Schutzhund (literally “protection dog”) is a sport composed of three parts – tracking, obedience and protection work. The dog and handler must pass all three parts at the same trial in order to earn a Schutzhund title. There are three levels to Schutzhund, plus several other titles.
(One of my questions here, is how does BH and FH for example, fit in here? Are these individual parts to Schutzhund I/II/III or are they extra tests?)
Dogs and handlers are scored based on 100 points for each part for a total of 300 points. Any breed or mixed breed of dog can compete. However, size is a factor – the jump is fixed at 39 inches. The A-frame is fixed at 5 feet (Sch II) and 6 feet (Sch III). The dog must also be able to handle the protection work. Typical breeds competing are German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Bouviers, and Belgian Malinois.
Many people feel nervous around “Schutzhund” dogs. This is unfortunate because a Schutzhund trial is effectively one large, comprehensive temperament test. The dogs must be steady or they are excused. This excusal and the reason for the excusal is printed in the national magazine for all to see.
For each part of the trial, the judge performs a temperament or impartiality test. In tracking the judge will examine the dog’s tattoo and/or make the dog stand in the spectator crowd. During obedience, the dog must do a heel through a milling crowd and is subject to hearing gunshots. During protection work, the dog must do hold and guard where he must not touch the helper in the blind. During the rest of the protection routine, the dog must release on command. If a dog will not release, it fails.
There are three organizations in the US that sanction Schutzhund trials – United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA), DVG and the former GSD Club of America working arm, WDA.
History of Schutzhund Work
Schutzhund was developed for German Shepherds in Germany as a way to objectively measure the working ability of a dog. Sheepherding was declining so von Stephanitz, the driving force behind the German Shepherd Dog, developed this sport as a test.
Schutzhund is supposed to expose the character and quality of a dog as potential breeding stock. The difficulty of the Schutzhund test should weed out any animal not physically or temperamentally suited to working.
In Europe, breeding stock must have passed at least Schutzhund I. While unenforceable in the US, many working Schutzhund clubs have similar requirements on their members. [Not quite how I want to say this, the point I want to make is to illustrate how it is used for selecting breeding stock outside the US.]
Translates to “Companion Dog.” The following is condensed from the DVG rules.
Dogs of all sizes and breeds are eligible; the minimum age is 12 months. The only allowable collar is a chain type “choke” collar, and the lead, when used, is attached to the dead ring. Generally, scores or points are not announced, rather the judge evaluates whether a handler/dog team have passed.
Part A must be passed for the team to do Part B. The first part of the exercises are the same as for Schutzhund 1 obedience through the first retrieve. Part A includes:
- Heeling on leash (15 points)
- Singly and within a group. The dog must keep its shoulderblades “level” with the handlers’ knees.
- Heeling off leash (15 points)
- Singly and within a group. Gunshots are fired during the heeling. If the dog demonstrates any upset at the sounds, it must be excused immediately from the trial. A non-fearful reaction deducts points. The dog must demonstrate complete indifference.
- Sit (10 points)
- While heeling, the handler instructs the dog to sit. The handler does not interrupt his pace while the dog sits promptly. After several paces, the handler stops to face the dog. At the judge’s direction, the hander returns to the dog and assumes the stationary heel position.
- Down With Recall (10 points)
- While heeling, the handler instructs the dog to down. The dog lays down promptly while the handler continues for another 30 paces, whereupon the handler turns to face the dog. At the judge’s direction, the handler recalls the dog, who should come quickly and sit close in front. When told to heel, the dog returns to the handler’s left side.
- Long Down (10 Points)
- The handler commands the dog to lay down at a spot chosen by the judge. The handler moves about 40 paces away within sight of the dog, but with his back turned to the dog. The dog must remain in the down position while another dog performs exercises 1 through 6.
Part B consists of tests to evaluate the dog’s ability to function in heavy traffic.
These exercises are to be conducted in the open with areas with some traffic, but not inconveniencing the general public. For this reason, only dogs that pass Part A may take this part of the test. It is a time-consuming test, and a maximum of 15 dogs per day per judge may be tested.
There is no point allocation per exercise; the judge will evaluate the dog’s performance and its ability to do the exercises well.
- Ability to Perform in Traffic.
- The handler and judge are instructed to proceed on a leash down a designated walkway, street, or roadway. The dog should heel willingly on a loose leash. The dog must act with indifference toward pedestrian and other traffic including joggers and pedestrians. After negotiating the traffic on the roadway, the handler and dog proceed to the judge and stop, shake hands, converse. The dog is expected to ignore the judge and may stand, sit, or lay down quietly.
- The behavior of the Dog Under Extreme Traffic Conditions
- The dog and handler now move through rather heavy and noisy pedestrian traffic. The handler must stop with the first time ordering the dog to sit and the second time to lay down. The dog must remain calm and undisturbed.
- The behavior of the Dog Left Alone During Traffic Conditions.
- Finally, the handler and dog proceed to a relatively low traveled road. The handler secures the dog to a suitable tie off and moves out of sight of the dog, remaining out of sight for approximately two minutes. Another handler and (non-aggressive) dog will pass within five paces of the secured dog which must remain calm during this exercise.
The advanced tracking dog examination is intended to demonstrate that the dog is capable of scenting the track and not the body scent of the tracklayer. It will not be confused at corners (swinging wide for example).
A “track sure” dog will remain with the original track; a “track clean” dog will as well, even when there are cross tracks of the same age crossing the track. Air scenting disqualifies the dog. To be eligible for the FH examination, the dog must have passed at least a SCHI. Dogs with a Begleithunde examination may be permitted to enter.
Suitable areas for laying the track include pasture land, plowed fields, and forest floor. There must be a change of cover during the course of the track, including a portion over a hard, well-traveled street/gravel road. They may not be completely laid out on snow.
The tracklayer may not live in the same house with the handler.
Tracks are marked at the starting point and must contain at least one 90 degrees corner. Four articles are put down for the dog to find. The dog may be worked on a collar, in harness or off-lead. There may be a cross track.
The test may be terminated due to disobedience if the dog runs off after wild game, refuses to give articles up to the handler, etc. The dog is scored on how well he tracks, indicates the articles, on his general demeanor throughout the test and responsiveness to the handler, etc.
(From the working dogs’ faqs, need to see if this can be incorporated.)
Schutzhund dogs are generally considered working dogs, as many of them are subsequently used as patrol dogs and guard dogs. My thanks to Michael Sierchio and Victoria Janicki for this section.
Please note that the results of protection training depend heavily on the temperament of the dog and the quality of the trainer. There are enough bad trainers out there that you have to be very careful who you choose. The best avenues for finding a good trainer are through a Schutzhund club.
A dog that is unreliable around people will have a difficult time passing a Schutzhund test. In order to enter for a Schutzhund I title, the dog must have passed a the Begleithund test, which is a combination of a CD and Canine Good Citizen test.
Protection work in itself does not make a dog mean. In order to do protection work, you must have a temperamentally stable dog. An inappropriately aggressive dog is actually not a good candidate for this work. You need a dog with confidence and good nerves.
A nervous or shy dog is a poor candidate because it can’t take the stress of the training. A protection dog needs both prey and defensive drives. An unbalanced dog is very difficult to train because protection work is the blending of both these drives to produce a calm, reliable dog that understands the work.
A dog must be brought along slowly to build confidence and understanding. A dog should not be hurt or frightened in order to elicit aggression. If neither prey work or defensive postures elicits a response, the dog either doesn’t have the proper drives or it is not mature enough to handle the work.
Some owners inappropriately encourage aggression in their dogs outside of protection training. This is wrong. They sometimes do not keep the control over the dog, often delighting in the macho behavior of their dog.
Protection training will not change the dog’s basic temperament. It does give you a good view of the dog’s total temperament under stress. An edgy dog will always be edgy. A stable dog will always be stable.
Not every dog has what it takes to do protection work. This is why a Schutzhund degree is required in Germany in order to breed a German Shepherd.
What is Schutzhund?
Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog”. It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners.
Schutzhund is a dog training and breeding regimen developed originally in the 20’s by the Deutsches Shaeferhund Verein (German Shepherd Dog Club), or SV, in order to maintain the working ability of the breed.
While the term Schutzhund means literally “protection dog”, the training involves work equally in tracking, obedience and protection. In order to get a Schutzhund degree a dog must pass all three phases of the work. Also, a working title (at least a SchH I) is required for breed survey purposes, and in order to register an approved litter.
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd breed. SV, the parent club of the breed, developed the Schutzhund test as a way of maintaining reliable dogs with traits suitable for breeding.
Many countries and working dog organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and test of working performance. International rules have been established by the Verein fuer Deutsche Hundesport (VDH). The first SchH trial in the U.S. was held in California in 1970.
In 1987 the U.S.A. alone sanctioned nearly 300 trials with a total entry of 1,800 dog/handler teams.
Many breeds now participate in addition to GSDs. While there may be individual dogs of a particular breed that may be suitable for the work, the following are most consistently able to perform: GSDs, Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinscher, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler, Tervuren, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, etc. Generally, these are larger working breeds with strong prey and defense drives, and temperaments suitable for the tasks of the training.
There are three major degrees awarded – SchH I, SchH II, and SchH III — in order of increasing difficulty. SchH I (IPO I) is the apprentice test. A SchH III dog must demonstrate a high level of performance, ability and courage.
The traits that make for a good Schutzhund candidate mostly are innate characteristics that must be bred for. Even among dogs bred out of Schutzhund bitches and dogs, a minority have the ability to reach even SchH I, and a small percentage will have the necessary drive, intelligence and hardness to achieve a Sch III title.
In addition to breeding, early development is important. The young pup should not be subjected to strong corrections or experience being dominated by another dog, and all training and play should end on a positive note, with the pup “winning.”
The IPO (International Pruefungsordnung) rules, under the auspices of the FCI (Federation Internationale Cynologique), are similar to the Schutzhund rules and the trials are run in the same manner, with the exception that no evaluation of the fighting instincts, courage or hardness of an IPO entrant is performed during the protection phase of the trial.
(The following information on degrees and requirements is from the United Schutzhund Clubs of America)
Degree Min Age B Begleithunde 12 months (Companion Dog) FH Faehrtenhundpruefung 16 months (Advanced Tracking Dog Test) AD Ausdauerpruefung 16 months (Endurance Test) SchH A Schutzhund Examination A 18 months SchH I Schutzhund Examination I 18 months SchH II Schutzhund Examination II 19 months SchH III Schutzhund Examination III 20 months
The maximum score in each of the three phases shall be 100 points. Therefore, the highest possible score in a trial is 300 points. A degree shall be awarded only if a dog achieves at least 70 points in Tracking and Obedience, and at least 80 points in Protection.
[For the purposes of illustration, I have included the rules for SchH I trials]
The Schutzhund A Examination is composed of phases B and C of the SchH I Examination. The conduct of the examination is the same except that the tracking phase is omitted, and the maximum possible score is 200 points. This training degree is not accepted under the rules for conformation shows, breeding requirements or breed surveys.
Phase A – Tracking
Tracking a 350-400 pace long trail at least 20 minutes old with two articles on a 10-meter tracking lead, or tracking without a lead. The track has two 90 degree turns. The handler lays the track as indicated by the judge, placing the first article in the middle of the first or second leg without interrupting the pace or changing the stride.
The second article is deposited at the end of the track.
The handler reports to the judge with the dog and indicates whether the articles will be picked up or pointed out. The dog and handler proceed to the scent pad at the beginning of the track. Prior to tracking, and during the entire tracking phase, all force or pressure is to be avoided. At the start, the dog must be given sufficient time to absorb the scent.
The dog must begin quietly and pick up the scent with a deep nose. As soon as the dog begins to track, the handler must stop and let the length of the 10-meter leash slip through his/her hands. The handler now follows at a distance of 10 meters, whether tracking with a lead or without.
Immediately upon finding an article, the dog must convincingly stop, stand, sit, or pick up the article, or return it to the handler. If pointing out, the dog must lie, sit or stay. By lifting the article high in the air, the handler indicates to the judge that it has been found.
The tracking leash is loosely held as the dog and handler continue on the track. The articles are presented to the presiding judge after completion of the track.
A faulty start, excessive circling on corners, continued praise, faulty picking up or pointing of the articles, dropping articles, pronounced quartering, high nose, urinating or defecating on the track, or hunting mice, etc. will be penalized.
Phase B – Obedience
Heeling on Leash and Impartiality – 15 Points
Starting from the basic heeling position, the dog and handler proceed for 40 paces without stopping. A turnabout is performed, and after 10-15 paces a running heel followed by a slow heel, each of about 10 paces, are demonstrated. During a normal pace at least one left turn, one right turn, and one left turnabout must be performed.
A halt must be performed after the turns and while the handler is moving straight. Voice command is permitted only when starting the exercise, or when changing pace. The judge will direct the handler through a group of at least 4 people, and the handler is required to stop at least once in the group. The group is expected to mingle about.
Heeling off Leash – 20 Points
When requested by the judge, the leash will be removed while in the basic position. The handler moves through the group with the dog freely heeling. After demonstrating ar least one halt, the handler and dog leave the group and perform the heeling exercises that were performed on leash.
While the dog and handler are performing the off-leash exercises, at least 2 gun shots (6 – 9 mm) are to be fired (not while moving in the group) and the dog must remain indifferent to the noise. Special emphasis is placed on indifference to the gun. If the judge deems the dog to be insecure or should the dog run from the shot, the judge may excuse the dog from further participation.
Sit Exercise – 10 Points
From the basic heeling position the handler and free heeling dog proceed in a straight line. After at least ten paces, the handler issues the voice command to sit – the dog should quickly come to a sit position. The handler shall continue for at least 30 paces without interrupting pace or direction, then stop and turn around to face the dog. At the direction of the judge, the handler returns to the right side of the dog.
Down with Recall – 10 Points
From the basic heeling position the handler and free heeling dog proceed in a straight line. After at least ten paces, the handler issues the voice command to down – the dog should quickly come to a down position. The handler shall continue for at least 30 paces without interrupting pace or direction, then stop and turn around to face the dog.
At the direction of the judge, the handler shall recall the dog. The dog should come to the handler with a spirited and swift motion and sit close in front. Upon a “heel” command, the dog should quickly come to a sit position next to the handler.
Retrieving an Article belonging to the Handler on Level Ground – 10 Points
The dog sitting freely next to the handler should, when given the voice command, quickly move toward the article tossed approximately 10 paces away. The dog must immediately and quickly bring the article back to the handler, and sit close in front. The dog must hold the article until, after a brief pause, the handler issues the command to let go.
After the command to heel, the dog should come quickly to the heel position. In place of an article belonging to the handler, a dumbbell can be used — however, balls, toys, etc. are not considered personal articles.
Retrieving an Article belonging to the Handler over a 1 Meter High and 1.5 Meter Wide Brush Hurdle – 15 Points
The handler assumes a position at an acceptable distance in front of the hurdle while the dog sits freely next to the handler. The article is tossed over the hurdle. Upon voice command, the dog shall clear the hurdle without touching it, pick up the article, return over the jump and sit closely in front of the handler. The article must be held by the dog until the handler removes it with the command to let go.
Go Ahead and Down – 10 Points
When requested by the judge, the handler and freely heeling dog proceed a few paces in the designated direction. The command to “go out” should be executed by simultaneously stopping and lifting the arm to indicate direction. The dog must move at a fast pace at least 25 paces.
The dog must lay down quickly upon voice command. At the request of the judge, the handler proceeds to pick up the dog by moving to the right side of the dog, commanding the dog to sit, and then putting on the leash.
Long Down Under Distraction
Prior to the start of the obedience exercises of another dog, the handler commands the dog into a down position at a spot designated by the judge. The handler moves approximately 40 paces away within sight of the dog. The handler remains quiet with his back to the dog. The dog must remain in the down position without additional influences from the handler until the other dog concludes the first 6 exercises. The finish will be like the Go Ahead and Down, above.
Phase C – Protection
Search for the Helper – 5 Points
The helper is hidden in a position 40 paces away so that the dog must make searching passes to the right and left, or vice versa. The handler and dog must be out of sight when the helper moves into the hiding place. At the request of the judge, the handler releases the dog and gives the command to search towards the empty hiding place, then towards the helper. The command “here” and the dog’s name may be used.
Hold and Bark – 10 Points
When the dog reaches the helper it should immediately and continuously bark. The dog should not bother the helper by gripping or bumping. The handler is to remain at a distance of approximately 25 paces. When the judge indicates, the handler will pick up the dog and hold it securely so that the helper can leave the hiding place.
Attack – 35 Points
A helper is directed to proceed to another hiding place at least 50 paces away. Upon directions from the judge, the handler will proceed with a free heeling dog towards the hiding place. The handler is now attacked from the front by the helper, who suddenly comes out of the hiding place. No contact is permitted between the handler and helper.
The dog must immediately attack and demonstrate a firm grip. The dog will be struck with a flexible, padded stick — two blows will be given on the flanks, thighs, or withers. Encouragement may be given via vocal command. When requested by the judge, the helper stops the aggression.
The dog must independently release, or release his grip upon receiving the command to “out”. After receiving the command from the judge, the handler will hold the dog by the collar.
Pursuit and Hold – 50 Points
The helper makes threatening gestures and runs away. After he has gone about 50 paces, the handler sends the dog toward the helper and remains standing still. The judge will instruct the helper to turn around and run toward the dog when the dog is about 30 paces away.
Using aggressive and threatening motions, the helper will run toward the dog. When the dog has taken a firm grip, the helper will press the dog briefly without applying the stick, then cease resistance. The dog must release, either independently, or after receiving the command to “out”. After the dog has let go, the handler will remain standing without influencing the dog.
Upon a signal from the judge, the handler will approach the dog and helper at a normal pace. The handler will order the helper to step back from the dog and order the dog to lay down. The helper will be searched and disarmed before transport to the judge. The dog will be on leash during transport. The handler will leave the area with the dog on a leash.
The fighting drive, including courage and hardness, is to be scrutinized during the entire protection phase. This will be rated as pronounced, sufficient, or insufficient.
Only energetic fighting and a firm grip will allow a full score. A dog that does not release after one command to let go, or who is not under the control of the handler, or who fails any exercise of the protection phase cannot pass the test. If a dog fails a single exercise, it will be excused from the remainder of the phase. No deductions are made for a dog that alertly circles the helper.