‘Gentle Navy SEALs’: Animal-loving elites are buying $150,000 ‘military grade’ protection dogs

Dog-breeder Svalinn, trains its animals for two to three years in order to engineer the perfect balance between high-functioning bodyguards and affectionate pets

Mike Bedigan
New York
Tuesday 09 July 2024 19:39
Comments
Dog-breeder Svalinn, trains its animals for two to three years in order to engineer the perfect balance between high-functioning bodyguards and affectionate pets
Dog-breeder Svalinn, trains its animals for two to three years in order to engineer the perfect balance between high-functioning bodyguards and affectionate pets (Svalinn/ svalinnworkingdogs/ Instagram)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

What do you get for the security-conscious, uber-rich friend who has it all?

Houses with high walls, high-tech security systems, and surly bodyguards may previously have been the go-to, but for those who fancy a slightly more affectionate approach a company in Montana is offering “military grade” protection dogs for $150,000 each.

The breeder – Svalinn – touts the animals as a “one-of-a-kind hybrid” with the animals possessing elite, danger-sensing instincts as well as the warmth and affection of a typical pet.

The company website offers dogs for protection, family protection, and personal protection. Each animal is an undisclosed mix of Dutch shepherd, German shepherd, and Belgian Malinois.

Svalinn says it sells no more than 20 dogs a year, and only about 350 exist worldwide. The animals are trained to high intensity for three years and potential buyers must themselves undergo vetoing from the company.

Each individual animal is rigorously trained by Svalinn for two to three years in order to engineer the perfect balance between high-functioning bodyguards and affectionate pets
Each individual animal is rigorously trained by Svalinn for two to three years in order to engineer the perfect balance between high-functioning bodyguards and affectionate pets (Svalinn/ svalinnworking dogs/ Instagram)

According to their website, the four-step process involves meeting the breeders and getting to know the dogs, visiting the ranch, and selecting the perfect animal, before securing the animal with a non-refundable deposit.

Kim Greene, co-founder of Svalinn, says the company has a “no-a**holes policy.”

“We’ve done a lot of due diligence on the people who visit. We’re interviewing clients as much as they’re interviewing us,” she said speaking to the New York Magazine.

After new clients purchase and take home their dog, a Svalinn handler visits within 45 days to see if they have kept up with the dogs’ training or introduced bad habits.

The four-step process to buying a Svalinn dog involves meeting the breeders and getting to know the dogs, visiting the ranch, selecting the perfect animal, before paying a non-refundable deposit
The four-step process to buying a Svalinn dog involves meeting the breeders and getting to know the dogs, visiting the ranch, selecting the perfect animal, before paying a non-refundable deposit (Svalinn/ svalinnworkingdogs/ Instagram)

Greene, says she wants to civilize dogs and “give them manners,” while at the same time hoping to not dull their animal instincts. Clients who spoke to the magazine shared similar sentiments.

“I feel like we have a gentle Navy SEAL in the house,” said Stephen Mazzola, an airline pilot and owner of a Svalinn dog. “I find myself giving a command and going, ‘Holy cow, that really works.’”

Mazzola said that even in settings including a restaurant, his dog – Jet – instinctually looks the other way towards potential threats. “That’s an automatic thing with them. The training kind of morphs into the instinct to protect the family,” he said.

Another client, Regis Haid, said he too had balked at the price tag of the animals, until witnessing the Svalinn training facility outside Livingston in Montana’s Paradise Valley. He and his wife now own two.

“I was in the military, I had an Air Force scholarship to med school, and I’ve hunted. These dogs – they’re like humans,” he said.

Greene said that the purpose of the company was not to create a “luxury” item, though she often refers to the animals as “assets”. She and her former husband Jeff Greene bred Rhodesian Ridgebacks for the expat community in Nairobi and sold dogs to the US.

Svalinn touts the animals as a ‘one of a kind hybrid’
Svalinn touts the animals as a ‘one of a kind hybrid’ (Svalinn/ svalinnworkingdogs/ Instagram)

The couple noticed an increase in interest in K-9 security following the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, which included canine operatives.

They returned to the US with the intent of providing animals that could function both as pets, and high-functioning bodyguards.

The whopping price tag on Svalinn dogs comes mostly from the intensity of their training – which takes two or three years – rather than their breeding. It is a tough training process that not all survive.

“If nature takes puppies, it takes puppies,” Greene told the outlet. “If we were a puppy mill, we would sleep with the puppies, we’d give them heat lamps.

“But you know what? These are protection assets. And if six of them are going to pass, there’s a reason.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in