Schutzhund and the German Shepherd Dog
What is Schutzhund?
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 work concentrates on three parts. Many are familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s affiliates and 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 actively involved in the sport of Schutzhund and often follow similar criteria for breeding purposes, 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 Schutzhund Titles
The BH or companion dog title is a pre-requirement for Schutzhund titles. All breeds and sizes are eligible with the minimum age requirements of 15 months.
There are three levels of the Schutzhund test:
In addition to the Schutzhund temperament tests, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America offer three training degrees: the FH 1 and FH 2, advanced tracking degrees; WH, or basic protection degree which includes basic obedience, and the AD which is an 12.5 mile endurance test and includes obedience. USA also offers six seperate obedience and tracking titles that reflect the routines for SchH 1, 2, & 3 levels.
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- What Value does Schutzhund add to the Breed?
- What Is the Judge Looking for in the-Dog?
- Do Schutzhund-Trained Dogs make good home companions?
- Do Schutzhund-Trained Dog make good Police Dogs?
- How do I choose a Puppy for Schutzhund?
- How do I raise a Puppy for Schutzhund Work?
- Do Dogs enjoy Schutzhund Training?
- What is the USA?
- Where can I get more information?
The Value to the Breed
Any registered 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 Koerklasse I or Koerklasse II. This is a recommendation and evaluation by a trained and recognized expert judge as to the worthiness of the dog for breeding. Dogs rated Koerklasse II are “suitable for breeding” and dogs rated Koerklasse 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 to 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.
What Is the Judge Looking for in the-Dog?
At all three stages – Schutzhund 1,2, and 3 – 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% – 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 handler.
The Schutzhund-Trained Dog in the Home
Since Schutzhund is the demonstration of the German Shepherd dog’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 training itself enjoyable for the dog, but the Schutzhund trained dog knows how to please its owners, creating a stronger bond between dog and owners.
The Schutzhund-Trained Dog for Police Work
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.
Choosing a Puppy for Schutzhund
In every breed, the pedigree is the key to knowing the potential of the puppy. Schutzhund revolves around working lines with 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 are of 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 chase prey- a ball, a toy, etc- and also be the leader in the sense of be confident of the other puppies. The puppy should not show fear when away from 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 the traits of trainability that you need.
Raising a Puppy for Schutzhund Work
Puppy hood is 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 really only shows itself between the ages of nine and 18 months, as the pup begins to mature, by barking at strangers or intruders. 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 can begin once the puppy is more mature. 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 stress that may be involved in obedience training.