German shepherds have been successfully trained in many different sports and activities due to their intelligence and endurance, as well as the fact they are very adaptable to training. One such training program is known as Schutzhund. Schutzhund is a German word meaning "protection dog", and was developed in Germany in the 1900s as a way to test the German shepherd dog to see if they possessed the traits they were originally bred for such as the strong desire to work, courage, intelligence, obedience, strong bond to the handler, perseverance, and protective instinct. Schutzhund training is a way for trainers to determine if the dog still has what it takes.
There are three Schutzhund titles: Schutzhund 1 (SchH1), Schutzhund 2 (SchH2), and Schutzhund 3 (SchH3). SchH1 is the first title the dog will earn and SchH3 is the highest title in the Schutzhund training. The first part of the training consists of the dog having to pass a temperament test known as a B test. The B test will test the dog in basic obedience as well as how they respond to strange dogs or people, traffic or loud noises. The German shepherd must pass this test or they cannot go on to take part in the Schutzhund training. Excessive fear or aggressions are traits that will restrict a dog from passing this test. Even if a dog is in the middle of Schutzhund training, if he shows any signs of fear or aggression, he may be disqualified.
Schutzhund consists of three different parts. These are tracking, obedience, and protection. The dog must pass each of these parts to earn each title. The scoring system is based on 100 points, and the dog is required to get at least 70 points.
The tracking phase consists of a trainer (or tracklayer) going on the track ahead of time laying out different objects. The owner then follows behind the dog on a 33-foot leash waiting for the dog to find each object on the track. The object is for the dog to find each object. When he finds it, he must indicate he has done so by lying down with the object between his front paws until his master comes. The dog is given a score based on how he follows the track and finds the articles.
The obedience takes place in a large field with dogs teamed up in pairs, but only one dog works at a time. One dog is put in the down position on one side of a field and his master leaves him there while the other dog is working at a location within the field. The dogs then switch places. One part of the obedience test involves different heeling exercises, including being amongst a group of people. There are gunshots to test how the dog reacts to loud noises. The dog is also tested on retrieving objects as well as a test where the dog is sent out on the field away from the master and told to lay down on command. In addition to being tested on performance, the dog is tested on his willingness to perform and on his overall attitude.
In the protection part of the testing, the trainer has an assistant to help determine if the dog has the courage to protect himself and his owner, as well as be controlled while doing so.
The helper wears a padded sleeve and hides, and the dog has the task to find the helper and detain him by barking and not letting him go. At one point, the helper will attack the owner and the dog must grab the helper by the arm to prevent him from leaving. When this is done according to how the owner wants, the dog is told to let go of the sleeve. The dog must instantly let go or he is dismissed from the training. Stopping on command is just as important for the dog as attacking. With each phase of the Schutzhund training, the obedience, tracking, and protection becomes more detailed, intense, and complex.