The Germans call it "hundesport", dog sport.
For generations people from Europe and North America have been drawn to participating in an active
sport with their dog. Schutzhund offers this in a way that no other sport can. It is outdoors. It is physical.
It is mental. The demands are great. It is what all recreational sports should first be: good exercise, and
Schutzhund started at the beginning of this century as a test for working dogs. Its initial purpose was to
determine which could be used for breeding and which had true working ability. The growing demand for
working dogs made more sophisticated tests and training necessary. These dogs were needed for
police training. border patrol customs, military and herding. As these tests evolved, more people
participated just for the sheer enjoyment of seeing if their personal dogs could be trained as effectively
as these "professional dogs". Now, over sixty years after the first formal Schutzhund rules were
introduced, tens of thousands of people participate in the sport each year.
Schutzhund tests three specific areas of a dogs' training and behavior.
Tracking: This area requires the dog to track footsteps over mixed terrain, change direction
and show absolute accuracy and commitment to finding the track. It must also find dropped
articles and indicate their locations to the handler. Often done under less than ideal
circumstances with difficult cover, bad weather conditions and an aged track. Many find
tracking to be the most satisfying experience in training when only the handler and the dog
are working together. It is certainly the most peaceful part of Schutzhund.
Obedience: Those who are familiar with AKC obedience will feel more comfortable in this
area, as many of the exercises are similar to those in Open and Utility. There is heeling, both
on and off lead. The sit, down and stand are also done, except when the dog is moving.
Schutzhund applies its own style to this work. Instead of a forty foot ring, the handler and dog
work on a soccer sized trial field. Some exercises require the dog to work under the noise of a
firing gun. In addition to dumbbell retrieval (which weigh up to 2 kilograms or 4.4 pounds), the
dog must retrieve over a one meter jump and a six foot wall. Down stays and a long send
away conclude the test.
Protection: The final test is the most misunderstood by the general public. The most
important point to understand when watching a protection routine is the relationship between
dog and handler. The dog must never bite the trial helper, unless either the dog or the
handler is attacked. Then it must attack fully and without hesitation. But here the real
difference becomes apparent. The dog must stop biting on command of the handler and
guard the trial helper without further aggression. Often people confuse Schutzhund protection
training with police dog or personal protection work. Only the Schutzhund dog is capable of
never being aggressive except under those specific situations it is trained to face. Even then it
must always be under absolute control of the handler.
To make it even more demanding, the tests all happen in one day during competitions held all over
the country. These trails are held by local clubs or in regional and national championships. Each dog is
judged by a complex point system that determines the winner of the trial.
When a dog successfully completes the first trial, it is awarded a title of Schutzhund I. It can then
progress to Schutzhund II and the ultimate, Schutzhund III. Each level makes greater demands on the
dog and training in all three areas. Any Schutzhunder will tell you that a high scoring Schutzhund III dog
is the ultimate working dog. Only one in a thousand of all working dogs ever attain the title.
In addition to the Schutzhund I, II and III titles, other titles in advanced tracking, temperament tests,
police training and agility work are rewarded.
Today, Schutzhund is more than the small group that started in Germany so long
ago. Its organizations have several hundred thousand members scattered across
Europe, North America and several other continents