The schutzhund — a capable dog
The concept of schutzhund evolved over 100 years ago in Europe when concerned dog owners set up a training and testing program for privately owned working dogs. The first Schuzhund Trial was held in 1901. The intent of these trials was to emphasize and evaluate the correct working temperament and working ability of the breed. The dogs and handlers enjoyed working as a team in the three categories of the Schutzhund ("protection dog") program: Tracking, Obedience, and Protection.
Today the exercises have changed slightly and, depending on the Schutzhund degree, consist of the following:
Tracking: The dog must retrace the path of a person (300-600 paces with 2-4 turns) after 20-60 minutes have elapsed and be able to find 3 lost articles, regardless of weather conditions.
Obedience: The dog must follow the handler's orders to heel both on and off leash, jump, retrieve, retrieve over a 6 foot wall, and send away. The dog must not be intimidated by any distractions, including the sound of a gun or a group of strangers milling about.
Protection and Obedience under a Conflict Situation: The dog must, without handler assistance, respond properly in critical situations like finding and warning its handler of a hidden person, preventing an assault on his handler, and stopping the villain from escaping. The dog must distinguish between a harmless bystander and a potentially dangerous person. He must display courage but restraint on his own when the agitator gives up.
The sport of Schutzhund is open to dogs of all working breeds, including mixed breeds if they can do the work. Traditionally, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Boxers, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Airedales, Bouviers, and Giant Schnauzers have been the most common, with the German Shepherd dogs outnumbering them all. Dog/handler teams from all over the world compete for degrees. Each level is increasingly more difficult to earn (SchH1 to SchH2 then to SchH3 degree). Available also are an Endurance certificate (AD), advanced Tracking Degree (FH1 and FH2), and Police Dog degrees for service handlers and others.
While Europe has enjoyed the benefits from the Schutzhund program for decades, Canada, until recently, adhered to the pet-obedience type of training. In 1979 the German Shepherd Schutzhund Clubs of Canada (GSSCC) was formed, bringing together individual clubs from across Canada. Trials are now held regularly with SV judges and many titles have been awarded.
People do not wish to share their house or community with a potentially dangerous dog. ANY large dog is potentially dangerous. The large dog needs to be handled by a responsible, knowledgeable person who will give alot of understanding, affection, love, attention, and MOST IMPORTANT of all, TRAINING to the dog. Anyone who lacks these basics should not even consider owning a dog, and definitely not one of the working breeds.
For the responsible, private working dog owner, however, the Schutzhund sport has proven to be an ideal program. Training can be done in very small groups, training locations are readily available, time requirements are reasonable, and benefits are obvious. Knowing how a dog behaves in critical situations is reassuring and provides better control over the animal, eliminating in fact, so-called viciousness. The result is a happy, friendly but alert, controllable family dog that becomes an asset, not a nuisance or even a danger to society.