What is Schutzhund?

Dog Sport: Two Minds, One Heart

IPObservations: Episode 1 – The Elegance of IPO

The current Trial Rules of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USCA)

Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”) is a sport that was created in Germany by the German Shepherd Dog’s breed founder, Max von Stephanitz, in the early 1900s.  The sport was originally developed as a breeding suitability test, to help determine if the dogs entered had the necessary qualities to positively contribute to the continuation of the GSD breed.  Over the years, however, Schutzhund has evolved into a sport that is open to all breeds capable of doing the work (from small Terriers to large Mastiff breeds and everything in between).  Recently, Schutzhund has also taken on the name Internationale Prüfungs-Ordnung (IPO).

As a club, Wasatch Hundesport strives to make this sport available to all interested in it, regardless of what breed they may have, or what experience level they are at.  We firmly believe that every dog can benefit from having a mental and physical outlet and, for some dogs, Schutzhund provides the ideal venue for thus.  Additionally, this sport allows for an enhancement of the human-dog bond, through the promotion and testing of their teamwork.  Mutual respect and trust are forged through using positive methods to build the dog’s work ethic, courage, intellect, biddability, determination, strength and stamina, and their natural pack, protective, and tracking instincts. Not only are these traits important in any sport or working partner, they are certainly prized in any canine family member, as well.

Within Schutzhund, there are three titles: Schutzhund 1 (SchH1 / IPO1), Schutzhund 2 (SchH2 / IPO2), and Schutzhund 3 (SchH3 / IPO3).  Each title requires the dog to perform exercises in tracking, obedience, and protection.  However, before a dog can trial for a SchH1, he must successfully complete the BH test (Begleithundprüfung, German for “traffic-sure companion dog test”). The BH requires dogs to perform basic obedience and temperament tests to ensure that they are suitable for, and able to continue on to, the regular SchH titles.  The main intent of the BH is to verify that no undue aggression or fear is present in the dog, that he is safe and confident in multiple situations and with multiple people and/or animals, and that he is in tune with, and attentive to, his handler.

In addition to the regular SchH titles offered, dogs may also test and trial for phase specific titles, such as OB (obedience) 1-3 and TR (tracking) 1-3.  Dogs can also earn the FH (Fahrtenhund) and FH2, which are advanced tracking titles; and the AD (Ausdauerprüfung), a 12 mile endurance test title.

For a breakdown of the three different phases in Schutzhund, please see the chart below.

Phase Description
Tracking The tracking phase tests not only the dog’s scenting ability, but also his mental soundness and physical endurance. 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, while being followed by the handler, either off lead or on a long line. 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, number of articles, and age of the track varies for each title.
Obedience 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 is expected to stay after his handler leaves him for the entire duration that 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, three retrieves (flat, jump and A-frame), 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 lacks interest or focus scores poorly.
Protection 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 maintain self control and safety 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 “out,” or release the sleeve. The dog must out 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.