Wealthy Londoners are buying protection dogs to deter violent criminals.
It follows a string of high-profile cases in which business people have been attacked in their own homes.
One company has seen sales of domestic guard dogs soar from 20 a year in 1996 to 100 a year now.
A1K9 trains German shepherds, Dobermanns and Belgian shepherds to act as both family pets and protectors. They are taught to attack an intruder on command, but to stop when ordered and to be safe around families. They cost between £5,000 and £15,000 and the firm counts former Formula 1 champion Nigel Mansell among its clients.
Managing director Charles Wall said: “Anyone who is presumed to have a degree of wealth is a potential target. Now criminals are breaking in while people are at home, which is terrifying. I have heard more nasty stories over the last 12 months than ever before.”
Debbie MacBeattie, in her early forties, from central London, told how she bought her first protection dog after thieves broke into her home. She now has a German shepherd called Seiko.
She said: “When you are in a high-profile business in the West End you are seen by a large number of people, so it is important you have all the protection you need in the home. I no longer have expensive jewellery because I don’t want to put myself at risk.
“I was the victim of a serious crime where people burst in the front door, and I wouldn’t be without my dog now. The important thing is they are very controlled in the family environment but they will protect if the command is given.”
A1K9 spends about six months training an animal. “They have to be a family pet and 95 per cent of our dogs go to people with children.
“I have never had a problem with one of my dogs biting a child. We don’t train any type of fighting dog, such as pitbulls or Staffordshire bull terriers, because you can switch them on but you can’t switch them back off again.”