What is Schutzhund Training?
When translated from German to English, the word Schutzhund literally means “dog protection”. Schutzhund originated in Germany as a selection test for German Shepherd working breeding dogs but was later used as a way of choosing military and police dogs.
While other dog breeds are actively involved in the sport, German Shepherds are one of the few breeds that do extremely well in Schutzhund considering the sport was originally created for them as a way to determine good breeding dogs.
German Shepherd Schutzhund training involves measuring the dog’s mental ability, endurance, structural efficiency, the will to work and ability to scent, as well as trainability.
This working dogs sport training gives the dog owners a chance to train their canines to enable them to compete for recognition of both the handler’s ability to train and the dog’s capacity to perform as per the expectations.
Schutzhund is enjoyed by a multiplicity of professionals brought together by mutual interests in working their dogs. Often, it is a family sport.
Here is a short video demonstrating what Schutzhund is all about.
Schutzhund offers three levels of titles. An individual must obtain a pass in all the three phases so as to get a title and proceed to the next level of training. The titles are:
At the Schutzhund I level, the dog must be at least 18 months old and go through the initial temperament test by the judge successfully.
The dog should be in a position to heel off the leash besides demonstrating the walking sit, the walking down, the stay trials, as well as the send out.
In addition, it must retrieve on the flat and over a hurdle. In the tracking test, the dog must be capable of following a track laid by its trainer at least 20 minutes earlier. The dog also undergoes protection trails at this beginning stage as well.
At the Schutzhund II level the dog must be at least 19 months old and already passed the test highlighted above. Again, it must go through the protection and obedience tests successfully.
However, the tests in this level are more complex and necessitate greater endurance, dexterity and most importantly, control.
In addition, the dog must be able to retrieve over the six foot slanted wall. The tracking test at this level involves testing the dog’s ability to follow a track laid by its handler at least 30 minutes earlier.
The Schutzhund III level is the equivalent to the master’s degree in Schutzhund training. The dog must be at least 20 months of age and completed the above-sighted levels successfully.
The tests at this level are much more complicated. Obedience and protection exercises are demonstrated off leash. The dog is tested on its ability to stand and walk. The tracking test involves testing the dog’s ability to follow a track laid by its trainer at least 60 minutes earlier.
The track has a total of four turns compared to two turns in the two first levels, and the dog must retrieve three objects hidden by the trainer. At this level, the dog is obedient, strong, confident and eager to work with its handler and owner.
The Phases of Schutzhund Training
German Shepherd Schutzhund training involves three phases as outlined below.
The Tracking Phase
This includes a temperament test by the dog’s trainer to ensure the dog is mentally sound. The dog should not react aggressively or shyly when approached on a loose leash.
The track is laid earlier by the handler who typically walks on a natural surface such as grass or dirt. The track is made of a number of turns, and small man-made obstacles left by the handler.
The trainer follows the dog closely at the end of the 33 foot leash and expects that the dog scents the track and indicates the location of the objects by lying down with it between the front paws.
The primary aim of this phase of Schutzhund training is to help enhance the dog’s ability to scent besides increasing its mental and psychical endurance.
This is the phase in which the dog is taught who to relate with its handler. During this stage, there is a gunshot test to ensure that the dog does not react to sharp loud noises.
There is also a multiplicity of field exercises where the dog is commanded to sit, lie down, and stand while the trainer continues to move. The dog should be able to responds to recalls from various positions.
The dog is expected to follow instructions from its handler, despite distractions at the other end of the obedience field. All the obedience exercises are meant to test the dog’s temperament, structural effectiveness and most importantly the willingness to be obedient to a woman or a man.
The Protection Phase
This is the phase that tests the dog’s bravery and physical strength, as well as agility. The trainer must take total control of the dog at this stage.
The tests involve searching of hiding places, locating a hidden person (acting as a decoy), and guarding that person as the trainer approaches. It is expected that the dog can pursue the decoy in case of an attempted escape and hold on to it firmly.
The decoy is transported to the judge by the trainer with the dog following suit and later walking at the right-hand side of the bait. It is also expected that the dog should prevent the bait from attacking the trainer in case the bait attempts to do so.
The fundamental purpose of this test is to ensure that the dog is neither a coward nor a threat.
How to Become a Schutzhund Trainer
You can learn how to train Schutzhund by finding a training club in your area and enroll in classes. You will learn how to understand a dog’s behavior and how to teach basic obedience routines and agility skills.
However, to become an accomplished trainer, you will need to learn more than good training skills. It is imperative that you become actively involved your local training club to learn the skills required for to train your GSD in tracking and controlled aggression. That way you will be in a position to attend competition trials and learn from seasoned trainers if that is your goal.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what Schutzhund training is should you wish you pursue with your own pet.
Below is a YouTube video of a seven year old girl and her German Shepherd performing Schutzhund Obedience at the 2010 Working Dog Championship. It shows that anyone at any age can enjoy this sport with their willing canine.
Good luck, and happy training.