IPO / Schutzhund

What is Schutzhund?

Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog”. It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners. Schutzhund work concentrates on three parts – tracking, obedience and protection. Many familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s affiliates will recognize the first two parts, tracking and obedience. The Schutzhund standards for the third part, protection work, are similar to those for dogs in police work.

While dogs of other breeds are also admitted to Schutzhund trials, this breed evaluation test was developed specifically for the German Shepherd Dog. Schutzhund is intended to demonstrate the dog’s intelligence and utility. As a working trial, Schutzhund measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage and trainability.

This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train their dog and compete with each other for recognition of both the handler’s ability to train and the dog’s ability to perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by persons of varied professions, who join together in a camaraderie born of their common interest in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages and conditions of life —- even those with significant disabilities —- enjoy Schutzhund as a sport. Often, it is a family sport.

Content from GSDCA-WDA Publication

Activities

Tracking

The tracking phase tests not only the dogs scenting ability, but also its mental soundness and physical endurance. In the tracking phase, a track layer walks across a field, dropping several small articles along the way. After a period of time, the dog is directed to follow the track while being followed by the handler on a 33 foot leash. When the dog finds each article he indicates it, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws. The dog is scored on how intently and carefully he follows the track and indicates the articles. The length, complexity, number of articles, and age of the track varies for each title.

Obedience

The obedience phase is done in a large field, with the dogs working in pairs. One dog is placed in a down position on the side of the field and his handler leaves him while the other dog works in the field. Then the dogs switch places. In the field, there are several heeling exercises, including heeling through a group of people. There are two or three gunshots during the heeling to test the dog’s reaction to loud noises. There are one or two recalls, three retrieves (flat, jump and A-frame), and a send out where the dog is directed to run away from the handler straight and fast and then lie down on command. Obedience is judged on the dog’s accuracy and attitude. The dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that is uninterested or cowering scores poorly.

Protection

In the protection phase, the judge has an assistant, called the “helper”, who helps him test the dog’s courage to protect himself and his handler and his ability to be controlled while doing so. The helper wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm. There are several blinds, placed where the helper can hide, on the field. The dog is directed to search the blinds for the helper. When he finds the helper, he indicates this by barking. The dog must guard the helper to prevent him from moving until recalled by his handler. There follows a series of exercises similar to police work where the handler searches the helper and transports him to the judge. At specified points, the helper either attacks the dog or the handler or attempts to escape. The dog must stop the attack or the escape by biting the padded sleeve. When the attack or escape stops, the dog is commanded to “out,” or release the sleeve. The dog must out or he is dismissed. At all times the dog must show the courage to engage the helper and the temperament to obey his handler while in this high state of drive. Again, the dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that shows fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression is dismissed.