Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog”. It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners.
Schutzhund is a dog training and breeding regimen developed originally in the 20’s by the Deutsches Shaeferhund Verein (German Shepherd Dog Club), or SV, in order to maintain the working ability of the breed.
While the term Schutzhund means literally “protection dog”, the training involves work equally in tracking, obedience and protection. In order to get a Schutzhund degree a dog must pass all three phases of the work. Also, a working title (at least a SchH I) is required for breed survey purposes, and in order to register an approved litter.
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd breed.
SV, the parent club of the breed, developed the Schutzhund test as a way of maintaining reliable dogs with traits suitable for breeding.
Many countries and working dog organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and test of working performance.
International rules have been established by the Verein fuer Deutsche Hundesport (VDH). The first SchH trial in the U.S.
Schutzhund / IPO 1 Obedience, Protection, Tracking
was held in California in 1970. In 1987 the U.S.A. alone sanctioned nearly 300 trials with a total entry of 1,800 dog/handler teams.
Many breeds now participate in addition to GSDs.
While there may be individual dogs of a particular breed that may be suitable for the work, the following are most consistently able to perform: GSDs, Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinscher, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler, Tervuren, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, etc. Generally, these are larger working breeds with strong prey and defense drives, and temperaments suitable for the tasks of the training.
There are three major degrees awarded – SchH I, SchH II, and SchH III — in order of increasing difficulty.
SchH I (IPO I) is the apprentice test. A SchH III dog must demonstrate a high level of performance, ability and courage.
The traits that make for a good Schutzhund candidate mostly are innate characteristics that must be bred for.
Even among dogs bred out of Schutzhund bitches and dogs, a minority have the ability to reach even SchH I, and a small percentage will have the necessary drive, intelligence and hardness to achieve a Sch III title. In addition to breeding, early development is important.
The young pup should not be subjected to strong corrections or experience being dominated by another dog, and all training and play should end on a positive note, with the pup “winning.”
The IPO (International Pruefungsordnung) rules, under the auspices of the FCI (Federation Internationale Cynologique), are similar to the Schutzhund rules and the trials are run in the same manner, with the exception that no evaluation of the fighting instincts, courage or hardness of an IPO entrant is performed during the protection phase of the trial.