There are a number of sports that have been created to test the working ability of protection or police dogs, most notably Belgian Ring, French Ring and Schutzhund, though there are others. Schutzhund was originally developed in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century to test whether or not German Shepherds had the ability to perform the tasks they were bred for. Nowadays, a variety of countries participate in the sport and it is no longer restricted to German Shepherds; the trials are very difficult and demanding, though, and not many dogs succeed. The Amstaff has been known to participate in Schutzhund as a protection breed and has obtained quite impressive results.
The dogs who participated in Schutzhund originally were dogs that needed to be tested to see if they had the necessary requirements to undergo police training or become part of border control, customs, the military or take part in important herding activities. The utility and efficiency of dogs in many areas led to a growing demand for highly trained or trainable dogs that could help and protect humans in a variety of tasks; Schutzhund was a sophisticated way to set high standards for working dogs and foundation stock. Nowadays, dogs who participate in Schutzhund will not necessarily go on to become police or military dogs; many dog owners today get involved in these trials purely for the fun and thrill of seeing their dog perform and to give their dogs the ability to fulfill the need to work. Schutzhund involves three general areas of tests: tracking, obedience, and protection.
In tracking trials, dogs must show the ability to track footsteps through a variety of terrains; they must also be able to detect changes in direction and must demonstrate a strong interest and dedication for tracking. They must be accurate, not only in following the general track, but also in finding articles that have been dropped along the way; the dog must be trained to indicate the location of these articles to his handler. The track that the dog must work is often aged and difficult locations and weather conditions are often purposely chosen to make things harder for the dog.
Then comes the obedience part of the sport, which is comprised of a number of exercises, many of which are similar to those found in AKC Obedience events. The dog must be able to heel on and off a leash, as well as perform downs, sits and stands on command. Schutzhund is not AKC Obedience, though, and there are quite a number of differences between the two competitions. First of all, the dog and handler are working on a field that is roughly the size of a professional soccer field. In certain moments, the dog has to obey commands while ignoring the sound of a gun blast, and when retrieving he will have to do so over both a one meter jump and a six foot wall. Lastly, there is the protection part. The dock is required to attack under certain circumstances and ONLY on command; he must also stop immediately on command. Dogs must never show aggression outside of those specific circumstances and must ALWAYS follow the commands of their handlers.