The Tactical Parent series is written for parents who take an active role in protecting their family. Recognizing the unique challenges associated with protecting more than just yourself, we aim to provide tactics and equipment to help you keep your loved ones safe while maintaining a busy family lifestyle. It was in this effort that I discovered the incredible family protection dogs bred and trained by Kraftwerk K9.
In this four-part article series I will share the story of my visit to Kraftwerk K9, the function and benefit these dogs offer individuals and families, how these German Shepherds are molded and trained for their role, and will conclude with the story of my family bringing one into our home.
After driving a few hours, I pulled into Kraftwerk K9 in Rochester, Washington. I met Wayne Curry, owner of Kraftwerk K9, and it was quickly apparent that he really loves and takes pride in what he does. Wayne is a friendly guy – the kind of person you could find yourself talking with for hours over a few beers. He’s passionate about his dogs and is deeply committed to the families who purchase them. His customers range from single women to A-list celebrities to business executives to regular families like mine, and these people that purchase his German Shepherds are from all around the world… even from Germany!
As I walked through the office I noticed a wall full of trophies, met the Kraftwerk team, and learned all about Schutzhund training. “Schutzhund” is German for “protection dog” and is a sport created for dogs to be tested for their ability to be a proper working dog. From looking at the sheer number of championship trophies, from recent ones to some dusty ones from decades past, it was clear that Wayne is the real deal. Noticing the trophies wasn’t hard, because there was a whole wall full of them, but what I didn’t notice was a quiet German Shepherd hanging out under a desk while they worked. Then it struck me – this calm, quiet, beautiful dog was probably no ordinary family pet. I asked Wayne, “is that a protection dog?” He smiled and said that it was and that I would get to see the other side of this dog later today. For now, it was just a really friendly dog who was glad to put its head in my lap and be petted.
We talked for a couple hours about how the dogs are bred and trained, which is an impressive process in and of itself. This process will be discussed at length later in this series. I also learned about his facility and his team. When it was time to go meet some dogs, we were joined by the other trainers – Marrianne, Kerry, and Kevin – who brought a few dogs out to a field.
The first dog to come out was an absolutely gorgeous shepherd who exuded confidence and was clearly looking forward to training. Wayne put his suit on and hid behind a blind of sorts. Kevin “turned-on” the dog and then sent it to find Wayne. The dog immediately located him and began barking. When Wayne became aggressive the dog bit the sleeve and would not release no matter what Wayne did to pull free. He pulled the dog over his back, tried to “scrape off” the dog on the wall, and even fell to the ground and put the dog in an MMA-style guard with his legs trying to pull the dog off. That dog was on, and was not going to let go for anything. A moment later Kevin gave the command to release and the dog instantly let go and went back to barking. Kevin called the dog back to him and the dog came right to his side. Wayne got up and started toward Kevin holding a weapon. Kevin sent the dog again and the dog hit Wayne like an NFL linebacker. Once again the fight was on and, once again, the dog was called off and immediately returned to the handler.
I was impressed, and then I found out it was my turn…
As I put on the sleeve they brought out a new dog, and that was when Wayne said the magic words: “cover your private area.” Later I would share with him that I felt his warning was inaccurate – when he says “cover your private area,” what he should really say is “ready or not, this dog is about to kick your ass!” But, I “covered my private area.” The dog came and started barking right next to me. That’s when I realized how truly intimidating these dogs really are and how much of an asset they would be in protecting a family. Then I made an aggressive move toward the dog, while still “covering my private area” of course. The dog bit and the fight was on. Even inside the sleeve, the bite-pressure felt like my arm was in a vice… a heavy, growling, pulling, intimidating vice. Wayne called the dog off, and then back to him, and then he said some more magic words: “give me a good target.” Once again, his instructions were inaccurate and what he should have said was “you’re about to get hit by a small car with teeth.” Suffice to say, it’s is amazing how much force a running German Shepherd can generate.
The day continued with more demonstrations of the dogs’ obedience and protection capabilities and I continued to be impressed again and again. The final demonstration was in a living room with slippery floors and for this they brought over the gentle giant I’d met in the office earlier that morning. He was still giant and he was still gentle as we were all sitting around having a conversation. This sweet dog just wanted what every dog wants – scratches behind the ears and tummy rubs. However, when an “assailant” came into the room, this sweet family pet changed into a beast and protected the family with conviction. Once the assailant had been dealt with and had decided to leave the house, my gentle giant went right back to tummy rubs.
A house is not a home until it has a dog. – Gerald Durrell
By this time, I found myself well on my way to wanting one of these dogs for my own family and one of the key things I needed to know was how the dogs are with children. Given the nature of the Tactical Parent, this was also an obvious area of interest for our readers. I’d seen the dogs’ gentle sides, and their protective sides, but I wanted to be convinced enough that I would allow my own children to be around them. Wayne was very direct in answering my question – simply put, he would never allow a dog to leave his kennel if he had even a shred of concern about it with children. It begins with their breeding for temperament and continues all through the training process. German Shepherds are, by their nature, family animals – they’re loyal and loving to their pack. They become bonded to the family and take their cues based on what the family is feeling, ultimately looking to the adults/parents for direction. Wayne said that he’s never had a dog bite a child and he is confident that he never will because they simply wouldn’t pass muster if they had issues making them hazardous to children. He continued describing the temperament, breeding and nature of the dogs and, based on this lengthy discussion and what I had seen for myself throughout the day, I did successfully come to the conclusion that I would allow my children to be around these dogs unsupervised. The Kraftwerk dogs simply inspire confidence and I found myself as comfortable with any of their dogs being around my kids as with my own dog.
Another consideration I asked about was how the dog will respond in settings where there are “strangers” in your home, such as during a dinner party, or family visiting for the holidays, etc. My wife and I enjoy hosting dinner parties with friends and extended family who aren’t normally part of our daily life. Of course, I was making it more complicated than it really is – the dog is a pack animal and takes its cues from the adults whom it views as the pack leaders. Many of his customers like to entertain and, short of someone assaulting the dog’s owner, Kraftwerk dogs are not a threat to their guests in the least… the dog just sees it as more people to pet him. Even if someone were to pick up your child and the child didn’t like it, the dog knows the difference between a tantruming toddler and a genuine threat. In fact, Wayne recommends keeping the dog in the home as a family pet instead of in a crate or a kennel. This generates harmony between the animal and the people which forms strong bonds with the family. The dog will assimilate into your life and learn your particular subtleties even better than you know them yourself.
Adding a new family member
Adding a Kraftwerk German Shepherd to your family will immediately increase personal safety and security. The dog provides a perimeter of safety for the family and gives you time when you need it most. At home, the dog will not only provide you an early warning of someone trying to enter but the dog is also a very convincing deterrent whether you’re home or not. If someone does make entry into your home, the dog will give you extra time to react if it doesn’t completely stop the threat on its own. Away from home, the dog continues as a deterrent and will protect you should it become necessary. Whether you’re out jogging, playing with your kids at the park, or are at the farmer’s market, you can have the security of your own gentle giant there with you and your family.
In the next article I will go into depth on how the Kraftwerk dogs function and the benefit they provide their families. I will also discuss the unusual places you might not expect to find a protection dog being used for an additional measure of safety and security.