Why would I want to make my
dog vicious? Should we be training dogs to bite in today's litigious
society? These are the types of questions that often get asked
when I start to tell people about the sport I par-ticipate in with
my dogs. One of the most common misconceptions about the sport
of 'schutzhund' (german for 'protection dog') is that dogs that
do protection work are vicious- in fact, this is far from the case.
To be a successful schutzhund dog, a dog has to be stable, balanced
in it's drives, and most importantly, under con-trol of it's handler.
Also, schutzhund is not just about protection work- protection
is only one of three phases of the sport.
So, what exactly is schutzhund?
It is the canine triathalon, including tracking, obedience, and
protec-tion. The sport was originally created in the early 1900's
as a breeding soundness test for the German Shep-herd dog; each
phase of the sport tests the dog for certain temperament characteristics
that are essential in the make up of a good working dog. Tracking
tests the dog's scenting ability, it's focus and concentration,
as well as it's ability to problem solve. Obedience tests the dog's
willingness to work for a human handler, it's train-ability & ability
to follow direction. Protection tests the dog's courage and determination,
as well as it's ability to function under stress, all while still
being obedient to it's handler. The dog must complete all three phases
in one day- which tests the dog's fitness, stamina and soundness-
both physically and mentally. Being able to evaluate these traits
is helpful to the breeder in breeding better working dogs- dogs that
can suceed as police canines, search and rescue dogs, drug detection
dogs, as well as dogs that have better aptitude for perform-ance
events, such as obedience, tracking or agility.
Any dog (purebred or mixed breed) that can do the work can compete
in schutzhund events, although the most commonly seen dogs in the
sport are German Shepherd dogs, Belgian Malinois & Tervuren,
Rott-weilers, Doberman Pinschers, Dutch Shepherds, Giant Schnauzers
and American Pit Bull Terriers. Bouviers, Boxers and Airdale terriers
are also occassionally seen, and I have also heard of Labrador retrievers,
Border collies and Chesapeake Bay retrievers that have been titled
in the sport.
Before a dog can compete for schutzhund titles, they
must first pass the BH 'Begleithundprüfung' or 'traffic safety
companion dog'. The BH is pass/fail, and consists of an obedience
routine similar to AKC Nov-ice obedience, as well as a thorough
temperament test. The obedience routine consists of heeling on
and off leash with change of paces and a figure eight through a
crowd, a sit out of motion, a down out of motion, a recall and
an honor down. The temperament test is a variety of exercises that
prove that the dog does not show uncalled for aggression towards
people or other dogs.
Once the dog has passed the BH, it may compete
for titles; Schutzhund 1, Schutzhund 2 and Schutz-hund 3. The Schutzhund
1 must be passed before the 2, and the 2 before the 3. They are
abbreviated as SchH1, SchH2 & SchH3. Equivalent titles offered
by different organizations are the VPG1-3 and the IPO1-3. Each
title requires the dog successfully complete tracking, obedience
and protection in the same day; each phase is scored on a 100 point
scale with 70 points in each phase required to pass. At the SchH3
level the tracking is similar to a TD in age and distance, but
with 4 corners and 3 articles. The obedience is all off leash and
in-cludes heeling with changes of pace, halts, a figure eight through
a crowd, a sit, down and stand out of mo-tion (the down and stand
done at a fast pace), a retrieve on the flat, a retrieve over a
1 meter (39in) jump, a retrieve over a 6 foot A-frame, a send away
with down across the length of the field and an honor down while
another dog works. The protection exercises include a variety of
'police dog' situations where the dog must search for or apprehend
a fleeing or attacking bad guy (called the 'helper'). The dog is
only allowed to bite when the helper is fleeing or attacking, must
release the bite sleeve on command, and be under handler con-trol
at all times.
Interested in seeing schutzhund in action? Plan on
coming to Sammmamish Kennel Club's July 11th meeting- we will be
having a program on schutzhund and the Working Dog Sport- you'll
have a chance to see dogs doing work in all three phases.