It's time to answer another question! This one is about a woman who's looking for a little protection.
I have an American Pitbull Terrier who possess zero aggression. I know
they are naturally people loving dogs and am grateful that she possesses
no dog aggression but, I always thought she would protect me, a single
woman in a big city if I ever encountered an aggressive person. Well
this very thing has happened and my "vicious pitbull" hid behind me with
her tail between her legs, and did nothing but whimper while we were
being accosted. Similar situations have occurred and if the approaching
party is aggressive, she runs. If they are mentally ill or drunk she
tries to make friends, wagging her tail and motioning for them to show
her attention which they often do. I have taught her a command (no
stranger) and that has helped a bit with ignoring strangers. I have had
dogs before and they were always aware and unwelcoming of people in
their wrong minds. My dog lacks this sense. I semi-successfully have
trained her to growl on the command "protect" but she, lays down, waggs
her tail, and looks to me for the treat. I'm afraid I've gone all wrong
with this "protect" command. And even more, I'm afraid she will never
protect me. She is 4 1/2 years old. Do you have any advice that could
help me to increase her discernment and protection?
Ok, my biggest question is why? I know you want some protection from your dog, but it frankly seems like this dog does not have the temperament for it. By teaching her, at this point, that it's OK to show any form of aggression or dominance, you could end up creating a mess of trouble. Rather than teaching her to growl or protect, I'd focus on rewarding her for acting happy and comfortable around people. Reward her when she's not acting scared or fearful, but rather when she is being outgoing.
So, what do you do about your protection? Well, there are plenty of options here. If you want a dog for protection, get a personal protection dog. These dogs are bred and trained to be there for you with just one command. You really don't have to worry about them being overly protective, because their drive to bite is not driven by fear. It's driven by play and obedience...a much safer combination than fear.
You could also opt for non-living forms of protection. A tazer or mace are both great options and are a great way to protect both yourself AND your dog. For long walks, I've known more than one person to walk with mace or even something as simple as a bat or stick just to have a little something more.
You may also want to find a walking buddy or a group to walk with, as there's safety in numbers.
All of these options are better than teaching your 4 1/2 year old pet dog to growl at strangers; particularly if she's a submissive dog who only really wants to be loved to start with.