About Schutzhund

Scaling the Wall

This exciting dog sport focuses on developing those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners. Traditionally known as “Schutzhund”, which is the German word for “Protection Dog”, this dog sport is now internationally known as IPO. Schutzhund work concentrates on three phases. Dog owners who are familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s affiliates will recognize the first two phases as tracking and obedience. Schutzhund adds a third component which is protection work, and it is similar to training utilized by dogs in police work.

Purpose of Schutzhund

The purpose of Schutzhund is to demonstrate the dog’s intelligence & utility. It also measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage, & trainability. Many times it is referred to as breed suitable testing.

This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train their dog & compete with each other for recognition of both the handler’s ability to train & 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 & conditions of life enjoy Schutzhund as a sport. Often, it is a family sport. And if someone doesn’t have a family, in our club we have become one together.

The Three Phases of Schutzhund

Phase A: Tracking

Anna's IPO1 track (Photo by Donna Haynes)

Photo by Donna Haynes

At the end of a 33 foot leash, the handler follows the dog, which is expected to scent the track. During the track the dog must indicate the location of the objects, usually by lying down with it between its front paws. There are three levels to this phase with increasing difficulty as the dog advances. The physical endurance in the tracking phase is intended to test the dog’s trainability and ability to scent, as well as its mental and physical endurance.

Phase B: Obedience


Photo by Donna Haynes

The obedience phase 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. 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 its owner.

Phase C: Protection


Photo by Donna Haynes

The protection phase tests the dog’s courage, physical strength, and agility. The handler’s control of the dog is absolutely essential. The exercises include a search of hiding places, finding a hidden person (acting as a 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 no hesitation. The final test of courage occurs when the decoy is asked to come out of a hiding place by the dog’s handler from the opposite end of the trial field. The dog is sent after the decoy who is threatening the dog with a stick and charging at the handler. 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 possesses the proper temperament for breeding.

The Role of the Club

Training dogs for this exciting sport is a complicated, time consuming task. It requires the work of several people to train each dog. The club works together to support each other in bringing out the best in each dog/handler team! At Great Lakes Working Dog Association, we are committed to helping each other achieve our goals and promote the sport of Schutzhund.

Old GLWDA Group Photo