German Shepherd/Schutzhund Dog Training
German Shepherd/Schutzhund Dog Training in Phoenix & Scottsdale
Schutzhund is the German term for protection dog. Dogs trained in Schutzhund are basically performing the same tasks as a highly trained police K9. This sport was developed in the late 19th century by a German Cavalry Captain, Max von Stephanitz, to determine the breeding quality of the German Shepherd Dog. The dogs have to undergo a thorough examination of their skills in three different phases. These phases are tracking, obedience, and protection.
There are also three different levels of Schutzhund titles, SchH1, SchH2, and the master level of SchH3. Before a dog is allowed to participate in a SchH1 examination, the dog must pass an extensive temperament evaluation by a licensed judge. This temperament test is called the “Begleithundeprüfung” (BH), which is German for “Traffic Sure Companion Dog Test”. The dog has to demonstrate basic on and off leash obedience and show sureness around strange people, strange dogs, traffic (cars, bicycles, pedestrians, joggers, etc.) and loud noises. Only dogs that possess a stable temperament and do not display any aggression or fear can pass the examination and receive the BH title. A dog must have successfully completed the BH examination in order to advance to a Schutzhund title.
The Schutzhund test consists of three phases, which are tracking, obedience, and protection. The maximum score in each phase is 100 points. The dog must score a minimum of 70 points in tracking and obedience and 80 points in the protection phase in order to advance to next highest title and to have earned a title that is recognized for breeding purposes. The judge does not only evaluate the dog’s performance but also the dog’s temperament throughout the entire trial, and can dismiss a dog at any time for showing temperament faults, such as fear or aggression.
PHASE A, TRACKING:
This phase tests the dog’s scenting ability, mental soundness, and stamina. Again, the dog’s temperament is tested by the overseeing judge prior to starting the scent work. A tracklayer lays the track by walking in a normal gait on a natural surface, such as grass or dirt. In the SchH1 test the track is laid by the dog’s handler, in the SchH2 and SchH3 examination the track is laid by a stranger. The track consists of a number of straight legs and left or right turns. A number of man made articles are also deposited on the track by the tracklayer for the dog to find. The dog tracks on a 33 foot leash with the handler following the dog at the end of the leash. The dog can also track off leash. However, the handler must still maintain a distance of 33 feet. The dog must track at a consistent speed and indicate the articles left on the track by either lying down, sitting, or standing. Usually, the dogs are trained to indicate the articles by lying down in front of the article with the article positioned between the dog’s front paws. The difficulty, length, number of articles, and the age of the track increase from SchH1 to SchH3.
PHASE B, OBEDIENCE:
The obedience part of the Schutzhund test is performed on a large field. The dogs are working in pairs. While one dog is performing the exercises the other dog is put in a down stay (long down under distraction) on the side of the field. All of the exercises are performed off leash and include a series of heeling patterns. The dog also has to heel closely in and around a group of moving people. During the free heeling two gunshots are fired to make sure the dog does not show any negative reactions to loud noises. The heeling is followed by a number of motion exercises, where the dog must sit, lie down or stand upon command. The dog must also demonstrate a recall to the handler from various positions. Furthermore, the dog is required to retrieve dumbbells of various weights on the flat ground, over a one-meter hurdle, and a six foot scaling wall. Finally, the dog has to run in a straight direction away from the handler, upon receiving the command “voraus” (German for “go ahead”) and lie down immediately upon receiving a second verbal command. This phase is a test of the dog’s willingness to serve his handler, his temperament, and structural soundness. Again, the number of exercises and the degree of difficulty increase from SchH1 to SchH3.
PHASE C, PROTECTION:
In the protection phase the dog’s courage, strength, and physical fitness are tested. During the protection phase the handler must be in control of the dog at all times. Phase C begins with the search for the helper, where the dog must search a number of hiding places in order to find a person acting as decoy. The decoy is the judge’s assistant during the protection phase and wears a protective suit as well as a heavily patted sleeve on one arm. Once the dog has located the decoy, the dog is to bark and guard that person closely until the handler approaches. When the decoy is making an attempt to escape, the dog is expected to pursue the “bad guy” by biting the padded sleeve and holding the grip firmly. The protection phase consists of a series of exercises that are very similar to police work. The decoy is transported by the handler and the dog to the judge. At certain points the decoy performs an attack on either the dog or the handler and the dog must counter the attack by biting the patted sleeve. When the handler commands the dog to release the sleeve, the dog must let go or will be dismissed from the trial. Throughout all of the exercises the dog must show enthusiasm for the work, courage, and the temperament to obey the handler. Dogs that display fear, a lack of control or inappropriate aggression will be dismissed.
Observing the performance of a highly skilled SchH3 team is a beautiful example of the partnership that can exist between human and dog.