Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”) tests not only a dog’s physical fitness, but mental soundness as well. It is a dog sport that was developed in Germany in the early 1900’s to test whether a GSD (German Shepherd Dog) could perform as the breed was intended rather than just evaluating the physical appearance of the dog. It is an incredibly demanding teat and there are few dogs that can pass. Besides ensuring the temperament of the dog, the trials and test are also necessary in determining if the dog would be suitable for police work, specific odor detection, search and rescue, and other physically and mentally demanding jobs. Some of the characteristics tested for in Schutzhund are:
• Strong desire to work
• Strong bond to the handler
• Protective Instinct
Schutzhund training tests these traits and also physical traits such as strength, endurance, agility, and scenting ability. The goal of Schutzhund is to illuminate the character of a dog through training. Breeders can use this insight to determine how and whether to use the dog in producing the next generation of working dogs. In Germany, the test was and is still used to this day to determine which dogs will be allowed to breed. The correct temperament of the dog is just as important as the dog’s physical appearance. “It is only by testing the working ability of every generation that the strong working characteristics have been maintained.”
There are three schutzhund titles: Schutzhund 1 (SchH1), Schutzhund 2 (SchH2), and Schutzhund 3 (SchH3). SchH1 is the first title and SchH3 is the most advanced. Additionally, before a dog can compete for a SchH1, he must pass a temperament test called a B or BH (Begleithundprüfung which translates as “traffic-sure companion dog test”). The B tests basic obedience, sureness around strange people, strange dogs, traffic, and loud noises. A dog that exhibits excessive fear or aggression cannot pass the B and so cannot go on to schutzhund.
Schutzhund consists of three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. A dog must pass all three phases in one trial to be awarded a schutzhund title. Each phase is judged on a 100-point scale. The minimum passing score is 70. At any time the judge may dismiss a dog for showing poor temperament, including fear or aggression.
In the tracking phase, a track layer walks across a field, dropping several small articles along the way. After a period of time, the dog is directed to follow the track. When the dog finds each article he indicates it, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws. The dog is scored on how intently and carefully he follows the track and indicates the articles. The length, complexity, and age of the track varies for each title.
The obedience phase is done in a large field, with the dogs working in pairs. One dog is placed in a down position on the side of the field and his handler leaves him while the other dog works in the field. Then the dogs switch places. In the field, there are several heeling exercises, including heeling through a group of people. There are two or three gunshots during the heeling to test the dog’s reaction to loud noises. There are one or two recalls, two or three retrieves, and a send out where the dog is directed to run away from the handler straight and fast and then lie down on command. Obedience is judged on the dog’s accuracy and attitude. The dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that is uninterested or cowering will not pass.
In the protection phase, the judge has an assistant, called the “helper”, who helps him test the dog’s courage to protect himself and his handler and his ability to be controlled while doing so. The helper wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm. There are several blinds, placed where the helper can hide, on the field. The dog is directed to search the blinds for the helper. When he finds the helper, he indicates this by barking. The dog must guard the helper to prevent him from moving until recalled by his handler. There follows a series of exercises similar to police work where the handler searches the helper and transports him to the judge. At specified points, the helper either attacks the dog or the handler or attempts to escape. The dog must stop the attack or the escape by biting the padded sleeve. When the attack or escape stops, the dog is commanded to “oust,” or release the sleeve. The dog must out immediately or he is dismissed. At all times the dog must show the courage to engage the helper and the temperament to obey his handler while in this high state of drive. Again, the dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that shows fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression is dismissed.
Schutzhand is very misunderstood, so I have provided a link that provides a basic explanation of Schutzhund. Many mistakenly believe Schutzhund to be about violence, but it is about self control, discipline, and obedience. A well trained Schutzhund can be compared Martial Arts–he is highly trained physically, but also has the mental awareness and discipline to only act when necessary and with the correct use of force. A Schutzhund dog will be the last to attack unprovoked, he will never be a “fear biter”, but he will get the job done.
Here is also a video from You Tube concerning Schutzhund. I really like it because it demonstrates the complete control the handler has and the incredible self-control his magnificent dog has. Notice how he jumps up and down barking at the “bad guy” but, despite the obvious adrenaline rush not only refrains from attacking, but completely submits to the command of his trainer when given the command to heel. Then again, he is already attacking, blood racing, and immediately drops back when commanded. As a former police officer, I will be the first to admit that when you get that adrenaline rush, it is hard to focus on ANYTHING else, and then to let go of someone that has been striking me repeatedly because my “handler” said so!?! I also never get tired of seeing the “ready” position they walk it- they have those back legs flexed ready to react at any indication from the handler! I am just infatuated with these dogs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1-QjAQ1ch4
This video has officially become my most favorite Schutzhund video! Not only does it show the INCREDIBLE power of the Rottweiler- I have been hit on the sleeve with a dog at full run before and not only are there good bruises left under the sleeve, but I have had the wind completely knocked out of me as well!! It is like getting hit by a MAC truck! But what I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about this video is that is showcases the COMPLETE Rottweiler! He is strong, powerful, protective and courageous, BUT he is also gentle, affectionate, and nurturing. There will never be another breed for my family! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vao1hl1NoPA&feature=related
I just found another great Sch. video. Just look at how attentive and obedient the dog is! How amazing!! This dog has so much love and respect for his handler. He keeps his eyes on his master’s eyes at all time waiting on the slightest indication of how he can please his handler. There are no food rewards- the dog is not bribed into working. He works because he was born to and he wants nothing more than to please his handler. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUwkOgJZ9Ns&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLB8BD0F01446C9679
I never get tired of seeing the amazing intelligence, dedication, and self control these dogs exhibit! Rottie Sch. Video.
And of course my favorite working male, our Ocho <3 Here are some of his videos: