Schutzhund is today a competitive sport that originated in Germany as the breed suitability test for the German Shepherd Dog. It was designed to test the breed in three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. Only the GSDs that could pass all three phases were considered suitable to breed and carry on the German Shepherd genetics.
Nowadays breeds of all shapes and sizes compete at club, regional, national, and world levels. The sport, now called IGP internationally, creates a bond between man and beast that you just can’t find anywhere else. These K9 handlers spend enormous amounts of time training their dogs to become a worthy competitor, aiming for the ultimate prize, the Schutzhund (IGP) 3 title.
The dogs are judged on how well they track foot prints amongst mixed terrain. This requires a great nose and mental focus. The end goal is to train the dog to follow a source scent and indicate articles of carpet, felt, leather, or wood that they find along the way. They should be methodical in the search, keeping a consistent pace, and showing a nose to the ground at all times besides article indication.
The dogs are judged on their commitment to the task at hand. The majority of the IGP obedience routine is focused heeling. The dog must walk on the handler’s left side and give their attention to the handler’s face. This attention must be maintained at normal, running, and slow paces, left and right turns, and throughout a figure-eight pattern in a group of people. About turns, sit and down out of motion, and dumbbell retrieves over obstacles are all exercises in the Schutzhund Obedience routine. Each of these exercises, like everything in the sport, is judged on speed, power, precision, and enthusiasm.
The Schutzhund protection routine is meant to simulate a “find the bad guy, stop the bad guy, turn the bad guy in” scenario. Throughout this scenario, the dog’s courage is tested on multiple levels. The “bad guys” care called helpers and they wear a large padded sleeve on one arm and wield a padded foam stick in the other. Any time the helper attempts to escape or “attack” the dog, the dog’s job is to bite the sleeve and attempt to stop the helper. The highest scoring dogs will show a convincing fight, a full grip on the sleeve, and an eagerness for more that can’t be explained without seeing it for yourself.
In addition to courage, IGP requires dogs to balance their protective drive with a clear headedness that allows them to switch between prey, aggression, and obedience drives. The handler will be able to give commands while the dog is guarding the helper and the dog should quickly switch to attentive obedience to the handler. Heeling, releasing the bite on the sleeve, and downing on command are a few examples of the secondary obedience that a well trained Schutzhund dog will excel at.
Schutzhund in German means “Protection dog”. The history of the sport goes back to the early 1900s when the tests were primarily for police, military, border patrol, and custom dogs. German Shepherds were solely used in the beginning, but the Schutzhund sport eventually accepted all breeds. Common breeds include: German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Boxers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers, and Rottweilers.
The German acronym for the sport was known as IPO (English translation: International Examination Regulations) but eventually changed to IGP (English translation: International Utility Dog trial regulations).
Most of the Schutzhund tests are based on common skills police dogs must possess. This is because still today many of the best Schutzhund dogs go on to breed the working police and military K9s that protect our service men and women in the field. Like any high level sport or competition, it is both physical and mental. Both the dog and the handler need to have their heads in the right place before they enter the trial field.
The training equipment needed includes but is not limited to: high-quality dog collars, harnesses/vests, dog tugs, balls, bite pillows, bite sleeves and scratch pants, scaling walls and dumbbells, hurdles, protection blinds, and tracking gear. A lot of the large and expensive items in this list can be found at your local Schutzhund club. You should consult your trainer to find the best local club for you to join!
There are different levels of Schutzhund. The BH level is for the entry level participants and is a pre-requisite to the IPG1, IGP2, and IGP3 titles. The BH is an obedience and temperament test only. The sport is designed to test the mental and physical ability of a dog as they progress through higher titles such as IGP1, IGP2, and IGP3. These titles consist of tracking, obedience, and protection and each of these phases is scored out of 100 points. A minimum of 70 points in each phase is required for a new titles to be granted.
Schutzhund training requires patience, dedication and teamwork with your dog. If you recently got a puppy and have plans to participate in a Schutzhund competition, it is advised to begin training right away. There is a lot to learn and it is always easier to teach the right way from the beginning than it is to go back and fix bad habits that were created over time.
Along the way, one will teach common commands in English or German such as:
This sport originated with German Shepherd Dog. They are one of the most popular breeds in the world. They started out as effective sheep herders that were unquestionably more obedient than many other breeds. They are very active, have a loving personality, and due to their herding background are full of confidence. The perfect combo for Schutzhund. After all, the sport was created around the GSD!
German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have very similar traits both in personality and physically. They are both similar in height but the Malinois usually weighs less. As far as looks, a GSD usually has an even mix of black and brown color while the other has black in the face but brown color mostly on the body. They both are ideal candidates when it comes to actively competing.
Schutzhund training can be considered the highest form of dog obedience out there. It measures traits such as: stamina, trainability, mental stability, scent tracking, courage and overall enthusiasm to work. Only the most devoted trainers make it to the higher levels.
Belgian Malinois are one of the four Belgian Shepherd breeds and they are not for the faint of heart. Typically they put 100% of themselves into everything that they do. To a Malinois there is no such thing as half way or 80% effort. There is 100% only. They are very high energy and like German Shepherds, they aim to please their handler and are very trainable. Malinois are best suited for experienced dog owners and require a home that will give them a regular job. You certainly do not want to leave it to the Malinois to decide what their job should be. On the flip side, this breed is one of the most affectionate you will find, especially to with their owners.
This competitive sport takes major commitment to achieve mastery, but can be extremely stimulating, fulfilling both dog and owner. It’s not only a testing ground for the best working dogs around, but also a test for true teamwork. It will create deep discipline which will result in a lifetime of enjoyment between you and your K9 best friend. Schutzhund is a community that spans around the entire globe! It provides a special place where like minded dog lovers can socialize, connect, and expand their skills. Are you planning on competing in a future Schutzhund competition with your dog? Be sure to find an experienced Schutzhund trainer to get a jump start. Who knows, you and dog could just be the next national or even international winner!