Schutzhund: Dog Sport in Europe and USA

Kelly has been competing and training in IGP since 2010. Over the years, she has learned a lot about the sport and the German Shepherd Dog.

What Is the Purpose of IGP?

Schutzhund is a German word that means "protection dog" and was developed in Germany as a breed suitability test in the early 1900s. This evaluation determined if a dog displayed the appropriate characteristics of a working German Shepherd. Today, Schutzhund has evolved into a sport where dogs compete in a very demanding exam.

This exam is now called IGP. Over the years, the name has been Schutzhund, IPO, and now IGP. This exam is very demanding and not all dogs can pass. The IGP evaluation consists of three phases:

  1. Tracking
  2. Obedience
  3. Protection

Contrary to what many say, the exam of IGP is still difficult even though it has changed over time. Yes, it is a sport but can also still demonstrate the necessary traits owners and breeders are looking for in their dogs. The purpose is still to identify dogs that have certain character traits.

Some of those character traits are:

  • Physical strength
  • Endurance
  • Agility
  • Desire to work
  • Intelligence
  • Courage
  • Intelligence
  • Train-ability
  • Relationship with the handler
  • Obedience

What Else Does It Evaluate?

IGP also evaluates for balance, temperament, and control. The goal is to see the character through training and then in designed stress. These designed stressful situations are weather, locations, environment, and other handlers and dogs.

For example, the competition is not canceled in rain—the trial is held. And all trials are held outdoors. This is an outdoor sport where inclement weather can change at any moment. This can be insightful to breeders to see what a dog "is made of" under designed stress.

The Main Tests

`1. Tracking

The tracking phases tests scenting, mental soundness, obedience, and endurance. The track is laid in a field by a track layer (for IGP1 the handler lays track) and small articles are placed on the track. Time is kept for aging (depending on the track) by the judge and the dog and handler work the track.

The dog must scent and follow the laid track and then indicate the placed articles. Scoring is based on how intense or intent on the track, article indication, etc. Each title has its own length, articles number, and age of track.

2. Obedience

Obedience is worked in handler and dog pairings based on entries. One dog is placed in a long down position while the other pair works and then they switch. The obedience routine is multiple heeling exercises such as the heeling pattern, retrieves, and send-out. Overall, the dog must demonstrate power, enthusiasm, and precision during this routine. This might sound easy but when you add in control, it makes for a difficult routine.

3. Protection

The protection phase has a person on the field called the "helper." The helper's responsibility is to test the dog under the designed exercises for the judge to evaluate.

There is lots of safety equipment used for the dog and person. Again, this program is about control and precision. This is not about violence or biting as many outside the sport tend to misunderstand.

The dog searches the blinds, guards the helper once located, and must be recalled. Then a variety of exercises that are similar to police work and transporting are completed. Like in obedience, the dog must demonstrate power, enthusiasm, precision, and control.

© 2020 Kelly Ward

Schutzhund: Dog Sport in Europe and USA - pets

Activities for Dogs

Protection Sports

The various protection sports originate either to test whether a dog meets breeding requirments, or in competition over the level of control and skill in the real work world of police, guard, and similar duties. Those based on breeding evaluation tend to be more stylized than the activities intended to reflect real work conditions.

The most well known of the protection sports is Schutzhund. Originally Schutzhund tested German Shepherd Dogs to determine whether they were worthy of breeding. Today it is a sport open to a wide variety of breeds.

Mondioring ( Mondio Ring) - a generalized protection sport competition representing elements of French Ring, Belgian Ring, IPO (SchH) and KNPV. Trials are theme based with props, scenarios, and distractions consistent with that theme placed at strategic points on the trial field.

KNPV - While some people treat KNPV as a "sport" it is more of a working competition. KNPV is Dutch police dog training standards. A competition would test how closely the dog meets those requirements.

French Ring Sport - like Schutzhund this activity originated as a method of determining whether a dog had the courage, soundness, temperament and other qualities worthy of passing to the next generation of dogs.

This article outlines the basic elements of each of the major protection sports. It covers Schutzhund, IPO, KNPV, Belgium Ring, French Ring, and Mondio Ring,


SDAssoc’s judges, decoys, and the KNPV-USA PH-1 & PH-2 Certificates of Capacity earned under Service Dog Association, are fully recognized by the Dutch KNPV organization.

KNPV Police Dog Training

A general description of KNPV

Mondio Ring originated in Europe. The first USA was held in 2000.

French Ring -

Books and Videos on Schutzhund and Guard Dogs from Dogwise.

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Schutzhund tests dogs for the traits necessary for police-type work. Dogs trained in Schutzhund are suitable for a wide variety of working tasks: police work, specific odor detection, search and rescue, and many others. The purpose of Schutzhund is to identify dogs that have, or do not have, the character traits required for these demanding jobs such as a strong desire to work, courage, intelligence, trainability, strong bond to the handler, perseverance, protective instinct, and a good sense of smell. Schutzhund also tests for physical traits such as strength, endurance, agility, and scenting ability. The goal of Schutzhund is to illuminate the character and ability of a dog through training. Breeders can use this insight to determine how and whether to use the dog in producing the next generation of working dogs. [2]

The German Shepherd was developed from working herding dogs around 1900 as an all-around working dog. Within a few years it was clear that the dogs were losing their working ability. Schutzhund was developed at this time as a test of working ability for German Shepherds. Only German Shepherds that had passed a Schutzhund test or a herding test were allowed to breed and thus have their progeny registered as German Shepherd Dogs. This is true in Germany to this day. It is only by testing the working ability of every generation that the strong working characteristics of the GSD have been maintained. [3]

Today, any breed can participate in the sport, though some breed clubs run trials for just their single-breed members. The intermediate and advanced levels of the sport and the top titles are dominated by German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, with Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Bouvier des Flandres also quite successful. [4] [5] At the beginning levels such as BH level (Companion Dog test) and OB (Obedience), a wide variety of breeds and sizes participate. [4]

Trials are events — competitive examinations of a dog — at which titles are awarded to dogs that pass standards. In Germany, German Shepherd Dogs are not permitted to be bred unless they have passed at least the level one trials and obtained a title. [6]

There are three levels of titles, numbered 1 through 3, with level 1 being the first and level 3 being the most advanced. Previously they were called Schutzhund 1 through Schutzhund 3 (abbreviated SchH1–SchH3), [c] in 2012 they became IPO1–IPO3, [a] and in 2019 they became IGP1–IGP3. [b] [7]

Trials have changed over the years. Modern trials consist of three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. [8] A dog must pass all three phases in one trial to be awarded a title, must have passed the prior level before allowed to compete, and may only acquire one title within a event. Each phase is judged on a point scale with a minimum score required to obtain a title. At any time the judge may dismiss a dog for showing poor temperament, fear or aggression, or failing one of several tests within each phase. [7]

As a prerequisite, before a dog can compete for IGP1, it must pass a temperament test called a BH-VT [d] (usually called just "BH"). The BH-VT tests basic obedience and confidence around strange people, strange dogs, traffic, bicyclists, joggers, loud noises, and briefly tethered alone (such as tethering the dog to a post while its owner goes out of sight into a shop). A dog that exhibits excessive fear, distracted behaviors, or aggression will not pass the BH-VT and so cannot go on to IGP level 1. BH-VT is the exception to the rule of earning only one title at an event a dog may be awarded a BH-VT along with one other level 1 title. [7]

  • Tracking phase — This tests the dog's scenting ability, but its mental soundness, and physical endurance. A "track layer" walks across a field dropping several small articles along the way. After a period of time, the dog is directed to follow the track while being followed by its handler on a 10 metres (33 ft) leash. When the dog finds each article, he indicates it, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws. The dog is scored on how intently and carefully it follows the track and indicates the articles. The length, complexity, number of articles, and age of the track varies for each title.
  • Obedience phase — This takes place in a large field, with two dogs on the field at a time. One dog is placed in a down position on the side of the field and its handler leaves it while the other dog works in the field. Then the dogs switch places. In the field, there are several heeling exercises, including heeling through a group of people. There are two or three gunshots during the heeling to test the dog's reaction to loud noises. There are one or two recalls, three retrieves (flat, jump and A-frame), and a "send out", in which the dog is directed to run away from the handler straight and fast and then lie down on command during its run. Obedience is judged on the dog's accuracy and attitude. The dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that is uninterested or cowering scores poorly.
  • Protection phase — The judge has an assistant, called the "helper", who helps test the dog's courage to protect itself and its handler, and its ability to be controlled while doing so. The helper wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm. There are several "blinds" on the field, and the helper hides in a random blind. The dog is directed to search all the blinds for the helper. When it finds the helper, it indicates by barking. The dog must guard the helper to prevent them from moving until recalled by the handler. There follows a series of exercises similar to police work where the handler searches the helper and transports them to the judge. At specified points, the helper either attacks the dog or the handler, or attempts to escape. The dog must stop the attack or the escape by biting the padded sleeve. When the attack or escape stops, the dog is commanded to "out", or release the sleeve. The dog must out or it is dismissed. At all times the dog must show courage to engage the helper and the temperament to obey the handler while in this high state of drive. The dog must show enthusiasm. A dog that shows fear, lack of control, or inappropriate aggression is dismissed.

Schutzhund training, like the sport itself, has evolved over the years. Schutzhund is very much a hands-on sport. Though there are theory and techniques about training dogs, most of the training is done in clubs among other people and dogs. [2] In a club environment, handlers and their dogs gather to practice techniques with the club equipment and experienced handlers in bite suits, called "decoys". Decoys have their own training and certification processes, and a good decoy is important in training your dog. [9]

A reliable source for training information is a good Schutzhund club. The overwhelming majority of Schutzhund training is done by owner/handlers at local clubs. There are very few clubs in the US, making books and videos a vital source of information in that country. In the US, most clubs are affiliated with the American Working Dog Federation (AWDF), United States Boxer Association (USBA), American Working Malinois Association (AWMA), United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USA), Deutscher Verband der Gebrauchshundsportvereine (DVG), or German Shepherd Dog Club of America-Working Dog Association (GSDCA-WDA). Schutzhund clubs tend to be small, 20 or fewer members, because there is a limit to the number of dogs that can be trained in one session. Clubs often provide only limited formal assistance with tracking and obedience. To a certain extent, the clubs exist to provide the specialized resources needed to train the protection phase. However, a legitimate club will not permit a member to train only protection. Usually the more experienced members are willing to help the novice with tracking and obedience, though this is typically somewhat informal in the US.

Another function of Schutzhund clubs is to identify dogs that should not be trained in Schutzhund. Schutzhund is a challenging test of a dog's character, and not every dog, or even every GSD, is up to the challenge. The training director of the club has a responsibility to the dog, handler, club, and society to constantly evaluate every dog and to decline to train any dog with questionable character or working ability. Training a dog that does not really want to work is stressful and frustrating for all parties involved.

Schutzhund clubs regularly hold public trials, providing the opportunity for dogs to earn titles and for handlers to assess their training progress. A tiny number of dedicated handlers have trained their dogs to title readiness strictly from books and videos. This is unlikely to succeed in most cases, because it is almost impossible to train the protection phase without a helper. A good club should be considered a necessity for Schutzhund training.

The definitive description of Schutzhund training in the first 50 years of the sport is Col. Konrad Most's Dog Training: A Manual, 1910. [10] By modern standards, Most's training is very harsh and possibly abusive. Despite this, it is also structured, consistent, and in many ways conforms to more recent ideas on learning theory. Over time, the more brutal techniques fell out of use and few trainers still follow Most's program. In 1981, Helmut Raiser published Der Schutzhund, [11] which radically changed Schutzhund protection training. In the US, the next great change in Schutzhund training is marked by the 1991 publication of Schutzhund Theory & Training Methods by Susan Barwig and Stewart Hilliard. [12] Dr. Dietmar Schellenberg presents a remarkably comprehensive guide with detailed, step-by-step instructions on Schutzhund training and theory in his 1981 book Top Working Dogs, A Schutzhund Training Manual. [13]

A number of other English-language books have been published on Schutzhund training. Some of the more influential books include Training the Competitive Working Dog by Tom Rose and Gary Patterson in 1985, [14] Training the Behavior: Tips, Techniques and Theory for the Working Dog Trainer by Gary Patterson in 2006, [15] and Schutzhund Obedience: Training in Drive with Gottfried Dildei, by Sheila Booth, 1992. [16]

A recent innovation in providing information on Schutzhund training is the development of videos and DVDs. As with books, all videos and DVDs are not created equal. Viewers must exercise discretion when considering the techniques shown in videos. Just because a technique appears in a video (or book) does not mean that it is a good idea or that many Schutzhund trainers use it. There is a diversity of opinion on how to train Schutzhund dogs. This is reflected in the many conflicting opinions presented in the various videos.

Many of the senior organizations for the sport have German names and are usually referred to by their initials in English-speaking countries. This list shows some of the organizations involved with the sport and their relationships to each other.

Name Abbrev. Location Description
Fédération Cynologique Internationale FCI [e] Belgium FCI is the international organization that publishes the rules for IGP titles.
Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen VDH [f] Germany VDH is the national-level all-breed kennel club of Germany a member-club of FCI. [17]
Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Zuchtvereine und Gebrauchshundverbände [de] AZG [g] Germany AZG sets the rules for Schutzhund for all breeds. The AZG is one of the component organizations of the VDH.
Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde SV [h] Germany SV is a member of VDH and a most powerful influence on the sport. Although the AZG formally sets the rules, the AZG does nothing with respect to Schutzhund without the approval of the SV. The SV has great influence within the FCI and is probably the most powerful influence on the sport.
Deutscher Verband der Gebrauchshundsportvereine [de] DVG [i] Germany DVG is an all-breed dog sport organization in Germany that organizes clubs and trials and has branches in Canada and US.
DVG America USA DVG-America is an all-breed Schutzhund club member of DVG. [18]
United Schutzhund Clubs of America USCA USA USCA is the largest Schutzhund organization in the US it is also a German Shepherd Dog breed club. [19]
American Working Dog Association AWDA USA AWDA is a Schutzhund club for law enforcement and associated trades, for training police dogs and search and rescue dogs. [20]
American Working Dog Federation AWDF USA AWDF is an umbrella organization for USA Schutzhund clubs. [21] Has applied with FCI to be the recognized USA organization. [22]
United Doberman Club UDC USA UDC is a Schutzhund club for Dobermans member club of AWDF. [23]

In response to political forces in Germany, in 2004 the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) made substantial changes to Schutzhund. The DHV adopted the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules that govern IPO titles, so that at least on paper the SV and DHV gave up control of the sport to the FCI. The DHV changed the name of the titles from "SchH" (Schutzhund) to "VPG" (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung für Gebrauchshunde which roughly translates Versatility examination for working dogs). The SV has retained the "SchH" title names, but otherwise conforms to the DHV/FCI rules.

USCA History

American Schutzhund began in 1957, when a small group of GSD fanciers in the Santa Clara Valley in California began to meet and train their dogs under the leadership of Czechoslovakian immigrant Gernot Riedel. In 1958, this group became the first U.S. Schutzhund Club: the Peninsula Police Canine Corp (PPCC, known today as just Peninsula Canine Corp, or PCC). PPCC held the very first Schutzhund trial on American soil in 1963 at the time, this trial did not include the tracking phase, as the training and participation was influenced heavily by police and law enforcement. The first official SV-sanctioned Schutzhund trial (with all three phases) took place in Los Angeles in 1969, under the direction of Dr. Henry Friehs.

At this point in time, the first overarching Schutzhund organization in the U.S. – the North American Schutzhund Association, or NASA – was founded. Trials were held under the auspices of NASA until 1972, at which point the SV (Schaeferhunde Verein, or the parent GSD breed club in Germany) required trials to be held under the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA), the official breed club for the GSD in America. The GSDCA’s sponsorship and support for Schutzhund was short-lived, however by 1975, the GSDCA had declared a moratorium on all Schutzhund trials, as the American Kennel Club (AKC) did not wish to be involved with this sport. Unlike the countries of Western Europe, the United States did not have a long and accepted tradition of working dogs. Most breeders at the time bred for the conformation ring, and emphasized beauty and side gait instead of character and trainability. Thus, this concept of a working trial that served as a breedworthiness test was met with suspicion.

This was the impetus for the development of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America. On November 21, 1975, a fledgling USCA (initially known as USA) officially formed and began its journey to become the premier Schutzhund organization in the United States. At its inception, USCA consisted of only six full member clubs and seven affiliated clubs (by 2013, this number had increased to over 200 full member clubs!). By 1977, the newly formed USCA held its very first National Championship, a prerequisite to sending a team from the U.S. to compete at the international level. It was hosted by the Greater Dallas Working Dog Club in Dallas, TX, and was open to all breeds at this point. The judge was SV Judge Ludwig Ernst from Germany. This was the year USCA also sent its first team to the International IPO3 German Shepherd Dog Championship, known as “the Worlds”, or the EUSV (European Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs—soon to be WUSV, or World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs).

By 1981, USCA added another national event to its roster: the North American Championship, which often included an FH championship (advanced tracking championship) as well. 1990 saw the addition of a national Sieger Show, as well as the addition of the “World Qualifier”, a GSD-only trial that selected for the top dog/handler teams to represent the United States at the WUSV Championship. This “World Qualifier” was the trial that would eventually become the IPO3 National Championship.

In March 2000, the first all-GSD National IPO3 Championship was held, hosted by Mo-Kan Schutzhund Association. This replaced the original World Qualifier trial, and is known today as the USCA GSD IPO3 National Championship, or simply “The Nationals.”

Schutzhund: Dog Sport in Europe and USA - pets

It is outdoors. It is physical. It is mental. The demands are great, but the sport also offers competition and new friendships. In short, it is what all recreational sports should first be: good exercise, fun and full of reward s.

While dogs of other breeds are welcome to compete at USA-sanctioned Schutzhund trials, this breed evaluation test was developed specifically for the German Shepherd Dog. Schutzhund is intended to demonstrate the dog’s intelligence and utility. As a working trial, Schutzhund measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage, and trainability, all important factors of the comprehensive German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard.

Schutzhund started at the beginning of this century as a test for working dogs. Its initial purpose was to determine which dogs could be used for breeding and which had true working ability. The growing demand for working dogs made more sophisticated tests and training necessary. These dogs were needed for police training, border patrol, customs, military and herding. As these tests evolved, more people participated just for the sheer enjoyment of seeing if their personal dogs could be trained as effectively as these “professional dogs”. Now, over sixty years after the first formal Schutzhund rules were introduced, tens of thousands of people participate in the sport each year.

There is nothing quite so exciting as a Schutzhund competition. The typical Schutzhund trial will feature a number of dogs showing for BH, the basic obedience degree, or for their tri-phase SchH1, SchH2, or SchH3 title. The endurance test, the AD, is often offered early in the morning while other dogs are on the tracking field completing their Schutzhund 1, 2, or 3 tracking phases or showing for the advanced tracking titles, the FH1 or FH2. Schutzhund tests three specific areas of a dog’s training and behavior.

The first, tracking, requires the dog to track footsteps over mixed terrain, change direction and show absolute accuracy and commitment to finding the track. It must also find dropped articles and indicate their locations to the handler. Often this is done under less than ideal circumstances with difficult cover, bad weather conditions and an aged track. Many find tracking to be the most satisfying experience in training, when only the handler and dog are working together. It is certainly the most peaceful part of Schutzhund.

The second phase is obedience. Those who are familiar with AKC obedience will feel more comfortable in this area, as many of the exercises are similar to those in Open and Utility. There is heeling, both on and off lead. The sit, down and stand are also done, except when the dog is moving but Schutzhund applies its own style to this work. Instead of a forty foot ring, the handler and dog work on a soccer sized trial field. Some exercises require the dog to work under the noise of a firing gun. In addition to the normal dumbbell retrieval, the dog must retrieve over a one meter jump and a six foot wall. Down stays and a long send away conclude the test.

The third and final test is the most misunderstood by the general public. This is protection. The most important point to understand when watching a protection routine, is the relationship between dog and handler. The dog must never bite the trial helper, unless either the dog or the handler is attacked. Then it must attack fully and without hesitation. But here the real difference becomes apparent. The dog must stop biting on the command of the handler and guard the trial helper without further aggression. Often people confuse Schutzhund protection training with police dog or personal protection work. Only the Schutzhund dog is capable of the feats of never being aggressive except under those specific situations it is trained to face, and even then it must always be under the absolute control of the handler.

The above tests are difficult enough, but to make it even more demanding, they all happen in one day during competitions that are held all over the country. These trials are held by local clubs or in regional and national championships. Each dog is judged by a complex point system that then determines the winner of the trial.
When a dog successfully completes the first trial, it is awarded a title of Schutzhund I. It can then progress to Schutzhund II and, the ultimate, Schutzhund III. Each level makes ever greater demands on the dog and training in all three areas. Any person competing in Schutzhund will tell you that a high scoring Schutzhund III dog is the ultimate working dog: one in a thousand of all working dogs.

In addition to the Schutzhund I, II and III titles, other titles in advanced tracking, temperament tests, police training and agility work are awarded.

Today, Schutzhund is more than the small group that started in Germany so long ago. Its organizations have several hundred thousand members, scattered across Europe, North America and several other continents.

(Material from Schutzhund USA and DVG America)

Watch the video: Protection 98pts 3720 (July 2021).