Schutzhund Dog Training

Schutzhund is a very cool sport, especially if your dog likes tug/nose work. IPO and schutzhund are the same thing. 

"Schutzhund" has just fallen out of favor with the politically correct crowd, and is now being called IPO, though the transition between the terms is slow to catch.

It was changed in Germany due to political reasons. The name and sport is German and overseeing of the sport titles was given over to a Belgium organization the FCI. 

It isn't "wrong" to say Schutzhund, it's just not what the new national governing body of the sport calls it. 

If you're competing officially you're competing by IPO rules. IPO is like the technical term that they want to change the sport over to.

However, many people don't know what schutzhund the sport and schutzhund training is and those who do some don't have an idea what they are getting into. 

Here are are 20+ frequently asked schutzhund dog training questions:

1. Is there anything I should be aware of (affects to dog) or any advice regarding training my dog in Schutzhund? 

Schutzhund training usually isn't positive focused - it typically uses balanced methods. 

Training for Schutzhund can be more 'old school' than for other training situations, especially in certain areas of the world.

What were the parent dogs doing / what titles did they have? Did they do Schutzhund? Obedience? Have you had your dog's hips and elbows rated? Temperament assessment?

It's worth exploring if you are curious, but it tends to be a bit different than other sports with a capacity to be more casual / light hearted.

While the best competitors used positive reinforcement based methods, you're not going to have an easy time finding anyone who uses positive reinforcement EXCLUSIVE training. 

My suggestion to you is to go to the schutzhund club and learn from them. Take from them the R+ stuff they do well, and smile and nod for the rest and disregard it, and find your own strategies.

How to train a dog for schutzhund?

Be aware many Schutzhund (most) trainers are balanced trainers, which is not to say you can't use it doing R+ but be aware that you will likely be paving your own way on some stuff.

There are inherent aversion to the sport. Even part of the trial, hitting the dog with the stick, or training the dog to be fearless in the face of extreme unpleasant pressure (the long bite) is aversion. 

When working with competing motivators (like demanding obedience from the dog when they know they're about to do protection) there is going to be an inherent conflict. 

Yeah you can work on the dog's thresholds by devaluing the bite so they are under your control if they don't want to respond to obedience commands, but that kills the drive for the bite which is the entire point, really. 

There is escape-avoidance training built into the sport that's unavoidable: the dog experiences stress and pressure, and learns to battle through it, learns that their behavior and response to the stress if what turns it off and makes them "win". 

It can build incredible amounts of confidence in your dog. 

That's what schutzhund is all about. All aversion tools and methods are inherently evil, so that's the only reason I clarify.

That all being said, anyone who using compulsion as a primary way to train the dog is pretty outdated and you need a specific kind of dog with set genetics to get away with that without killing your performance. 

Or, you have to be really, really good at escape-avoidance training.

Find a trainer who is experienced at the sport; ask them to evaluate your dog. 

They will help you build the necessary foundation for the work, and let you know if your dog is cut out for it. 

At 10 weeks you're not going to know for sure if the dog can safely handle the pressure (schutzhund is not a good sport for nerve bag dogs) but you can definitely prep for it now.

Find a schutzhund club

Find a schutzhund club near you, also visit a couple if you have the opportunity. 

Watch how they train (some use wildly different methods) and get to know the people because you will be spending a LOT of time with them. 

Ask them about kennels they recommend as well and then do research on the success people have had with those dogs. 

There are some websites you may want to do around on as well; workingdogforum was a good resource for me at first, even if it was just to think to myself, "No, I don't like that." 

Also check out working-dog. you can peruse different dogs and their pedigrees as well as watch live streams of worldwide events. 

Watch as much of the pros as you can! You'll learn about handling and what style you would like to emulate.

Leerburg is a great resource. They've done a few video series with Michael Ellis and some are available on YouTube. 

The other stuff that you'll find online is going to be mostly pet/non sport oriented so some of it may not work for you, but it’s good to check it out.

Other than that, as already mentioned, find a club in your area and talk to them about how they train their dogs.

It doesn’t have to be IPO either. French Ring, Mondioring clubs would be a good resource too.

You could also look at IPO or French Ring, depending on where you live there are preferences. 

I would run away from any clubs that use aversion tools or methods though. 

If they use prong collars, have dogs pulling and lunging on collars instead of harnesses, if there is verbal punishment or physical correction, don't do it. Check out some of the R+ protection groups on Facebook for better advice.

2. I am only interested in positive reinforcement. Is this possible with schutzhund training. 

Positive protection training is possible with schutzhund training, but unusual and difficult to find examples of. Here's my favorite video to show at least one awesome example.

3. How much does Schutzhund type training cost?

It’s typically expensive compared to obedience training, but in line with other dog sports like agility. 

I am not going to specify an amount since Schutzhund clubs may charge different fees depending on your location. So you have to check what your local club charge for a week month or year. 

What you need for schutzhund is a working drive, confidence, and bid ability. 

  • Does your dog have good people focus? 
  • Does your dog have good arousal control? 
  • How does your dog respond to training? 
  • Does your dog enjoy training and working? 
  • Does your dog prefer to make her own decisions or does your dog look to you for guidance? 
  • Is your dog easily scared, especially by things larger than him? When exposed to something new things how does your dog respond?
Schutzhund is also not a hobby sport. It requires a lot of diligence, training, and commitment. 

You'd be teaching your dog to potentially hurt someone which requires a large amount of responsibility. 

It is very rewarding and dogs do enjoy it, but I'd definitely explore the local clubs first before committing to a class. 

A bad trainer can also seriously mess up your dog so if was to take the training, I would do my own research into the sport as well. 

4. Are certain Breeds more/less suitable for schutzhund?

Schutzhund people seem to be really stubborn about which breeds can "handle the sport", basically German or Dutch shepherds or a malinois. 

Anything else besides that and a lot of people will say the dog isn't capable of the sport.

A lot of clubs however will not allow pits to train with them. 

I was told that the reasoning behind this is that pits don't bite full, and then they don't let go cleanly on command.

Many of these clubs will have some very judgmental members, and it reminds me of the equestrian crowd... I've heard a lot of people trash talk dobermans and Rottweilers regarding protection work. 

A lot of these people are just really close minded and prejudiced when it comes to breeds for this sport.

If you think your dog has the drive, then give it a shot. Just try to find a club with open minded people. Will your dog be the best? Maybe not, but you're doing this for fun right??

But Schutzhund is just a sport. However, it is a sport that attracts certain personalities, and generally those people get certain kinds of dogs. 

At the end of the day, drive is drive, and work ethic is work ethic (both for humans and dogs).

The 2016 German team for the FCI world championship had a boxer, giant schnauzer and hovawart. 

Their Schnauzer came 14th; their Hovawart was 62nd out of 107 competitors. Similarly, I've seen IPO2/3 in labs, BCs, boxers, and some other off-standard breeds.

5. Do you find other trainers to be accessible and open to newcomers, or does the schutzhund attract a more standoffish crowd?

I feel like it's split. It depends on the club you register for schutzhund. It took me a long time to find the one that I am in now. 

Usually if I can get them to let me work my dog once or twice they like him a bunch so they like me a bit more. 

They are definitely more judgmental than most crowds. Some clubs are super open to newcomers, but a lot of them aren't. 

Most clubs are very close and kind of like some sort of family, so you have to look for the right fit.

6. What’s the expense/investment for schutzhund compared to other dog sports?

The time investment for schutzhund is pretty big for obedience and tracking. If your dog has the drive, right nerves, and good grips, it's pretty easy to mold a protection routine. 

It comes pretty naturally to them unless you aren't comfortable using positive punishment. 

If you are going to try to do IPO without corrections it will take FOREVER and I seriously doubt the dog would be any good, especially if it's high drive. Money-wise, it's alright. 

All you really need is a leash, prong, harness, fur saver, clicker and tracking line. Your club should have equipment to use with you. 

I like having a lot of my own equipment, though, so I buy that instead of dog toys.

What are the stupidest things people have said to you about participating in protection training/competition?

Most say it will make my dog vicious and unpredictable. My dog doing IPO makes him much -more- predictable and stable. 

IPO is not personal protection training. They are so completely different. 

7. What makes one dog more suitable to high levels of Schutzhund than another?

Drive, passion, nerves, and the handler are stuffs that makes dogs suitable to high levels of Schutzhund . The dog needs to enjoy the sport to do well at it.

8. What do dogs need to be competitive at Schutzhund?

For schutzhund, dog need high drive and passion, it's very obvious when a dog doesn't enjoy the sport. They need to love it.

9. How many hours to put into your dog Schutzhund Training per week?

I do both active and passive schutzhund training. My dog goes basically everywhere with me that dogs are allowed. 

I would consider commanded behaviors to be active training, and things like neutralization and socialization to be passive training.

Active schutzhund training I spend at least 10 hours a week on. We usually train all day on Saturdays, most of the day on Sunday, and around an hour a day on weekdays.

Passive schutzhund training is ideally all day every day, but if I had to put a number to it, I would say 5 hours a day or 45 hours a week.

10. Why should bite work only be done under the mentor-ship of a knowledgeable Schutzhund handler?

This is because you can SERIOUSLY screw your dog up. One bad experience during the schutzhund training process and the dog can be ruined. 

There are so many things to pay attention to during bite work. Grip, nerves, where the dog is looking, body position, noise, obedience, drive, interaction between the dog and the helper, and so much more.

It's so easy to teach bad habits and so, so hard to get rid of them. Plus, most people see IPO and think it is a bunch of aggression. 

It isn't. A helper who doesn't know what they're doing can bring out too much aggression or scare the dog and completely ruin it. It's SO easy to screw up. 

11. What is meant by "drive capping?" Why is it important for schutzhund training?

Drive capping is another word for building control in schutzhund training. 

When you open the crate door and all the dog wants to do is run out, but they wait for a release command, that's an example of control. 

There's a nice article on it. It is important because there is obedience during the protection routine and you lose points for "leaking drive" aka the dog whining, barking, making noise, shaking badly, etc. 

The purpose is to show that you have control over the dog. No matter how bad they want the sleeve, if you tell them to do something else they'll do it.

12. Is there a difference between a dog being "sharp" and having high defensive aggression + low thresholds with regards to schutzhund training?

No. That is what being sharp is. The definition probably varies a bit from person to person, because it's a bit subjective.

13. What drives are in play when you teach an exercise like bark and hold during Schutzhund training?

It depends on the dog and the activity of the helper during the schutzhund training. It's a combination of defense and prey. 

It depends on what the helper is doing, mainly. With my dog, you can tell with his barks. 

If he's primarily in defense he'll get a deep, consistent bark, but if he's in prey he SCREAMS and gets a super high pitched sissy bark. I'll grab a video of it soon because it's pretty interesting to watch.

14. What are the most popular breeds in Schutzhund training?

Obviously the GSD, Malinois are also popular breed use for schutzhund training. Dutch Shepherds are popular, but less than GSDs and Mals, Rotties and Doberman. 

Also any "bully breed," any breed known to have high prey drive. Giant Schnauzers are cool to watch. So are American Bulldogs.

12. Is there an increase in certain breeds and/or a decline in others for Schutzhund training?

I have seen an increase in odd breeds by inexperienced handlers. When you're new to schutzhund the sport you think you want a unique breed of dog. 

Those dogs aren't as popular as the GSD, Mali, and Dutch Shepherd for a reason, and most people quickly learn that. Dobies are cool but they take sooo long to mature.

15. Do you think there is an ideal breed(s) of dogs for Schutzhund Training?

The sport  Schutzhund was designed for the GSD, so I do believe that the GSD is the ideal breed for the sport. There's nothing wrong with other breeds, though. 

I plan on getting a Malinois as soon as my living situation allows for a second working dog.

16. What would make a dog fail instantly in Schutzhund?

Weak nerves, Poor physical ability and No drive are stuff that will make a dog fail instantly in Schutzhund and  Schutzhund training.

17. What do you do with incompetent handlers with good dogs for Schutzhund training?

You can't do much other than help them learn. It's their dog.

18. What sort of lifestyle would you recommend if someone were to own a schutzhund dog?

There is a MASSIVE difference between breeds. I would highly recommend going to a few clubs and trials just to watch and you'll see the huge, huge differences between them. 

GSDs are definitely the most common and that's because the sport was designed for the GSD.

A job where you can take your dog to work is very helpful in owning a Schutzhund dog, but it's not necessary. 

It really depends on how you want your dog to be. Some people want to ultra intense crazy dogs that must be in a crate unless they're working. 

19. I heard somewhere that once a dog is no longer a working dog they're usually re-homed. What would happen to the "ultra sensitive crazy dogs" once they no longer work? Can they readjust to a nonworking pet life?

Not all are re-homed, it depends on the goals of the owner. I know some people that have kept theirs and I know some people who have re-homed theirs. 

Dogs are very adaptable. From what I've seen (and the super crazy dogs aren't too common) the only really wacko dog I've seen is being kept by his handler.

20. What kind of training methods do you use for Schutzhund? Is it all force-free?

I have never met someone training IPO force free. It is extremely impractical. You need to use some kind of correction during protection to help with drive capping and control.

You're never going to find a dog that you can call off of the sleeve for a food reward. 

These dogs don't work like that. Intensity is through the roof in them. 

I've seen a Malinois get corrected by a huge dude like 20 times who was just correcting the shit out of it and the dog would -not- let go of the sleeve. 

It was rough to watch but the dog just did not care. It had the sleeve so it was happy. When it finally came off, it was happy and excited. 

These dogs can take a lot more when they're in drive. Kind of like an adrenaline rush. There is nothing in the world that they want more than the sleeve.

To be honest, if I walked through the training from start to finish it would be a book! Also, it depends heavily on the trainer. 

Tracking: Build hunt drive until he is 22 months, then do straight tracks, then add in corners, then add in articles, then take away food on the track. 

Obedience: Train everything with +R and once he’s able to handle them, add in corrections to fine tune and control him.

Protection: Drive building as a puppy, grip development (some dogs don't need this, it is genetic and their lines are kind of known for nice grips), sleeve biting, then bark and hold, then move to the blind, then start training the routine.