Schutzhund and the German Shepherd Dog


In an effort to keep the German Shepherd Dog following down the path that Captain von Stephanitz had laid out for the breed, the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog), most often simply known at the SV, was founded in 1899. This governing body would oversee the future of the breed, and ensure adherence to the Captain’s primary goals- the breed some of the best working dogs. The breed standard was laid out and later elaborated on in a book published by the Captain himself titled The German Shepherd in Word and Picture. This written work, still highly coveted by breeders and enthusiasts today, laid out everything Captain von Stephanitz knew and desired for his breed, including breeding, training, raising, kenneling, and the importance of form and function. In his later years the Captain made a request of the German Shepherd community, and that was to, “Take this trouble for me; make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim.”

The SV set up requirements for the breeding of German Shepherd Dogs, and first and foremost on that list, was the requirement of titles for all breeding stock. A puppy from parents that did not meet the breeding requirements are not granted full registration papers. In this way the SV hoped to ensure the quality and continuation of the breed.

In modern German Shepherd Dog breeding, a dog must have a KKL rating, obtained during a ‘breed survey,’ in order to be bred and produce puppies that are able to be registered as purebred German Shepherd Dogs within the SV. The breed survey is the last step in a long line of tests to ensure the dog is breeding quality and that breeding that dog will be an asset and produce an improvement in the breed. The very first title a dog must achieve is a minimum of a Schutzhund 1 title. This important first requirement illustrates how important the working aspect of the German Shepherd Dog’s breed standard is. As Max von Stephanitz said, “Utility is the true criterion of beauty.” Once a Schutzhund title is achieved, the dog can then be entered in conformation shows. In German-style conformation shows, ratings are given to each dog independent of what they place in their classes. Every dog gets the rating the judge feels that dog deserves, regardless of what other dogs are competing against it that day. For a dog to be considered for breeding, it must be awarded at least a rating of G- ‘good.’ A dog can also score higher- SG- very good, or V- excellent. Anything below a rating of ‘good’ does not qualify a dog for breeding. A conformation title alone is not enough, under Captain von Stephnitz rules, to qualify a dog as suitable for breeding. As he once said, “Breeding worth and Exhibition worth are two fundamentally different things which need not have anything to do with each other; and further, an Exhibition award must never be taken as a judgment of Breeding value but only, and this too with reservations, as an opinion that a dog might possibly be suitable for breeding.”

Dogs wishing to be breed surveyed must also pass an “AD” endurance test, consisting of a run of 20 kilometers (approx. 12.5 miles) at a pace of around 12 – 15 kph (7.5 – 9.5 mph). The dogs run this test next to the handler, who rides a bicycle. A dog that consistently falls behind is removed from the test. After the first 5 kilometers (8 miles) the dogs are given a 15 minute rest period while each dog is checked by the judge for fatigue. Dogs that are removed from the test due to sore feet, fatigue, falling behind, or not having the ability to finish the test are given a ‘not passed’ rating and do not receive their AD award.

In addition to the temperament, working ability, conformation, and endurance requirements, the SV also takes the health of the dogs very seriously. At some point in the young dog’s life, the owner must also x-ray the dog’s hips and present the x-rays to the SV for inspection. A dog showing no signs of hip dysplasia is given an “a” stamp on their pedigree. A dog without an “a” stamp cannot be bred.

Once all the requirements have been met and the dog has a minimum of a Schutzhund 1 title, a minimum of a G conformation rating, an AD endurance award, an “a” stamp certification for their hips, and is at least 2 years old, they can be brought before a Koermerister for their official Koerung, also called a breed survey.

Similarly, a dog can fulfill his endurance and working requirements by completing a “HGH” title, which is a German-style sheep herding competition. In a HGH (pronounced ha-gee-ha), the dogs trainability, working ability, obedience, temperament, and endurance are all tested as part of the test while the dog, in tandem with an second dog that is not being judged, moves a flock of 300+ sheep through the required exercises. (But more on this particular sport in a later post).

The Koermeister is presented each dog individually after a gunshot and bite work test. The Koermeister will have received copies of the dogs Schutzhund title, AD test (waived in breed surveys for dogs over 6 years of age), conformation title, registration certificate and 3 generation pedigree (with “a” stamp on it) prior to the breed survey. The judge will go over each dog individually, inspect their paperwork, and place them into one of three categories- KKL1, KKL2, or Not Suitable for Breeding. A KKL1 means recommended for breeding, while a KKL2 means suitable for breeding. A dog can be re-presented to the same Koermeister the following year and try for an upgrade from a KKL2 to a KKL1. The dog can also be downgraded on a subsequent inspection but this is rare. The original survey is good for two years, after which the dog must be represented for another breed survey. The second time the dog is breed surveyed the rating is good for the remainder of the dog’s life.

If you are lucky, after all that work, you’re left with a litter of cute, fluffy little German Shepherd Dogs that you can start the whole process over with! While Schutzhund and the entire process was primarily developed for the German Shepherd Dog, that’s not to say that many other breeds don’t compete and excel at the sport today. Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boerboels, Dutch Shepherds, all types of Belgium Shepherds, Mastiffs, Bully breeds, even Standard Poodles, Airedales, mixed breeds, and several famous Jack Russel Terriers have all competed in the sport of Schutzhund. While some Schutzhund trials are designated for one breed, many club level trials are open to all breeds and mixes. Like many other dog sports, not every dog is suited for the sport, but for dogs that are suited and enjoy the work, Schutzhund is open to them.

That’s gonna leave a mark: French Ring Trial at Cher Car Kennels

Last weekend, a friend of mine posted on Facebook “This may seem like an odd question to most but why don’t more people want to get bitten by dogs?”

Gumbo the French Bulldog puppy is ready to trial! Tiega the Malinois is not so sure.

I’ve gotta say, I wonder the same thing. Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a French Ring trial hosted by the local Cher Car Kennels. After spending the day with some amazing trainers and their phenomenal dogs, I definitely feel the itch to get involved in bitework sports – it looks like fun!

First, a bit of background. “French Ring Sport”, or just French Ring, is a dog sport that combines obedience, agility and bitework. Some of the elements are similar to Schutzhund and Mondio, other popular dog sports in the U.S. I won’t go into the history of French Ring and the structure of the oversight organization because this isn’t my sport and I’m not that familiar with it, but this weekend I learned that the judge for the trials was M. Serge Gladieux, the head of French Ring Sport, Mondio Ring and Schutzhund/IPO in France! In addition to this extremely well-qualified judge, the event also had two talented decoys, Jimmy Vanhove (France L3) and Wade Morell (NARA L1). The event was held at Cher Car Kennels in St Johns, Michigan.

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Schutzhund: The dog sport of masochists


Masochists? Really? Well, the definition of masochism is the condition in which gratification depends on one’s suffering physical pain or humiliation. Switch that to pain AND humiliation and it would fit like a glove (or like a crisp new Schweikert trial arm). It is easy to torture oneself with trying for the perfect obedience round. It is all good fun to try for that better tracking score. It is absolutely a good time to train your dog to go after a guy dressed in an almost spot on Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man get up. Sure, it all makes perfect sense. Do any one of those things and have fun. Do all three together? Welcome to my insanity. Welcome to my addiction. Welcome to my sport.

Schutzhund was developed and molded to be the triathlon of the dog world. 3 events, one dog, one handler, one day. What it has evolved into is a highly specialized sport requiring almost Herculean effort and extreme dedication (much to the dismay of close friends and relatives). Tracking. Obedience. Protection. They bill it as the T.O.P. Dog sport. They lure you in with training vests, tracking lines, balls on a string and new jute covers for that shiny new sleeve that you will convince yourself you and your dog cannot live without. Then there is the fourth aspect of the sport, the one that you will hear loudly and proudly discussed in the clubhouse, but hushed in the presence of the “newbs”: the handler injury. If you want to play protection dog, you’re going to have to be willing to bleed.

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