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schutzhund (IPO)

SchutzhundThe Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde, SV (Society for the German Shepherd Dog) was founded by Max von Stephanitz (creator of the German Shepherd Dog) in 1899. Stephanitz believed strongly that a dog’s working ability was of the utmost importance. With the co-operation of police and working dog clubs, a set of specific tests were developed in tracking, formal obedience and protection. They created these tests with the goal of evaluating the working ability of the GSD. The SV believes that correct working temperament is a representation of the character and quality of the German Shepherd Dog.

Before a dog can earn a Schutzhund title, he must first pass the BH (Begleitungshund). This is an obedience test that that involves a heeling pattern both on and off leash. After heeling, the dog is put in a down stay on the edge of the field, 30 paces from his handler while another dog performs the heeling routine. After obedience comes a traffic/temperament test. This involves cars, bicycles, joggers, dogs and pedestrians. The dog must remain indifferent to any noises or movements, and allow his handler to interact with strangers. Evaluating the dog’s temperament and control occurs during the entire trial and a dog may be dismissed at any time for defect of character. Defects include a nervous or insecure dog that avoids people, a dog that growls or threatens, or a dog who displays any aggressive behaviour. 

The BH is pass or fail and on successful completion, dog and handler may move on to earn their Schutzhund I title. Schutzhund titles are comprised of 3 phases; Tracking, Obedience and Protection.


With the exception of IPO 1, all tracks are laid by strangers, dog and handler are not allowed to watch the track being laid. Tracks are a specified length, aged, include corners and articles (items carried by the track layers and then dropped on the track for the dog to find). All of these exercises increase in difficulty as you advance to IPO 2 & 3. The dog is judged on keeping his nose down (deep nose) and focused on the track, keeping a calm steady pace and indicating the articles (dogs are trained a variety of ways to do this, they might down on the article or retrieve it, but must consistently indicate in the same manner).

  IPO 1 IPO 2 IPO 3
Length (paces) 300 400 600
# of Legs 3 3 5
# of corners 2 2 4
# of articles 2 2 3
age (minutes) 20 30 60

Throughout, the handler must remain at the end of a 33’ tracking line and must follow the dog without giving direction or doing anything to impede him, they may not give any commands except the "search" command at the start of the track and after each article. The dog is disqualified if it leaves the track by more than one leash length. To pass the dog/handler team must earn a minimum of 70 out of a possible 100 points.


Obedience is done entirely off leash and includes heeling with changes of pace, turns, sit/down/stand out of motion, recall, retrieve over flat/jump/wall and send out. 2 gunshots are fired while the dog heels and the dog must remain impartial. As in the BH, a second dog holds a down-stay while you are on the field. A typical obedience routine takes about 15 minutes, 15 minutes in which your dog must remain attentive to you and at your side, during which you may not touch your dog.   

Handler and dog are judged on the precision, attitude and control with which you complete these exercises. Difficulty increases in IPO 2 & 3. To pass, the dog/handler team must earn a minimum of 70 out of a possible 100 points.




Schutzhund protection is not merely a man running around a field waving a stick while a dog tries to attack him, but a series of complex exercises with very specific criteria and very specific goals. The dog is evaluated through his behavioural response to each of the exercises. Some examples: the way a dog bites the sleeve is very revealing about his character, through this the judge can evaluate a dog’s confidence or insecurity, he can tell whether a dog is calm or frantic. The "out" (the dog releases the sleeve on command from his handler) tells the judge volumes about the dog and his handler.   

Often people confuse Schutzhund protection training with police dog or personal protection work. 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.   


Lee Hanrahan

Oxford Mills, Ontario CANADA

(613) 293-9717

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