Dogs make great “Huggable Security.” Just ask Wayne Simanovich, renowned trainer and breeder of award-winning German shepherd protection dogs.
For thousands of years, since being domesticated from wolves, dogs have walked alongside humans as loyal companions. The term man’s best friend honors the bond between human and canine, forged over time into one of the most significant animal-human pairings in history.
Dogs have been our faithful companions as we’ve explored the world, founded countries, fought wars, started families. In the 21st century, that bond is perhaps stronger than ever. And while we may not be setting out for parts unknown quite as often as our ancestors, the need for a protective companion in today’s uncertain age is as real as ever.
That’s where Wayne Simanovich and his protection dogs come in.
“The world is an uneasy place right now. I’ve never seen it this bad before,” says Simanovich, a renowned trainer and breeder of German shepherd family protection dogs.
Pairing one of his dogs with a family in need is a thorough process that usually takes time and expertise to develop. But sometimes an emergency situation for a family means Simanovich must match the dog quickly.
“There used to be a time 20 years ago that every now and then we would have to drop what we were doing to place a dog with someone who was in immediate need,” he says. “It seems like those situations that used to happen every now and then are happening every couple weeks now. It’s unfortunate, but that’s why we’re here.”
Simanovich spent his childhood years in Baltimore, but he spent summers with his grandfather in eastern Tennessee, where his grandfather trained hunting dogs. And back home in Baltimore, Simanovich’s father, a small-business owner, employed German shepherds to guard the shop at night.
Seeing canines excel as working dogs in the two places in the late 1960s sparked an interest in Simanovich to become a dog trainer. By the time he was in college, he’d taken a job with one of the country’s top field trial trainers and had begun working with various breeds in retrieving, obedience, and protection. Soon Simanovich homed in on his true love: developing protection and obedience skills. That focus has grown into what is now a 41-year career with dogs.
Simanovich began competing rigorously in working-dog competitions and has since earned many of the top accolades a trainer can achieve. He holds two North American championships, two national championships, and has represented the United States seven times in the world championship competition in major cities all over Europe. His successes attracted the attention of Ralston Purina Company, which sponsored Simanovich for years as he traveled the country conducting training seminars.
“Because of the successes that I had in the working-dog competitions, my relationship with Ralston Purina, and my ability to produce quality working dogs, I was looked upon as someone that could provide protection dogs for folks who needed that,” Simanovich says. As his reputation grew, his company blossomed. “I’ve placed a lot of neat dogs with a lot of neat people: entertainers, politicians, athletes, business people, and mostly just normal folks like you and me.”
More and more, customers began to seek out Simanovich’s dogs as well-trained four-legged bodyguards who could also be a part of the family, essentially “Huggable Security,” as the company tagline says.
“Some of these people had had bad things happen in their life. Some maybe didn’t even really like dogs and never thought about having a dog, but it was their last hope for some kind of peace in their life. Once they have a dog like this, they realize how wonderful it is,” Simanovich says. He has placed dogs with people who have suffered everything from stalking, kidnapping, home invasions, spousal abuse, and more. Thankfully, he says, most of his clients haven’t had anything bad happen to them — they just don’t want that to change.
“A dog can be a very determined protector if it has to be, but fortunately those situations are rare. Most people with bad ideas, if they see someone with a strong, trained dog, they take their bad intentions elsewhere,” Simanovich says.
There are three top traits in a good family dog for protection and security, Simanovich explains. You want the dog to be an alarm and wake you up in case of an intruder. You want the dog to be a strong-looking visual deterrent of an assault. And you want the dog to be committed to protecting you if the need ever presented itself.
Simanovich’s dogs are beautiful, but he’s quick to point out that they’re not show dogs. “They don’t jog in a circle for a blue ribbon. They’re working dogs, so they’ve always been evaluated on their trainability, their resiliency, their determination in the protection phases, their athletic ability.” Along with those qualities, he says, the key trait he’s after is manageability. “The dog must be a manageable dog that is a good ambassador in the community and a well-mannered part of the family, because my clients are not professional dog trainers. My clients are families just like mine and yours, and they need a dog that they can manage and that they can live with and have fun with.”
Simanovich and his son, Jack, operate their facility on 150 acres in North Carolina with a staff of seven people who are highly skilled at training and socializing the dogs to best prepare them for their new lives.
“The dogs are placed in family environments where they’ll go to Walmart and shopping centers, the airport, walks in public places and experience family routines,” Simanovich says. A lot of the company’s clients have ranches and acreages, so the dogs are socialized around livestock and in many other lifestyle scenarios. “We’ve placed quite a few dogs in Manhattan, so those dogs have to understand what it’s like to live on the 30th floor in a high-rise and walk in the park every day, so depending on where the dog goes, that’s how we structure the training.”
For the majority of Simanovich’s clients, where the need is not a dire emergency, taking time in selecting the dog is a big priority. “Getting the right dog with the right owner is a process,” he says. “I need to make sure that they’re getting the dog that best suits their lifestyle.” That process typically takes about 30 days, and Simanovich likes to have his entire staff and his clients involved. “It’s paramount for us that clients are involved during that training period, but if there’s an emergency, we can have the dog anywhere in the country in 48 hours or less.”
These days Simanovich is focusing on his breeding program, as well as training. “We are capable of producing a superior dog right here in North Carolina,” he says. “When it’s done from the ground up, and I’ve had my hands on the dog from the ground up, I know more about what that dog’s been through all of its life.”
Judging from his many happy clients, it’s clear Simanovich’s formula breeds both good protection dogs and success.
Find out more about Wayne Simanovich’s protection dogs here.
Photography: Images courtesy Wayne Simanovich
From our April 2021 issue.