I train protection dogs for a living. The cost for clients can run up to $150,000, but it's a much better deal than hiring a bodyguard.
- Mike Israeli owns Delta K9 Academy, which offers a program to train dogs to become protectors to their owners.
- The highest-level dog training program there can cost between $65K to $150K and can take more than 2 years.
- Israeli said some people in Los Angeles turn to protection dogs because they don't feel safe.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Mike Israeli, the 38-year-old owner of Delta K9 Academy in Los Angeles. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Dogs have always been a part of my life. I grew up in Armenia with dogs, and later, I worked with dogs in the military and in law enforcement. When I opened my business, Delta K9 Academy, in 2019, I didn't plan to offer dog protection training, We started out offering regular obedience training, breeding services, and boarding.
But people found out that I had trained my own dog to be a protection dog, and they were interested, so we decided to offer it as a service.
Many people in Los Angeles don't feel safe, and clients come to me because they were attacked or their houses were robbed. Some people feel like their options are to hire a bodyguard or get a dog. With a dog, you can feel safe all the time for years while also gaining a companion.
We offer different training packages to customers, and prices depend on what they're looking for. If you want an obedient dog package, that's $5,000, and then price levels go up after that.
At a very high level, we offer protection training ranging from $65,000 to $150,000. The packages are customizable because each customer is different.
Dogs who complete the highest level of training will attack a perpetrator in any scenario, and they understand that it's not a game. They can protect your car and protect your property, but they are also safe to be around children; you can go to restaurants or travel on planes with them. The training program can take more than two years to complete.
Sometimes we hear from people that we should just let dogs be dogs and that they should not be trained to do anything. I agree that dogs are amazing and loyal; I wish people had 30% of the loyalty dogs have. But there are some breeds designed to work, and they want to work. If you don't give a job to these types of dogs, they will become more dangerous than if they are trained.
It's very difficult to bring the animal to the level where they understand "even though I've been taught how to fight and how to bite, sometimes I'm not allowed to make that decision if there is no command."
I think many people confuse the difference between an aggressive dog and a protection dog. We make sure our dogs are socialized by exposing them to kids and different places as puppies.
If you do that, then by 3-4 months old, you will have a puppy that is confident and has a strong personality. That's when you start teaching them commands. By the end of the program, the dog understands that if there is no command, it won't engage, but if there is a command to go, it will go. We even teach the dogs not to react when a child is rough with them, so the dogs are safe to be around children.
The best part of my job is when clients appreciate the training. I care about dogs, and it's important to feel like you are doing something good.