Schutzhund began more than 100 years ago in Germany as a way to test the working ability of German shepherds. Its initial purpose was to determine which dogs should be used for breeding in order to maintain - and improve - the German shepherd as an all-round working breed.
Today, Schutzhund continues to be used as a minimum standard by conscientious breeders of German shepherds around the world. To this day in Germany, puppies cannot be registered as German shepherds unless both parents have attained minimum levels in Schutzhund or in herding.
Schutzhund has also evolved into a sport enjoyed by dog lovers around the world. In Canada, there are more than 40 Schutzhund clubs and several hundred participants scattered from coast to coast.
The sport is comprised of three phases - tracking, obedience and protection - and is often referred to as the triathlon of dog sports.
[ Click Here for a full list of Schutzhund Commands ]
There are three levels of the Schutzhund test for which titles can be earned. Before receiving a schutzhund title the handler/dog must pass a BH.
The BH (Click Here for more details on the BH) is a degree for traffic-safe companion dogs that tests the dog’s temperament in and around people. It includes basic formal obedience - heeling on and off leash, sits, downs and recalls - as well as practical tests of the dog’s character in everyday situations. These include reaction to normal situations involving crowds of people, strange noises, joggers, cars and other dogs. Before being allowed to enter for a SchH title, the dog must first have successfully completed the BH.
For Schutzhund I, the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass an initial temperament test by the judge. See BH requirements. The dog must heel off leash , demonstrate the walking sit, the walking down, as well as the send-out. The dog must retrieve a dumbbell on the flat, over a hurdle and an A-frame. In tracking, it must be able to follow a track laid by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier. There are also protection tests such as hold and bark, escape, defense against helper and test of courage. Obedience and protection exercises are demonstrated off leash.
For Schutzhund II, the dog must be at least 19 months old and already have earned its SchH 1 degree. There is an additional stand while walking exercise. In tracking, the SchH 2 candidate must be able to follow a track laid by a stranger at least 30 minutes earlier. There are also protection tests such as the hold and bark, escape, defense against helper, back transport and test of courage. Obedience and protection exercises are demonstrated off leash.
For Schutzhund III, the dog must be at least 20 months old and must have earned both the SchH 1 and the SchH 2 titles. The tests now are more difficult. There is the addition of a running stand. In tracking, the dog must follow a track that was laid by a stranger at least 60 minutes earlier. The track has four turns, compared with two turns for SchH 1 and 2, and there are three objects, rather than two, that must be indicated by the dog. There are also protection tests such as the hold and bark, escape, defense against helper, back transport and test of courage and defense against helper. The picture of obedience, strength, eagerness and confidence presented by an excellent SchH 3 team is a beautiful illustration of the partnership between human and dog.
In addition to the above Schutzhund titles, the German Shepherd Schutzhund Club of Canada (GSSCC) offers several other degrees.
For those who are successful at the BH, the GSSCC also offers tracking-only and obedience-only titles – OB 1, OB 2, OB 3 and TR 1, TR 2 and TR 3. It also offers the FH1 and FH2, which are advanced tracking degrees that require the dog to follow tracks over changing terrain, discriminate between cross-tracks and is at least three hours old.
[ Click here for Schutzhund minimum age requirements ]
The tracking phase includes a temperament test by the overseeing judge to assure the dog’s mental soundness. When approached closely on a loose leash, the dog should not act shyly or aggressively. The track is laid earlier by a person walking normally on a natural surface such as dirt or grass. The track includes a number of turns and a number of small, man-made objects left by this person on the track itself. The handler follows the dog at the end of a 10-metre leash. The dog is expected to follow the track and indicate the objects, usually by lying down with it between its front paws.
The obedience phase includes a series of heeling exercises, some of which are closely in and around a group of people. During the heeling, there is a gunshot test to assure that the dog does not openly react to such sharp noises. There is also a series of field exercises in which the dog is commanded to sit, lie down and stand while the handler continues to move. From these various positions, the dog is recalled to the handler. With dumbbells of various weights, the dog is required to retrieve on a flat surface, over a one-meter hurdle and over a six-foot A-frame. The dog is also asked to run in a straight direction from its handler on command and lie down on command. Finally, each dog is expected to stay in a lying-down position away from its handler at the other end of the obedience field, while another dog completes the above exercises.
All of the obedience exercises are tests of the dog’s temperament, structural efficiencies and very importantly, its willingness to serve its handler.
The protection phase tests the dog’s courage, physical strength and agility. The handler’s control of the dog is absolutely essential. The exercises include a search of hiding places, finding a hidden person (acting as a human decoy), and guarding that decoy while the handler approaches. The dog is expected to pursue the decoy when an escape is attempted and to hold the grip firmly. The decoy is searched and transported to the judge with the handler and dog walking behind and later at the decoy’s right side. When the decoy attempts to attack the handler, the dog is expected to stop the attack with a firm grip and no hesitation. The final test of courage occurs when the decoy is asked to come out of a hiding place by the judge from the opposite end of the trial field. The decoy then runs directly at the dog, threatening the dog with a stick. All bites during the protection phase are expected to be firmly placed on the padded sleeve and stopped on command and/or when the decoy discontinues the simulated fight. The protection tests are intended to assure that the dog is neither a coward nor a criminal menace.
See GSSCC rules for more information - http://www.gsscc.ca/media/2012/gsscc%20trial%20rules%2006.pdf
Since Schutzhund is the demonstration of the German shepherd dog’s most desirable characteristics, dogs well trained in Schutzhund are usually excellent companions in the home. The German shepherd dog - like any other working dog that possesses mental stability - has trust and confidence in itself, allowing it to be at peace with its surroundings.
In addition to sound structural efficiencies for long, arduous work, the standard for the German shepherd dog calls for mental stability and a willingness to work. The dog should be approachable, quietly standing its ground, showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself necessarily making them. It should be generally calm, but eager and alert when the situation warrants. It should be fearless, but also good with children.
The German shepherd dog should not be timid or react nervously to unusual sounds or sights. A dog that is overly aggressive because of its overall fear of people and events can be extremely dangerous. The Schutzhund sport is designed to identify and eliminate such dogs from breeding stock. Because Schutzhund training gives the owner a great deal of control over the dog, the owner is able to let the dog have more fun. Not only is Schutzhund training itself enjoyable for the dog, but the Schutzhund-trained dog knows how to please its owners, creating a stronger bond between dog and owner.
In every breed, the pedigree is the key to knowing the potential of the puppy. Schutzhund revolves around working lines - generations of dogs that have proven themselves and produced similar characteristics in their offspring. These characteristics include not only the physical structure of the dog, which is very important, but also its temperament.
Selecting the bloodlines from which you want your puppy may require advice. Information from breed surveys (which sums up the all-round qualities of a dog in work and show) can help. Of course, it makes sense to discuss your objectives with reputable and experienced Schutzhund handlers or enthusiasts.
Once you have determined that the bloodlines of the potential dam and sire are of high quality, you should observe the parents, especially the mother, if that is at all possible. The puppy should be adventurous and active, playing with objects in the enclosure.
Puppyhood is the most critical period for the development of the characteristics you want to encourage. Your local Schutzhund club can advise you about nurturing and socializing your growing puppy.
A puppy learns from its experiences, so you want to provide only positive ones. It should be provided with opportunity to explore and investigate new situations and new people, but always in a non-threatening way. Remember that your goal is to build confidence in the young animal. Your aim is NOT to dominate or oppress the young pup.
Exposure to different environments is crucial to the social development of the dog and also to assure it that the world is a safe pace. If something appears to make the dog unsure, give it the opportunity to investigate it slowly, but do not force the issue.
It is imperative to avoid situations where your dog would be dominated by an older or stronger dog, or by another puppy. You also want to avoid having to improperly discipline or correct your puppy and thus dampen its spirit or damage its self-confidence.
The final area of development is that of drive encouragement. The natural behaviors that you want to encourage are playing with the ball, tug of war and allowing the puppy to win every time. Hide and seek, and pursuing you rapidly when you run away.
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German shepherd breed. Originally, these dogs were herding dogs, but the industrialization of Germany encouraged breeders to promote the use of their dogs as police and military dogs. The Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, became concerned that this would lead to careless breeding and undesirable traits such as mental instability, so it developed the Schutzhund test.
Since then, many other countries and working dog organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and a test of working performance in dogs. International rules have been established, and they are administered by the Verein fur Deutsche Hundesport (VDH).
Any registered German shepherd that has earned a Schutzhund degree has demonstrated sufficient ability as a working dog to qualify for breed evaluation. The breed evaluation is a very detailed examination of the dog’s structure, temperament and pedigree and requires both a certification of good hip joints and sufficient performance on an endurance test (the AD). Dogs that do well in the breed evaluation receive a Koerklasse I or Koerklasse II. This is a recommendation and evaluation by a trained and recognized expert Judge as to the worthiness of the dog for breeding. Dogs rated Koerklasse II are “suitable for breeding” and dogs rated Koerklasse I are “recommended for breeding.” By thus screening dogs in order to select the suitable specimens for breeding, Schutzhund helps to maintain the quality of the breed at a very high level. Thus, there is a very high level of assurance that puppies born to Schutzhund dams and sired by Schutzhund dogs are more likely to be of reliable temperament, high intelligence, steady nerves, extreme endurance, great strength, and sound structure.
If trained in the right manner, dogs enjoy working, as anyone who attends a Schutzhund competition can see. The joy of the dogs in working with their handlers is evident.
For thousands of years, dogs have adapted to serve humans in a mutually beneficial relationship. While dogs could move quickly, hunt prey, and protect flocks and their owner, the humans could provide food, shelter from the most severe elements, and protection from larger predators, besides tending to the dog’s injuries. Historically, a dog’s reason for being is to serve humans.
Schutzhund training helps develop the dog’s natural instincts to a high level. Self-confident dogs, doing work for which they are well trained, are happy dogs. Wagging tails, sounds of excitement, and strong pulling on a leash all show an observer at a Schutzhund trial how much fulfillment dogs find in this work.