Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is Schutzhund?

What is Schutzhund?

Schutzhund is German for “protection dog.” The sport was developed in Germany to test the temperament of the German Shepherd Dog and is still used for that purpose today. The German Shepherd must have strong character, trainability, willingness to please, ability to scent, courage, and physical soundness. Schutzhund evaluates German Shepherds and other breeds for all of these traits. But most of all it is an exciting, competitive dog sport where handler and dog teams compete in tracking, obedience and protection. To earn a Schutzhund title, a dog must pass all three phases at the same trial. Training a dog in the sport of Schutzhund may take years of hard work and is a learning experience for both dog and handler. Since dogs must be mentally sound, confident, compliant, and energetic to succeed in Schutzhund, they are excellent companions and family members. A timid, aggressive, or couch-potato dog is not a good candidate for this sport.

Not all dogs are suitable for the sport of Schutzhund. Before earning a Schutzhund title, dogs must pass a temperament test called the BH (Begleithund), which includes obedience and traffic-sureness exercises. Schutzhund titles are awarded at three levels, each of which includes all three phases (tracking, obedience and protection). The Schutzhund 3 is the most difficult and demanding. The titles must be earned at an approved trial under a licensed judge. Two parent clubs currently administer the sport in the United States, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA) and the DVG. Trials are held year-round depending on geographic location and competitions are held at the club, regional, and national levels.

The Three Phases of Schutzhund

Tracking tests the dog’s scenting ability. A track is laid in advance and allowed to age for a period of time. At that point, the dog is brought to the start and must follow the track without help from the handler and indicate articles dropped by the tracklayer. The dog is scored on its accuracy and commitment to finding the track and the articles. Handlers who do not wish to pursue a Schutzhund 1, 2 or 3 may opt to train for tracking only. Titles awarded are TR1, TR2 and TR3. Requirements are the same as those for the tracking phase of Schutzhund.

Obedience tests the dog’s ability to perform specific exercises, including heeling; sit, down, and stand while the handler continues to move; recall; retrieves on the flat and over obstacles; send-away with down; and a long down in the presence of another dog/handler team on the field. The dog is also tested for soundness during gunfire. Handlers who do not wish to pursue a Schutzhund 1, 2 or 3 may opt to train for obedience only. Titles awarded are OB1, OB2 and OB3. Requirements are the same as those for the obedience phase of Schutzhund.

Protection tests a dog’s courage, strength and agility while performing a series of exercises involving a decoy, or helper. The dog must search for the decoy, guard, pursue the decoy when he attempts to escape, defend against the decoy’s attack, and accompany his handler while transporting the decoy. The handler must demonstrate absolute control of the dog using mainly verbal commands.

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