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Schutzhund Dog Training

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An Introduction To Schutzhund Dog Training
Schutzhund Send Away
“The shepherd dog is a service dog and must be bred as a service dog and must be judged as a service dog. With service dogs, suitability ranks higher than beauty and their only nobility consist in their complete adaptability in the arrangement, balancing and coalescence of each and every part."
      –Max von Stephanitz

The History of Schutzhund

In the late 1800’s the herding dogs of Germany were unkempt semi-wild creatures that spent most of their lives on the rugged hills herding and guarding flocks. Good herding dogs were in great demand so farmers and breeders got together with an aim to produce a national shepherd dog.

Things progressed slowly until in 1889 a certain Captain Max von Stephanitz attended a dog show in Karlruhe and saw a dog that impressed him so much he bought it to begin breeding the perfect herding dog. This dog was Hector Linksrein (later changed to Horand von Grafrath) a working, wolf like dog with strong herding instincts and a fearless nature. Horand von Grafrath was the first registered German Shepherd Dog and was to join Max von Stephanitz on a lifelong journey to breed a dog with strong working abilities, intelligence and endurance and to lead to the beginnings of Schutzhund Trials.

Schutzhund began in the early 1900’s as a working test for German Shepherd dogs. The creator and “father” of the breed, Max von Stephanitz had founded the “Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde” (the German Shepherd Club or the S.V.) Through the club Max wrote the breed standard with emphasis placed not on appearance but on the dogs working ability, utility and intelligence. Popularity for this dog grew and so did Max’s battle to keep the breed true to type. By 1901, disappointed at the rise of GSD’s as show dogs and the decline in sheep farming, Max von Stephanitz introduced herding trials to reinstate the GSD as a working dog. The trials were a huge success and led to the “manwork” or “Schutzhund” competitions of today.


Schutzhund - The Sport

“The success for all employment as an assistant of man depends in the first place on expert leadership, whereby the dog is always put in just the right place, and where the man is so well acquainted with the peculiarities of the dog that he always knows how to interpret correctly the meaning of the dog’s signs.”
–Max von Stephanitz

The translation of the word “Schutzhund” is “protection dog”. The Verein fur Deutsche Shaferhunde (SV) club further developed Schutzhund to test the mental and physical capabilities of the German Shepherd Dog. The overall aim of Schutzhund is to develop and evaluate the working ability of the dog as a means of improving and maintaining a reliable breeding stock. Schutzhund dogs are screened for hip and elbow dysplasia and other deformities. Puppies born to Schutzhund dogs are more likely to be of a reliable temperament, intelligent and have great strength and endurance.

Stage One - Begleithund (Companion dog Test) (BH)

Schutzhund Malinois Belgian Shepherd performing heelwork test
Before any dog can enter Schutzhund trials it must have passed a BH test. For this test the dog is kept on lead. The BH test is in two parts, A & B.

When on lead, the dog must wear a chain type collar and is awarded points for each part completed. All size or breeds are eligible. The dog must be a minimum of 13 months old.

Part A - Companion Dog Test:

Heeling on lead, 15 points -
Singly and amongst a group, the dog performs heelwork. The dog’s shoulder blades must be level with the handler’s knees.

Heeling off lead. 15 points -
Singly and amongst a group, the dog performs heelwork. At some point a gun is fired and the dog must remain completely indifferent to the noise.

Sit, 10 points -
When heeling the handler must command the dog to sit. Without pausing the handler continues walking for several paces then turns and faces the dog. On the judges word the handler returns to the dog who assumes the heel position.

Down with Recall, 10 points -
With the dog heeling, the handler commands the dog to “down”. The dog must lie down promptly. The handler continues without pausing for 30 paces and turns to face the dog. On the judge's signal the handler recalls the dog. The dog must recall quickly and sit close in front of the handler. The dog is commanded to heel and returns to the handler's left side.

Long Down, 10 points -
Handler commands dog to lay down at a spot chosen by the judge. Handler moves 40 paces away within sight of but not facing the dog. The dog must stay in the down position while another dog works around it.

Part B - Companion Dog Test:

This part consists of tests designed to evaluate the dog’s ability to work in or near heavy traffic.

Ability to perform in traffic -
The handler and the judge walk near a designated road. The dog must heel calmly on a loose lead. The dog must remain indifferent towards pedestrians, joggers and all traffic. The handler and dog return to the judge. The handler and the judge shake hands and converse. The dog should ignore the judge and is allowed to sit, stand or lie down but must remain calm and indifferent.

Behaviour of dog under extreme traffic conditions -
The dog and handler move through heavy traffic and noisy pedestrians. The handler must stop and command the dog to sit then both move on. The handler must then command the dog to lie down then both move on. The dog must be calm throughout.

Behaviour of dog alone during traffic conditions -
Handler and dog go to a quiet road. The handler secures the dog to a suitable post and goes out of sight for two minutes. In this time another handler and dog will pass within 5 paces of the dog that must remain calm and indifferent. Handler returns to dog. The dog is disqualified if it shows signs of insecurity. The judge is evaluating the dog as to its approachability and its steadiness near traffic.

At no point should the dog show nervousness, aggression, shyness or fear in the company of strangers, cyclists or joggers or other dogs. The BH is either a pass or a fail. If a dog passes the test it is deemed to have the right temperament to enter the Schutzhund phase.

Schutzhund Titles

“In a real struggle with a man, the chief consideration is that the dog help his master quickly and efficiently, and not bother his head too much about overpowering his adversary according to the Queensbury Rules”

The dog must be a minimum of 18 months old and possess a BH (companion dog) title.

Schutzhund consists of three parts, tracking, obedience and protection work. To obtain a Schutzhund title the dog must pass all three phases. Each phase has a point system with the maximum being 100 points. Each dog and its handler must score a minimum number of points, 70 in the Obedience and Tracking phase and 80 in the Protection phase before gaining a degree.

There are three major Schutzhund degrees, SchH I, SchH II and SchH III. Each degree is increasingly more difficult, demanding more accuracy and performance from both handler and dog.

SchH I - Phase A Tracking:

The dog must be a minimum of 18 months old and possess a BH (Companion Dog) title.

The tracking phase is also a test of the dog’s mental soundness as well as its tracking abilities. The length and the difficulty of the track depend on which Schutzhund level is being competed for. A track is laid down by the handler of 350-400 paces by walking over a surface such as dirt or grass. The track includes two 90 degree turns and objects are left at the middle and end of the track. The track is laid 20 minutes beforehand. The handler attaches his dog to a long tracking lead and follows behind as the dog scents out the trail.

The handler may not apply pressure or force to the dog. The handler lets out 10 meters of lead as the dog finds the scent and tracks. When the dog finds an object on the track it indicates the find by lying down with the object between its front paws. This is a great test of the dog's scenting ability and a useful indicator as to its trainability.

SchH I - Phase B Obedience

Schutzhund Dumbell RetrieveThis phase is made up of a series of heeling exercise. On lead, the dog has to adopt a perfect heeling position as its handler weaves amongst groups of people. As the dog performs there is a gun shot test to ensure that the dog will not react to loud noises. There is also a series of field exercises with the dog being asked to sit, lie down and stand as the handler walks on. The handler must recall the dog from these positions. The dog is required to retrieve dumb bells of various weights on a flat surface, over a one meter hurdle and over a six foot slanted wall. The dog must also perform a send away then lie down and stay in the down position despite distractions around it. The obedience exercises test the dog’s temperament, structural efficiencies and its willingness to obey its handler. There is a maximum of 100 points awarded of which 70 points are required to pass.

SchH I - Protection

This is a test of the dog’s courage, physical strength and agility. It also tests the handler’s absolute control of the dog. The dog must search hiding places to find a human decoy and should then immediately and continuously bark but not grip the decoy. At the judge's call, the handler recalls the dog and holds it to allow the decoy to move from hiding. The decoy hides again at least 50 paces away. Upon the judge's signal the handler goes with the dog towards the hiding place. The decoy moves to attack the handler. The dog must instantly attack and grip firmly on the padded sleeve. The decoy strikes the dog twice with a padded stick.

At the judge's call the decoy stops fighting and immediately the dog must release its grip. The human decoy then attempts to escape. The handler remains still and sends the dog after the decoy. The decoy turns and using threats and aggression attacks the dog. The dog must grip the decoy firmly. The decoy ceases resistance and instantly the dog must release its grip. The handler must remain still and not influence the dog during this attack. Upon the judge's call the handler approaches and searches the decoy. The decoy is then marched to the judge with the dog and handler following behind. On the way the decoy will attempt to attack the handler. The dog must without hesitation protect the handler by again gripping the decoy on the padded sleeve.

The decoy is always suitably padded and all bites from the dog must be on the padded sleeve and the dog must instantly release its grip as soon as the decoy discontinues the fight or upon command from its handler. There must be no hesitation.

The judge will be awarding points based on the dog’s fighting drive, courage and strength. Only enthusiastic fighting and a firm grip merit full points. Any dog that does not release its grip when the decoy ceases fighting or upon command from the handler, fails instantly.

Schutzhund II

The dog must be a minimum of 19 months old and hold a SchH I degree.

SchH II repeats the test as in SchH I but the tests are more difficult and more is expected of the dog. This shows a greater endurance level and control. There are two turns in the track with two objects to find. The dog must retrieve over a five foot wall. The track will have been laid 30 minutes earlier by a stranger.

Schutzhund III
Schutzhund Dog Baying
This is the master’s degree. The dog must be a minimum of 20 months old and be in possession of a SchH I and a SchH II degree.

The tests are far more difficult and all exercises are performed off lead. The stand must be executed from a running and walking position. The dog must follow a track laid by a stranger 60 minutes earlier. There are four turns in the track and three objects to find. The dog must retrieve various weights of dumb bells from a flat surface, over a one metre hurdle and a six foot slanted wall.

The dog’s fighting instinct is evaluated during the protection phase. If the dog has a firm grip on the decoy’s padded sleeve and releases grip instantly on command but continues to bark and if the dog avoids the stick but still comes back at the aggressor, this shows a dog with pronounced fighting instincts. Throughout the protection phase the judge will be evaluating the “natural tendencies shown by dog”. This includes drive structure, self assuredness and the ability to handle stress.

Schutzhund III shows the highest level of the dog’s strength, obedience, agility, eagerness and confidence. Only a small percentage of dogs have the necessary drive, intelligence and stamina to achieve a Schutzhund III title.

Points system explained

“The Motto for work on Man, of any and every description is firstly, Obedience, secondly Obedience and thirdly, lastly, and always Obedience”
–Max von Stephanitz

Points are awarded for every exercise the dog performs within each phase. Each of the three phases, Obedience, Tracking and Protection have a total maximum of 300 points. The dog has to receive a minimum of 70 points in obedience and tracking and 80 points in protection. The points are as follows:

Unsatisfactory 0 – 109 points
Insufficient 110 – 219 points
Satisfactory 220 – 239 points
Good 240 – 269 points
Very Good 270 – 285 points
Excellent 286 – 300 points

The Schutzhund judge also looks at the overall performance of the dog and based on these awards each exercise a grading. There are five gradings and in each grade is a band of points. For example:

Excellent (V) 10 points
Very Good (SG) 9-9.5 points
Good (G) 8-8.5 points
Satisfactory (B) 7-7.5 points
Insufficient (M) 0-6.5 points

The judge assesses whether the handler has a good working relationship with his dog and whether the dog performs eagerly and with enthusiasm. Also taken into consideration is whether the Schutzhund Trial is at club, national or international level. Anyone competing at international level is under the strictest scrutiny and observant eyes of the judge who will be expecting a high level of performance.

Awards are also given for courage, hardness and combativeness as follows:

Pronounced (P) Ausgepraegt
Satisfactory (S) Vorhanden
Insufficient (I) Nicht Genugend

If the dog breaks a long down or moves more than three metres away in the obedience phase, all points are lost. A minimum of 42 points must be gained before passing on to the tracking phase.

Dog Training Secrets

Other Schutzhund Titles

“Know what your work is and do it”
–Max von Stephanitz

Faehrtenhund Pruefung (Advanced Tracking)

This is an advanced tracking exam in which the dog has to scent the track and not the body scent of the track layer. The track layer is not allowed to live in the same house as the handler and dog.

There are three levels: Fh I, Fh II and Fh III becoming progressively more difficult. The track has several turns over which the dog must remain “track sure” and not deviate from the scent even when rounding corners. The track can be laid through forests, ploughed fields or meadows. The track must change cover so some of it lies across a street or footpath. The track must have at least one cross track and have at least one 90 degree turn. Four objects that are strips of wood, leather or carpet are laid at intervals on the track. The dog must indicate the objects by lying down with the object between its front paws. Only a small portion of the track is allowed to be across snow. The age of the track depends on the level the dog is competing for. This ranges from 1.5 hours old to 4 hours old.

The dog can be worked on a slip collar, in a tracking harness or off lead. The dog is disqualified if it air scents. The dog is disqualified if it swings wide from the track. The dog is disqualified if it chases wildlife or if it does not indicate the objects.

Scoring is done based on the dog’s performance, how it indicates the objects, its responsiveness to its handler and on its general working abilities. German Shepherd Dogs are exceptional advanced tracking dogs. The GSD has three nasal passages of different size, shape and length. A GSD following a ground scent track can detect even the slightest change in scent.

Wachthunde (WH) Watchdog Certificate

This test repeats the requirements of the Begleithunde (Companion Dog) exercises but includes guarding and watchdog tests.

Ausdauerprufung (AD) Endurance Test

The dog must be a minimum of 16 months old or a maximum of 7 years and must possess a SchH I degree. The AD is usually held at club level and may not be carried out between the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the outdoor temperature is at its highest.

Dogs must be in excellent health.

Bitches that are on heat, pregnant or nursing may not enter.

The judge marks the points in a score book. The dog is tested running alongside its handler on a bicycle (mountain and racing bikes are not allowed) at a steady trot over a total of 12 miles. The lead must be long enough to allow the dog to adjust its pace. If the dog lags behind it will be immediately disqualified.

Large dogs run for 5 miles (8km) then rest while the judge examines them for signs of fatigue for which it will be disqualified. Large dogs then run on for a further 4.3 miles (7kg) after which they have a 20 minute rest. In this time the judge again examines the dog for signs of fatigue and also checks the dogs paws for cracks or sores for which the dog will be disqualified. The endurance exercise continues until the dog has covered a total of 12 miles, (19.32km) After a short rest the dog performs some obedience exercises to prove that it can work when fatigued. There is no gunshot test.

Medium sized dogs trot over a slightly shorter distance.

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Schutzhund Today
Schutzhund dog displaying incredible strength, agility and courage.
“The dog can tell from the glance of the trainer the state of the trainer’s soul”
      –Max von Stephanitz

Started by the “Verein fur Deutsche Shaferhunde, (SV) club, Schutzhund is now a recognised canine sport worldwide. The SV club is the largest single breed club in the world.

Today’s Schutzhund is governed by a number of different organisations. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) is an international kennel club based in Thuin, Belgium. The club was founded in1911 by Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and the Netherlands and today is an international umbrella organisation for everything associated with dogs.

The club promotes and protects cynology and purebred dogs and recognises 335 breeds which are divided into ten groups. The FCI sanctions international Schutzhund trials with their “Internationale Pruefungsordnung” or IPO titles. However the “Verein fur Deutsche Shaferhunde” (SV club) still have arguably the most powerful influence on the sport.

Schutzhund is enjoyed by millions of people from all walks of life and from countries across the world. Many people enter the sport to experience the opportunity to train their dogs to a high standard and to gain recognition for their abilities as a handler and their dog’s ability to perform. It is no longer only a sport for German Shepherd Dogs. Other breeds such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers, Boxers, Malinois Belgian Shepherds and American Staffordshire Terriers are now active members in many Schutzhund clubs worldwide. However, the German Shepherd Dog still remains a close favourite for the Schutzhund titles, because the sport is and always will be a great part of the breed’s heritage.

The working relationship between a Schutzhund dog and its handler is a beautiful picture of the human-canine relationship. Far from being a 'killer' or 'attack' dog (as so many people seem to wrongly believe), the Schutzhund dog has total mental stability, confidence and is steady and reliable both in the field and in the family home. In fact, dogs that are dangerous are usually so through their fears or timid mindsets. Such a dog may be unpredictable and unsafe around children and members of the public, and such an unstable nervous dog could never pass even the most basic of Schutzhund titles. On the other end of the scale, perhaps more importantly too, a dog which is over confident or aggressive is equally unsuitable for Schutzhund trials, and as such would not survive the tests.

The founding fathers of Schutzhund and protection dog sports were not aggressive or tyrannical men, lustful of seeing a dangerous dog which they could threaten poeple with on the end of a lead. The exact opposite is the case, they wanted to secure the stability of their breed's mentalities, and in doing so, to secure the future success of their beloved breed, with emhphasis on sociability, calmness and reliability, as well as obedience and steadfastness of course.

If you are interested in Schutzhund there is probably a club reasonably near to where you live but be warned, the sport is highly addictive and requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. All Schutzhund members would agree that to develop such a wonderful working relationship with your dog is a lifetime of hard work and pleasure. How we feel about our dogs is summed up in the words of the “father” of the German Shepherd breed:

“All the wonderful qualities of character possessed by a good shepherd dog will therefore only be brought to light when he remains in the same hands for a very long time from puppy hood, where having obtained a footing in house, he shares the joys and sorrows of the family, their work and their duties.“
–Max von Stephanitz

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Max von Stephanitz

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