Schutzhund is both a type of training for dogs and a dog sport. There are Schutzhund groups all over the world; however, the majority of them are located in the United States and Europe. Today, Schutzhund is primarily considered a sport, but the training that dogs receive to participate in Schutzhund is the same rigorous training that most police dogs, bomb or drug sniffing dogs, guard dogs, and search and rescue dogs go through.
Schutzhund is an old German dog sport that was created in the early 1900’s. The word Schutzhund is German and roughly translates to “protection dog”. Before becoming a sport, Schutzhund was used as a breeding stock suitability test for the German Shepherd Dog. Only German Shepherds that passed a Schutzhund test were allowed to breed, this helped to ensure the breed remained strong and true to its traditional temperament and instincts. Today, Schutzhund tests are still given to German Shepherds in Germany as a breed suitability test; however, throughout the rest of the world Schutzhund is both a dog sport and a style of training for working dogs. Unlike, some dog sports that only allow purebred dogs or dogs of certain breeds to participate, Schutzhund is usually open to all dog breeds including crosses.
Schutzhund training and competition is very rigorous; dogs must go through four different levels, BH, Sch H1, Sch H2, and Sch H3.
BH or known as Begleithundprüfung; Begleithundprüfung is German, which roughly translates to “Traffic-sure companion dog test”. BH is a temperament test that all dogs must go through before they can start Schutzhund training. During a BH test, that dog is walked through numerous situations with loud noise, people, traffic and other dogs to judge its reaction. Dogs that react with fear, aggression or are extremely distracted will not pass the BH test and are deemed unfit for Schutzhund
Sch H1 is the first level of Schutzhund. During Sch H1 the dog is taught to track a scent and, its physical endurance and mental soundness is worked on.
The second level of Schutzhund is called Sch H2. During Sch H2, the dog is taught to follow commands quickly and accurately, to stay focused, and to not become distracted or frightened by excessive loud noises like gunshots. For a dog to pass Sch H2, it must be able to do all its commands instantly with 100% accuracy and with controlled enthusiasm.
Sch H3 is the final and hardest level of Schutzhund. During Sch H3, the dog is taught to search multiple spots for a hidden ‘intruder” and then alert their handler and if needed detain the intruder from escaping. The dog is taught to grab the “intruder’s” arms to prevent him from escaping and is taught to immediately release the arm on its handler’s command. The focus of Sch H3 is for the dog to be courageous and forceful, but never aggression, and to listen to all commands without hesitation. During the training, the “intruder” is dressed in thick padded clothing to prevent injury.
To receive a Schutzhund title, dogs are graded by a judge for each level. Dogs must earn a minimum of 70/100 in the first two levels and an 80/100 in the third level to pass. If during a Schutzhund competition or test, the dog shows any signs of undue aggression, fear or unmanageability, the judge can dismiss the dog.
Schutzhund is not a type of training or sport for the average dog or average dog owner. Generally only dogs that are natural guardians like German Shepherds, Rottweillers, Giant Schnauzers, Mastiffs and other similar breeds with very stable temperaments participate in Schutzhund. Schutzhund training a dog is not recommended for novice dog owners; only experienced very dedicated dog owners who know how to be a solid pack leader should train their dogs for Schutzhund. Schutzhund takes a lot of dedication and hard work on both the handler and dog’s part, and is not easily accomplished; the majority of dogs that attempt Schutzhund are not able to pass all the levels with the required high marks to earn a title.