by Fran Buell, APDT
Bare Paw Dog Obedience
Schutzhund. Just what is it and how is it connected to dogs? In English, the word means "protection dog." The sport of Schutzhund was originally designed as a temperament test for the German shepherd dog. Today Schutzhund is the ultimate in dog training. It involves the incorporation of tracking, obedience and protection into an all-day event.
Schutzhund tests three specific areas of a dog's training and behavior. The first is tracking and requires the dog to track footsteps over mixed terrain, change directions and show absolute accuracy and commitment to finding the track. The dog must also find dropped articles and indicate the location to the handler. This exercise is usually done with difficult cover, bad weather and an aged track. This is the most satisfying and peaceful part of Schutzhund.
Obedience is the second phase of Schutzhund and is comparable to the AKC obedience trials of open and utility, where the dog responds to commands such as sit, stay, come, etc. The difference is the exercises are done in an area the size of a soccer field instead of a 40-foot show ring. Some of the obedience exercises may require the dog to work under the noise of gunfire, and retrieve a dumbbell over a 1-meter jump and a 6-foot wall.
The final test in Schutzhund is oftentimes the most misunderstood of the exercises by the general public, the protection exercise. When watching a protection routine, it is important to watch the relationship between dog and handler. The dog must never bite the trial helper unless the dog or handler is attacked. The trial helper wears protective clothing during this exercise. When the dog or handler is attacked, the dog must attack the helper fully and without hesitation. When commanded, the dog must stop the attack immediately and guard the trial helper without aggression. This is called the bark and hold. Schutzhund protection training is not the same as police or personal protection training. The Schutzhund dog is never aggressive except under specific situations, and the dog must always be under the absolute control of the handler.
When a dog completes and is awarded Schutzhund I, II, and III, it is considered the ultimate working dog, one in a thousand of all working dogs. Today, Schutzhund organizations have several hundred thousand members.
But it isn't Schutzhund anymore. It has been changed to VPG, which in German stands for Vielseitigkeitsprufung fur Gebrauchshunde. Roughly translated into English, it means versatility test for working dogs.
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