|With the removal of the long established barriers which
prevented us from having free movement with our dogs to mainland Europe,
a whole new area of opportunity now exists to compete abroad in shows
and schutzhund trials.
It is on this latter subject that I have been asked to write, for the
benefit of those who are not familiar with the sport of Schutzhund and
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the effects of the Industrial
Revolution were sweeping across Europe and changing a way of life that
had existed for centuries.Rapid modernisation of rural life made many
traditional methods of farming redundant and the value of the indigenous
working dogs was in danger of being lost forever.
The early creators of the German Shepherd Dog, led by Captain Max von
Stephanitz, were among the first to realize this and recognising that
their beloved breed was capable of being adapted to all sorts of
utilitarian purposes, they conceived a system of standards for
identifying those animals considered suitable as breeding stock.
The conformation show served as the arbiter for correct type and uniform
physical structure and they devised a working test to identify those
animals possessing the necessary stable characters, strong drives and
overall working ability.
It was from these early working tests that the sport of Schutzhund
evolved and whilst various elements have been refined over the years,
the original objectives and ideals remain the same.
Schutzhund is a three level, three phase dog sport.There are three
progressively more difficult levels of competition that lead to the
Schutzhund titles from Schutzhund 1 through to Schutzhund 3.
Each level comprises three phases --- Tracking, Obedience and
Protection.At all three levels, each phase is allocated 100 points and
from these the judge deducts points for any errors according to the
points system. To qualify at any level, a minimum of 70 points must be
achieved in each phase but in order to progress to competition at the
next level, a minimum passing mark of 80 points must be gained in
As mentioned above, there are three phases to the programme :--
Tracking – which is the development of the dogs
natural scenting ability and it’s willingness to work for it’s handler.
The track is laid in an open field and the dog must subsequently follow
the footsteps of the tracklayer finding and indicating articles that
have been left on the track. With each level, the length and age of the
track is increased with Schutzhund 1 level tracks being laid by the
handler and Schutzhund 2 and 3 by a stranger.The handler follows the dog
at the end of a 10 metre line when working the track.
The aim is for a well motivated dog that tracks accurately and at a
Obedience – which evaluates the dog’s responsiveness
to it’s handler in a number of different situations.
The exercises require the dog to heel attentively at the handlers side
in a pattern of turns, changes of pace, stops and distractions such as
gunshots and a group of people. The dog must be left in the sitting, the
down and the standing positions and come when called. Retrieval of a
dumbbell is required on the flat, over a 1 metre hurdle and over a
climbing frame ( A–frame ). A sendaway from the handler with a down on
command is also required.
The dogs work Obedience in pairs with one dog working the exercises
whilst the other dog remains in a down position away from the handler.
An alert, attentive, attitude is preferable throughout the work.
Protection – which determines the dog’s
courage,drives,self-confidence and resilience whilst still under the
control of the handler.
The exercises require the dog to search for and find a hidden “criminal”
(the helper), warning the handler of his presence by barking and
preventing the helper from escaping.
A number of simulated attacks are made by the helper, who wears a
protective suit and a padded sleeve. In Schutzhund, the dog is trained
to grip on the sleeve and when the helper stands still the dog must
release the sleeve immediately and attentively guard the helper.
Control and discipline are paramount in protection training.
Protection work is without doubt, the area which is most
misunderstood by people who have never participated in it and despite
criticisms to the contrary,protection training will not change the dog’s
basic temperament. Only confident animals with completely stable
temperaments and strong nerves should undertake protection training. An
inappropriately aggressive dog is not a good candidate and nervous, shy
animals are totally unsuitable.
Protection training does not create something that was not there in the
first place and a properly trained Schutzhund dog ensures a confident,
reliable companion whose reactions become predictable and controllable
under any circumstances --- the most dangerous dog is the one apt to
bite out of fear and an inability to deal with the world at large.
In 1991 the German SV (which oversees the Schutzhund sport world
wide), introduced a preliminary basic temperament test – the BH – and
made it mandatory for this test to be passed before entry into the
Schutzhund levels was permitted. The BH comprises two sections, the
first being an Obedience section which is very similar to the Schutzhund
1 Obedience routine but without the retrieves or the sendaway.
The second section tests the dog in a series of simulated everyday
situations such as traffic, crowds, reaction to other dogs and people
and absence of owner. This is a very interesting and revealing
temperament test and an excellent evaluation of the dog’s basic
character and will hopefully go a long way to alleviating any concerns
about Schutzhund training.
I hope that the foregoing gives an insight into what Schutzhund entails
and from a dog-sport started by a few enthusiasts in Europe some 100
years ago, it now has many thousands of active participants in over
forty countries and six continents.
Whilst a great deal of time and effort goes into training a dog in
Schutzhund, the rewards are enormous in terms of producing reliable dogs
suitable for living with families and able to cope with the stresses of
I think that Captain von Stephanitz would approve !
Ron White. (BSA)