Dog Sports:Explaining the differences…

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

     As an owner of a German Shepherd, I know that you’ve wondered about activities such as Schutzhund.  When you read pedigree’s, you see dog after dog listed as SchH1, 2, or 3.  Maybe an FH (tracking) thrown in for good

Youngsters are also involved in the sport of Schutzhund!

measure.  But as you begin to investigate, you soon discover other Dog Sports.  French Ring, Mondioring, Protection Sports Association, Belgian Ring, not to mention the different tracking disciplines and Agility activities.  I’m going to attempt to explain a few of them, as each has it’s supporters and

Chasing the 'cuff in Schutzhund.

detractors.  I’m fascinated by ALL of them, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning about, and maybe becoming involved in one or more of them…

What is Schutzhund?                                

Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog”. It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners. Schutzhund work concentrates on three parts.  Obedience, Tracking and Protection. Schutzhund is intended to demonstrate the dog’s intelligence and utility. As a working trial, Schutzhund measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage, and trainability.

This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train their dog and compete with each other for recognition of both the handler’s ability to train and the dog’s ability to perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by persons of varied professions, who join together in a camaraderie born of their common interest in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages and conditions of life even those with significant disabilities enjoy Schutzhund as a sport. Often, it is a family sport.

The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd breed. Originally, these dogs were herding dogs, but the industrialization of Germany encouraged breeders to promote the use of their dogs as police and military dogs. The Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, became concerned that this would lead to careless breeding and undesirable traits such as mental instability, so it developed the Schutzhund test. Since then, many other countries and working dog organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and a test of working performance in dogs. International rules have been established, and they are administered by the Verein fur Deutsche Hundesport (VDH).

     Often, Schutzhund involves the entire family.  Although it  may have an outsiders reputation as a violent sport, many youngsters are involved…Violence is NEVER a part of proper schutzhund, only tightly controlled aggression.  Understand the sport before passing any judgement.  What are the rules of Schutzhund trials?  First item is the Temperament Test.

Before any trial starts, prior to the first examination phase, the dogs must undergo an impartiality test (temperament test). Judges will closely inspect the dog, and the dog must tolerate the handling by the stranger without aggression.  Dogs that do not pass the temperament test are excluded from further participation in the trial and must be disqualified. Owner’s of dogs that are micro chipped, are responsible for providing the necessary equipment for the identity check.

The judge will continue to evaluate the temperament throughout the entire trial. The judge is obligated to immediately disqualify a dog from the trial if that dog shows a faulty temperament. The temperament test must be performed under normal environmental conditions in a neutral location for the dog.

There are three levels in Schutzhund; , Schutzhund 1, Schutzhund 2, and Schutzhund 3.   All 3 levels include Tracking, Obedience, and Protection exercises.  They all have 300 points that  can be achieved;  a 100 in tracking, a 100 in obedience and a 100 in protection.   Schutzhund 1 is the beginning level . But remember even before you can go for Schutzhund 1 you must first have your dog  achieve a BH level (Begleithundprüfung, which translates as “traffic-sure companion dog test”)  or what is commonly called a traffic title.  Earning a Canine Good Citizen title would be a good pre-amble, as the dog must prove that he is trustworthy around other people, can perform an obedience routine, ignore distractions from other dogs, cars,  people on bicycles, honking horns, crowds, joggers running by, and if any of these things are reacted to negatively, he is not  allowed to go for his Schutzhund 1 until he achieves that title. The BH or Behavior level is mandatory.

Agility is important in Schutzhund competition.

  The major difference that schutzhund has over French Ring, or PSA  is Tracking.      The tracking phase tests not only the dogs scenting ability, but also its mental soundness and physical endurance. In the tracking phase, a track layer walks across a field, dropping several small articles along the way. After a period of time, the dog is directed to follow the track while being followed by the handler on a 33 foot leash. When the dog finds each article he indicates it, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws. The dog is scored on how intently and carefully he follows the track and indicates the articles. The length, complexity, number of articles, and age of the track varies for each title.   Tracking can be very exciting to observe, when the small details are understood.

While protection work is the main draw, Obedience and Tracking are equally important.Next is the Obedience Level. This can be very interesting to watch, as these well trained canines react to their handlers without hesitation! The obedience phase is done in a large field, with the dogs working in pairs. One dog is placed in a down position on the side of the field and his handler leaves him while the other dog works in the field. Then the dogs switch places. In the field, there are several heeling exercises, including heeling through a group of people. There are two or three gunshots during the heeling to test the dog's reaction to loud noises. There are one or two recalls, three retrieves (flat, jump and A-frame), and a send out where the dog is directed to run away from the handler straight and fast and then lie down on command. Obedience is judged on the dog's accuracy and attitude. The dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that is uninterested or cowering , scores poorly. Tracking in Schutzhund is an exacting discipline, and maybe the most difficult to master.The largest crowds always gather for the Protection phase, and it truly is the most exciting adrenaline rush is Dogsports. In the protection phase, the judge has an assistant, called the "decoy", who helps him test the dog's courage to protect himself and his handler and his ability to be controlled while performing. The decoy wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm, or a whole body suit. There are several blinds, placed where the decoy can hide, on the field. The dog is directed to search the blinds for the decoy. When he finds the decoy, he indicates this by barking. The dog must guard the decoy to prevent him from moving until recalled by his handler. There follows a series of exercises similar to police work where the handler searches the decoy and transports him to the judge. At specified points, the decoy either attacks the dog or the handler or attempts to escape. The dog must stop the attack or the escape by biting the padded sleeve. When the attack or escape stops, the dog is commanded to "out," or release the sleeve. The dog must out or he is dismissed. At all times the dog must show the courage to engage the decoy and the temperament to obey his handler while in this high state of drive. Again, the dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that shows fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression is dismissed. This is a brief overview of Schutzhund. If you have opportunity to attend an event, you will learn that there are many other nuances to this training. It takes an exceptional and well-trained dog (AND Handler) to compete at the top levels, but the discipline that the dog learns is unmatched by any other training. In our next post, we'll describe the Dogsport known as "Mondioring". Thanks for reading!Schutzhund is a Fast sport!


The Bark and Hold. Obedience mastered!


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