IPO or Schutzhund

Schutzhund (German for «protection dog») is a dog sport that was developed in Germany in the early 1900s as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd breed. The test would determine if the dog displayed the appropriate traits and characteristics of a proper working German Shepherd. Today, it is used as a sport where many breeds other than German Shepherd Dogs can compete, but it is such a demanding test that few dogs can pass.

Schutzhund tests dogs of all breeds for the traits necessary for police-type work. Dogs that pass Schutzhund tests should be suitable for a wide variety of tasks: police work, specific odor detection, search and rescue, and many others. The purpose of Schutzhund is to identify dogs that have or do not have the character traits required for these demanding jobs. Some of those traits are:

  • Strong desire to work
  • Courage
  • Intelligence
  • Trainability
  • Strong bond to the handler
  • Perseverance
  • Protective instinct
  • Sense of smell

Schutzhund tests for these traits. It also tests for physical traits such as strength, endurance, agility, and scenting ability. The goal of Schutzhund is to illuminate the character and ability of a dog through training. Breeders can use this insight to determine how and whether to use the dog in producing the next generation of working dogs.

There are three schutzhund titles: Schutzhund 1 (SchH1), Schutzhund 2 (SchH2), and Schutzhund 3 (SchH3). SchH1 is the first title and SchH3 is the most advanced. Additionally, before a dog can compete for an SchH1, it must pass a temperament test called a B or BH (Begleithundprüfung, which translates as «traffic-sure companion dog test»). The B tests basic obedience and sureness around strange people, strange dogs, traffic, and loud noises. A dog that exhibits excessive fear, distractibility, or aggression cannot pass the B and so cannot go on to schutzhund. The Schutzhund test has changed over the years. Modern Schutzhund consists of three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. A dog must pass all three phases in one trial to be awarded a schutzhund title. Each phase is judged on a 100-point scale. The minimum passing score is 70 for the tracking and obedience phases and 80 for the protection phase. At any time the judge may dismiss a dog for showing poor temperament, including fear or aggression.

TRACKING: The tracking phase tests not only the dog’s 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 it follows the track and indicates the articles. The length, complexity, number of articles, and age of the track varies for each title.

OBEDIENCE: 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 its handler leaves it 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, in which 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.

PROTECTION:  In the protection phase, the judge has an assistant, called the «helper», who helps him or her test the dog’s courage to protect itself and its handler and its ability to be controlled while doing so. The helper wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm. There are several blinds, placed where the helper can hide, on the field. The dog is directed to search the blinds for the helper. When it finds the helper, it indicates this by barking. The dog must guard the helper to prevent them from moving until recalled by the handler. There follows a series of exercises similar to police work where the handler searches the helper and transports them to the judge. At specified points, the helper 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 it is dismissed. At all times the dog must show the courage to engage the helper and the temperament to obey the 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.