Schutzhund dog training is a sport that developed in Germany in the early 20th century as a way to test various German Shepherd breeds for potential use as police dogs. Rather than using a dog’s appearance as a means of determining if the dog would be effective, Schutzhund allowed trainers to find the best-suited animals for the job. Today, many breeds are permitted to participate in Schutzhund training, though very few dogs actually pass.
The Basics of Schutzhund Dog Training
Schutzhund training is a very rigid, highly structured process that has evolved over the last 100 years. It is markedly less abusive toward the dogs than when it started, but still just as strict, as is necessary to fully evaluate each animal. While in the past, most of the Schutzhund training that took place was based on a handful of manuals and organized courses, today there are DVDs and videos that help dog owners start the training process.
The actual training will test a dog in many different specific behaviors that are ideal for police work, including tracking, sniffing, protection, and retrieving. Most Schutzhund dog training will begin when the dog is no more than a few weeks old and will last for weeks or even months to ensure the dog is well suited for the job.
The Essence of Schutzhund
There are many different aspects of Schutzhund training. The course you use will also depend on which videos or obedience program you prescribe to. Most Schutzhund courses will focus on the following, however:
Clicker Training – Not all Schutzhund trainers will use clickers, but it is considered a nearly universal method that works extremely well with German Shepherds and other Schutzhund suitable breeds. Training with a clicker should begin at a very young age – around 10 weeks.
Obedience – Basic obedience training is the first true test in Schutzhund dog training. There are 10-11 basic obedience commands used in most programs. These include “focus and attention”, “sit, down and stand”, front, pointing out of an object, targeting, heel positioning, heeling, retrieving, jumping, motion exercises, and “go out”. Full completion requires mastery of all 11 training points.
Tracking – Dogs training to track different objects, including drugs, bombs, and cadavers, will be trained exclusively in tracking methods. Using the “targeting” and “pointing out of an object” obedience cues, Schutzhund dog training will teach the dog to recognize the specific scent of their target and then to pursue until called off.
Protection – Dogs may also be trained to protect, as is the case with police dogs, attack dogs, and guard dogs. They are trained with specific commands to both identify a threat and attack that threat. Alternatively, they can be trained to protect a specific object or person without commands.
The essence of Schutzhund is to provide a dog with a very highly specific set of skills they can use to complete a given task quickly and efficiently. Dogs in official training programs might complete training at a rate of 20% or lower. However, Schutzhund dog training can be just as effective as an obedience regimen for dog owners at home.
If you’re considering using Schutzhund to train your own dog, be sure to research the various training courses based on their success rates and the underlying philosophies used.