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 even more useful and
happier companions to their owners.
Schutzhund work concentrates on three parts. Many familiar with obedience
work of the American Kennel Club's affiliates will recognize the first two parts,
tracking and obedience. The Schutzhund standards for the third part, protection
work, are similar to those for dogs in police work.
While dogs of other breeds are also admitted to Schutzhund trials,
this breed evaluation test was developed specifically for the German Shepherd Dog.
Schutzhund is intended to demonstrate the dog's intelligence and utility. As a working
trial, Schutzhund measures the dog's mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies,
ability to scent, willingness to work, courage and trainability.
This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train
their dog and compete with each other for recognition of both the handler's ability
to train and the dog's ability to perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by
persons of varied professions, who join together in a camaraderie born of their
common interest in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages and conditions of
life - even those with significant disabilities - enjoy Schutzhund as a sport. Often,
it is a family sport.
The Tracking phase includes a temperament
test by the overseeing judge to assure the dog's mental soundness. When approached
closely on a loose leash, the dog should not act shyly or aggressively. The track
is laid earlier by a person walking normally on a natural surface such as dirt or
grass. The track includes a number of turns and a number of small, man-made objects
left by the person on the track itself. At the end of a 30-foot leash, the handler
follows the dog, which is expected to scent the track and indicate the location
of the objects, usually by lying down with it between its front paws. The tracking
phase is intended to test the dog's ability to scent, as well as its mental and
The Obedience phase includes a series of heeling exercises, some of
which are closely in and around a group of people. During the heeling, there is
a gun shot test to assure that the dog does not openly react to such sharp noises.
There is also a series of field exercises in which the dog is commanded to sit,
lie down, and stand while the handler continues to move. From these various positions,
the dog is recalled to the handler. With dumbells of various weights, the dog is
required to retrieve on a flat surface, over a one-meter hurdle, and over a six-foot
slanted wall. The dog is also asked to run in a straight direction from its handler
on command and lie down on a second command.
Finally, each dog is expected to stay in a lying down position away
from its handler, despite distractions, at the other end of the obedience field,
while another dog completes the above exercises. All of the obedience exercises
are tests of the dog's temperament, structural
efficiencies, and, very importantly, its willingness to serve man or woman.
The Protection phase tests the dog's courage, physical strength, and
agility. The handler's control of the dog is absolutely essential. The exercises
include a search of hiding places, finding a hidden person (acting as a human decoy),
and guarding that decoy while the handler approaches. The dog is expected to pursue
the decoy when an escape is attempted and to hold the grip firmly. The decoy is
searched and transported to the judge with the handler and dog walking behind and
later at the decoy's right side. When the decoy attempts to attack the handler,
the dog is expected to stop the attack with a firm grip and no hesitation.
The final test of courage occurs when the decoy is asked to come out
of a hiding place by the dog's handler from the opposite end of the trial field.
The dog is sent after the decoy when he attempts to run away. Just when the dog
is about to catch the decoy, the judge signals the decoy to turn and run directly
at the dog, threatening the dog with a stick. All bites during the protection phase
are expected to be firmly placed on the padded sleeve and stopped on command and/or
when the decoy discontinues the fight. The protection tests are intended to assure
that the dog is neither a coward nor a criminal menace.>
The first Schutzhund
trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament
and ability in the German Shepherd breed. Originally, these dogs were herding
dogs, but the industrialization of Germany encouraged breeders to promote the use
of their dogs as police and military dogs. The Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde
(SV), the parent club, became concerned that his would lead to careless breeding
and undesirable traits such as mental instability, so it developed the Schutzhund test.
Since then, many other countries and working dog organizations have
also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and a test of working performance in dogs. International
rules have been established, and they are administered by the Verein für Deutsche
In 1970 the first Schutzhund trial in the U.S. was held in California.
In 1987, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America alone sanctioned nearly 300 trials
with a total entry of about 1800 dog/handler teams. More than 17 countries sent
teams of competitors to the World Championship for Schutzhund dogs for the World
Union of German Shepherd Clubs.
There are three levels of
the Schutzhund test. SchH1, SchH2, SchH3
For Schutzhund I the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass an
initial temperament test by the judge. The dog must heel on the leash and off, demonstrate the walking
sit, the walking down, and the stay tests, as well as the send-out. It must retrieve
on the flat and over a hurdle. In tracking, it must be able to follow a track laid
by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier. There are also protection tests.
For Schutzhund II the dog must be at least 19 months old and already
have earned its Schutshund I degree. It must again pass all of the obedience and
protection tests required for the Schutzhund I degree, but those tests, for Schutzhund
II, are made more difficult and require greater endurance, agility, and, above all,
control. There is an additional retrieve required over the six-foot slanted wall.
In tracking, the Schutzhund II candidate must be able to follow a track laid by
a stranger at least 30 minutes earlier.
For Schutzhund III, the master's degree, the dog must be at least
20 months old and must have earned both the Schutzhund I and the Schutzhund II titles.
Again, the tests now are made far more difficult. All exercises in obedience and
protection are demonstrated off leash. There is the addition of a walking and running
stand. In tracking, the dog must follow a track that was laid by a stranger at least
50 minutes earlier. The track has four turns, compared with two turns for Schutzhund
I and II, and there are three objects, rather than two, that must be found by the
dog. The picture of obedience, strength, eagerness, and confidence presented by
an excellent Schutzhund III team is a beautiful illustration of the partnership
of human and dog.
In addition to the Schutzhund temperament
tests, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America offers three training degrees: the
FH, an advanced tracking degree; the B, a basic dog obedience degree for traffic-safe
companion dogs; and the WH, or basic protection degree which includes basic obedience.
German Shepherd that has earned a Schutzhund degree has demonstrated sufficient
ability as a working dog to qualify for breed evaluation. The breed evaluation is
a very detailed examination of the dog's structure, temperament,
and pedigree and requires both a certification of good hip joints and sufficient
performance on an endurance test (the "AD"). Dogs that do well in the breed evaluation
receive a Körklasse I or Körklasse II. This is a recommendation and evaluation by
a trained and recognized expert judge as to the worthiness of the dog for breeding.
Dog rated Körklasse II are "suitable for breeding" and dogs rated Körklasse I are
"recommended for breeding". By thus screening dogs in order to select the suitable
specimens for breeding, Schutzhund helps to maintain the quality of the breed at
a very high level. Thus, there is a very high level of assurance that puppies born
of Schutzhund dams and sired by Schutzhund dogs are more likely to be of reliable
temperament, high intelligence, steady nerves, extreme
endurance, great strength, and sound structure.
At all three
stages - Schutzhund I, II, and III - each of the three phases; obedience, tracking,
and protection, is worth 100 points for a total of 300 points. If a dog does not
receive a minimum of 70% of the points in track and obedience and 80% of the points
in protection - or if the dog fails the pretrial temperament
test - it is not awarded a degree that day and must repeat the entire test, passing
all phases of the test at a later trial. In every event, the judge is looking for
an eager, concentrating, accurate working dog. High ratings and scores are given
to the animal that displays a strong willingness and ability to work for its human
is the demonstration of the German Shepherd's most desirable characteristics, dogs
well trained in Schutzhund are usually excellent companions in the home. The German
Shepherd Dog - like any other working dog that possesses mental stability - has
trust and confidence in itself, allowing it to be at peace with its surroundings.
In addition to sound structural efficiencies for long, arduous
work, the standard for the German Shepherd Dog calls for mental stability and
a willingness to work. The dog should be approachable, quietly standing its ground,
showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without itself necessarily
making them. It should be generally calm, but eager and alert when the situation
warrants. It should be fearless but also good with children.
The German Shepherd Dog should not be timid or react nervously to
unusual sounds or sights. A dog that is overly aggressive because of its overall
fears of people and events can be extremely dangerous. The Schutzhund sport is designed
to identify and eliminate such dogs from breeding stock. Because Schutzhund training
gives the owner a great deal of control over the dog, the owner is able to let the
dog have more fun. Not only is Schutzhund itself enjoyable for the dog, but the
Schutzhund-trained dog knows how to please its owners, creating a stronger bond
between dog and owners.
A dog that
performs well in Schutzhund work is obviously a very good candidate for police work.
Police dogs, like other service dogs, must have temperaments
with a good foundation of intelligence and utility. A minimal amount of additional
training makes many well-trained Schutzhund dogs ready for active police duty. Such
fearless police dogs can also work around children and in crowds without worry on
the part of their handlers.
In every breed,
the pedigree is the key to knowing the potential of the puppy. Schutzhund revolves
working lines - generations of dogs that have proven themselves and produced similar
characteristics in their offspring. These characteristics include not only the physical
structure of the dog, which is very important, but also its temperament.
Selecting the bloodlines from which you want your puppy may require
advice. Information from breed surveys can help. Of course, it makes sense to discuss
your objectives with reputable and experienced Schutzhund handlers or enthusiasts.
Once you have determined that the bloodlines of the potential dam
and sire of are high quality, you should observe the parents, especially the mother,
if that is at all possible. The dam will be the main influence on the young pup
for the first six weeks of its life. If the dam is nervous or unsure, chances are
this uncertainty will be transferred to the offspring.
If you are able to see the litter, watch the puppies together and
also separately, to try to determine which is the best puppy. Obvious structural
defects or health problems should be watched for.
It is important that the puppy have intense instinct to stalk the
prey - a ball, a toy, etc. - and also be the leader in the sense of bullying the
other puppies. The puppy should not show fear when away form>
its litter mates. It should not need to stay with the mother. The puppy should be
adventurous> and active,
playing with objects shown to it by someone in the enclosure, but it should be independent
enough to take that object and go off on its own as well.
It is independence and confidence, combined with the positive contact
with the pack leader (the dam, at this time) that will develop into traits of trainability
that you need.
the most critical period for the development of the characteristics you want to
encourage. Your local Schutzhund club can advise you about nurturing and socializing
your growing puppy.
A puppy learns from its experiences, so you want to provide only positive
ones. It should be provided with opportunity to explore and investigate new situations
and new people, but always in a non-threatening way. Remember
that your goal is to build confidence in the young animal. Your aim is not to
dominate or oppress the young pup.
Exposure to different environments is crucial to the general education
of the dog and also to assure it that the world is a safe place. If something appears
to make the dog unsure, give it the opportunity to investigate it slowly, but do
not force the issue.
It is imperative to avoid situations where your dog would be dominated
by another, older or stronger dog, or by another puppy. You also want to avoid having
to discipline or correct your puppy and thus dampen its spirit or damage its self-confidence.
You can do this by never leaving the pup in a situation where it can cause damage
to your valuables or find itself in a dangerous predicament.
The final area of development is that of drive encouragement. The
natural behaviors that you want to encourage are playing with the ball, tug of war,
hide and seek, pulling toys on a string, pursuing you rapidly
when you run away, and finally defending
itself, its family, and its home. The latter only really shows itself between the
ages of nine and eighteen months, as the pup begins to mature, by barking at strangers
It is better to leave for later formal obedience training with a young
dog. The character of the puppy is not sufficiently strong to withstand the corrections
involved in obedience training. Acceptable manners at home and in the car and "play"
training, like learning to sit for a food reward, with no corrections involved,
is advisable. Real obedience work should begin only after the dog is well on its
way in the protection training.
in the right manner, dogs enjoy working, as anyone who attends a Schutzhund competition
can see. The joy of the dogs in working with their handlers is evident.
For thousands of years, dogs have adapted to serve humans in a mutually
beneficial relationship. While dogs could move quickly, hunt prey, and protect flocks
and their owner, the humans could provide food, shelter from the most severe elements,
and protection from larger predators, besides tending to the dog's injuries. A dog's
reason for being is to serve humans.
Schutzhund training helps develop the dog's natural instincts to a
high level. Self-confident dogs, doing work for which they are well trained, are
happy dogs. Wagging tails, sounds of excitement, and strong pulling on a leash all
show an observer at a Schutzhund trial how much fulfillment dogs find in this work.
Clubs are organized by regions through the U.S., and there are numerous clubs in
most areas of nearly all states. Regional Directors are also available for information
and guidance in starting a new one.
As of January 1995, there were more than 170 full member clubs and 30 affiliated
clubs in the "United Schutzhund Clubs of America." More than 5,500 individuals
were members of those clubs.
The United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA) is a member of the World
Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs, and sends a team to the World Championship each
In addition, the USA sanctions regional championships and two major
national championships. It also sanctions conformation shows and championships for
the German Shepherd Dog.
USA is responsible for scheduling visits from foreign judges and administers
its own judges program.
USA also maintains a "Breed Registry" for German Shepherd Dogs consisting
of pedigrees for five generations.
USA adheres to the VDH rules for Schutzhund.