What is Schutzhund Training for Dogs?
You may not have heard of it, but chances are you’ve seen it in action. Schutzhund training is used for police and military training, but your dog may also benefit from it.
When it comes to dog training there are a wide variety of programs out there, many of them developed for specific breeds. Schutzhund training is a type of training that was designed for the German Shepherd breed, though it is also used for other protection breeds like the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, American Bulldog, and the Boxer.
The Three Phases of Schutzhund Training
The name Schutzhund is actually the German word for “protection dog” and it refers to a sport that focuses on the development and evaluation of three key traits – tracking, obedience, and protection. This type of training was developed during the 1900s as a breed test for the German Shepherd but it has since developed into a dog sport. Schutzhund training is also known as IPO and it is a dog sport that consists of three distinct phases which are reviewed below:
- Tracking: This phase of Schutzhund training is designed to test a dog’s scenting ability as well as his physical endurance and mental soundness. During this phase the track layer will walk across a field, dropping small articles along the way. After a certain period of time, the dog is released to follow the track – each time he locates an article he must indicate by lying down with the article between his front paws. Each dog is scored based on how intently and correctly he follows the track and indicates the articles.
- Obedience: During this phase, dogs work in pairs in a large field. One dog is left in a down position at one end of the field while the handler works with another dog in the field, completing various heeling exercises. There are also multiple gunshots throughout the duration of the event to test the dog’s reaction to loud noises. Each dog is evaluated based on his accuracy and attitude during the event – the dog is also scored on his enthusiasm.
- Protection: In this phase the dog’s protection skills are tested with the help of a judging assistant. During the test, the assistant wears a padded sleeve on one arm and the dog is directed to search the course for the assistant and, when he finds him, to indicate by barking. The dog must then guard the assistant, keeping him from moving away until he is recalled by the handler. Throughout the exercise the assistant will attack the dog or the handler, testing the dog’s reaction and his ability to stop the assistant by biting his padded sleeve.
While Schutzhund training was originally developed for the German Shepherd breed, any dog can participate in the sport as long as it has certain traits. A strong desire to work, great courage, intelligence, trainability, perseverance, a strong sense of smell, natural protective instincts, and a strong bond with the handler are the most important traits for Schutzhund training. There are different levels of difficulty during Schutzhund competitions so a dog can progress and the highest level of competition is very difficult – so difficult that few dogs actually pass.
If you think that Schutzhund training might be a good choice for your dog, your best bet is to get started early. When you are ready to begin training, consult the United Schutzhund Clubs of America website for training guides and information about competitions.