Schutzhund is a dog sport that involves a dog's training, tracking, and protection skills. In Schutzhund, which was previously called IGP or IPO, dogs are evaluated based on a dog's ability to perform police-type work. Dogs trained in Schutzhund can perform a wide range of tasks including police work, search and rescue, and odor detection. Schutzhund tests dogs for desired qualities such as a strong desire to work, courage, intelligence, trainability, loyalty, perseverance, protective instinct, and a good sense of smell. All these skills are required for highly demanding jobs.
Schutzhund was developed in Germany in the early 20th century as a suitability test for German Shepherds. German Shepherd dogs are required to have Schutzhund titles and a breed survey, certification of endurance, confirmation rating, and hip x-rays. German Shepherds may only breed if they have passed a Schutzhund test or a herding test. Schutzhund's training later became available to other German protection breeds, including Dobermans, Boxers, Rottweilers, and Reisenschnauzers.
Currently, the sport is available worldwide and is open to all breeds. It is most popular in European countries, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) controls the sport of Schutzhund on the international stage after the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) gave up control. FCI sets standards for the protection dogs and rules for Schutzhund trials. FCI events are open to all breeds of dogs, but protection breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Belgian Malinois still dominate.
Benefits of Schutzhund?
Schutzhund offers many benefits to dogs and dog owners. They provide the dog with tremendous physical, mental, and social stimulation. Additionally, the sport serves as a valuable breeding tool that keeps the breed's quality high. Clubs for Schutzhund owners and dog trainers give them the chance to be part of a community with similar interests.
There are many jobs that Schutzhund-trained dogs can do. Their skills include herding, protection, search and rescue, and frequently used as service dogs. These dogs are ideal for police and military work. They have a solid foundation and only need a little more training before they can be enlisted in the police force. Since many police dogs are trained in Schutzhund first, German commands are often used for police work in the USA.
The following are some basic commands in German.
- Sitz (Sit)
- Steh (Stand)
- Platz (Down)
- Bleib (Stay)
- Fuss (Heel)
- Hier (Come)
- Gib Laut (Speak)
A Schutzhund dog is not only a highly skilled working dog, but he is also a well-trained companion dog at home. They are generally calm and alert and eager to protect if necessary. They are courageous, and also good with children.
Schutzhund titles and requirements
In Schutzhund trials, titles are awarded to dogs who successfully complete the three stages of training (tracking, obedience, protection). Schutzhund titles, however, can only be earned after passing a temperament test and earning the BH degree. During this temperament test, the dog's behavior around fellow dogs and people will be evaluated.
In the BH test, a dog must heel on and off-leash, down, sit, and recall, as well as react to strange sounds, crowds of people, cars, and other dogs. Upon earning the BH degree, a dog can compete in Schutzhund trials and earn titles.
The Schutzhund degree allows a dog to participate in Schutzhund trials and earn titles. Schutzhund dogs and handlers can earn the following three basic titles:
1. Tracking phase – This phase tests the dog's scenting ability, mental soundness, and physical endurance. Several small articles are dropped in a field by a "tracklayer." The dog is instructed to follow the track while being tethered by its handler for 10 meters (33 ft). When the dog finds a particular object, he indicates that he has found it by lying down with the item between his front paws. Scores are based on the dog's attentiveness and careful following of the track and indication of the articles. Depending on the title, the length, complexity, number of articles, and age of the track may differ.
2. Obedience phase – Two dogs are present in the field at the same time for this phase. A dog is placed in a down position on one side of the field by its handler, while another dog is left in the field then they switch places. The field involves several heeling exercises, including heeling through groups of people. A couple of gunshots are fired during heeling to test the dog's reaction to loud noises. The dog is directed to run straight and fast away from the handler and then lie down on command while running. Three retrieval drills are taught (flat, jump, and A-frame) as well as a "send out" in which the dog is directed to lay down on command while running away from the handler. The dog's attitude and accuracy are considered when judging obedience. Dogs should show enthusiasm when performing while uninterested or cowering dogs score poorly.
3. Protection phase – This phase involves guarding a human decoy until the handler arrives by searching for a hidden person who acts as a human decoy. If the decoy tries to escape, the dog should follow him and grip him tightly. When the decoy attacks the dog's handler, the exact same thing happens.
In the final test, the handler sends the dog after the decoy when he emerges from his hiding place at the end of the field and refuses to stop when instructed to do so. At that point, the decoy will also use a stick to threaten the dog. Once again, it is the dog's job to grip the decoy. It is important that the dog's grips are firm and placed on the padded sleeve. Additionally, the dog should stop gripping on command or when the decoy stops running away or fighting.
For a dog to excel at protection training, he must also possess a few "cross-over" traits:
- Self-Control – Maintaining calm under pressure and controlling his emotions during high-octane situations.
- Discrimination – Knowing who is a threat and who is not, and knowing how to assess the threat level in order to respond appropriately.
- Clarity – Remaining calm under pressure and focusing on the job at hand and instructions from the handler.
- Obedience – Following the commands of the handler at all times.
What are the Criteria to Pass Schutzhund Trial?
Judges look for dogs that demonstrate courage, intelligence, utility, mental stability, structural efficiency, endurance, trainability, willingness to work, and ability to scent during the three Schutzhund phases.
Every three phases are worth 100 points. A dog must earn at least 70 points in each phase of the Schutzhund trial in order to pass and earn a title.
Dogs that do not meet this standard or do not pass the temperament test will have to be retested to earn a Schutzhund title at a later date.Training a Schutzhund is a lot of fun and has numerous positive effects. Your dog will develop better discipline, improve his scent work, and get in better physical and mental shape due to this training. Keep in mind that you will need commitment, patience, and hard work for this training. Before deciding to go forward with it, be certain that you and your dog are prepared.