Is Schutzhund Training or Schutzhund Sport right for you and for your dog? Find out here!
German Shepherd Schutzhund Training really did start out as a training of German Shepherds. It was developed in Germany around 1900 as a way to test GSDs for their suitability as Schutzhund (protection dog). Indeed, genuine German Shepherd Schutzhund Training ends with a series of tests of the dog's capabilities. Only the German Shepherds that passed the final test were allowed to be used for breeding the next generation of GSDs.
That wasn't many. The few that passed the test left such a great impression on dog lovers throughout the world that the demand for German Shepherds continually increased. To meet the ever higher demand, first testing regulations were loosened, and finally the breeding control was skipped altogether. The outcome is that today there are more hyena GSDs than genuine German Shepherds:
So, genuine German Shepherd Schutzhund Training is not dog sport, but one of the most demanding forms of dog training and testing. However in some parts of the world, Schutzhund Training as a means of training and testing a dog has been morphed into dog sport, foremost in the USA.
This article is not about Schutzhund Training as a sport but as a means of dog training and testing in its original sense (and as it is still being used in Germany).
Today, many other breeds are also taking part in Schutzhund Training/ Schutzhund Sport, although only few breeds show the strength, endurance, intelligence, and versatility of the German Shepherd to succeed in this very demanding exercise (even as a sport it is demanding).
Is Schutzhund Dog Training for my Dog?
Before you consider to have your dog take part in German Shepherd Schutzhund Training, be sure to understand what it genuinely is about. This article will help you with that.
What is Schutzhund Dog Training?
Schutzhund training is a systematic training and testing of the abilities and character of an individual dog. Mark the emphasis on "systematic" - after all it is a training developed in Germany.
German Shepherd Schutzhund Training is VERY demanding, more so for the dog than for the owner, but the owner is involved too! However, Schutzhund Training is NOT a specific preparation for police work, as is so often reported. In fact, the majority of dogs that pass the Schutzhund Training never even meet a policeman or policewoman, and equally the majority of police dogs never passed German Shepherd Schutzhund Training.
Basic Elements of Schutzhund Dog Training
This training (and subject to implementation the sport too) will challenge your German Shepherd in every regard, but the core training goals are:
- Protection of the handler and/or an assigned object
- Obedience to the handler in all circumstances
- Tracking and following of identified items
It is part of the German Shepherd's genetic nature to guard and to protect, hence this forms a big part of the training and testing in order to maintain a high quality of the gene pool. During the training the handler will teach your dog to connect certain dog commands with specific behavior like guarding, defending, and attacking.
However, your dog will also be trained to act independently without receiving any commands. For example, your dog must detect and identify certain objects or persons as presenting a threat, and notify the handler of their existence.
During the training your dog must demonstrate enormous strength, focus, will power, and endurance - and this consistently - in order to proceed in the Schutzhund Dog Training.
Protection Dog Training has its own article here on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG.
As you will know, German Shepherds are very loyal by nature, but this does not automatically imply that they will obey their owner, namely you. To be able to connect the loyalty with obedience to certain commands, your dog must be trained.
Therefore this is the second big component of German Shepherd Schutzhund Training. Initially the dog must obey the handler. After some weeks of training there generally is a handover to the owner under supervision of the handler. The final phase requires the dog to obey the owner, but no longer the handler. This is an important part of the process to train a qualified Schutzhund.
Basic obedience training is the first true test in Schutzhund Dog Training. There are about 16 dog obedience commands used in most courses. Full completion requires mastery of all 16 training points.
Obedience Dog Training has its own article here on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG.
In the third part of German Shepherd Schutzhund Training your dog must identify and follow a track laid out by the handler, and the dog must notify the handler of the objects found. Your dog must not give up or show lack of interest. Because of the comparatively little involvement of the handler, this part of the training demands most of your dog in terms of own initiative, focus, and perseverance.
Trained German Shepherds are very well suited to track different objects, including the more prominent objects like drugs, bombs, and cadavers. Using the Focus, Find, and Track obedience cues, Schutzhund Dog Training will teach your dog to recognize the specific scent of its target and then to pursue it until called off.
Additional Elements of Schutzhund Dog Training
There are more elements of German Shepherd Schutzhund Training. Schutzhund classes will vary enormously with the education and training the handler has received himself or herself. Accordingly, today most Schutzhund classes seem to include Clicker dog training. Although not all Schutzhund trainers will use a dog training clicker, Clicker dog training has become a nearly universal method that works very well with German Shepherds too.
Clicker dog training has its own article here on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG.
Another element of Schutzhund dog training is Dog bite training, however this only is a minor part of the Protection (training or sport) phase of German Shepherd Schutzhund Training.
The essence of Schutzhund Dog Training
The essence of Schutzhund Training is to provide your dog with a very specific set of skills in order to complete the given task quickly, smoothly, and efficiently.
German Shepherds in non-commercial Schutzhund classes might complete the training and pass the final tests at a rate of 20% or lower, so demanding this training is. However, in order to please the owner and to justify the fees paid, in commercial Schutzhund classes often almost all dogs will pass.
What do you want?
If you consider to participate in German Shepherd Schutzhund Training to train your GSD, be sure to first research the various Schutzhund courses and to consider whether the agenda meets your interest and needs? Also, compare the cost in relation to what you aim to gain from the Schutzhund Training or Schutzhund Sport (test pass, socializing, exercise, FUN, new skill sets, whatever). Finally, make sure that you feel comfortable with the strain this kind of training or sport will put on your dog - and that your dog will feel comfortable with that!
The majority of GSD owners then feel that a bit less (cost and strain) is enough, and they rather opt for more general German Shepherd Dog Training or dog sport. If that's the case for you too, make sure that you know what you want to gain:
- Do you seek prestige?
- Do you seek new dog skills?
- Do you seek dog exercise or joint exercise?
- Do you seek socializing for your dog and/or for yourself?
- Do you seek to have FUN?
- Do you seek professional dog training?
- Do you seek to improve your dog-human relationship?
What is it that you want?