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 Dog. The test would determine if the dog displayed the appropriate traits and characteristics of a proper working German Shepherd Dog. Today, it is used as a sport where many breeds other than German Shepherd Dogs can compete, but it is a demanding test for any dog.
Schutzhund tests dogs of all breeds for traits such as a strong desire to work, courage, intelligence, trainability, a strong bond to the handler, perseverance and protective instincts. 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.
Dogs of any breed, even mixes, compete in Schutzhund, but the most common breeds are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Boxers, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Cane Corso, Giant Schnauzers, Bouvier des Flandres, Dutch Shepherd Dogs, Beaucerons, American Bulldogs, Black Russian Terriers, Airedale Terriers, Australian Cattle Dogs, and the like.
In 2004 the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (dhv) made substantial changes to Schutzhund rules. The dhv adopted the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules that govern IPO titles. The dhv changed the name of the titles from "SchH" (Schutzhund) to IPO, (International Prufungorden - which roughly translates into international working tests.)
Schutzhund is governed by a number of organizations. The FCI, the international umbrella organization for all things dog related, sets the rules for IPO titles. The AZG sets the rules for Schutzhund for all breeds. The AZG is one of the component organizations of the VDH, the all breed kennel club of Germany. DVG is an all-breed dog sport organization in Germany that organizes clubs and trials and has branches in Canada and The United States.
A function of Schutzhund clubs is to also identify dogs that should not be trained in the sport. Schutzhund is a challenging test of a dog's character, and not every dog is up to the challenge. The training director of the club has a responsibility to the dog, handler, club, and society to constantly evaluate every dog and to decline to train any dog with questionable character or working ability. Training a dog that does not really want to work is stressful and frustrating for all parties involved. Schutzhund clubs regularly hold public trials, providing the opportunity for dogs to earn titles and for handlers to assess their training progress. A good club should be considered a necessity for Schutzhund training.
There are three Schutzhund titles: IPO 1, 2 and 3. IPO 1 is the first title and IPO 3 is the most advanced. Additionally, before a dog can compete for an IPO 1, he must pass a temperament test called a BH (Begleithundprüfung, which translates as "traffic-sure companion dog test"). The BH 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 BH.
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 an IPO title. Each phase is judged on a 100-point scale. The minimum passing score is 70. At any time the judge may dismiss a dog for showing poor temperament, including fear or aggression.
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.
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 gunshots during the heeling to test the dog's reaction to loud noises. There are one or more 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.
In the protection phase, the judge’s assistant, called the "helper", helps him or her test the dog's courage to protect himself and his 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 him from moving until recalled by the handler. There follows a series of exercises where the handler disarms the helper and transports him 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. A dog that shows fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression is dismissed
DVG stands for Deutscher Verband der Gebrauchshundsportvereine, or the German Association of Working Dog Sport Clubs. DVG is the oldest Schutzhund training organization in the world. DVG was formed officially in 1947, but its roots go back to Germany’s first police and service dog associations formed in the early 1900s. DVG has over 30,000 members, with about 2000 of them participating in Schutzhund.
DVG exists for only one purpose -- training and titling dogs of all kinds. In Germany, DVG offers agility, FCI obedience, flyball, search and rescue, water rescue, and several other sports, providing competition opportunities for all people who love to train dogs, even the smallest of breeds. DVG is made up of over a dozen geographic regions (Landesverbands), all of which are in Germany except for LV DVG America. The president of LV DVG America is a member of the Board of DVG, and goes to Germany each year to the annual business meeting to vote on Board and membership affairs.