Schutzhund:  Creating Well Rounded Working Dogs


Schutzhund (also known as IPO) is a dog sport that test the working abilities of a dog.  Originally created in the early 1900’s to serve as a breeding test for German Shepherd Dogs (dogs were not allowed to breed if they could not pass the test), schutzhund has now became a sport that welcomes all breed of dog and is less of a breeding test than it is a dog sport enjoyed by many handlers of all ages, and many breeds of dogs. – Young girl competing at National trial – Jack Russell Terrier doing protection

Every dog that trials in schutzhund must do a temperament test, known as the BH.  The BH is an acronym for the German word “Begleithund” with translates as “Traffic-Sure Companion Dog”.  After completing the BH, the dog can proceed to the advanced titles of Schutzhund 1 thru 3.  Each level gets progressively more advanced, culminating with the schutzhund 3.  There are also titles available in only tracking and only obedience, for those who don’t wish to do the protection.

The sport consists of three “phases”:

Tracking – Tests the dog’s scenting abilities.  The dog must precisely follow the footsteps of a tracklayer and find “articles” (pieces of various material with human scent).  As the dog progresses through the levels the tracks get significantly more difficult.  For the schutzhund 3 track the dog must navigate a 800 pace track that is an hour old.  Schutzhund tracking is different from AKC style tracking.  AKC style tracking using a “trailing” technique, while schutzhund tracking relies on footstep tracking.  Below is an example of what schutzhund tracking looks like:

Obedience – Tests the dog’s ability to be obedient.  The dog must show the willingness to do what the handler commands.  Involved in the test the dog must know the following commands: Heel, Sit, Down, Stay, Fetch.  There are two dogs on the field during this test.  One dog is in a down-stay while the other dog is “working”.  All obedience is done off-leash. In schutzhund, the judges want to see a happy, willing dog.  Below is a dog performing a schutzhund 3 obedience routine.

Protection – Tests the dog’s courage in protecting the handler while being obedient to the handler.  This phase is important because many police and military dogs come from schutzhund bloodlines.  This ensures that the dogs have the temperament to do this type of work.  In the protection phase, the dog must search blinds at the direction of the handler and find the bad guy “referred to as helper”.  The dog must guard the guy until the handler arrives.  The dog must also do various behaviors throughout the routine that mimic real world scenarios.  Below is an example of a dog doing a schutzhund 3 protection routine:

A lot of police and military dogs throughout the world come from the schutzhund bloodlines.  It is important that there is still a test out there that can insure that these working traits stay in dogs.  Many people are turned off by the protection aspect of the sport, and do not agree with it.  However, schutzhund instills a discipline within the dog that makes it a reliable dog.  Most schutzhund dogs are good family dogs and also double as search and rescue dogs.  I like to compare schutzhund training with that of teaching a kid martial arts.  The martial art teaches the kid certain fighting moves, but also gives them discipline.  In schutzhund, you can always just do the tracking and obedience if you are not sure about the protection phase.

Overall schutzhund is very rewarding activity you can do with your dog.  It is a demanding sport with some great people involved. It is something that has been a great influence in my life. This was a very basic description of the sport.  If you are interested in learning more about the sport, please visit my website/blog dedicated to the sport @ .

John Wolf

Brain Training For Your Dog

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