An Overview of the Sport of Schutzhund

German Shepherd Dog (GSD)
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Table of Contents

  1. What is Schutzhund (IPO/IGP)?
  2. Can any dog do Schutzhund?
  3. What breeds can compete in Schutzhund? What breeds do best?
  4. Can a Schutzhund dog be a good family dog?
  5. What equipment is needed to compete in Schutzhund?

What is Schutzhund (IPO/IGP)?

Schutzhund is a dog sport that started in the early 1900’s in Germany. The word “Schutzhund” is German and translates to “protection dog”. The canine protection sport of Shutzhund was changed in name to IPO (Internationale Prufungs-Ordnung) in 2012 due to political reasons. The name changed once again in 2019 and is currently referred to as IGP (Internationale Gebrauchshund Pruefung).

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The sport was originally developed to test German Shepherd dogs to ensure the breed retained the genetic traits for tracking, obedience, and protection skills. Schutzhund is designed to evaluate if a dog has the appropriate traits and characteristics of a good working dog. This test is not related to breed standards set out by breed kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), or the United Kennel Club (UKC). Today, the sport of Schutzhund has grown significantly in popularity, as well as continuing to function as a partial breed test for German Shepherd Dogs.

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Schutzhund includes 3 phases: tracking, obedience, and protection.

Tracking is where a dog uses his nose to show his olfactory capability to follow a path (track) previously taken by a person. In tracking, a track layer (person) lays a track by dropping several small articles such as a glove or wallet while walking across a field. After a specified period of time for the track to age (~20 minutes to 1 hour), the handler directs the dog to follow the track while on a 33-foot leash. The dog must indicate locating an article. An example of indication is lying down at the article. The dog is scored on ability and intent.

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Obedience skills include retrieval of objects, heeling, reaction to loud noises such as gun fire, recall, send out, and many other exercises that demonstrate the capabilities of both handler and dog and show cooperation between the two. This test is conducted in an open field.

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Protection involves a number of simulated attacks. Skills include searching out and holding in place an adversary, a remote attack of an aggressor and defence of the handler. This phase tests the dog’s ability to protect itself and handler in a courageous manner. The test includes locating a hidden person (aggressor), holding them in place, and stopping attacks and escape attempts by biting the person (protected by a special bite suite/bite sleeve) by biting the aggressor (only on protective bite sleeve). The dog must stop any bite with a command by the handler and always remain in control.

Can any dog do Schutzhund?

The simple answer is yes, however regardless of breed, if you are thinking about participating in Schutzhund with your dog, there are certain characteristics and traits your dog needs to possess. Schutzhund is primarily for dogs of the protective heritage. Your dog should be of stable character (anxiety issues are not stable). Your dog needs to be highly trainable (really responds positively to training and is excited to learn) and have a strong desire to work with and for you (the handler), must have a strong drive and strong working ethic along with some natural aggression tendencies and a protective nature.

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What breeds can compete in Schutzhund? What breeds do best?

Although any breed of dog can compete in Schutzhund, some clubs may be breed specific. If your dog possesses the traits and qualities needed to perform in the sport, don’t be afraid to try it. Who knows, maybe your dog will excel and maybe you will really enjoy it.

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The breeds that consistently dominate the top spots in advanced levels of Schutzhund are German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds ( particularly the Malinois), Rottweilers, Dobermans and Bouvier des Flandres.

Can a Schutzhund dog be a good family dog?

Yes. Most dogs competing in the sport of Schutzhund make excellent family dogs however there are some things that must be considered. Family dogs need to be respectful with all family members and they must obey some basic commands given by the family members. This is contrary to a trained Schutzhund dog where there is one handler/trainer for the dog and typically the dog will ignore the commands of others. To have a successful family Schutzhund dog, time must be spent working with family members and the dog using a separate set of commands not used in Schutzhund sport.

The dog must also learn basic manners and social skills that are not used in the sport. Often, the dog will not properly engage in play with anyone except the handler so this is something else that must be taught or sometimes avoided. There are many other considerations especially in the higher levels of Schutzhund but with time, most dogs can be successfully integrated into family life with some work. One thing to remember is that high level Schutzhund dogs generally have extreme drives and energy levels, and this must be properly worked for the dog to live a balanced family life.

What equipment is needed to compete in Schutzhund?

Some basic Schutzhund training equipment is listed here however there is much more you can purchase as you progress:

  • Bite sleeves and suits
  • Good quality working dog leash
  • Heavy duty long line leash
  • Dog dumb bells
  • Agility equipment such as scaling walls and hurdles
  • High quality collars
  • Prong collar
  • Bait/treat bag
  • Crate
  • Harness
  • Training toys such as tugs, bit pillow, balls, and flirt poles

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If you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment below in the comment box or send a private comment via our “Contact” page.

Cheers, Lynn


A Little Bit About Siberian Husky History

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Siberian Husky sled dogs - dog sledding team of Siberian Huskies
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The Siberian Husky is an active, intelligent working dog belonging to the Spitz (Northern Breeds) genetic family of dogs. All Spitz dogs have similar appearance however their size varies greatly. They have double coats and most have a recognizable tail that curves over the back.  Spitz dogs are well suited to live in harsh northern climates and can be classified as sled dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, companion dogs and Asian dogs.

Where did Siberian Huskies come from?

So where did Siberian Huskies come from? Well, they originated from a place in Northeast Asia and as you can probably guess by their name, that place was the Siberian Arctic, where dogs have been essential to the survival of humans for almost 10 thousand years. Siberian Huskies were actually bred by the Chukchi people. They were used to pull their sleds, and this allowed them to travel to the best hunting spots (which were often too far to get there and back in one day) in the same day.

How did Siberian Huskies get from Siberia to Alaska and the Canadian Arctic?

Many dogs were imported to Alaska from Eastern Siberia and the surrounding regions during the gold rush to use as sled dogs. In 1908, when polar exploration was becoming popular a Russian fur trader named William Goosak came to Alaska to enter the All Alaska Sweepstakes race, with a team of little Chukchi dogs he had bought at a local fair on the Siberian peninsula. The Chukchi dogs were small in size and big in power and endurance. They had a reputation as excellent sled dogs with incredible endurance skills so he thought they would do well in the 408 mile race. Other dog sledders watched as Goosak and his dog teams excelled in the sledding world. One man, Leonhard Seppala was very impressed with these little Chukchi dogs so he also imported some. Seppala started breeding his dogs and built a formidable team. He competed in races from 1909 to the 1920’s and did exceptionally well, winning multiple championships and building the reputation of the little Chukchi dogs. Impressed with the performance of Goosak’s dogs, another dog sledder named Fox Maule Ramsey decided to purchase 70 of the little Siberian Chukchi dogs from Siberia and bring them to North America by freighter across the Bering Sea. With those dogs, Ramsey entered 3 teams in the 1910 race and placed first, second and fourth. The popularity of the little Chukchi dogs skyrocketed in Alaska.

Team of Siberian Huskies - sled dogs at work
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The Creation of the Modern Siberian Husky

Almost all modern Siberian Huskies descended from a group of Siberian Chukchi sled dog imports. These dogs were owned by Leonhard Seppala. The most notable was Seppala’s lead dog called Togo. In 1925, a small group of dog sledders successfully transported desperately needed diphtheria serum across 965 km of treacherous arctic terrain, from Nenana, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. What was said to be the longest (422km) and most dangerous portion of the journey was carried out by Leonhard Seppala, his team of little Chukchi’s and his now famous incredible lead dog Togo. Exportation from Siberia of more Chukchi dogs continued until it was halted in 1930 by the Russian army.

Antarctica - Siberian Huskies were used extensively as sled dogs during the British Antarctic Survey from 1945 to 1994
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In 1930, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Chukchi sled dogs as “Siberian Huskies”. In 1938, The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the breed however they named the dogs “Arctic Huskies”, eventually changing the name to Siberian Husky in 1941. During the British Antarctic Survey (1945-1994) Siberian Huskies were used extensively as sled dogs and enabled the success of the mission.

Siberian Huskies at play
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The modern Siberian Husky dog is friendly and gentle. They are good with children and can make a good family pet if their behavioural needs are properly met. Siberian Huskies are a highly active breed. They will often howl rather than bark. They are known as great escape artists, often digging, chewing or jumping their way out of backyards, especially if they are bored. Siberian Huskies have a high prey drive and this means they are not often good around small animals, especially fast moving ones. Generally, these dogs do not show any aggression towards humans so they do not make very good guard dogs. Their typical life span is 12 to 14 years.

Siberian Husky Puppy
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Today, Siberian Huskies are a popular breed. They are still used frequently for dog sledding but also now kept as family pets. Aside from pulling sleds, Siberian Huskies excel at many dog sports including agility, rally obedience, skijoring, bikejoring and carting. If you decide to own a Siberian Husky, you need to keep the dog active and involved in structured sports and will hopefully live in a cooler climate as they do not do well in hot climates.

DISCLAIMER & PRIVACY: I participate in affiliate marketing programs. If you click on a link from my blog to one of these affiliates for product purchase, your origin here will be tracked only for the purpose of paying me a very small amount (with no effect on pricing for you).