Schutzhund (literally "protection dog") is a sport composed of three parts - tracking, obedience and protection work. The dog and handler must pass all three parts at the same trial in order to earn a Schutzhund title. There are three levels to Schutzhund, plus several other titles.
Dogs and handlers are scored based on 100 points for each part for a total of 300 points. Any breed or mixed breed of dog can compete. However, size is a factor - the jump is fixed at 39 inches. The A-frame is fixed at 5 feet (Sch II) and 6 feet (Sch III). The dog must also be able to handle the protection work. Typical breeds competing are German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Bouviers, Belgian Malinois, and Australian Cattle Dogs. Rickey's Dude, CDX, TD, Sch1 was the first ACD to have a Schutzhund title.
Many people feel nervous around "Schutzhund" dogs. This is unfortunate because a Schutzhund trial is effectively one large, comprehensive temperament test. The dogs must be steady or they are excused. This excusal and the reason for the excusal is printed in the national magazine for all to see. For each part of the trial, the judge performs a temperament or impartiality test. In tracking the judge will examine the dog's tattoo and/or make the dog stand in the spectator crowd. During obedience the dog must do a heel through a milling crowd and is subject to hearing gunshots. During protection work, the dog must do a hold and guard where he must not touch the helper in the blind. During the rest of the protection routine, the dog must release on command. If a dog will not release, it fails.
There are three organizations in the US that sanction Schutzhund trials - United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA), DVG and the former GSD Club of America working arm, WDA.
United Schutzhund Clubs of America
Schutzhund was developed for German Shepherds in Germany as a way to objectively measure the working ability of a dog. Sheepherding was declining so von Stephanitz, the driving force behind the German Shepherd Dog, developed this sport as a test. Schutzhund is supposed to expose the character and quality of a dog as a potential breeding stock. The difficulty of the Schutzhund test should weed out any animal not physically or temperamentally suited to working.
In Europe, breeding stock must have passed at least Schutzhund I. While unenforceable in the US, many working Schutzhund clubs have similar requirements on their members. [Not quite how I want to say this, the point I want to make is to illustrate how it is used for selecting breeding stock outside the US.]
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 is a dog training and breeding regimen developed originally in the 20's by the Deutsches Shaeferhund Verein (German Shepherd Dog Club), or SV, in order to maintain the working ability of the breed. While the term Schutzhund means literally "protection dog", the training involves work equally in tracking, obedience and protection. In order to get a Schutzhund degree a dog must pass all three phases of the work. Also, a working title (at least a SchH I) is required for breed survey purposes, and in order to register an approved litter.
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd breed. SV, the parent club of the breed, developed the Schutzhund test as a way of maintaining reliable dogs with traits suitable for breeding.
Many countries and working dog organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a sport and test of working performance. International rules have been established by the Vereinfuer Deutsche Hundesport (VDH). The first SchH trial in the U.S. was held in California in 1970. In 1987 the U.S.A. alone sanctioned nearly 300 trials with a total entry of 1,800 dog/handler teams.
Many breeds now participate in addition to GSDs. While there may be individual dogs of a particular breed that may be suitable for the work, the following are most consistently able to perform: GSDs, Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinscher, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler, Tervuren, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, etc. Generally, these are larger working breeds with strong prey and defense drives, and temperaments suitable for the tasks of the training.
There are three major degrees awarded - SchH I, SchH II, and SchH III -- in order of increasing difficulty. SchH I (IPO I) is the apprentice test. A SchH III dog must demonstrate a high level of performance, ability and courage.
The traits that make for a good Schutzhund candidate mostly are innate characteristics that must be bred for. Even among dogs bred out of Schutzhund bitches and dogs, a minority have the ability to reach even SchH I, and a small percentage will have the necessary drive, intelligence and hardness to achieve a Sch III title. In addition to breeding, early development is important. The young pup should not be subjected to strong corrections or experience being dominated by another dog, and all training and play should end on a positive note, with the pup "winning."