As you go through life, you are bound to see German Shepherds working in a number of careers. Some are guard dogs, some are therapy dogs, and some work in law enforcement. German Shepherds are immeasurably popular in the working field because their extreme intelligence makes them highly trainable, and their strength and agility makes them capable of performing most tasks. In Germany, standards for German Shepherd breeding and performance are much stricter. A training program called “Schutzhund” was created in the 20th century as a means by which to train and regulate the performance of the breed.
The Schutzhund training and judging process is threefold. There are three separate levels a German Shepherd must complete to become certified in Schutzhund. In the first level, known cleverly as Schutzhund One, the dog in question has to determine eligibility by undergoing a temperament test called a “B Test”. Most handlers will go through basic obedience and socialization training with their German Shepherd prior to attempting the B Test, as it gauges the dog’s ability to obey their owner and interact with distractions such as people or other animals. If a particular dog ever shows signs of fear or fear-based aggression, he or she will be disqualified from the Schutzhund process immediately. Thus, it is important for those pursuing Schutzhund certification to provide proper etiquette training for the dogs from puppyhood, lest the be disqualified and forbidden to breed, compete, or be registered in Germany.
Besides the temperament test, each level of Schutzhund focus on three major areas: obedience, tracking ability, and willingness to act as a protector. As the levels progress from one to three, the German Shepherd must complete more difficult versions of each task and will be judged with more scrutiny.
Obedience training and testing is performed in an open field. Dogs are usually worked in teams of two, though each dog will take turns performing. Obedience testing in Schutzhund is rather similar to obedience testing in the American Kennel Club, with more stringent regulations. The dogs are judged on their ability to perform a battery of obedience commands, specifically heeling and staying commands, and are tested for patient and whether or not they are gunshy.
Tracking testing in Schutzhund is also similar to tracking competitions and trials found in the Unite States, only more specific. Schutzhund candidates will follow a lengthy track locating specifically and strategically placed items along the track. Once the item has been found, the dog is taught to lay on his stomach and hold the item between his forepaws, thus showing or telling his handler than the object in question has been recovered. Judging in Schutzhund tracking is based on how quickly and efficiently the German
Shepherd is capable of tracking, locating, and reporting the various items on the track.
The third and final phase of Schutzhund training and testing is based around protection. The handler will have an assistant, typically in a padded safety suit, create a mock attack on the handler. The German Shepherd is evaluated based on his willingness to protect his handler/owner, and his response to commands such as attack and release, and the efficiency and obedience with which these commands are performed.
Schutzhund training and testing, while containing many similar elements to American dog trials, training, and competition, is a much more stringent and specific method of canine evaluation. In Germany. Schutzhund testing is so respected that no dog can be bred unless it is certified in Schutzhund.
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