If you’re interested in Schutzhund training and want to get started, you have a lot of things to learn. That’s why I’m here to share all the steps of the process and some tips for beginners. But before anything else, let’s make sure everyone understands what Schutzhund is.
What Is Schutzhund?
Schutzhund is a dog sport divided into three phases: Obedience, Tracking, and Protection. The handler and the dog work together to develop and improve these skills. The goal of Schutzhund training is to make a nearly perfect working dog. This canine sport is also competitively known as IGP, formerly IPO.
Learn More About Schutzhund Dog Training!
How To Learn Schutzhund Training?
There are many ways to learn about Schutzhund training. You can buy books, read articles like this one, or watch videos on Youtube. However, the best place to learn is on the training field with other handlers and trainers. For Schutzhund, there’s nothing better than hands-on experience, practice, and personal advice.
How To Get Started In Schutzhund?
The first step is to find and join a local Schutzhund club. It will be easier to get started once you have a community of handlers to learn from and eventually train with. Then, you can find a Schutzhund dog and start working together. After a lot of training, you should be ready to pass the BH and win IGP titles.
That’s pretty much the whole process resumed in a few sentences. Said that way, Schutzhund might seem simple and easy, but it’s far from being the case. There’s a lot more you should know about each step to get started the right way. So here’s more information about Schutzhund training for beginners!
Find A Club!
Joining a group of like-minded handlers that have experience in the sport of Schutzhund is the best thing you can do to get involved. Even if you don’t have a dog yet and know nothing about this type of training, you should start looking for a club.
Other members will probably be happy to help you and guide you through the whole process. And seeing them training their dogs will give you a better idea of what to expect. But it’s also essential to choose the right club depending on your needs and goals.
The best way to figure out what your options are is to search on Schutzhund organizations club listings or type “Schutzhund club near me” on Google. Here are some links that might help you find a group of handlers that meet and train together in your region.
- United Schutzhund Clubs Of America Clubs & Events Page
- DVG America Find A Club Page
- German Shepherd Dog Club Of America Clubs By State Map
- American Working Malinois Association Find A Club Page
- German Shepherd Schutzhund Club Of Canada (Navigation/Clubs/Region)
Once you have a list of clubs near your location that you can potentially join, it’s time to select the best one for you. I recommend you to contact and visit as many as possible. Then, you will be able to choose which one you prefer and ask how you can become a member.
Read More About Schutzhund Clubs!
Learn The Basics Of Schutzhund Training!
After joining a club, you will have to start learning about the sport and how to train a dog for it. Even if your training director (TD) and other handlers will teach you many things, it’s good to do your own research too. So here’s how to learn the basics of Schutzhund for beginners.
Books are great resources to improve your knowledge of something. That’s why I would recommend you read at least one on the subject, such as Schutzhund: Theory and Training Methods. Besides that, you can also learn through blog posts and videos.
Here’s what you should know for now. Dogs learn by association and repeat behaviors they find rewarding. So all we have to do is make desired actions rewarding for them. That’s why Schutzhund trainers mainly use motivational training and positive reinforcement.
It means you will have to add something to strengthen a behavior. But to communicate effectively with your dog, you must be able to mark and reward the desired action. A clicker, verbal sound, or cue such as “Cluck” or “Yes”, can all be good markers.
Whatever signal you choose, you must give a reward right after it. Otherwise, it’s useless and has no value to your dog’s eyes. The reward can be food, play, praise, interaction with the handler/helper, or anything else that can reinforce the desired behavior. Find what your dog values the most.
I could go on and on about the basics of Schutzhund training. But it should be enough to get you started. For more in-depth information about the concepts mentioned above and more, I highly recommend you read this article from the My Schutzhund Life blog!
Choose Your Schutzhund Dog!
The next step is to find a partner suitable for this type of training if you don’t already have one. In theory, any dog can do Schutzhund. However, some breeds are generally more appropriate for this canine sport than others.
Read More About Schutzhund Dog Breeds!
The most popular options are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. But as long as you choose a dog with the proper temperament and traits, the breed doesn’t matter. Here are some things you should look for in a Schutzhund partner.
- Stable Temperament.
- High Drive.
- Work Ethic.
- Strong Bite Grip.
- Acute Sense Of Smell.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of what it takes for a dog to do well in IGP. However, it can give you a better idea of the partner you should be looking for. You should also select a dog from working lines because they are usually more appropriate for Schutzhund.
When it comes to choosing a puppy for this canine sport, you will need to find a reliable breeder you can trust. Ideally, you should also deal with one that has experience in Schutzhund. That way, he will be able to help you select the right dog for your needs.
The pedigree is often the most predictable way to know if a puppy will be suitable for Schutzhund. If the parents have IGP titles and everything else you should look for in a working dog, it’s a good sign. But you still have to look at the puppy too.
Read More About Choosing A Puppy For Schutzhund!
Improve Your Dog’s Obedience, Tracking & Protection Skills!
Once you have the right partner for Schutzhund, it’s time to get started. First, you should raise and prepare your puppy for this dog sport. It includes foundation work, building up drive and confidence, proper socialization, and a lot of playtime.
Then, you can slowly introduce your dog to basic Schutzhund training. Teaching him German commands such as Sitz, Platz, and Bleib. (Sit, Down, and Stay) You can also start working on heeling because it’s an essential skill in this dog sport.
The two Schutzhund phases beginners should focus on first are obedience and tracking. Protection will come later on. Tracking will not only test the dog’s capacity to follow a track and locate articles but also its focus and mental stability.
This phase requires a lot of practice, so you have to get your tracking in as soon as possible. Besides that, you can also improve your dog’s obedience. Teach him new commands, work on retrieving exercises, and introduce him to Schutzhund patterns.
After that, your dog should be ready for protection work. In this phase, you will need a good helper. The helper is the person with a bite sleeve that helps handlers on the training field. He will work with you and teach you how to develop and improve your dog’s protection skills.
Pass The BH!
The first official test in Schutzhund is the BH. Also known as the Companion Dog Title, it’s a test that evaluates the dog’s temperament and obedience in public. BH stands for Begleithundprüfung, a German word that means “traffic-sure companion dog test”. It’s a prerequisite to IGP titles.
So the first step to getting involved in competitive Schutzhund is to pass the BH. The minimum age to participate in this initial test is 15 months old. It should give you enough time to prepare and train your dog for this companion dog title.
The BH has four parts: a written exam, temperament test, obedience phase, and traffic test. The last two parts are the most important ones. You will have obedience exercises such as heeling, basic positions, and recalls.
The traffic test consists of multiple simulations of everyday situations. For example, your dog will have to behave while encountering other people, dogs, bicyclists, cars, etc. So it evaluates his capacity to stay calm and obedient in the public area.
Learn More About The BH!
Start Competing In IGP!
Once your dog has passed the BH, you’re now eligible to participate in Schutzhund trials. There are three levels of title: IGP 1, IGP 2, and IGP 3. You have to start with the first one and gradually move up. The exercises and their level of difficulty will slowly increase.
Read More About The Differences Between Schutzhund Levels!
You don’t have to compete in IGP, but it’s an opportunity to show what you have worked on for so long. It can also help you improve your dog’s working skills because of the feedback from the judges. So I would highly recommend you to give it a try and see if you like trialing.
Enjoy Schutzhund Training!
Whether you want to compete or not, make sure to have fun working with your dog. Schutzhund is pretty addictive, and I’m sure you will love it. But it should be enjoyable for everyone. So make sure your dog is excited and has fun on the training field.
Common Beginner Questions About Schutzhund!
Now that you know the steps you need to take, you might have a couple of questions in mind. But don’t worry, we all have been there, and I’m here to help. So here are some things about Schutzhund that beginners should know before getting started!
When Should You Start Schutzhund Training?
In general, the sooner you start training your dog for Schutzhund, the better. You can introduce a puppy to basic obedience as soon as 8 weeks old. You can also teach tracking early on. For the protection and more advanced Schutzhund training, you should wait for your dog to be more obedient, athletic, and mature.
How Long Does Schutzhund Training Take?
Training a dog for Schutzhund can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years. How long it will take largely depends on your experience, commitment, free time, and goals. Most beginners should expect to wait around 2 or 3 years before competing in IGP. Also, note that Schutzhund training sessions can be very long.
How Much Does Schutzhund Training Cost?
Schutzhund training should cost between $3,000 and $5,000 over a long period. It includes training sessions, gas, club dues, trial fees, and many other expenses. So training a dog for Schutzhund can be very expensive. That’s why beginners must plan a budget of around $4,000 to get started and compete in IGP.
Last Thoughts About Schutzhund Training For Beginners!
Finally, training a dog for Schutzhund is a long and complicated process. However, it can be very fun and addictive. That’s why so many people get into this canine sport. To resume what beginners have to do, here are the steps you should follow.
- Find The Right Schutzhund Club.
- Start Learning About Training.
- Get A Schutzhund Puppy.
- Train Your Dog.
- Compete & Win Titles.
So now it’s time to take action and get started. It might seem simple, but believe me, it’s not. You will have to put in a lot of time and effort to train your dog for Schutzhund. However, it will be worth all the fun you will have while working together on the field.
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