By Lori Fullbright, News 9
UNDATED -- Most people have dogs for companionship and treat them as a member of the family, hoping that if they were to face danger, their pet would go from friend to protector. But would they?
We put pets to the test in an outdoor setting last spring, and afterward, many viewers emailed us, asking us to test dogs at home, where they should feel most protective.
So, that's what we did.
Bonnie and her husband, Kirk, have four German Shepards. They've had "Khemo" since he was six weeks old and he comes in the house all the time.
"He's the one I think will be more aggressive of any of the four," Bonnie said.
"Brinks", like the security system, they haven't had for as long, but she just had puppies and is protective of the couple's children.
Lori Fullbright: "So, if you and your kids are inside and an intruder comes in, think she'd protect you guys?"
Bonnie: "I hope so. I want to hope so."
We put that to the test, sending an intruder in to gauge their reactions.
Rogers County Deputy Kyle Baker walked into the home, checked out the TV and wandered around, and there was not so much as a bark out of Brinks.
Bonnie said she was, "Kinda surprised."
Then we put Bonnie and her youngest inside with her to see if that brought out more of Brinks' protective instincts. Even though Brinks went to the couch with Bonnie, she didn't bark or display aggressive behavior and, in fact, she got behind Bonnie when Baker got close.
Both Bonnie and Kirk said they were surprised, but both figured Khemo would react differently, so we put him in with mom and baby to see what happened. Again, though, it was the same result. Khemo didn't show a protective side, even when Baker approached mother and child. Bonnie and Kirk were, again, disappointed.
"Yes, I would like to see the guy get bit. It's mean to say, but I'd have felt a lot better," Kirk said.
Then we put Sally Cookson's four dogs to the test: 18-month-old Samson, 8-year-old Pappy, 15-year-old Sadie and 10-year-old Daphne.
"I'll be interested to see what they will do," Cookson said. "Will they protect the home? I don't have any firearms. This is my protection. Let's see what they do."
Although they greet him with a chorus of barking, the dogs don't get aggressive and let Rogers County Deputy Quint Tucker move around in the home freely.
"Just gonna check out the TV and see how easy it is for me to carry it out of here," Tucker said.
Then, he did something that surprised all of us.
"You guys wanna go potty? Who wants to go outside, huh?" Deputy Tucker asked the dogs.
Once in the backyard, they stopped barking and seemed content to leave a stranger in the house.
"It was kinda disappointing," Cookson said.
But would it be different if Cookson herself were threatened? Well, not only did the dogs not protect her; they high-tailed it to another room.
"I was a little bit disappointed, because I thought I'd have, at least, a dog near me and they all just scattered," Cookson said.
"To them, you're the caretaker. So if you're there, you should be the one taking care of them, not them taking care of you, like a child in your family," Tucker said.
Karisha: "Now, I'll actually know if the dogs will protect me or if I'm on my own."
Our final test was Karisha, owner of Saundra, a 5-year-old Rottweiler, Eli, a 5-year-old chocolate lab and Izzy, a 4-year-old border collie.
She said she was convinced they would bark like crazy, but when Baker first entered—silence. The more he moved around, the more they barked and even growled, but they didn't do anything to stop him.
"When he first went in and they didn't bark at all. I was so disappointed," Karisha said.
But would they stay quiet with her inside with them? They did not. There was plenty of barking and growling and they didn't like him yelling at them. The dogs refused to let him get any closer to her and, perhaps unexpectedly, the lab was most certainly the most aggressive.
Deputy Baker: "I did get a nip on the leg, down on the bottom."
Deputy Baker: "The chocolate lab."
Karisha said she was most pleased to be considered a part of the pack and worthy of protection.
"They wouldn't let him near me and did not like it, at all. I'm so proud of them," Karisha said.
Some viewers have suggested stories like this encourage criminals, but our goal is to inform our viewers, so people won't have a false sense of security.
The truth is, barking dogs are a big deterrent, whether they attack or not, and we can't test for every scenario. Had our victims been yelling, giving orders to the dogs to attack or exhibiting real fear, who knows what would've happened.
The lesson here is you need to plan to protect yourself, first. If your dogs help, consider it an added bonus.