WHAT IS SCHUTZHUND?
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 work concentrates on three parts.
Many familiar with the obedience work of the
American Kennel Club’s affiliates will recognize
the first two parts, tracking and obedience.
The Schutzhund standards for the third part,
protection work, are similar to those for dogs
in police work.
While dogs of other breeds are also admitted to
Schutzhund trials, this breed evaluation test
was developed specifically for the German
Shepherd Dog. Schutzhund is intended to
demonstrate the dog’s intelligence and utility.
As a working trial, Schutzhund measures the
dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural
efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to
work, courage and trainability.
This working dog sport offers an opportunity for
dog owners to train their dog and compete with
each other for recognition of both the handler’s
ability to train and the dog’s ability to
perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by
persons of varied professions, who join together
in a camaraderie born of their common interest
in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages
and conditions of life --- even those with
significant disabilities --- enjoy Schutzhund as
a sport. Often, it is a family sport.
In addition to the Schutzhund titles, the
GSDCA-WDA offers three additional training
degrees. Two of these, the
are advanced tracking degrees that require the
dog to follow tracks over changing terrain,
discriminate between cross-tracks and is at
least 3 hours old.
The third is the
The BH is a degree for traffic-safe companion
dogs that tests the dogs temperament in and
around people. It includes basic formal
obedience - heeling on and off leash, sits,
downs and recalls - as well as practical tests
of the dog’s character in everyday situations.
These include reaction to normal situations
involving crowds of people, strange noises,
joggers, cars and other dogs. Before being
allowed to enter for a Schutzhund I title, the
dog must first have successfully completed the
There are three levels of the Schutzhund test
for which titles can be earned.
the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass
an initial temperament test by the judge. The
dog must heel on the leash and off, demonstrate
the walking sit, the walking down, and the stay
tests, as well as, the send-out. It must
retrieve on the flat and over a hurdle. In
tracking, it must be able to follow a track laid
by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier.
There are also protection tests.
the dog must be at least 19 months old and must
already have earned its Schutzhund I degree.
It must again pass all of the obedience and
protection tests required for the Schutzhund I
degree, but those tests, for Schutzhund II, are
made more difficult and require greater
endurance, agility, and above all, control.
There is an additional retrieve required over
the six foot slanted wall. In tracking, the
Schutzhund II candidate must be able to follow a
track laid by a stranger at least 30 minutes
the master’s degree, the dog must be at least 20
months old and must have earned both the
Schutzhund I and the Schutzhund II titles.
Again, the tests now are made far more
difficult. All exercises in obedience and
protection are demonstrated off leash. There
is the additional of a walking and running
stand. In tracking, the dog must follow a track
that was laid by a stranger at least 60 minutes
earlier. The track has four turns, compared
with two turns for Schutzhund I and II, and
there are three objects, rather than two, that
must be found by the dog. The picture of
obedience, strength, eagerness and confidence
presented by an excellent Schutzhund III team is
a beautifully illustration of the partnership of
human and dog.
The Three Parts of a Schutzhund Trial
The tracking phase includes a temperament
test by the overseeing judge to assure the dog’s
mental soundness. When approached closely on a
loose leash, the dog should not act shyly or
aggressively. The track is laid earlier by a
person walking normally on a natural surface
such as dirt or grass. The track includes a
number of turns and a number of small, man-made
objects left by this person on the track
itself. At the end of a 33 foot leash, the
handler follows the dog, which is expected to
scent the track and indicate the location of the
objects, usually by lying down with it between
its front paws. The tracking phase is intended
to test the dog’s trainability and ability to
scent, as well as, its mental and physical
includes a series of heeling exercises, some of
which are closely in and around a group of
people. During the heeling, there is a gun shot
test to assure that the dog does not openly
react to such sharp noises. There is also a
series of field exercises in which the dog is
commanded to sit, lie down and stand while the
handler continues to move. From these various
positions, the dog is recalled to the handler.
With dumbbells of various weights, the dog is
required to retrieve on a flat surface, over a
one-meter hurdle and over a six-foot slanted
wall. The dog is also asked to run in a
straight direction from its handler on command
and lie down on a second command.
NOW, these dogs can do it all!
Finally, each dog is expected to stay in a lying
down position away from its handler, despite
distractions, at the other end of the obedience
field, while another dog completes the above
exercises. All of the obedience exercises are
tests of the dog’s temperament, structural
efficiencies and very importantly, its
willingness to serve man or woman.
tests the dog’s courage, physical strength and
agility. The handler’s control for the dog is
absolutely essential. The exercises include a
search of hiding places, finding a hidden person
(acting as a human decoy), and guarding that
decoy while the handler approaches. The dog is
expected to pursue the decoy when an escape is
attempted and to hold the grip firmly. The
decoy is searched and transported to the judge
with the handler and dog walking behind and
later at the decoy’s right side. When the decoy
attempts to attack the handler, the dog is
expected to stop the attack with a firm grip and
The final test of courage occurs when the decoy
is asked to come out of a hiding place by the
judge from the opposite end of the trial field.
The dog is sent after the decoy when he refuses
to listen to the handler’s command to stop. The
decoy then runs directly at the dog threatening
the dog with a stick. All grips during the
protection phase are expected to be firmly
placed on the padded sleeve and stopped on
command and or when the decoy discontinues the
fight. The protection tests are intended to
assure that the dog is neither a coward nor a
What is the Judge looking for in the Dog?
At all three stages --- Schutzhund I, II and III
--- each of the three phases: obedience,
tracking and protection, is worth 100 points,
for a total of 300 points. If a dog does not
receive a minimum of 70% of the points in
tracking, 70% of the points in obedience and 70%
of the points in protection --- or if the dog
fails the pretrial temperament test ---- it is
not awarded a degree that day and must repeat
the entire test, passing all phases of the test
at a later trial. In every event, the Judge is
looking for an eager, concentrating and accurate
working dog. High ratings and scores are given
to the animal that displays a strong willingness
and ability to work for it human handler.
Schutzhund Trained Dog in the Home
Since Schutzhund is the demonstration of the
German Shepherd dog’s most desirable
characteristics, dogs well trained in Schutzhund
are usually excellent companions in the home.
The German Shepherd Dog --- like any other
working dog that possesses mental stability ---
has trust and confidence in itself, allowing it
to be at peace with its surroundings.
In addition to sound structural efficiencies for
long, arduous work, the standard for the German
Shepherd Dog calls for mental stability and a
willingness to work. The dog should be
approachable, quietly standing its ground,
showing confidence and a willingness to meet
overtures without itself necessarily making
them. It should be generally calm, but eager
and alert when the situation warrants. It
should be fearless, but also good with children.
The German Shepherd Dog should not be timid or
react nervously to unusual sounds or sights. A
dog that is overly aggressive because of its
overall fears of people and events can be
extremely dangerous. The Schutzhund sport is
designed to identify and eliminate such dogs
from breeding stock. Because Schutzhund
training gives the owner a great deal of control
over the dog the owner is able to let the dog
have more fun. Not only is Schutzhund training
itself enjoyable for the dog, but the Schutzhund
trained dog knows how to please its owners,
creating a stronger bond between dog and owners.
The Schutzhund Trained Dog for Police Work.
A dog that performs well in Schutzhund work is
obviously a very good candidate for police
work. Police dogs, like other service dogs,
must have temperaments with a good foundation of
intelligence and utility. A minimal amount of
additional training makes many well-trained
Schutzhund dogs ready for active police duty.
Such fearless police dogs can also work around
children and in crowds without worry on the part
of their handlers.
Choosing a Puppy for Schutzhund.
In every breed, the pedigree is the key to
knowing the potential of the puppy. Schutzhund
revolves around working lines --- generations of
dogs that have proven themselves and produced
similar characteristics in their offspring.
These characteristics include not only the
physical structure of the dog, which is very
important, but also its temperament.
Selecting the bloodlines from which you want
your puppy may require advice. Information from
breed surveys can help. Of course, it makes
sense to discuss your objectives with reputable
and experienced Schutzhund handlers or
Once you have determined that the bloodlines of
the potential dam and sire are of high quality,
you should observe the parents, especially the
Mother, if that is at all possible. The dam
will be the main influence on the young pup for
the first six weeks of its life. If the dam is
nervous or unsure, chances are this uncertainty
will be transferred to the offspring.
If you are able to see the litter, watch the
puppies together and also separately, to try to
determine which is the best puppy. Obvious
structural defects or health problems should be
It is important that the puppy have intense
instinct to stalk the prey --- a ball, a toy,
etc. --- and also be the leader in the sense of
bullying the other puppies. The puppy should
not show fear when away from its littermates.
It should not need to stay with the mother. The
puppy should be adventurous and active, playing
with objects shown to it by someone in the
enclosure, but it should be independent enough
to take that object and go off on its own as
It is independence and confidence, combined with
the positive contact with the pack leader (the
dam, at this time) that will develop into the
traits of trainability that you need.
Raising a Puppy for Schutzhund Work.
Puppy hood is the most critical period for the
development of the characteristics you want to
encourage. Your local Schutzhund club can
advise you about nurturing and socializing your
A puppy learns from it experiences, so you want
to provide only positive ones. It should be
provided with opportunity to explore and
investigate new situations and new people, but
always in a non-threatening way. Remember that
your goal is to build confidence in the young
animal. Your aim is NOT to dominate or oppress
the young pup.
Exposure to different environments is crucial to
the general education of the dog and also to
assure it that the world is a safe pace. If
something appears to make the dog unsure, give
it the opportunity to investigate it slowly, but
do not force the issue.
It is imperative to avoid situations where your
dog would be dominated by another older or
stronger dog, or by another puppy. You also
want to avoid having to discipline or correct
your puppy and thus dampen its spirit or damage
its self-confidence. You can do this by never
leaving the pup in a situation where it can
cause damage to your valuables or find itself in
a dangerous predicament.
The final area of development is that of drive
encouragement. The natural behaviors that you
want to encourage are playing with the ball, tug
of war, hide and seek, pulling toys on a string,
pursuing you rapidly when you run away, and
finally defending itself, its family and its
home. The latter really only shows itself
between the ages of nine and eighteen months as
the pup begins to mature by barking at strangers
It is better to leave for later formal obedience
training with a young dog. The character of
the puppy is not sufficiently strong to
withstand the corrections involved in obedience
training. Acceptable manners at home and in the
car and “play“ training, like learning to sit
for a food reward, with NO corrections involved,
is advisable. Real obedience work should begin
only after the dog is well on its way in the
Around the World
The first Schutzhund trial was held in Germany
in 1901 to emphasize the correct working
temperament and ability in the German Shepherd
breed. Originally, these dogs were herding
dogs, but the industrialization of Germany
encouraged breeders to promote the use of their
dogs as police and military dogs. The Verein fur
Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club,
became concerned that this would lead to
careless breeding and undesirable traits such as
mental instability, so it developed the
Since then, many other countries and working dog
organizations have also adopted Schutzhund as a
sport and a test of working performance in dogs.
International rules have been established, and
they are administered by the Verein fur Deutsche
In 1970 the first Schutzhund trial in the U.S.
was held in California. Today, the GSDCA-WDA
sponsors trial in all parts of the country and
chooses a team in open competition to represent
the GSDCA at the WUSV World Championship. More
than 25 countries send teams of competitors to
the World Championship for Schutzhund dogs from
the World Union of German Shepherd clubs.
to the Breed
Any registered German Shepherd that has earned a
Schutzhund degree has demonstrated sufficient
ability as a working dog to qualify for breed
evaluation. The breed evaluation is a very
detailed examination of the dog’s structure,
temperament and pedigree and requires both a
certification of good hip joints and sufficient
performance on an endurance test (the AD).
Dogs that do well in the breed evaluation
receive a Koerklasse I or Koerklasse II. This
is a recommendation and evaluation by a trained
and recognized expert Judge as the worthiness of
the dog for breeding. Dogs rated Koerklasse II
are “suitable for breeding” and dogs rated
Koerklasse I are “recommended for breeding”. By
thus screening dogs in order to select the
suitable specimens for breeding, Schutzhund
helps to maintain the quality of the breed at a
very high level. Thus, there is a very high
level of assurance that puppies born to
Schutzhund dams and sired by Schutzhund dogs are
more likely to be of reliable temperament, high
intelligence, steady nerves, extreme endurance,
great strength, and sound structures.
Dogs Enjoy Schutzhund Training?
If trained in the right manner, dogs enjoy
working, as anyone who attends a Schutzhund
competition can see. The joy of the dogs in
working with their handlers is evident.
For thousands of years, dogs have adapted to
serve humans in a mutually beneficial
relationship. While dogs could move quickly,
hunt prey, and protect flocks and their owner,
the humans could provide food, shelter from the
most severe elements, and protection from larger
predators, besides tending to the dog’s
injuries. A dog’s reason for being is to serve
Schutzhund training helps develop the dog’s
natural instincts to a high level.
Self-confident dogs, doing work for which they
are well trained, are happy dogs. Wagging
tails, sounds of excitement, and strong pulling
on a leash all show an observer at a Schutzhund
trial how much fulfillment dogs find in this