'A weapon that has a mind': LA company breeds, trains protection dogs

While many families have dogs meant to alert their owners to an intruder or to scare off criminals, a company in the San Fernando Valley is offering breeding and training services for protection dogs, which can find, attack, and subdue intruders at an owner's command.

Mike Israeli is the owner of Delta K9 Academy in Valley Glen. His 6-year-old German Shepherd Graf can locate an intruder in the home, attack and stop, all with just a few commands.

Israeli says dogs like Graf "represent [a] family protection dog. This is what are we trying to pass to our public that protection dogs are not vicious, crazy, aggressive dogs, but protection dogs are good family pets. Super obedient, social in public, but also they're highly trained to protect their family."

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Delta K9 Academy is just one of several companies that offer services like this. The process of breeding and training can take up to two years, and packages range in price from $5,000 to up to six-figures. 

"It's not for rich people. It's for people who want the protection and want the security of having that extra added," said Tammy Parkinson. 

Parkinson is one of the Academy's clients, currently going through training. She and her fiancé live in a quiet, secure LA suburb. Their house has an alarm system and security cameras. Even still, they opted to buy Koda, a 1-year-old German Shepherd, and may invest up to $25,000 on his training.

When asked whether she'd feel comfortable sending Koda to potentially attack someone, Parkinson said she would.

"If my life depended on it, yes," she said. "If somebody is threatening me. And that's the thing. The only time she's going to attack is if somebody is threatening me. And yes, I would. Especially nowadays, there are more and more people becoming victims… Not me."

Israeli said that while price is often discussed, it's rarely an issue. The way he looks at it, training a protection job is seen as an investment in a tool, like a security camera or an alarm system, which will "do the job for 15, 17 years. It's worth it."

Those in the business — whether in the private sector like Delta K9 Academy, or police, which use similar dog breeds — will tell you the animals bring almost instant compliance. One issue for protection dog owners though, is potential liability, says lawyer Alexandra Kazarian.

"If you're going to give that command for that dog to attack, you better make sure you've done everything else to de-escalate a situation. And you better make sure that your life is on the line," Kazarian said. "Because if that person, if that subject is hurt, injured, God forbid, killed, you're going to have to be defending yourself against those kinds of criminal charges."

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But the owners of Delta K9 aren't worried. They say these animals are like having a weapon with its own highly-developed brain.

"It's a controlled weapon. It's a weapon that one can analyze threats on his own," said Vincent Nikogosyan. "He can engage with the suspect, whenever you're unconscious. He'll guard objects. It's more than just a weapon. It's a weapon that has a mind. And he can think on his own."

More than just protection though, Nikogosyan says these animals are also your pets. He and his Belgian Malinois Dexter are virtually inseparable. When asked whether the animals would ever potentially be aggressive to their owners or their families, Nikogosyan, dismissed the possibility.

"I'll give you a 100% guarantee, especially if you train the dog and you bond with it as a puppy," he said. "There's no way the dog's ever going to turn on you."