Schutzhund Training for German Shepherds

Updated on June 13, 2019
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Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

German Shepherds are fantastic dogs. They are quite intelligent, beautiful, and fun to have around. They are very responsive to training and can do incredible things when they are taught how to.

If you’re raising a German Shepherd, then you might have heard of Schutzhund training. It’s a certain type of training that’s much more intensive than regular obedience training. Today, we’re going to talk about why Schutzhund training can be considered important for them. We’ll help you decide if this practice is right for your dog.

Why Train These Dogs?

German Shepherds were bred to be strong, working dogs. This is why, even today, the majority of working dogs that you see are German Shepherds, although we should definitely also include the Belgian Malinois. There are a few reasons that these dogs are great for working:

  • They are intelligent and can learn commands relatively quickly. They can also be trained to perform complex tasks that other dogs might struggle with.
  • They are very strong and have been bred to be comfortable in all types of weather and to work on all types of terrain.
  • They are known for their great temperament. They are hard to anger and they are very loyal, which makes them great guard dogs that can still be good for the whole family.

In addition to that, German Shepherds are very beautiful and are known for their thick, sleek coats of fur. It’s no wonder that they have become one of the most popular dogs not just in Germany, but all throughout the world

Knowing that they are very strong and capable dogs has led to the development of Schutzhund training, which is a way that you can teach your dog to be highly skilled.

What Is German Shepherd Schutzhund Training?

Some people think that Schutzhund training is a dog sport, but this isn’t true. Instead, it’s one of the most intense and comprehensive forms of training and testing your dog in various areas. That said, in certain parts of the world, particularly the USA, this training has actually been adapted into a type of sport and show.

Schutzhund training originated in Germany in the early 1900s as a way to help test German Shepherds for their ability to protect people. The word schutzhund actually means "protection dog."

Real Schutzhund training helps to educate the dog in protection and if your dog is to graduate from the program, then they must actually complete a bunch of tests that evaluate how capable they are. When it first became a thing, dogs were required to pass the training if they wanted to reproduce and pass their genes onto the next generation.

The training was initially so intense that very few dogs passed the test, even those bred from dogs that had already passed. However, the dogs that did pass made quite an impression. As word spread of these highly intelligent, capable dogs, their popularity steadily increased. Nowadays, the demand for German Shepherds is high all around the world.

As a result, Schutzhund training actually changed. The restrictions and rules were loosened quite a bit, and eventually, the control over breeding was pretty much eliminated. This means that a dog that completes this training is likely not as well-trained as one that completed training in the past.

That said, Schutzhund training is still quite intense, and if your dog completes it then they will be quite successful as a guard dog. Furthermore, it’s not just German Shepherds that can partake in this practice these days—though they are one of the only breeds that are actually strong enough and smart enough to pass all the rigorous testing.

How Does It Work?

It is a very systematic training procedure. That means that there are very specific rules, regulations, and tests that your dog must go through to fulfill the training program.

Schutzhund tests not just the skills of a dog, but their character as well. They will be trained to have a good temperament and to only be aggressive in situations in which they are protecting their owner.

The training is incredibly demanding for the dog and can be somewhat stressful for the owner as well. Schutzhund training is sometimes used for police dogs, however, the majority of dogs that finish the testing have nothing to do with the police. They can just go back to their families and work as good guard dogs.

There are a few basic aspects of Schutzhund training that a dog will have to go through.

Protection Dog Training

German Shepherds were bred to be protectors, and they like having a person to guard and protect. For this reason, Schutzhund training puts a huge amount of focus on training your dog to be protective.

This was initially important because it helped to ensure that protective traits would remain in the gene pool of dogs that were breeding. Nowadays, however, many people just want to have a good guard dog.

This part of the training will deal with teaching certain commands to your dog that can be useful for guarding your property, protecting you and your family, and attacking anyone or anything that might be invading. In addition to this, your dog will be trained on how to make its own decisions if you are not around. This means that even if you’re not around, they will know what to do if someone is trying to hop the fence into your backyard.

Aspects of this training require that your dog be very strong, powerful, and have a great level of endurance if they want to pass the test.

Obedience Training

Any dog owner knows how important it is for your dog to remain obedient. This is the second most important part of Schutzhund, although I would claim obedience comes first when you value safety. These dogs are naturally loyal, so they can be quite happy to remain obedient to a loving owner.

Usually, the first part of this training involves the handler training the dog. After a while, the owner will have to come in and do their own training while they are being supervised by the handler. In the end, the dog will have to obey the owner, and only the owner—the handler will try to give commands, but the dog must learn to ignore them. This means that the dog will only be responsive to you.

The majority of Schutzhund courses have 16 basic commands that your dog must master to pass the test.

Tracking

Dogs have incredibly powerful senses of smell, and to let this go to waste is a shame. They can be great for tracking people. This is why dogs are often used to find people who have gotten lost in the woods or on mountains.

During the tracking training, the handler will lay out a track. The dog will have to inform the handler about whatever they find. The dog will have to remain determined and focused on the task at hand if they’re going to score well on the test.

This part is important for helping your dog to develop its own independence and initiative because the handler won’t actually be directly telling the dog what to do.

Is Schutzhund Training Right for My Dog?

You might wonder whether or not the training is right for you and your dog. Since it's such an intensive training program, you’re going to be spending quite a bit of money on it, and many people find that they don’t need a dog so intensively trained.

Lots of families are happy with a dog that knows how to sit, heel, and stay, and knows how to bark at strangers. Getting your dog to this point certainly doesn’t require any formal training.

However, some people want to have a dog that’s incredibly capable and uses all of its potential. People who want to put their dogs in shows will probably want to go through Schutzhund training because it helps ensure that their dog will be able to compete properly with others.

Family dogs can benefit, but it is certainly not necessary. However, if you have young children and are thinking about getting a German Shepherd, you will probably want to get one that is already accustomed to children. Getting one that has gone through this training usually ensures this if you don't pressure your dog.

Why Would You Try Schutzhund Training?

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Finding a Club

If you have decided that Schutzhund sounds right for you, then the next thing that you want to do is find a place that you can get the training done. There is probably a training center somewhere near you if you live in a large city. Many smaller cities and towns have outlets as well, and you can talk to a breeder if you need more information.

It’s a good idea to look around to find one that suits you and your dog, as well as your schedule. You can do some research and find out the reviews done on the club so you can be sure that you’re going to be getting quality training.

Remember, each Schutzhund club is different. Not only do they differ in the things that they teach, but they differ in the way that they go about it and the environment. Getting your dog trained isn’t the only important thing here. You want to make sure that they are comfortable and happy. A very small number of people are extreme and sometimes "violent" in their training methods, avoid these types.

Training takes quite a while, so if you’re going to join a club you should expect to be with them for a few years. If you have not already purchased your dog, then it’s also a good idea to get to know the people involved. This will help you gain a better understanding of what’s going to be involved.

Schutzhund means "protection dog," and is necessary training for anyone who wants to have a properly trained guard dog. It will teach your dog advanced techniques in guarding, being obedient, and being independent.

If you think that it’s right for you and your family, then you should seek a club near you.

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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