Crime

Want to protect your home from burglary? Get a dog

Phillip, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, attacks Juan Ramirez, following trainer Tony Guzman’s commands.
Phillip, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, attacks Juan Ramirez, following trainer Tony Guzman’s commands. crabin@miamiherald.com

Scenario One: A would-be burglar is roaming your street. He eyes two homes. At the front window of one, he is greeted by a snarling, drooling Rottweiler. Inside the other, a kitten rubbing up against a couch. Which home is he likely to enter?

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Scenario Two: You’re fast asleep at night. Brutus hears someone lurking outside. He growls and barks. A street symphony of all the other dogs in the neighborhood follows. Is the prowler breaking in?

“For deterrence, there’s nothing like a canine. It’s the fear factor,” said Tony Guzman, who has run Metro Dade K-9 Services inRedland for the past three decades. “They just fold up when a canine shows up.”

Ask just about any home-safety expert about the best way to protect your home and property, and short of creating a fortress, you’re likely to get the same answer: Get a dog.

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Statistics from the security company ADT show that every year about 1.5 million homes are burglarized in the U.S., and that the average length of time a burglar is in your home is about one minute. Most burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when kids are in school and parents are at work.

And Miami Police Detective Freddie Burden said the best way to avoid that is to get a dog.

“For an alarm to go off, certain things have to be triggered,” said Burden. “A dog, regardless of what door or entrance you come in, he’s always there.”

The top guard dogs for home protection, according to the Canine Journal, are German shepherd, Rottweiler and bullmastiff. But the list says boxers and Bernese mountain dogs will do the trick, too.

Guzman, who’s been training dogs for almost 40 years, said that about 30 percent of his clients are private citizens and celebrities. The company, which sits on five acres in South Miami-Dade, also trains police dogs that work with patrol units and at airports.

His clients include actress Gwyneth Paltrow and former Florida Marlins pitcher Liván Hernández. Guzman also has a client he’s not willing to name. He said the client recently dropped off two Cane Corsos — enormous animals that look like a cross between a mastiff and a Great Dane — but which are not usually associated with training for home protection.

Buying and training police dogs from Metro Dade K-9, almost always shepherds and Belgian Malinois, runs from $6,000 to more than $16,000. But if a client wants to bring over a Labrador retriever and leave him for eight weeks, the bill will probably run close to $3,000. That includes the eight to 10 visits by the family after the training sessions to learn how to command the pet.

Guzman began his company in 1984 after spending years competing in a dog sport called Schutzhund, essentially an Olympics-type sport that focuses on tracking, obedience and protection. Later, he crossed over to working with law enforcement.

Back in the 1980s, the focus was on the drug war, so the dogs were primarily purchased and trained to avoid home invasions and to be alert to drugs. Now, since 9/11, the bigger concern is bombs.

Still, Guzman acknowledges, it’s much more likely that your home is going to be broken into than you’re going to be attacked by a suicide bomber. So protecting your home is probably a bit more cost-effective. And you get a much more well-trained and obedient pet.

“It’s just another layer of security that most people don’t want to go up against,” Guzman said. “The psychological effect of a canine is greater than a gun — we see it every day. If you see a dog, you’re going to go next door. A gun won’t wake you up [until it’s probably too late] — a dog will.”

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