Fact or Fiction – Are Concealed Carriers “Sheepdogs”?

The idea of being a sheepdog is a noble one. However, it's fair to see if a misunderstanding of that term leads non-law enforcement officers into an improper mentality.

Origin of the term “Sheepdog” —

I don't know when or why the term “sheepdog” became a popular conceal carrier descriptor. I suspect it is born at least in part from Lt. Grossman's book “On Killing.”

what is a sheepdog

In the book, Grossman says human beings have survival instincts and survival features of predators and prey. Therefore, the individual will be a wolf (predator), sheep (prey), or Sheepdog.

You or I who carries a gun to protect himself and his family isn't a preditor (wolf). And no one wants to be considered the prey (sheep,) so the obvious conclusion is that the concealed carrier must be the protector, the “sheepdog.”

I've read the book, and as a combat vet and former LEO, I connected to much of its content. However, I didn't take everything in the book as applying to every human dogmatically. I could be wrong, but I don't think Lt. Grossman did either. Nevertheless, I think many took these “categories of humans” and lumped everyone into one of these three groups.

What is the Sheepdog's role —

A sheepdog's role is to protect the flock from the wolves. The problem isn't with the noble desire to protect the flock but defining which flock the non-LEO is responsible for safeguarding.

For all of us, but especially for men, we should be protectors and providers of ourselves and our families. We should do what is right and, if necessary, protect those who can't defend themselves, the weak and vulnerable. For non-LEOs, our flock is our family, not society as a whole.

Now, I'm not implying we should sit idly by as a psychopath murders defenseless humans because they “aren't our flock.” Instead, if you have the ability and means to intervene, maybe you should. And this is where the value of preparedness, vigilance, and sober judgment becomes critical. Do you know your abilities, or do you think you'll just “respond appropriately” when the time comes? This is part of knowing oneself and in which situations you may or may not be helpful.

People don't just respond instinctively and correctly in a high-stress incident; that's not how it works. Sure, many people with limited training respond effectively, but it's not because they have no training. Instead, it's despite them not training.

Let me put it another way; we've all seen plenty of police body-worn camera videos. Watching the footage nearly always shows something the officer could have done better despite the outcome. So when an officer responds to help you, you don't want them just to get the job done, but do it in a manner that limits adverse outcomes.

Officers who train and make decisions in high-stress, life-or-death situations perform better than those who spent years sitting behind a desk or are brand new. But is the average concealed carrier conditioned like a seasoned patrol officer? Maybe, maybe not.

Understanding our responsibility —

Again, let me say that deciding to help a perfect stranger is not bad in and of itself.

The point is that it's not your first responsibility. Law enforcement's responsibility is to help whoever, whenever. And LEOs receive training and equipment to do it, often in a safer way than the average Joe on the street can. They also have legal protections the average Joe doesn't.

However, sometimes the threat is such that waiting for law enforcement is not an option, and then it's your choice to intervene or not.

Glock handgun shooting

Maybe the big question is, who is the flock —

So, I find the most significant issue with the sheepdog mentality is the confusion of which “flock” the non-LEO is responsible for protecting.

By and large, non-LEO concealed carriers make appropriate decisions when intervening in a situation involving strangers. But that doesn't mean unfortunate and tragic outcomes don't occur.

For example, bad guys have killed intervening concealed carriers. Good guys have lost their lives when officers mistook them for bad guys. And some well-intended people are in prison or have had their lives destroyed because of using poor discretion in their use of force.

Mentality over title —

I'm pretty sure some readers' takeaway is still that I'm advocating to turn your back on helping an innocent person.

But, again, for the third time, that isn't what I am saying.

So help those you can help, and get the right people to help in situations where you're not the right solution to the problem.

Could you be a sheepdog without carrying a gun?

Of course.

Because being a sheepdog is more about a mentality than a title. We should just understand which flock we are responsible for protecting first, so the title doesn't lead us into a misguided mindset.

There are LEOs who hold the title but probably shouldn't have that responsibility. So the point is really not about what people call themselves, as long as they have the proper mindset.

Have you spent time thinking of what goes into a defensive mindset? If not, check out this post or this podcast episode.

Staying engaged —

If you've benefitted from this post or other content we've produced, consider a subscription to our Guardian Nation membership. The membership provides access to a training library, special discounts, perks, and a quarterly gear box with gear for concealed carriers. You can learn more about Guardian Nation here.

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About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. I produce the Concealed Carry Podcast and coordinate the Concealed Carry Instructor Network, and manage MJ Maruster Defense.

1 Comment

  1. Bob Tezyk on March 18, 2022 at 11:46 am

    I think the term “Sheepdog” became more popular with the advent of the string of church shootings that caused church members to form security teams.

    In my case, the Sutherland Springs church shooting that occurred on November 5, 2017 was a tipping point. Our church lobby was at a right angle to the church itself leaving us in a blind spot for any would be miscreant. After an impassioned presentation to the church elders, the team was formed and a plan was developed. The training and policy documents created had a sheepdog protecting the a flock of sheep for a cover page.

    We found a group of like minded church protectors who offered training by active duty and retired policemen and military under the sheepdog banner and attended several sessions as a group.

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