Puppies Due

 by: Janice L. Hastings

"SCHUTZHUND" -- What's it all about?

by: Janice L. Hastings

Literally translated in English, this is a German word for "protection" dog which simply means a dog has passed a testing evaluation consisting of three phases:
1) temperament   2) ability   3) willingness to work for man
     The objectives are described as identifying working dogs that possess the working ability and test their temperament, scenting ability, focus, willingness to please, athletic ability and fighting instincts. It is also claimed
this is a proven and fail-safe method to evaluate these objectives and abilities.

     The first phase is TRACKING  (worth 100 points) and is best described as able to test concentration, focus and drive by channeling a natural tracking ability into precise scent discrimination. 
There are four levels in tracking:
SchH I, II, and III with FH being the highest title. 
This first level is to test training, physical condition, endurance and stamina. The dog must follow a human trail in a series of turns and angles and alert to articles of all shapes and sizes (such as wood, plastic and articles covered in leather and cloth) that are dropped along the track. The dog is evaluated according to precision and intensity.

     The next phase is OBEDIENCE  (worth 100 points) which demonstrates a willingness and eagerness to obey the handler. The dog is evaluated on precision, speed and this willingness to obey specific commands. They are heel (on and off leash), sit, long down, stand, retrieve, jump and climb over obstacles, stay and come on command.

     The third phase is PROTECTION (worth 100 points) which measures the dog's courage (willingness and ability to confront and resist opposition without support), fighting instincts (eagerness to engage in combat and willingness to continue the fight until recalled) hardness (ability to withstand a threatening under extremely stressful conditions)
and dependability. He must find and alert his handler to the presence of a hidden human being, protect if necessary and prevent the deliberate escape of the human. The dog is expected to perform with precision at varying distances and at times under extreme stress from verbal and physical threats from the "villain". During this time, the dog may not be overly aggressive nor harm the "villain" unless there is a physical attack on the handler. Basically, this is Schutzhund "in a nutshell." For more information on this subject and the United Schutzhund Clubs of America go to
http://www. GermanShepherddog.com/
What is Schutzhund?  Or look up (on Yahoo) Schutzhund #2 Draft Version by Cindy Tittle Moore, or 
THE GERMAN SHEPHERD BOOK by Susan Barwig (page 431 -- Schutzhund)

     All of this looks great on "paper" but has been proving to be a curse when applied to police dog training. Schutzhund is a sport and should be treated as such, which will likely bring on some heated comments but, nevertheless, should be entirely separated from police dog development and training. To train a PSD using Schutzhund concepts and techniques is like teaching a child how to play baseball using football rules. With Schutzhund, the performance is the same all the time with all the movements never varying. The dog has memorized it to the point that he/she anticipates the commands and moves of the helper and many times acts before the command is given -- resulting in a verbal or physical correction. This is unrealistic in the world of the police dog where each moment changes quickly and sometimes violently and the K-9 must be flexible enough to change with it.

PART II
Schutzhund -- What is it?
     Schutzhund is an exciting and dramatic sport the whole family can enjoy. It is as full of action and emotional involvement as football, basketball and soccer, etc. I enjoy it very much myself and root for my favorite handler and dog.  But! There are conditions that disturb me -- particularly when a dog is trained in Schutzhund and then put on the street as a police dog. This difference is like night and day and apples and oranges. In this sport, many trainers teach their dogs to track using food which makes them keep their noses deep down to the ground continually and unnaturally. Pieces of food are dropped onto the track every few feet, which they eat until the dog gets to the end of the track, then they are given food again, this time as a reward for "locating" the person. Basically, the dog has then been trained to track food and not a person and this sets up in the dog's mind that food is always to be found at the end of every "track" and from a human hand. From then on, they have been conditioned to expect this. This same concept applies to toys. The dog is no longer working for his handler, he is hunting food and seeking play time. Some have been taught the dog will only work for food or play. The dog seems to be the only one who has figured out that he will work for man (as he has always done) for love, praise and companionship, although he is not above sometimes taking advantage of mankind's misguided thinking. What happens, though, when a dog is not hungry or does not like the particular food? The obedience phase is always useful for all dogs whether working breeds or not. It makes for a well mannered, social, reliable and controlled dog under any circumstances a joy to own. This is something I support fully and not just for Schutzhund.  It is the protection phase that disturbs me the most when applied to PSD work and training. This phase is scored on three levels:
a) hold and bark (or revere) 
b) attack upon an agitator
c) courage test
(follow and hold).  It is here that trainers may be getting their concepts clouded or confused in their understanding about the mind, personality, character and application of the police service dog. There is an exercise called the blind search -- where the dog must search six "blinds" (which resemble Indian teepees) to find an agitator (the person who eventually engages the dog in physical combat). The problem here, in application to police dog training, is the agitator is ALWAYS in the sixth blind -- and the dog has come to expect this although he must search through the others. This never varies! Too many dogs are so programmed they become robot like in their thinking ability and in any variation in the exercise throws them mentally off. For example, during one trial a judge instructed the agitator to hide behind the fifth blind. Although the dog saw him, he went to the sixth blind as he had been programmed. The dog became so
confused, anxious and disoriented when the agitator was not where he expected -- the handler had to go get him and remove him from the grounds. The next exercise the dog must perform while at the blind is the Hold and Bark, which consists of the dog positioning himself just inches in front of the agitator, barking while rearing up and down but not attacking. This is rather dramatic and exciting particularly when the dog is energetic and animated but rather dangerous when the police dog engages the suspect in this manner. Beng only inches away would enable the suspect to shoot, knife, kick or hit the dog as many times as he wished -- while, if the dog had been Schutzhund trained to follow a certain program of not attacking, could and has resulted in a K-9's needless and pointless injury or death. Another exercise is when the dog is unleashed to pursue and attack the agitator which is also exciting to watch. Watching a hard running dog fly down a field and launch himself into the air onto a person wearing a body suit and sleeve and spinning him around onto the ground is breathtaking. Much like watching a quarterback throw a 75 yard pass to a teammate resulting in a touchdown. What's wrong with that you may ask? Nothing except for too much airtime when the dog is off balance and the suspect has those seconds to take advantage of that to grab or shoot the dog. Otherwise, it is a spectacular catch. What is possibly better is to have the dog make ground level hard contact with the agitator/suspect and when the person is down redirect his attack to keep the suspect off balance and then redirect the attack again until his handler arrives and takes charge. In Schutzhund, another exercise is when the dog is sent after the agitator and grabs the sleeve with a full bite and holds on while the agitator flails him with a lexible stick (or shlagstock) on his hindquarters, ribcage or withers several times. This dog is praised as courageous and points are awarded for this. This is fine except these points are useless on the streets where the dog can be killed instantly by holding on and accepting the physical abuse. When my daughter and I watch a segment on K-9's on Cops or other shows, we can tell instantly if this dog has been Schutzhund trained. We groan out loud and count the number of times the "suspect" could possibly stab the dog or shoot him. On the streets, any person the dog is sent after will be intent on getting away by any means he/she can, even if it means killing the dog. They will use anything they can get their hands on, such as iron pipes, guns, knives, fists, kicking and which cause the greatest amount of pain and death. The dog trained on Schutzhund has been conditioned to accept the discomfort of a few light blows and when confronted with a real life situation of intense and continued pain will fall apart immediately under stress he cannot accept or understand. It has happened many times with K-9 teams and will continue to until trainers understand that Schutzhund is only a sport and designed for sport conditions on a well groomed field under certain rules. The well trained police dog has been trained to deal with those who do not recognize or operate under any guidelines or policies and to win under actual street conditions. As far back as mankind can remember there have been competitions involving animals and there will continue to be long after we are gone, I suppose. But the concept of Schutzhund as developed by Captain Max Von Stephanitz is far different from that now developed by clubs in the U.S. since the mid 70's. In the 1920's, the purpose of Schutzhund was to evaluate each dog and breeder as to the ability to produce the true working dog to demonstrate their use for police and military. The Captain was a stickler
for that and insisted that form follow function -- that ability was preferred over beauty. Later on, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV) required the sire and dam of any litter have a SchH title before the litter could be registered. Then, SchH had a purpose -- no title -- no registering of the litter. The true working dog with all its abilities flourished.  Now it is merely a title and/or status symbol and has become mainly for "good old boys" to play at much like men do with their Sunday afternoon catch football games.  It is a sport that rarely transfers worthy dogs to the mean streets of any city -- although a few have. But there are a few who train for sport that do have my respect, Dean Calderon, Wayne Simanovich, Gene England and Gary and Pam Hanrahan. These understand their dogs. But there are many who don't, such as the woman, Sabina Davidson, who ordered some videotapes of Schutzhund and attempted to train her Rottweilers. The result? Two of them mauled and killed a teenager who was simply waiting on a corner for the school bus. When trainers have to bribe their dogs to work for them, they have missed completely the insight and understanding of the deep relationship and connection between man and dog. The dog works for the love and desire to be near man -- it is not that hard to understand.  And when trainers misunderstand the true concept of courage, sacrifice and development of the true working dog, they will continue to flounder around on well groomed training fields and spotless kennels and watch dogs they trained die uselessly -- still wondering what went wrong. If they don't understand now what it all means -- no one can explain it to them even if it takes a hundred years. Schutzhund is a sport and really should not be used to train police dogs who must deal with the hard and violent world of the criminal and must be composed of true working abilities, breeding and the nature to deal with
that and the stress that accompanies it. Then and only then will we not lose so many police dogs for so pointless a reason who were not trained for the real world.

 

 

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Revised: 03/04/05.