The Sport of Schutzhund – Working Dog Show

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Schutzhund is a dog sport that focuses on evaluating specific traits in dogs. Here is everything you should know about this old sport.

Knowledge of Schutzhund is not well-spread outside the world of professional dog trainers.

Those who know about it are usually divided: one claim that this sport is beneficial for their dog’s discipline, while others belives that Schutzhund boosts dog’s aggression.

To understand if Schutzhund can really make a dog aggressive, or if it’s really just a tool in selecting breeding partners, read on.

What Is Schutzhund?

Schutzhund is a dog sport that was developed in Germany in the early 1900s. Term Schutzhund stands fro ‘protection dog’ in German.

Originally, Schutzhund was developed as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd breed. The test had a real purpose of determining if the dog displays the right traits and characteristics of a well-shaped working German Shepherd.

Nowadays, Schutzhund is used as a sport where many breeds compete, not only German Shepherd Dogs, but since the test is so demanding only a few dogs can actually pass it.

Schutzhund is specially designed to test various dog skills, characteristics, and abilities.

With that on the mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Schutzhund is mandatory for dogs for any police-type work.

In a nutshell, the primary purpose of Schutzhund is to identify dogs that have or do not have the character trait mandatory for specific jobs.

Just some of the traits are:

  • Courage
  • Trainability
  • Sense of smell
  • Strong bond to the handler
  • Intelligence
  • Protective instinct
  • Courage
  • Strong desire to work

Schutzhund will test for these traits any dog breed. On top of that, physical traits are tested as well, such as:

  • Strenght
  • Endurance
  • Agility
  • Scenting ability

Schutzhund has a very clear goal – to illuminate the character and ability of a dog through training. That’s why it was mentioned that Schutzhund is a tool for breeders.

Breeders will always use Schutzhund as a tool to decide how and whether they should use the dog in producing the next generation of working dogs.

The DHV changed the name of the titles from “SchH” (Schutzhund) to “VPG” (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung für Gebrauchshunde, which roughly translates Versatility examination for working dogs). The SV has retained the “SchH” title names but otherwise conforms to the DHV/FCI rules.

Dog Breeds Commonly Used In Schutzhund

Schutzhund is for every dog breed to test the dog’s ability and traits; however, some breeds are frequently seen in this vivid sport.

Ever since the Schutzhund started practicing, in far 1900, thousands of dogs went through this program.

The majority y of dogs were working herding dogs. Over time it has become clear that dogs started losing their working ability.

So, a focus was switched to German Shepherds, and Schutzhund started developing in such a matter of developing the program as a test of working ability for German Shepherds.

There is also an exciting rule in Germany to this day: only German Shepherds that have passed a Schutzhund test are allowed to breed and to be registered as German Shepherd Dogs.

People who are passionate about Schutzhund believe that thanks to this test, the working ability of every generation survived.

So, since today Schutzhund is open to various dog breeds, and not only German Shepherd, you may see the following breeds participating in this sport:

  • German Shepherds
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Boxers
  • Rottweilers
  • Dobermans
  • Cane Corso
  • Giant Schnauzers
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Dutch Shepherd Dogs
  • Beaucerons
  • American Bulldogs
  • Black Russian Terriers
  • Airedale Terriers
  • Australian Cattle Dogs

Schutzhund Official History

As mentioned earlier, Schutzhund was developed in Germany during the 1900s. According to various historical documents, the very first Schutzhund was held in Germany in 1901 to capitalize on the working temperament and ability in the famous German Shepherd breed.

Since these dogs were bred to be working dogs, dog lovers wanted to preserve that trait. The industrialization of Germany brought machines, so animals were less and less used as a working force.

Yet, Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz, the breeder decided to save the breed and switched their purpose to a different kind of work. So, breeders started promoting the use of German Shepherds as police and military dogs.

The Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, had a fear: they were afraid that the breed would be exposed to careless breeding and nurturing undesirable traits such as weak joints, mental instability, so they joined it and created an ultimate test to protect the breed – Schutzhund test.

Therefore, Schutzhund was an excellent practice to keep the line pure and avoid any unreasonable breeding.

Once this test was accepted in Germany, other countries started adopting Schutzhund as a sport and an examination of working performance in dogs.

International rules have been created, implemented, and established, and they are administered by the Verein fur Deutsche Hundesport (VDH).

The Schutzhund Trial

The Schutzhund Trial consists of 3 parts:

  • Tracking
  • Obedience
  • Protection

Although the Schutzhund test has changed over the years, these phases remained. Nowadays, Schutzhund is based on these three pillars. There are also three Schutzhund titles:

  • Schutzhund 1 (SchH1)
  • Schutzhund 2 (SchH2)
  • Schutzhund 3 (SchH3)

Schutzhund 1 (SchH1) is the most advanced title, and for a dog to hold this title, he must compete for an SchH1, it must pass a temperament test called a B or BH (Begleithundprüfung, which translates as “traffic-sure companion dog test”).

Each phase comes with specific traits and obstacles that are judged by judges.

1. Tracking

Tracking is not only about scenting ability.

In this sport, tracking is more about physical endurance and mental soundness. Still, the tracking phase is instead a simple one: a track layer walks across a field, dropping several articles along the way.

After some time, the dog has directed to follow the track. At the same time, the dog is followed by the handler on a 33-foot leash. The dog will indicate that he found an item, usually by lying down with the time between his front paws.

During this phase, each dog is scored. Scores are given based on a dog’s ability to follow the track and find the items carefully. For each title, complexity, several items, the age of the track, as well as the length would vary for each title.

2. Obedience

Obedience is a second phase done in a large field. This phase demands dogs working in pairs. One dog is always placed in a down position on the side of the area, and his handler leaves him, while the other dog works in the field. After that, dogs switch places.

There are several heeling exercises in the field, including heeling through a group of people. There are also two or three gunshots during the heeling to test the dog’s response and reaction to loud noises.

You must have in mind that these sare dogs trained by professionals for a few years in a row, and this loud noise is not the same as the dog’s reaction first he fireworks season. During the fireworks, you must protect your dog from disturbing sounds.

In the obedience phase, the dog must do two recalls, three retrieves (flat, jump, and A-frame), and a send out, where the dog must run away from the handler straight and fast.

The dog must also lie down on command. Based on the dog’s attitude and accuracy, obedience is judged. It’s also vital for the dog to show enthusiasm because any dog that’s uninterested or scared will always score poorly.

3. Protection

In this phase, the helper steps in. A helper is a person, an assistant of the judge. The helper has a clear role – to help the judge test the dog’s courage to protect himself.

Dog’s ability to be controlled while doing so is also tested. The helper is always protected. You will see the helper wearing a heavily padded sleeve on one arm.

There are many places where the helper can hide on the field. The dog is directed to search the blinds for the helper, and when the dog finds the helper, he will indicate it by barking.

The dog must guard the helper to prevent them from moving until recalled by the handler. After that, a series of exercises are performed, and they are similar to police work, where the handler searches the helper and transports them to the judge.

At some point, the helper will attack the dog, or the handler might try to escape. A dog must either stop the attack or escape by biting the padded sleeve.

The dog must listen to ‘out’ command to release the sleeve, once the escape or attack stops. If the dog refuses to go ‘out’ he will be automatically dismissed.

The dog’s responsibility is to show the courage to engage the helper and steady temperament to obey the handler.

Enthusiasms must always be present, and if dogs show any sign of fear, aggression, or lack of control, he will be automatically dismissed.

Before the dog enters this competition, he must be well-trained. Let’s see what the training requirement for this canine sport is.

Schutzhund Training

Schutzhund training today is not the same as it was just a few years ago. Just Schutzhund sport, training for this exciting sport evolved as well, over the years.

When it comes to Schutzhund training, one of the most common sources is Col. Konrad Most’s Dog Training: A Manual, 1910, which was written in the first 50 years f the sport.

Although this is a useful source, it’s crucial to note that not all training methods used in this book are neither endorsed or approved.

Modern dog trainers have more some better methods, although they are traced to this book. Don’t forget that this book was written at the begging of public dog training, and things were done differently.

Other sources that could be educational and useful for Schutzhund:

  • Helmut Raiser, Der Schutzhund
  • Susan Barwig, Schutzhund Theory & Training Methods
  • OP WORKING DOGS, A Schutzhund Training Manual, Dr. Dietmar Schellenberg
  • Training the Competitive Working Dog, Tom Rose, and Gary Patterson
  • Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive with Gottfried Dildei, Sheila Booth
  • Schutzhund: Theory and Training Methods, Susan Barwig and Stewart Hilliard

For more information on the sport, follow Schutzhund clubs and Schutzhund organization.

Although this sport comes with numerous benefits to the dog, many are still worried that this sport may awake the aggression in a dog.

Will Schutzhund Make My Dog Dangerous?

“Will Schutzhund make my dog dangerous”? This is one of the most common questions that people have about Schutzhund. So far, you have read about the sport’s history and how the competition is organized.

You have also had an opportunity to read about sports phases, training, and some rules. All in, this information should give you enough insight when it comes to understanding Schutzhund better.

But, can this sport make a dog aggressive? As long as the trainer know s that a dog is not a toy, but a living being with emotional and physical needs, no dog will develop aggressiveness by itself. Therefore, it’s essential to be a responsible pet owner and understand what comes with dog ownership, as well as how much it may cost you to have a dog.

When it comes to Schutzhund, you may notice that some dogs take the competition more seriously than others do.

Every dog is different – just like humans are – so you might witness to a more competitive dog. Still, the urge to win is not anyhow linked with aggressiveness.

To answer the question: no, Schutzhund won’t make your dog aggressive.

Inadequate training, aggressive reinforcement, a hungry and neglected dog is more prone to aggressiveness, and that’s not something that a responsible dog owner would allow.

Do Dogs Enjoy Schutzhund Training?

Dogs love to work. After all, these animals have absent centuries and centuries, helping people with their everyday activities.

Even the dog’s brain have changed over the decades because of their interaction with people. So, if trained in the right manner, dogs love working.

Since dogs are huge people-pleasers, they are prone to finding happiness in working with their humans. Also, working with humans enables a special bond between humans and dogs.

Schutzhund training helps develop the dog’s natural instincts to a high level, and they will love it if it’s done right.

Self-content, well-fed, and healthy dogs who have something to do and the happiest dogs. Not sure if a dog is pleased during the Schutzhund competition?

Just search for wagging tails, strong pulling on a leash, and sounds of excitement to see how much fulfillment dogs find in this work.