Protection Dogs

Don’t call her a guard dog.

When she costs $230,000, as Julia did, the preferred title is “executive protection dog”. This 3-year-old German Shepherd , who commutes by private jet between a Minnesota estate and a home in Arizona, belongs to a canine caste that combines exalted pedigree, child-friendly cuddliness and arm-lacerating ferocity.

Julia and her ilk have some of the same tracking and fighting skills as the dogs used in elite military units like Navy Seal Team 6, which took a dog on its successful raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan . In fact, Julia was sold by a trainer, Harrison Prather, who used to supply dogs to Seal Team 6 and the British special forces. But then Prather switched to a more lucrative market.

“Either rich people discovered me or I discovered them — I can’t remember which happened first,” he said.

He and others in the high-end dog training business say prices have shot up thanks to the growing number of wealthy people around the world who like the security — and status — provided by a dog with the right credentials . Moguls and celebrities now routinely pay $40,000 to $60,000 for a well-bred German Shepherd that is certified as an expert in the sport of Schutzhund, which means “protection dog” . The price can go much higher if a dog does well at an international championship, as Julia did.

A mere bag of shells for the person who can well afford it.

Story by Elaine Furst for Dog Files