Best Dog for SHTF?

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There are dog people and there are the other people. Either you like dogs or you don’t and I think that it is perfectly fine to hold either opinion. Just like kids, there are some people who really want children and others who would rather not have a child in their lives at any time. There is nothing wrong with either option really and different types of people are better suited to different types of situations in their lives. This is what makes us different, human and interesting. I myself am a dog person though and probably always will be. We have other pets in my family, but none are as important to me as the family dog.

In June of last year, we lost our family dog that we had for 13 years. While it was a sad period of time, there was never any doubt about getting a new dog eventually. Dogs offer so much in the form of companionship and peace of mind to me and my family that we knew we would need to fill that void at some point. We decided to wait until the spring and researched breeds to find the best match. Our last dog was a mutt from the pound, but she was better than any pure bred we have ever seen. She truly was a wonderful dog but we wanted some additional qualities that she didn’t have naturally. Seeing as how I run this blog and my focus is on prepping for events that are unpleasant or unplanned, we wanted to get a dog that would be not only a loyal companion, but great for protection. Essentially, we started looking for the best dog for SHTF.


The day we brought her home – 8 Weeks old

Let me pause right here and state that I am not going to tell you what the best dog is for anyone. There are too many factors that define what the best dog is and you have to evaluate your life and what you are looking to invest (time, energy, emotion) into a dog. I think it is rather dishonest to say there is only one dog that is the best for any situation because regardless of the dog, the owner has to train and control their dog appropriate to their talents or else you just have an out of control animal. You can put the best dog in the world with someone who can’t control or doesn’t take care of it and you will have a mess. Conversely, a mutt from the pound can make an awesome pet that will love and take care of you for years with the right owner.

Back to my story, my wife had heard an interview with the man who wrote a book about the dogs that the Navy Seals use and began to get interested in the Belgian Malinois. Malinois are in the same family as German Shepherds but are a little smaller. They are extremely intelligent, ridiculously energetic and thrive on working hard. We thought that this breed sounded like a great place to look at for our dog of choice for someone to protect our family during SHTF.

Researching the right dog should be first

We read more about the breed and understood the work commitment that would be required for a dog like this to have a happy and fulfilled life with us and started waiting patiently until spring. That didn’t last long.

Sometimes our family can get a spontaneous Jones and we were all sitting around the dinner table one night talking about when we would get our dog. This lead to some internet searches and we quickly discovered that like most pure bred dogs, there was a higher price. For the Malinois and I imagine any dog that could be used as a personal protection dog, the price was much higher. This was a little discouraging because while I liked the attributes of the breed and day dreamed of having our own little Navy Seal dog in the house, I was not shucking out over $1200 for one. We started questioning our choice on price alone and then dug more into the requirements for an animal like this.

Malinois like I said above are high energy. By high energy, I mean they need about 2 hours a day of intense exercise or they will not be happy.  You do not want a hyper, bored puppy. Malinois are working dogs and if they don’t have a job to do, they will find one. This will usually be at the expense of something you do not want destroyed. A nice little walk around your neighborhood isn’t going to cut it either, but I told myself that this would be a great time to start running again and between me, my wife and kids we should be able to exercise the dog sufficiently.


Out in the park

My wife then came across an ad for 8 week old Malinois puppies for only $150! That was something I could live with. I also understood from that price that this would not be a pure bred, but I wasn’t hung up on papers anyway. I wanted a great dog for our family, not something to show or breed for profit. We called the person on the ad and set up a time to go out. In my excitement, I purchased a new crate and the food the trainer used just in case. Our other dog had been crate trained but that was years ago and I had since sold the other one we had. We arrived at the home of the person selling the puppies and spent a little time talking to the owner who happened to train Malinois for police and military use trying to pick his brain for any information we could get.

We found out while talking to the trainer that the puppies were 1/8th Presa Canario. We actually met both her parents and her grandfather (the Presa) while we were there. This was not a puppy mill operation by any stretch and he only had the dogs we saw.

The puppy he had left was a female which is what we wanted. She was small and skinny – I expect she was the runt of the litter, but we didn’t care. We had even chosen a name for her of Samantha but we would call her Sam from the Will Smith movie, I am Legend. (Side note: the movie is nothing like the book at all). The kids loved her at first sight obviously and I paid the owner and went home. This was the beginning of our Journey with Sam.

Make sure you have the right expectations

We have had her in our home for three weeks now and in that time we have learned a lot about both her and ourselves. Not wanting to do anything wrong we immediately started watching back episodes of the Dog Whisperer. My wife downloaded a book called “How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by these monks who are famous for training working dogs like Shepherds and Malinois. We poured over the internet and read as much as we could about the breed and training and raising puppies. I also bought a DVD by Caesar Millan about raising puppies. None of that made any difference in the world.

It seemed like all the training and advice we read didn’t work and we could tell that our new pet wasn’t happy with us. I placed several calls to trainers and contacted the guy we purchased her from. We had concerns about that 1/8 Presa in her and her energy level which to me bordered on bursts of insanity at times even after plenty of exercise. We had a lot of heart to heart talks about whether or not we had made a mistake because her behavior was very bad and nothing the experts had told us to do was working. Each of us had hands that looked like we had been pruning roses the hard way and my youngest daughter was becoming afraid of our new dog. The joyful puppy playing we expected was really more like wrestling with a land piranha and we were frustrated.

Looking back now, I think it was a strange combination of time, the right amounts of food, new toys and prayer that turned the tables. One day Sam acted completely differently, so sudden we were shocked. Literally the change was like night and day. Now our new family member seems to have settled into a routine and acts much happier than she did the first few weeks. She shows affection and even listens when you tell her no – most of the time. She truly is a joy to have in our home now but we know there is a ton of work left to do.

Will she be the best dog for SHTF? Who knows? I guess we will have to see if that ever happens. I know that if we are consistent and train her to the level she is capable of, she could do anything. Right now we are focused on making her part of our family and giving her what she needs to be happy. She will be enrolled in obedience classes and will have lots of play time at the dog park when her shots are up to date. I’ll write more as we continue with Sam and if the S ever HTF, I’ll let you know how she does.

Like I said above, there is no one perfect dog for everyone. If there were, you wouldn’t have all the breeds and varieties you have now. I don’t know if our dog will ever rise to the level of the Navy Seal dogs. I know I am not going to jump out of a plane with her into hostile territory, but I do know she can be the perfect dog for us. That’s all we really need anyway.


  1. Rick

    January 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Sorry for your loss, our buddies just don’t seem to stay with us for as long as we would want. I recently lost my male GS suddenly. He was the key to getting my retirement/prepping back in order; so I totally feel your loss.
    Having worked dogs over the years in LE and the fact that where we live I could not find any Malinois/nor was I in the mood for a true puppy I rescued a 10 month female GS. Will I ever be glad when that day comes and the light bulb in her brain comes on.
    Nice article, Malinois are great dogs, everything I have seen is that they don’t have all of the medical issues that Shephards have.
    Keep up the good work

    • Pat

      January 28, 2014 at 9:01 am

      Thanks for your comments Rick!

  2. Holly

    January 28, 2014 at 12:54 am

    We have a male GS. Wonderful dog. Have read about Malinois….they sound super. Please keep us up to date about her. She’s a cutie.

    • Pat

      January 28, 2014 at 9:11 am


      Will do. I am sure she will make appearances in the future and thanks for stopping by! She is cute and that tilts the odds in her favor right now. That cuteness lets her get away with more than she should sometimes….


  3. Dan

    January 28, 2014 at 1:12 am

    We lost our Cocker Spaniel and finally decided a pound puppy. This puppy would not stop chewing up our house no matter what steps we took. She would even chew the drywall. We still aren’t sure of her breed. We took her to the vet for follow up shots when she was a year old and the vet told us that the dog would never be happy inside. Well she has lived outside for 3 years now and is as happy as can be. She is terrified of the cat and the rooster. But I’ll tell you what, she sure protects the chickens. She has killed a possuum, 2 racoons and a red fox all within 30 feet of the chicken coop. She is fierce and relentless when anything is attempting to get to the chickens. She even growls at anyone who is not family who attempts to get near the coop. I’ve seen her laying on our deck and watch a squirrel eat her dog food not two feet away from her. I’ve seen her chase rabbits but never really try to catch one to harm it. It seems she knows which critters are predatory. We finally had to separate her from the chickens. Only because the damn birds would join her on the deck on poop all over it.

    • Pat

      January 28, 2014 at 9:04 am

      Ha! Well, I hope we can get the same result with Sam as you have with your dog Dan. Right now, she seems very interested in the chickens. I am going to try to get her in a more protective mode soon and hopefully that will work. As it is right now, she is still pretty freaked out by the dark. It doesn’t help when you take her out to go at night and she is nearly run over by 4 deer…


  4. YourKidding Right

    June 14, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Love my Rott’s–2 or 3 pissed of Rott’s give you plenty of time to finish the job–One of the most loyal breeds I’ve had–My Old boy right now is 12–quite old for a Rott, gonna be a sad day in my near future–like losing a family member–but he still thinks he’s 3 years old–just needs a lot of naps now–lol–a lot like me–love the site–you put out good information

    • Pat Henry

      June 16, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Thank you very much! Hope you visit again soon.


  5. Katie Young

    September 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Have a lady “malinut” mix myself named Shippou (3/4 mal, 1/8 lab, 1/8 ger. shep) There really isn’t anything like them, is there? 🙂 She made me swear off puppies forever, and was a terrible first dog for a person like me (I nearly cried when I got her DNA test back). The twice daily jaunt around the block was obviously a laughable amount of exercise for her, so she visited herself with various “jobs” as a puppy. She loved opening the dishwasher and hiding all the dishes (I was finding silverware in the toilet tank years later), opening the dryer to shred the jeans (only jeans) and closing it again, using the drawers in the kitchen as steps to get the cat food on the counter (but had no problem going on 3 day hunger strikes), raiding the fridge for the milk just to chomp a hole in it and close the door really fast (so many milk floods), and pulling food out of the oven when we dared try to hide it from her (she stopped that after she grabbed something cooking and burned herself).

    That being said, she is the most wonderful, amazing dog I have ever (and probably will ever) have. She is my loyal protector and most valued friend. She has made it her mission to guard me and guard the house, which made us seek a behaviorist at one point when she kept trying to herd our crippled friend away whenever he’d come over. She considers each walk a patrol, and makes sure to keep close at my side, watching quietly as we interact with others. She tolerates children (barely), and is wonderful with her kitties (been around them since she was 10 days old), but has a high prey drive. Shippou also barks a lot and very loudly. Absolutely nothing escapes her notice. We had a stranger come in the front door after me once and she had cleared 2 acres and 1000sf of house before he had made it across the living room. She then proceeded to drag him out the front door by his arm, spit him out on the front porch, step back inside, wait for the screen door to close, and then start launching herself off it acting like kujo. Love my pup!

    My best suggestion is to become her best friend. Make her work hard and give her treat a galore when she does a great job. Take her on strenuous journeys for her body and mind as often as possible. Make her main desire to see you happy and safe (since you bring all the fun!). Having such a connection makes your praise, and displeasure, carry all the more.

    I hope you’re enjoying her! Good luck!

    • Pat Henry

      September 8, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Thanks for your comments Katie, they had me and my wife cracking up!

      Sam is about 10 months old now and she is the funniest dog I have ever had. She hasn’t broken into the fridge or dryer yet, but we try to monitor her pretty closely and don’t let her alone when we aren’t there. There is no telling what she would get into if we did though.

      She routinely gets a 2-3 mile walk twice a day but like you, that doesn’t do more than take the edge off. She needs some Frisbee time or lots of tug of war or else she can be antsy. I think she is growing out of some of that though. Runs definitely deplete more energy but she is getting bigger and I am not running faster. She doesn’t run really, more like fast walking.

      She is very good with other dogs but we have worked a lot on socialization and try to get her to the dog park weekly. The cat has been sequestered upstairs but now they are spending more time together and get along fine. She has also been left alone with the chickens when they are in the yard many times and has never tried to taste one. Actually, I think she wants to herd them back into the yard which is a great thing.

      Couldn’t be happier with her even though she is so much more work that I ever wanted in a dog. She is such a loving and loyal part of our family now.


  6. Jeffrey Fortune

    November 18, 2014 at 9:57 am

    How long before the “light bulb” went off for Sam? We just got a new puppy (1/2 GS and 1/2 Black Mouth Cur). Got her a bit early as she is now about 10 weeks and my hands look like they are being cut by razors. Looking forward to my Shasta’s light bulb turning on.

    • Pat Henry

      November 18, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      I feel for you Jeffrey. It seems like it was a few weeks, probably 3 or so. We did have worms on top of this and she was awful skinny so she probably wasn’t getting enough food either. I think it just took a few weeks of her getting into a routine, and us learning how to deal with her too before she calmed down.

      Now, don’t get me wrong. She still is ALL puppy and has boundless energy that we have to mitigate with 2 walks a day and lots of playing. She loves to run and chase things so I take her into the yard and roll this wheel that surrounded what was supposed to be a chew toy that only lasted 20 minutes… I take the wheel and throw/roll it across the yard and she hauls but for as long as I will throw it. She could care less about tennis balls.

      She also loves water so we got her one of those cheap plastic pools. Even the water hose is a treat. I can just let her chase the water coming out of the end for 10 minutes and she gets nice and worn out. That plus the dog park on Sundays… She is a lot of work but we all wouldn’t trade her for anything. She is such a funny dog and loves being around us at all times. She could never be without us and be perfectly happy. She will sleep on the couch with my daughter. Not laying down on the other end, no. She has her leg slung over her like they are having a spend the night party. Too funny.

      Good luck with yours. They are a handful, but I have zero regrets!


  7. Amanda

    February 2, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    We have a full blooded bassett hound & a half “pit bull” half red bone. Our bassett hound thinks our son walks on water & would protect him from anyone (including us, talk about mixed signals), our pit mix is more whole family oriented, hes only a few months older than our son so they grew up together:) Most ppl are more intimidated by our big dog….they are wrong & should keep an eye on the incredibly ugly short fat bassett hound;) I liked this article a lot b/c it drove home the point that picking a breed is as much about your families traits as a particular breeds traits. Your survival dog is adorable btw:)

    • Pat Henry

      February 3, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Thank you very much Amanda! I have always heard Pit bulls make great family dogs.

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