands in other languages (e.g. Spanish, Chinese, Japanese) are
incorporated into training for bilingual households, illustrating the intelligence of these animals.

Former Navy SEAL and lifelong dog lover Mike Ritland founded Trikos International after serving 12 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL. His firm places dogs with police departments, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the military. After an appearance on 60 Minutes in 2013 (Ritland is also a New York Times bestselling author), the former SEAL began receiving more requests for personal protection dogs, now the hallmark of his business.

The animals Trikos places in private homes require more intensive training than military or police dogs, as they must be acclimated to homes with pets, children and other distractions. Noting his wealthy clients are likely to spend as much for a single private jet trip or on a hand of blackjack in Las Vegas, Ritland believes the price tag of approximately $100,000 is a bargain for family security. He also suggests a dog, after properly bonding with its owner, represents the most reliable security system, offering early detection as well as both defensive and offensive measures. “You’re buying a 24/7 companion that can’t be bought or bribed, and unlike an electronic security system, it can’t be bypassed or defeated,” reports Ritland, adding, “The dog is also safer than a weapon that can be taken or used against you.”

In contrast to Harrison K-9, Trikos is not uncompromising when it comes to breeds, and deploys Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois in addition to German Shepherds. While there are nuances to their respective temperaments, Ritland reports all can be trained to be superb protectors. “I don’t look at the breed any more than I look at the race or gender of people I hire,” states Ritland, who quips, “To me, the breed is more like a paint job.”

Ritland or one of his trainers accompanies the dog from rural Cooper, Texas, to its destination, and does not return until the animal has fully adjusted to the household. “The entire training process takes four to seven months — sometimes even a year depending on the circumstances — and it’s finished when it’s finished,” states Ritland, who adds, “If you’re looking for a dog in a week, I’m not your guy.”

Located just outside Los Angeles, Wolfgang Expert Dog Training prepares home security dogs for celebrities, but customizes the program to suit any household’s needs. While he works with many breeds, founder and CEO Wolfgang Rader appreciates the skills of the dog most closely associated with his native Germany. “The Belgian Malinois is the best dog for protection but they’re not so good with families,” reports Rader, insisting the German Shepherd is more gentle in domestic situations and that home security is in its DNA. The veteran trainer accommodates a range of security needs, explaining, “Some people just want a dog that barks along the fence, others need one that will attack in a life-threatening situation.” During a demanding four-week training course, Wolfgang Expert Dog Training can transform the family pet into a protective companion.

Harrison K-9 |

Trikos International |

Wolfgang Expert Dog Training |

This article originally appeared in Homes & Estates.

By Roger Grody


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On Guard: Inside the World of Elite Security Dog Training

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