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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Cheers, Lynn