SAN ANTONIO -- They can be cute and cuddly one minute, then vicious and protective the next.
Canine work that was once reserved for the military, border patrol or police is now moving into a new realm. Today, more and more families are investing in them for personal protection.
"If my dog's there and my family's there, I'm 100 percent satisfied, and feel safe. If they want to come in, come on," said a local man who doesn't want people to know he's getting a personal protection dog. He asked us to keep his identity secret.
But with increasing reports of cartel violence, drug seizures and kidnappings, that local man joins a growing number of people turning to trained canines to feel safe.
As drug violence spills across the border and into local neighborhoods, companies like Universal K9 are seeing a rise in demand for trained personal-protection dogs.
"We've already sold some dogs for that very purpose down by the border," said Universal K9 owner Brad Croft.
Croft's company trains dogs for personal protection, as well as for drug and explosives-detection.
Most of the dogs they train are for the military, but Croft says 20 to 30 per month are trained for personal protection for clients all over the country.
"I personally would rather have a dog than a gun. A dog never sleeps," Croft said.
Families who buy the trained dogs go through handlers' courses to learn how to control the animal.
"They know how to react to it, and how to turn it on and turn it off. We teach them all that," Croft said.
Universal K9 trainer Ray Nunez says once they get the dog from the breeder, it takes another one to four months to teach it the skills it needs.
"We put so many real different life scenarios to keep them balanced. If [it's] a threat, they'll step up to the challenge, but for the most part, they're going to be pets," Nunez said
The dogs are trained to protect their owners in their home, in their vehicles, or on command. They are also trained to be obedient and to be around other people on family outings, like neighborhood walks.
"It's a little bit different when he's outside, unless somebody comes out at him with a weapon, he'll probably leave them alone," Croft explained.
The dogs can be scary, but Croft says he trusts them so much that his 12-year-old daughter, Cameron, owns one.
"It's not going to turn against you. That's not going to happen. Once the dog understands you're mom or dad and you're feeding it," Croft said.
But once inside the home, the animal's instinct is to protect its master from threats and intruders.
Specific kinds of dogs like German Shepherds or Belgian Shepherds are bred specifically for this type of work. Purchasing one from Universal K9 will set you back $8,000 to $40,000, depending on how much training you want it to have.