German Shepherd Schutzhund Training is a competitive sport in the canine world that involves testing the dogs skills to see if they are suitable as a good working dog. The word Schutzhund translates to “Protection Dog” in German. Three skills are measured in the competition: obedience, tracking and protection skills.
These three skills are tested in the competitive arena and judged accordingly. The current competition, formerly known as IPO, is called the IGP and is held all over the world. Five of the best dogs from each Nation compete annually in October at the world competition called the WUSV.
This article will discuss the sport in depth and will provide links and resources to get you on your way.
History of the Sport:
The sport of Schutzhund began in the early 1900’s and was originally used as a test for German Shepherd working dogs. It quickly thereafter became the norm for testing all of the top five protection breeds in Germany.
German Protection Dog Breeds
- German Shepherd
- Giant Schnauzer
The first testing of Schutzhund dogs was in 1901 and Captain Max Von Stephanitz played an integral role in the process.
Max Von Stephanitz
A pioneer in the dog world during the early part of the 20th century, Captain Max Von Stephanitz is the man responsible for the “working dog” breed of German Shepherd that we have to this day.
The career cavalry officer set the standard for the German Shepherd dog breed and was the first to hold office as the president of the German Shepherd Association.
He remained president from 1899 until 1935. His main objective was to create a better working dog German Shepherd that could become the future of the breed.
The Masters of Schutzhund:
The sport of Schutzhund has competitions for strictly German Shepherds but they also have competitions in which any dog can participate. Other dog breeds will have a hard time winning. The German Shepherds and Belgian Malanois have dominated the sport since the beginning.
Training has matured and expanded over the years similar to the sport itself. Owners and handlers take their dogs to German Shepherd Schutzhund clubs to train with other people and dogs. This is where they will hone their techniques and skills to prepare for the real competitions. One of the main stages of the trial involves a “decoy.”
What is a decoy?
The dogs handler will dress up in a bite suit and train the dog in certain techniques. Don’t try this at home. Decoys have to go through a training process of their own to get certified. It can be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.
How to find a Schutzhund Club:
There are German Shepherd Schutzhund clubs all over the world but few in the United States. The total number of American Clubs is under twenty with three of the clubs being located in Florida. I have put together a list of the American Clubs.
List of Schutzhund Training Clubs in the United States
- Central Alabama Schutzhund Club
- Golf Coast Schutzhund Club
- Greater Cincinnati Schutzhund Club
- Jacksonville Schutzhund Club
- Hegins Valley Police and Schutzhund Club
- North Beach Schutzhund Club
- OG Buckeye Schutzhund Club
- OG Indianapolis Schutzhund and Polizei
- O.G. Keystone Schutzhund Club
- Piedmont Schutzhund Club
- Podium Schutzhund Club
- Schaferhund Schutzhund Club
- Schutzhund Club of Orlando
- South Metro Atlanta Schutzhund Club
- Southwest Florida Schutzhund Club
- St. Louis Schutzhund Association
- The Sandhills Working Dog Club
- Tidewater Schutzhund Club
- United Schutzhund Clubs of America
These clubs normally have under twenty members due to the fact that only a certain number of dogs can train in one meeting. The clubs provide the resources needed to train dogs in the technique of “Protection”. Most of the time obedience and tracking is taught on the handlers own time but the clubs are willing to help beginners if they need it on an informal basis. A genuine club should teach all three disciplines of the sport.
In addition to training, the clubs also exist to make sure the dogs involved are strong enough to compete in the sport. The dogs are put to the test to make sure they wield the character and temperament necessary. Not all dogs are qualified to be a Schutzhund dog even some German Shepherds. It is very important to make sure that the dogs are ready and have the required traits necessary for the sport.
The clubs will often have public trials to award titles. It is an ideal place for trainers learn where their dog might be lacking in order to improve.
Visit one of the clubs links above to find out more about German Shepherd Schutzhund Training
On a rare occasion handlers have done well learning the training techniques of German Shepherd Schutzhund Training by reading informational books and watching videos.
There are several books written on the sport. Here is a list of some of the more important and ground breaking literatures written on the subject.
|Training Dogs, A Manual by Colonel Conrad Most|
This is the most in depth guide to the first fifty years in Schutzhund training written in 1901 by Colonel Conrad Most. During his long career he trained dogs in the fields of police work, seeing eye dogs and both World Wars.
He developed educational programs for dog trainers and studied in the field of Canine Psychology.
|Der Schutzhund “The Protection Dog” by Helmut Raiser|
This book, published in 1981, had a profound impact on the sport and more specifically “protection” training.
This manual has good illustrations and teaches you the theories behind “Protection” training and several methods you can use to develop your potential dog.
|Schutzhund Theory and Training Methods by Susan Barwig and Stewart Hilliard|
This is a great book that summarizes how and why the three main ingredients of training: obedience, protection and tracking are so important.
In addition, it helps with selecting the right dog that will best suit the handler’s training needs.
|K9 Schutzhund Training: A Manual for IPO Training through Positive Reinforcement|
Proven methods using a hands on approach to training your dog in the sport. This book teaches you how to put into action a successful plan utilizing the three main Schutzhund techniques.
It is based on successful training methods constructed by the authors Resi and Ruud who have over thirty years experience in the sport.
The Three Stages of Schutzhund:
There are three main stages in modern competitions. To earn a title, the dog must perform specialized tasks in order to pass all three stages. The stages are judged on a hundred point scale and the dog must get a minimum of seventy points to pass each stage.
The Tracking Stage:
The tracking stage will tests the dogs mental strength, physical attributes and ability to track scents. It begins with a track layer walking across a field while he drops a considerable amount of small items on his route. The dog is soon thereafter directed to follow the track using his scent to guide him. The handler follows with a thirty three foot leash.
The dog is suppose to alert the handler by laying down with the item between his two front paws. The dog is then judged accordingly based on how accurately he followed the track and located the items. Different events can have varying circumstances such as the number of items or the distance of the track.
The Obedience Stage:
Multiple exercises make up the obedience stage of the competition. It involves two dogs with one working while the other dog performs a long down under distraction. The dog must perform an off leash healing pattern with multiple commands. Next the dog will complete three retrieval exercises which include one on the flat ground, one over a hurdle that is one meter high and one over two foot high A-frame scaling wall.
The dog and it’s handler will be judged as a team on accuracy, quickness and how enthusiastic the dog is during the exercise. Difficulty may differ depending on the event.
The Protection Stage:
The last and most important stage is the “protection” stage. This is where the “decoy” comes into play. The decoy is suited with a heavy pad on the arm. He then proceeds to test the dogs bravery alongside his handler to challenge the dogs ability to protect.
To begin, blinds are placed on the course in different locations. The dog is told to search and find the helper and bark as a signal. He must then guard and protect the helper until called to return to his handler. The dog will then perform different exercises that are related to police work including leading the helper back to the judge. During the transport, the dog is presented with several scenarios such as the helper attacking or trying to escape. The dog must protect by biting the heavy pad on the arm and must release the pad from its mouth at the command of it’s handler.
The dog must show bravery and control during this exercise to prove it’s Schutzhund abilities. It cannot show any signs of doubt, lack of self control or misdirected aggression. If not it will be dismissed. Course and difficulty level could vary depending on the competition.
Deciding to train your dog in Schutzhund? Here are some of the common questions people ask when considering the training.
Will Schutzhund Training make my dog dangerous?
This is probably the most important questions and a big factor in people’s decision making when deciding whether to train their dog in the sport. Many people make the assumption that when you engage in Schutzhund training you are training your dog to bite. This is a misconception if you look at the traits of a dog trained in the sport.
- Mental Clarity:
The dogs ability to keep his mind clear allows him to stay focused on the job at hand during a multitude of exercises.
This is a signature trait of dogs trained in the sport. Dogs are challenged in high stress situations and learn how to stay calm and obedient while under the direction of the handler.
- Self Control:
The dogs must have a handle on controlling their actions during the highly competitive and stressful situations encountered during the events.
- Threat Detection:
The dog must be able to differentiate between who is a threat and who is not and protect accordingly.
These key traits developed in the dogs who practice and train in the sport have positive lasting effects on how the dog interacts with people. A dog with this special training will have more confidence and self control.
This means that a dog trained in Schutzhund is less likely to bite or attack than a dog with no training and no self control.
How much does German Shepherd Schutzhund Training Cost?
Prices can vary from club to club depending on certain criteria and training regimens. Club dues alone can run anywhere between $100 and $1000 annually.
Sessions can run anywhere between $65 and $100 depending on the trainer. If you need a helper for tracking they can run an additional $20 to $25. On top of this you will have to consider gas, equipment costs and trial fees. This is per dog of course. Multiple dogs will cost more.
Check the Schutzhund clubs in your area for individual pricing.
How old should my puppy be before starting Schutzhund Training?
While some will start there training at a very young age, it is recommended that you start training your dog at around 15 months of age. That being said you should start socialization while your puppy is young. Teach them to focus on you as the handler.
The “Out” Command:
This command is crucial for future training and is good to teach while your puppy is still young. Basically the “out” command is telling the dog to let go of the toy and get it “out” of his mouth. You can teach this command by first holding the toy close to your body until the dog eventually lets go. Once the dog can do this within a second you can administer the “out” command.
- Find a club that will fit your schedule and lifestyle. Make sure it is a legitimate club with scheduled meets. You will want to make this club your home to keep your dog’s training consistent.
- Find a good mentor that can put you and your dog on the right track. Find someone you and your dog connect with and enjoy spending time with. Finding the right mentor can be an invaluable tool.
- Do your research and read up as much as you can on the topic. As we mentioned above there are several good books packed with information on the sport.
- Stay patient and consistent in your training. You need to be in it for the long haul if you want to be successful in raising and developing a Schutzhund dog that is capable of competing at a high level.
Purchase Equipment for Training:
Here is a list of the equipment you will need to train your dog in the sport. Having the right equipment is an integral part of the training regimen.
- A Good Dog Harness
You will need a good strong dog harness for training. IceFang makes a good harness with several features including a 2x metal buckle, handle, no pull front leash clip along with hook and loop.
- Bite Pillow/Tug Toy
You will need a bite pillow to train your dog to bite accurately and effectively. This Dog Bite Tug Toy with two handles from Yes4Quality is a good choice. It is made of Jute and extremely durable.
- Bite Sleeve & Whip Agitation Stick
In order to train your dog in the critical aspect of “protection,” you will need a good bite sleeve and a whip agitation stick. This MelkTemn Professional Dog Bite Training Set is very high quality.
- Dog Training Pouch
A good training pouch will come in handy and can hold treats as well as poop bags. It is a much needed convenience for training. Check out the Paw Lifestyles Dog Treat Training Pouch to hold all of your necessities.
You will need a dumbell for retrieval training and trails. This “Schutzhund Champion” Wooden Dog Training Dumbell” weighs 2.25 pounds and has removable plastic weights.
- Heavy Duty Collar
A good heavy duty collar is a must for training your dog. Pick a strong nylon collar with a control handle. The Yunlep Adjustable Tactical Dog Collar is a great choice.
You will need a standard one meter tall agility jumping hurdle to accommodate your dogs training. Check out ActiveDogs.com IGP IPO Schutzhund Hurdle Jump w/Carrying Bag.
- Protection Blind
Blinds are used in the protection stage of the competition. This ActiveDogs.com IGP IPO Schutzhund Collapsible 8′ Protection Blind is Easy to Transport and comes with collapsible poles.
- Tracking Gear
This includes a wide variety of items including the following: drag lines, flags and tracking articles.
Once you have all of your gear and you have found the right club and hopefully a mentor, you are ready to begin German Shepherd Schutzhund Training! I hope that we have given you enough information to make a wise decision regarding your dog and the sport.
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Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you about your experience with the sport!