DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE TRIAL PROGRAMME
THE VALUE OF THE BEGLEITHUND TEST
With an introduction and some background information by
The BH test (known variously as the Companion Dog and/or Traffic Sureness test) has been part and parcel of the GSA repertoire of performance trial degree programmes since its inception. Even before it became a compulsory prerequisite and condition for dogs going forward to partake in Schutzhund trials, we were advocating its adoption and use. We did this for several reasons, but mainly because we considered it a very good method for novices to learn control of their dogs, and also an ideal opportunity to obtain some trial experience before going into higher levels of competition. Our reasoning was proven correct as subsequent experience has shown.
The BH test as a first preparatory step in training a dog is invaluable and as an introductory adventure for the novice handler and trainer it has brought a new understanding and awareness of the first levels of preparedness and commitment needed to condition and prepare a dog for exhibition.
At this stage in our clubs history several hundred dogs have successfully earned GSA Companion Dog Degrees (BH), with many of these continuing on to earn other worthy titles in more advanced performance trial disciplines. Added to these figures could also be an almost equal amount of dogs judged and qualified by GSA working judges fulfilling overseas appointments.
As already said, the GSA has always insisted that a BH title was necessary before moving up to the more stringent requirements of Schutzhund tests or indeed the other disciplines of the domestic trials programme. The degree was therefore almost exclusively pursued by people interested in the working side of the breed. And then, five years ago the ante was raised further for serious and conscientious show exhibitors with the introduction of the Irish Sieger Show. With the inauguration of this important milestone began a multi faceted development plan which amongst other important things stressed a requirement for all future exhibition dogs in our breeding and competition systems be able to provide proof that they had this most basic of training degrees. To some it was a mere nod of acknowledgement that there is a requirement that the dog should fulfil a minimum requirement in terms of ability, adaptive ness and control – while to others it was a ground breaking occasion and an occurrence overturning all the negativity and ignorance of almost a century of dog ownership on this island. The BH degree is now an official requirement for all pre-selection classified adult German Shepherds. It is also a requirement before admission into the Endurance Test (AD). From 2007 onwards, all adult breeding animals that are without a BH are ineligible to receive a breed rating of Excellent at The Irish Sieger Show. This requirement has the backing and support of the SV/WUSV administrative Headquarters.
But least some Irish dog owners are still foolish enough to attempt to denigrate, dismiss or ignore the significance of this progressive development, we advocate caution and consideration. There is firstly to be considered the mandatory requirement that will preclude all WUSV member country judges from handing out ‘excellent’ titles to unqualified and undeserving animals and also the reality check that is coming in the form of a serious down side to owning or breeding dogs who are without a BH qualification. Thankfully the message is getting out and things are changing for the better in Ireland in relation to people’s perceptions and their requirements in future. There is a quiet discerning and demanding public abroad whose numbers are growing every day, and they will not want or accept puppies from parents who can’t earn the most basic of titles, never mind those with unverified hips or other chronic health problems.
The GSA has a well earned reputation for the training of dog’s, it has an immaculate and unimpeachable history along with credible judge training schemes – in fact, all the credentials that position it as the best originator of respected performance titles in Ireland. But it is not these virtues and skills alone that qualifies the GSA to take on the responsibility for introducing training opportunities for German Shepherds and indeed all other breeds, rather it is these combined with the vast experience and knowledge based on a shared accumulated understanding which has developed from interest in the breeds working side and a genuine desire to see our breed prosper and flourish as a working race.
Getting back to the degree itself - the BH test is quiet simply a moderately regimented ‘good citizen test’ whereby a dog can be assessed for loyalty, control and good temperament. In fact, the test is nothing more than confirmation of what a dog should be able to demonstrate naturally. The test is conducted in a controlled way (obedience) in familiar and unfamiliar (traffic sureness) locations.
The BH test is not the daunting and insurmountable task that the benighted would have people believe. The impression projected by rogue elements (opponents of all progressive ideas and schemes) within the German Shepherd breed wider following would give one to believe that the BH test is an undertaking akin to climbing Mount Everest and dragging the dog along also. The truth is quiet different, starkly different in fact, as those who have ever undertaken the test knows. Indeed, anyone who has even witnessed the process of the examination exercises for the degree will attest to the simplicity of the experience. BH tests are conducted in the most positive and constructive way possible with the judge always aware of the handler’s anxieties and trepidations. The points are awarded for work done and obvious skills. The examination is never about the cataloguing of faults. Our GSA judges are experienced and highly trained and fully committed to making the new handlers participation in a first BH trial as positive and as rewarding an experience as possible. After all, no matter how long ones involvement or experience in the dog sport is – none of us can forget where we have come from.
By studying what is actually required in the test, and by undertaking the training in a positive way we can see the myths and lies about this ‘test’ dissipate in the light of the reality. The printed regulations give step-by-step guidance as to what is required, but all this should be viewed in the more important context of the education and general developmental sessions that prepares the dog and handler for the examination experience. Quiet often the handler has to learn as much as the dog and more often still the handlers lack of skill or experience is a limiting factor in a test. Remember no one knows the rules more or understands the BH trial system better than the GSA licensed performance judges. Those already training and taking part in the BH within the framework of the GSA take for granted the help and guidance they receive, and learn to face the test with ease and confidence. Alas there are some - out there - who unfortunately have been mislead in the last couple of years, lied to by those who tried to hi-jack the BH test for their own selfish ends. To these people (the victims) we extend the hand of friendship and welcome them to our training clubs, and pledge to help and accommodate them within our BH testing and qualification programme. There are no hidden catches in this offer, no agendas to be served. We wish simply to help everyone with a dog and raise the standard in a way that can demonstrate that our breed is well behaved, disciplined and socially adaptable and deserving of the respect respected as a safe and reliable companion. The fact that we are able to convincingly do this and also demonstrate the general usefulness of these very same dogs in terms of their value in working roles such as search and rescue and other useful purposes will be hugely advantageous and not go unnoticed by our legislature and civil authorities.
The BH test can be scheduled as an independent event – that is if there are enough dogs available to make it a worthwhile stand-alone event. Otherwise the test is scheduled as part of an all category trial and can be conducted any the discretion of the judge.
· The first part takes place on the club training grounds (generally familiar to the dog), in a park or other such area, where basic obedience exercises are looked at, evaluated and marked out of a total allocation of 60 points. Forty two points are sufficient to pass. No points are given as part of the report. A pass or failure rating is applied.
· The second part of the evaluation is only continued with if the dog has passed the obedience tests. This takes place in open public areas with normal representative pedestrian and vehicular traffic (replicated or actual situations), things that the dog may encounter in every day circumstances. This section is conducted on a purely pass or fail basis and is intended to elicit from the dog responses to normally encountered stimuli. In its combined form the test is an absolutely accurate way of measuring the dogs character strengths or otherwise.
For most people undertaking the BH in Ireland this coming year the experience will be their first introduction to any form of dog evaluation or test event. Whatever the circumstances, it will prove most rewarding. There are inestimable benefits to be had from learning the handling and training routines for the BH test. Firstly, it should be viewed by the new student as an opportunity to develop a greater relationship with the dog, and secondly as an invaluable chance to learn about the likes, dislikes and motivations inherent in the animals character. It also provides for a great opportunity for moulding the dog’s behaviour into what is required by society rather that allowing haphazard or random behaviour to determine the reaction to encounters. Also it importantly sets in place the foundation of training which can be continued and built-upon. To train for the tests, the dog must be systematically and determinedly exposed to certain situations and stimuli and corrected accordingly if the response is undesirable. The experience for the dog is also important in that it establishes certain limits to its behaviours and sets-up the handler as the undisputed object of, focus, control and respect.
For example : If the dog is barking constantly, or engages in bouts of aggressiveness towards other dogs, then the dogs behavioural shortcomings must be modified and further work done in order to establish better socialisation skills.
Remember, just like in human kind, there are no perfect model dogs, no perfectly behaved dog, no totally natural obedient dog, nor are there any animals that are naturally 100% reliable and with a completely unshakable confidence. All aspects of the dog’s character need to be worked on - need refining or some building. Whether it is by encouragement, or curtailment that the dog is moulded, the skill and understanding of the owner/handler are paramount in establishing reliable behavioural responses that best serve to help the dog cope with its environment, and recover fast from stress. In all cases patience and positive application by the trainer makes the dog. For the handler a new and greatly enlightened outlook is generally the reward.
COMPANION - TRAFFIC STEADY DOG DEGREE
EXAMINATION TEST RULES
BEGLEITHUNDE - BH
Dogs of all sizes and breeds are eligible to participate in the traffic-steady Companion Dog Test as defined in the International Programme. The minimum age for entry into this basic beginner’s category examination is 16 months.
There will be no final point score announced at the end of the obedience phase of the trial, but rather an overall evaluation by the judge of whether or not the handler and dog has passed with sufficient points. A passing score of 70% of the allocated points is required before the team is allowed to continue in part ‘B’ of the trial. It is entirely up to the discretion of the judge whether to pass or fail a dog in part ‘B’.
The awarded title (BH) has no bearing whatsoever on the individual regulations of the various breed organisations regarding standards and other rules such as Breed Show or other exhibition requirements, and Breed Survey.
There is no waiting period required before the BH test may be repeated, but not at the same trial. Example:
If a dog does not pass the BH test on Saturday, it may not compete for the BH title at the same trial on Sunday!
The BH is a prerequisite for entry into all International and Domestic trial programmes.
Part A – Obedience phase examination regulations.
Companion Dog Exercises. To be carried out on either a training field or in a natural environment – 60 points maximum. (70% must be earned for a passing score).
Exercise 1. Heeling on Lead – 15 Points
Voice command: “fuss”/”heel”
The dog on lead and upon command should follow willingly on the left hand side of the handler. The dog’s shoulder blade should always be in the vicinity of the handler’s left knee. The dog should not forge ahead or move to the side. The exercise is to be demonstrated in a normal, a slow and a running pace. At the beginning, the dog and handler must precede at least 50 paces straight ahead and then return to the starting place. In a normal walking pace, at least one right turn, one left turn and one about-turn must be demonstrated. The about turn must be executed with a left hand turn by the handler. The handler is permitted to give the command “heel” only when starting or changing pace. Whenever the handler comes to a halt, the dog should immediately come to a sit position. The handler is not permitted to change the basic position by stepping toward the dog. The leash should be held in the left hand and should be hanging loosely during the entire exercise. The judge will advise the handler when to proceed through a group of at least four people. The group should be milling around. One halt or stop is required in the group. Forging ahead, lagging behind as well as moving sideways by the dog is considered faulty and will result in point deductions.
Exercise 2. Heeling off lead – 15 Points
Voice Command: “fuss”/”heel”
The judge will advise the handler to remove the leash from the dog while the dog and handler are in the basic position. The handler will either hang the leash over the shoulder or place it in a pocket. The handler and dog will proceed directly into the group and demonstrate the group exercise as in exercise number 1. At least one halt in the group must be performed.
After the completion of the group exercise, the handler and dog will proceed to the starting point and demonstrate the heeling as in exercise number 1.
Exercise 3. Sit in Motion – 10 points
Voice command: “sitz”/sit”
From the basic heeling position, the handler and free-heeling dog will proceed in a straight line. After at least 10 paces, upon a voice command, the dog should sit quickly while the handler proceeds in a normal pace for approximately 30 more paces and turns around to face the dog. After about one minute and upon direction from the judge, the handler will return to the right hand side of the dog. The dog should remain in the sit position until the handler returns. Should the dog lie down or remain standing instead of performing the sit exercise, up to 5 points will be deducted.
10 – 15 paces normal. “Sit” Minimum of 30 normal paces.
Exercise 4. Down with Recall – 10 Points
Voice commands: “platz”/”down”, “hier”/”come”, “fuss”/”heel”
From the basic heeling position, the handler and free-heeling dog will proceed in a straight line. After at least 10 paces, upon a voice command, the dog should lay down quickly. Without additionally influencing the dog, the handler proceeds in a normal pace for approximately 20 more paces and turns around to face the dog. When advised by the judge, the handler will call the dog in. The dog should come fast and willingly and sit close in front of the handler. When given the command to “fuss”/”heel”, the dog should quickly go the basic position.
10 – 15 paces normal. “Down”. Minimum of 30 normal paces.
Exercise 5. Long down under distraction – 10 Points
Voice commands: “platz”/”down”, “sitz”/”sit”
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 without leaving the leash or other object with the dog. The handler remains quietly with his back to the dog. The dog must remain in the down position without additional influence from the handler until the other exhibiting dog has concluded exercises 1 through 4. After completion of exercise 4 and upon direction of the judge, the dog in the down position will be picked up.
The handler must remain motionless in the designated spot within the trial grounds with his/her back to the dog until the judge requests the handler to pick up the dog. Restless behaviour by the handler as well as other hidden help or the dog getting up prematurely during the pickup is faulty.
If the dog stands or sits up, but remains on the designated spot, a partial score is in order. Should the dog move more than 3 meters prior to the conclusion of exercise 2 of the other dog, the exercise shall be scored zero. Should the dog leave the designated spot after exercise 2, a partial score is in order. Should the dog meet the handler during the pickup exercise, a deduction of up to 3 points is in order.
A minimum of 42 points is required in Part ‘A’ to allow the team to proceed to Part ‘B’.
Part B – Testing in Traffic –Examination regulations.
The exercise shall be carried out in a public traffic-area (streets, roads or pubic-areas) with moderate traffic. The safety of the dogs and handlers, however, is paramount and the general public may not be interfered with nor inconvenienced. This part of the BH test may also be done at the club training grounds under simulated conditions as per the exercises, at the discretion of the judge. Only the dog being tested, his handler, the judge, and possibly also the trial secretary will be involved at any time, unless the judge requests otherwise. All the other handlers will remain waiting “on call”, at the judge’s discretion, with their dogs off to the side in a suitable location.
This portion of the BH test, because of its own peculiarities, requires a considerable expenditure of time.
The performance requirements may not be compromised by the superficial inspection of many dogs. Therefore a maximum of 24 dogs (exclusively for BH) may be judged on any one trial day, in accordance with the general rules.
Point scores are not given out for the individual exercises in part ‘B’. To pass this part of the trial, the overall impression of the dog moving about in traffic is the determining factor.
Controllability and behaviour in the street traffic
On the judge’s signal, the handler proceeds with his/her dog on lead in the area designated by the judge. The judge follows the handler at a reasonable distance.
The dog should willingly follow, on a loose head, at the handler’s left side with his shoulder remaining at about the level of the knee.
The dog should behave impartially towards all pedestrians and towards the motoring traffic opposite. Along the way, the handler will be passed by a jogger at the approximate distance of 10 feet (this aspect is staged for the test).
A short time later, the handler is passed by a bicyclist who overtakes him from behind on the bicycle path or coming from the street (again staged for the test). The approach must be done so that the dog finds himself between the handler and the passing bicyclist. As the cyclist passes the dog and handler, he will ring his bicycle-bell several times or verbally apprise the handler of his position. After this the handler turns, goes to the judge, remains standing by him, greets him with a handshake, and converses with him. During all of this the dog must stand, sit or lie down, but must in any case remain calm.
Behaviour of the dog under more difficult traffic conditions
On the judge’s signal, the handler will move out with his dog into the middle of heavier pedestrian traffic (this may be simulated for the test).
The handler will stop twice in the crowd. At the first stop the dog must ‘sit’ on command; at the second stop the handler will command the dog to ‘down’. The dog should sit and down quickly at the command and remain calm. In each instance, the handler will leave briefly and go to a spot designated by the judge and out of sight of the dog.
Within this exercise, a brief period of “loitering” will be worked in, at a spot designated by the judge with unaccustomed noises, such as various voices, loud talk, or passing traffic. (Suitable locations for these exercises include: busy malls, train-station hallways, bus stations etc.; these may also be simulated at the club grounds.
Behaviour of leashed dog left alone for short period in traffic: Behaviour of dog towards other animals.
On the judge’s signal the handler takes his leashed dog along the area designated by the judge. After walking a short distance, the handler stops on the judge’s signal and fastens the dog’s leash to a fence, a ring in a wall, or similar permanent object. The handler then goes out of sight for approximately two minutes. At the judge’s discretion, the handler enters a shop, goes into a house, an entry-way or behind a stationary vehicle.
During the test the dog may sit, stand or lie down.
During the handler’s absence, a passer-by (staged) with a dog on lead will pass by the leashed dog, walking parallel to it at a distance of approximately 10 feet. The left-alone dog should behave quietly during the handler’s absence. The dog should allow the passer-by and his leashed dog (which must be a calm non-aggressive dog) to pass without showing dog-aggressive tendencies (lunging on his fastened leash; continuous barking).
NOTE – It is to be left up to the officiating judge, whether he will carry out the individual exercises with each dog at the anticipated location, or whether he will have the test candidates work through only one exercise at that location and then go, look for another testing place and continue the testing there.