The word “Schutzhund” is German for “protection dog”.
Schutzhund training is a dog sport that was developed in Germany in the early 1900s as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd Dog. The test would determine if the dog displayed the appropriate traits and characteristics of a proper working German Shepherd Dog. Today, it is used as a sport where many breeds other than German Shepherd Dogs can compete, but it is a demanding test for any dog and few are able to pass successfully.
Schutzhund is a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating traits in dogs that make them happier and more useful companions for their owners. Some of these traits include:
Schutzhund tests for these traits. It also tests for physical traits such as strength, endurance, agility, and scenting ability. The goal of Schutzhund is to illuminate the character and ability of a dog through training. Breeders can use this insight to determine how and whether to use the dog in producing the next generation of working dogs.
BH – Begleithundprüfung
The translation from German means “traffic-sure companion dog test”. The BH tests basic obedience and sureness around strange people, strange dogs, traffic and loud noises. A dog that exhibits excessive fear, distraction, or aggression cannot pass the BH and therefore cannot go on to Schutzhund.
Novice Schutzhund qualification in tracking, obedience and protection.
Intermediate Schutzhund qualification in tracking, obedience and protection.
Advanced Schutzhund qualification in tracking, obedience and protection.
If trained in the right manner, dogs enjoy working, as anyone who attends a Schutzhund competition can see. The joy of the dogs in working with their handlers is evident.
For thousands of years, dogs have adapted to serve humans in a mutually beneficial relationship. While dogs could move quickly, hunt prey, and protect flocks and their owner, the humans could provide food, shelter from the most severe elements, and protection from larger predators, besides tending to the dog’s injuries. A dog’s reason for being is to serve humans. Schutzhund training helps develop the dog’s natural instincts to a high level. Self-confident dogs, doing work for which they are well trained, are happy dogs. Wagging tails, sounds of excitement, and strong pulling on a leash all show an observer at a Schutzhund trial how much fulfillment dogs find in this work.
Since Schutzhund is the demonstration of the German Shepherd dog’s most desirable characteristics, dogs well trained in Schutzhund are usually excellent companions in the home. The German Shepherd Dog – like any; other working dog that possesses mental stability-has trust and confidence in itself, allowing it to be at peace with its surroundings.
In addition to sound structural efficiencies for long, arduous work, the standard for the German Shepherd Dog calls for mental stability and a willingness to work. The dog should be approachable, quietly standing its ground, showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself necessarily making them. It should be generally calm, but eager and alert when the situation warrants. It should be fearless, but also good with children.
The German Shepherd Dog should not be timid or react nervously to unusual sounds or sights. A dog that is overly aggressive because of its overall fears of people and events can be extremely dangerous. The Schutzhund sport is designed to identify and eliminate such dogs from breeding stock. Because Schutzhund training gives the owner a great deal of control over the dog, the owner is able to let the dog have more fun. Not only is Schutzhund training itself enjoyable for the dog, but the Schutzhund trained dog knows how to please its owners, creating a stronger bond between dog and owners.
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.
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.
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.