If you ever admired the agility and intellect of police dogs, then you may want to know the type of training they receive.
You must have also noticed that some species of dogs are popular in this field.
Well, get ready to have all your thoughts clarified because, in this article, I will be talking about Schutzhund, the training that prepares dogs for police work.
As you read on, you will learn its history, phases, titles, and more!
Are you ready? Let’s roll!
What is Schutzhund?
Schutzhund is a sport for dogs that tests their tracking, obedience, and protection skills. It used to be referred to as IPO but now it is called IGP.
Additionally, it is used to analyze whether a dog possesses the traits of a good working dog.
Schutzhund is a German word for “protection dog“ and the sport began with the German shepherds.
You’ll learn more about the history of this training in the next section.
A Brief History Of Schutzhund
You can already tell that Schutzhund originated from Germany. It was developed in the early 20th century.
Then it was used to determine the suitability of a German Shepherd Dog.
Not much has changed today as these dogs require Schutzhund titles, a confirmation rating, a certificate of endurance, a breed survey, and hip x-rays before they are bred in Germany.
READ ALSO: Why Do Dogs Bark: 10 Important Reasons! [New Guide]
Later, other German protection breeds like Dobermans, Boxers, and Rottweilers joined the Schutzhund training.
As it stands, all dog breeds can participate in the sport. And other countries in Europe, Canada, Australia, and the USA have adopted the sport.
Schutzhund is the most popular dog sport in these regions. You may even find some clubs dedicated to the sport including:
- DVG America
- United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USCA)
- American Working Dog Association (AWDA)
- American Working Dog Federation (AWDF)
Officially, two German organizations – the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) conducted the sport on the international stage until the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) took over in 2004.
To date, FCI sets protection dog standards and the rules for Schutzhund trials.
And German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Rottweilers, and other protection breeds dominate the sport.
I guess this sport has lasted the years because of its benefits to the dogs and their owners.
While the dogs improve their physical, mental, and social abilities, their owners get to connect to people with similar interests.
Next, we’ll see the different phases of Schutzhund.
Phases Of Schutzhund
Schutzhund has 3 phases namely:
- The Tracking Phase
READ ALSO: How To Give A Dog A Pill: Importance, Methods, Precautions & Demerits
This phase tests the dog’s scenting ability, mental soundness, and physical endurance.
First, a track layer walks across a field and drops small items along his path.
After some time, a dog held by its handler on a 33-foot leash is directed to follow the track.
On finding each article, the dog is expected to lie down with the article between his front paws.
The dog is scared as he stays on the track and finds the other items.
Note that the length, complexity, number of items, and age of the track will differ based on the Schutzhund title.
The Obedience Phase
Here, we’re testing the dog and handler’s precision and speed as well as the dog’s enthusiasm for the routine.
The dogs perform several exercises in pairs.
While a dog works, the other is does along down under distraction.
The exercises/activities include:
Off-leash heeling pattern with out-of-motion sits, down, stand and recalls.
READ ALSO: Why Puppies Whine And How To Get A Puppy To Stop Whining: 7 Tips
3 retrieve exercises: one on the flat ground, one over a meter high hurdle, and one over a 2-meter high A-frame scaling wall.
Again, the complexity of these activities varies for each title.
The Protection Stage
For this stage, it is a test of the dog’s ability to protect himself and the handler as well as yielding to control while at it.
- The judge gets an assistant called the “helper “/decoy
- This helper then wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm.
- Several blinds are placed on the field for the dog to search.
- On seeing the helper, the dog is expected to bark and guard the helper to prevent him from moving until recalled by the handler.
- Next, other exercises follow so that the dog guards the helper and transports him to the judge.
- At specified spots, the helper either attacks the dog or the handler or attempts to escape and the dog is expected to stop the attack or escape by biting the padded sleeve.
- When the attack or escape stops, the “out” command is issued for the dog to release the sleeve.
Failure to release disqualifies the dog.
In this phase, a dog must be willing to engage the helper and also docile to obey the handler.
Any sign of fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression disqualifies a dog.
As you would expect, the complexity of the protection routines varies for each title.
So, what are these titles? Find out in the next section.
Titles In Schutzhund
Schutzhund titles are awarded to dogs when they succeed in the different stages of the training as described above.
Additionally, the dogs must pass a temperament test and earn the BH degree.
The temperament test evaluates the dog’s personality and his behaviour around people.
Then, the BH test involves basic obedience like downs, sits, and reactions to strange noises, crowds of people, cars, other dogs, etc.
READ ALSO: How To Become A Police Dog Trainer: Qualifications, Qualities & Benefits
It is when a dog earns the BH degree that he can enter Schutzhund trials and earn titles.
The Schutzhund titles awarded to dogs and their handlers are:
Requirements – the dog must be up to 18 months old.
- He must pass the basic obedience, tracking, and protection tests.
Requirements – the dog must be up to 19 months old
- He must have the SchH1 title.
- Complete more difficult phases that demand extensive physical endurance, control, and agility.
This is the master’s degree of Schutzhund.
Requirements – the dog must be up to 20 months old
- He must have the SchH1 and SchH2 titles
- Complete the most challenging Schutzhund test in all phases (except for tracking that has advanced degrees called FH1 and FH2).
READ ALSO: How To Train A German Shepherd To Attack: 7 Essential Tips [New Guide]
To learn more about these requirements, you can check out the FCI, DVG, and or USCA websites.
Are you impressed with what you have read so far about Schutzhund? Want to give it a try?
I shared some helpful tips in the next section.
How To Get Started On Schutzhund
Join a Schutzhund club near you. This will cost you a $500 – $1,000 membership fee per year.
If you don’t have a dog yet then adopt a puppy from any of the protection breeds mentioned earlier.
Start early to train your dog. A puppy that is 7 or 8 weeks old is ready for basic obedience training for Schutzhund.
Hire a mentor that will teach you the process
Take time to study your dog. Know his potential triggers and favourite treats. This information comes in handy during training.
Invest in good Schutzhund equipment e.g. dog bite sleeve, agitation sticks, dog dumbbells, short and long leashes, tracking articles, bait bags, etc.
READ ALSO: How To Get A Dog To Like You: 16 Essential Tips [New Guide]
Read widely about Schutzhund training. Good books to start from are:
- Schutzhund Theory & Training Methods by Susan Barwig and Stewart Hilliard
- Top Working Dogs by Dr. Dietmar Schellenberg
- Der Schutzhund by Helmut Raiser.
Are There Negative Effects Of Schutzhund?
Some folks fear that Schutzhund will make their dogs dangerous and aggressive.
But that is not true. Rather, Schutzhund will produce the best of your dog.
Recorded benefits of the training include:
- A more disciplined dog with an improved mental and physical shape
- Opportunity for dog owners and dog trainers to share common interests.
- A stronger bond between dogs and their owners.
- Schutzhund dog have good vibes for work and other relevant activities
Furthermore, other people think that Schutzhund is cruel to dogs but they are wrong as well.
Schutzhund training methods are focused on positive reinforcement and are in no way cruel to the dog.
You can even adopt a Schutzhund dog if you want to. Based on the training they receive, these dogs can handle any form of pressure or discomfort.
They are also good around kids. I mean, what more could you ask for?
Schutzhund is an excellent physical, mental, and social training for dogs. The sport keeps a breed’s quality high and up to standard.
It does, however, require a lot of commitment, patience, money, and labour. But the outcome is usually worth the sacrifices.
And that’s all I have for you in this article. Now, I’d love to hear from you:
Will you register your dog for Schutzhund?
Perhaps, you already did. What is it like?
Let me hear your thoughts in the comments section right now.
Also, share this post with other dog lovers on your list. Thank you!