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. Many familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s
affiliates will recognize the first two parts, tracking and obedience. The Schutzhund standards for the third
part, protection work, are similar to those for dogs in police work.
While dogs of other breeds are also admitted to Schutzhund trials, this breed evaluation test was developed specifically
for the German Shepherd Dog. 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.
In addition to the Schutzhund titles, the GSDCA-WDA offers three additional training degrees. Two of these, the
FH1 and FH2, are advanced tracking degrees that require the dog to follow tracks over changing terrain, discriminate
between cross-tracks and is at least 3 hours old.
The third is the BH. The BH is a degree for traffic-safe companion dogs that tests the dogs temperament in and
around people. It includes basic formal obedience - heeling on and off leash, sits, downs and recalls - as well
as practical tests of the dog’s character in everyday situations. These include reaction to normal situations
involving crowds of people, strange noises, joggers, cars and other dogs. Before being allowed to enter for a Schutzhund
I title, the dog must first have successsfully completed the BH.
There are three levels of the Schutzhund test for which titles can be earned.
For Schutzhund I the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass an initial temperament test by the judge. The
dog must heel on the leash and off, demonstrate the walking sit, the walking down, and the stay tests, as well
as, the send-out. It must retrieve on the flat and over a hurdle. In tracking, it must be able to follow a track
laid by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier. There are also protection tests.
For Schutzhund II the dog must be at least 19 months old and must already have earned its Schutzhund I degree.
It must again pass all of the obedience and protection tests required for the Schutzhund I degree, but those
tests, for Schutzhund II, are made more difficult and require greater endurance, agility, and above all, control.
There is an additional retrieve required over the six foot slanted wall. In tracking, the Schutzhund II candidate
must be able to follow a track laid by a stranger at least 30 minutes earlier.
For Schutzhund III the master’s degree, the dog must be at least 20 months old and must have earned both the Schutzhund
I and the Schutzhund II titles. Again, the tests now are made far more difficult. All exercises in obedience
and protection are demonstrated off leash. There is the additional of a walking and running stand. In tracking,
the dog must follow a track that was laid by a stranger at least 60 minutes earlier. The track has four turns,
compared with two turns for Schutzhund I and II, and there are three objects, rather than two, that must be found
by the dog.
The Three Phases of a Schutzhund
The tracking phase includes a temperament test by the overseeing judge to assure the dog’s mental soundness. When
approached closely on a loose leash, the dog should not act shyly or aggressively. The track is laid earlier
by a person walking normally on a natural surface such as dirt or grass. The track includes a number of turns
and a number of small, man-made objects left by this person on the track itself. At the end of a 33 foot leash,
the handler follows the dog, which is expected to scent the track and indicate the location of the objects, usually
by lying down with it between its front paws. The tracking phase is intended to test the dog’s trainability and
ability to scent, as well as, its mental and physical endurance.
The obedience phase includes a series of heeling exercises, some of which are closely in and around a group of
people. During the heeling, there is a gun shot test to assure that the dog does not openly react to such sharp
noises. There is also a series of field exercises in which the dog is commanded to sit, lie down and stand while
the handler continues to move. From these various positions, the dog is recalled to the handler. With dumbbells
of various weights, the dog is required to retrieve on a flat surface, over a one-meter hurdle and over a six-foot
slanted wall. The dog is also asked to run in a straight direction from its handler on command and lie down on
a second command.
Finally, each dog is expected to stay in a lying down position away from its handler, despite distractions, at
the other end of the obedience field, while another dog completes the above exercises. All of the obedience exercises
are tests of the dog’s temperament, structural efficiencies and very importantly, its willingness to serve man
The protection phase tests the dog’s courage, physical strength and agility. The handler’s control for the dog
is absolutely essential. The exercises include a search of hiding places, finding a hidden person (acting as a
human decoy), and guarding that decoy while the handler approaches. The dog is expected to pursue the decoy when
an escape is attempted and to hold the grip firmly. The decoy is searched and transported to the judge with the
handler and dog walking behind and later at the decoy’s right side. When the decoy attempts to attack the handler,
the dog is expected to stop the attack with a firm grip and no hesitation.
The final test of courage occurs when the decoy is asked to come out of a hiding place by the judge from the opposite
end of the trial field. The dog is sent after the decoy when he refuses to listen to the handler’s command to
stop. The decoy then runs directly at the dog threatening the dog with a stick. All grips during the protection
phase are expected to be firmly placed on the padded sleeve and stopped on command and or when the decoy discontinues
the fight. The protection tests are intended to assure that the dog is neither a coward nor a criminal menace.