What I Learned From Schutzhund Dog Training

Okay, so I have already admitted to the fact that I have been involved in different aspects of protection training for a good part of my career.  For those of you that didn’t read my previous article, please note that I only use positive reinforcement training and do not adhere to any barbaric practices or use of physical manipulation.

The truth is you don’t have to abusive techniques to enjoy protection sports.  The most important thing is to understand the liability involved in such sports.  The liability and inability for a lot people to control their dogs in many given situations is why I don’t regularly recommend these types of sports.  We live in a “sue happy” world and adding more liability is not needed for most people!

But all that is beside the point!  I want to share with you what I have specifically learned and think everyone can learn from Schutzhund training and practices.

A number of people hate the tracking that is involved in Schutzhund because they think it is tedious or hate getting up early to lay a track.  Personally, I understand their gripe.  I am not the earliest riser, nor do I like scuffing or plodding along in a field laying a track, marking my corners and then waiting for it to age the appropriate amount of time for the specific training level of whatever dog I am working.

Sometimes it is just hard to find a field that you can lay a track for your dog!

But, my dogs have always LOVED tracking.  I think the last dog I competed and trained with actually liked the tracking more than he even enjoyed the bite work part of Schutzhund!  He knew the first component in daily training was my laying him a track, and he could hardly stand the excitement when I put my “track laying” boots on!

Tracking involves a dogs nose AND his brain!  Tracking different people and different scents through the grass or even over pavement can be totally stimulating and


completely exhilarating for dogs!  Even though I may not enjoy the monotonous facets of tracking (because I don’t have a superpower nose), I recognize that involving my dog’s nose is crucial to his happiness!

Some people think Schutzhund is not realistic because the dog is never put in “real world” situations.  I actually like that about Schutzhund!  How many people need a dog that would readily bite another person?  What happens when you teach your dog to defend an attack on you, but someone in need of help runs up to you in the park and grabs your shoulder?  Or what would happen when a deaf child (this HAPPENED to me last weekend) or mentally impaired person runs up to you?  Most of us don’t need a “real world” biting, police type dog.

Numerous people who compete in other such sports have told me how boring Schutzhund is especially since the obedience follows the same pattern or routine.  This point I must totally agree with!   Although I enjoy knowing the “routine” for competition sake, following the same mind-numbing routine day after day can get tiresome for both the person and the dog.

Obedience should be a way of life, and although certain competitions can boost or even enhance a person’s training regiment, I think a dog should be taught to listen in all aspects of “real life”.

That being said, I have learned more from Schutzhund obedience than almost anything else in my training career.  If you have ever watched a Schutzhund competition either online or at a trial, you will notice how all the dogs look up into the handler’s face and genuinely seem to enjoy the obedience routine.

Inattentive "boring" heeling

You see if you compete in Schutzhund your dog MUST look up at the handler and appear to enjoy the routine.  The judge can and will take off points if your dog is not staring up into your face, or even if it appears that compulsion (corrections) were used to intimidate the dog; THAT is what I love about Schutzhund!

In very few other sports can a team lose points if the dog doesn’t appear happy, or lose points for cowering or acting intimidated by the handler!  I think all sports should be judged this way!  Most other sports, AKC included, only care if the dog is in the appropriate or designated position; this leads to bare minimum training and sometimes the over reliance on compulsion and leash corrections.

Schutzhund trainers train their dogs in “Drive” and teach their dogs that obedience and adherence to commands is all part of a fun goal oriented game.  Obedience, in fact, must usually involve the dog’s favorite game in order to get a perfect or ideal performance.

I am no longer content with a dog that simply stays in the desired position!  I want a dog that stares up at my face with happiness and a desire to do what I want so that it can play with me!  This kind of obedience is striking to watch and phenomenal to experience.

Focused Heeling in "Drive"

Dogs should be taught using their instincts and drives to do the things that we want them to do.  Not only is this type of obedience more impressive, it should be more fun for you both!  Dogs that work in “Drive” (using their natural instincts and playing games) enjoy working for and listening to you.

Training your dog in “Drive” will be a separate article, but suffice it to say the more fun you can make your training, the more you can teach your dog to utilize his instincts, and the more you train and work together having fun the happier you will both be!  When your dog is happy and he is enjoying his training, you will readily be able to see it on his face, in the way he prances and in his countenance.


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  1. Effie says:

    I really agree with “the more fun you can make your training, the more you can teach your dog to utilize his instincts, and the more you train and work together having fun the happier you will both be”. As Susan Garrett says you have to find the JOY in training for your dog and yourself.


  2. Beth Moore says:

    Dogs have so much to teach us ….. when I call my dog, a two-year old German Shepherd spayed bitch, she comes to me with a “I am so glad you called; I am coming as fast as I can” attitude and it warms my heart, makes me feel good. I often think that we in turn should respond to God in the same way when He calls. If I feel good when my dog comes, how much more so does He feel when I come happily and obediently to His bidding.


    Jerry Iverson Reply:

    Great analogy Beth! If only even more Christians understood the joy of responding to God’s call. We have an incredible Westie (Annie) who warms my heart daily. That’s little dog’s love for me makes me thank God for His blessing us with her as well.


  3. B Buggia says:

    This is one of the best and informative articles of yours that I have read. It also gives more of an idea of your experiences and really impresses me and makes me want to listen to you and understand you more.

    Training is one of my favoriet things to do, my experience is more with horses. Many of the same situations are true as long as you realize that dogs have prey drive and that horses are prey!!

    Someone that limits their voice, experience, and teaching to clicker training I feel is missing the boat. That said, I think it is SO much fun, SO rewarding and a great way to work with dogs AND HORSES!! It has given me something productive to do with my horse when it is 10 degrees outside and too snowy or icey to even put my horse outside! They too enjoy the interaction and the ‘play’.

    Thanks for posting this.


  4. Edward Eley says:

    I found this very informative and I agree that the more fun you have with training your pet the more rewarding it will be for both of you.


  5. Sharon says:

    Like your reminding me about having my dog (a Labradoodle pup 10 mos old) respond with excitement to performing various skill maneuvers…and loving the game and doing it with enthusiasm.


  6. norval crutcher says:

    very much too the point — if you want a dog for any purpose and you don’t
    enjoy their company or working with them, then don’t get a dog. get some
    little turtles, put in glass bowel and there you have it. no effort no
    fun… susan garrett said it best ” find the joy in training ur dog and


  7. Michele Swain says:

    so, how does one proceed?
    my dogs are so happy to see me and go for a walk, but, they pull and are criscrossing in front of me and go wild when another dog comes by (I’ve learned to wrap the leash around a pole or something, if I can, to protect my back). They are not food oriented so treats have not worked.


  8. Michele Swain says:

    How to do that?


    Minette Reply:

    More on the how tos to come in the next few weeks! I will teach you how to build drive and how to use it


    Patricia Rosell (Pat) Reply:

    Hi Minette: Really enjoyed your article. I have a ten-month old Yellow Lab (mixed with Golden, supposedly, but he really looks like a Lab). Finian is very high-energy, but also very intelligent. Ever since I got him (at 8 weeks) I have been yearning to “do everything right”, but I’m afraid I haven’t, thus far. I very much would like to learn about training him — he has so much potential! Please write moreabout the “Drive Training”. I am eager for both of us to learn together. I would also appreciate any suggestions on books, classes, etc. that would help us. Thanks!


    Minette Reply:

    My very favorite author is Karen Pryor! Don’t Shoot the Dog is my hands down all time favorite book!

    Ivan Balabanov has some wonderful videos on drive training and teaching your dog what he calls “the game”!

    Pat Rosell Reply:

    How do I make sure I receive all your posts? (Very eager to learn how to build drive and use it!) Will I receive them on e-mail? Or do I need to go to a specific blog? If the latter, How do I get to it?


    Minette Reply:

    Hello! Welcome! I am attaching the drive articles I have already written but I need to write more!

    Go to my blog http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog and in the left hand side there is a search box you can search any topic you like.

    Also if you join me on facebook at thedogtrainingsecret by liking the page you will see the blogs I post each week and have a chance to read them 🙂



    I hope you and Finian enjoy them!

    Minette Reply:

    Pat I don’t know if you have seen this or are still interested, but we are thinking about developing a program starting at the bottom and working up (with a pup but any age would do) check it out and join the webinar if you would like.

  9. kate says:

    how doou get your dog to listen when getting excited about other dogs and people and not to jump on them


  10. JUDY LOWE says:

    i have a hound mix and all she wants to do is chase critters. she knows her tricks but lacks spark, and she will not look at me unless i have a treet. how can i hold her attention?


    Minette Reply:

    Keep your eyes out and keep reading my blog! I have just written an article on how to build prey drive and then the beginning of training in drive…more advanced also to come in the next few weeks 🙂


  11. Lisa Trost says:

    You wrote, “In very few other sports can a team lose points if the dog doesn’t appear happy, or lose points for cowering or acting intimidated by the handler! I think all sports should be judged this way!”

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I work with dogs and their people also, and I’m very clear with people that using any kind of force or intimidation with their dogs is absolutely unnecessary…unacceptable, actually.

    I just started following your blog, and I’m looking forward to reading more!


  12. Debal says:

    hi Minette
    i really enjoy your posts
    i have a golden labrador with a very strange problem.
    i believe he thinks he is a stray dog. 🙂
    the reason i believe so is that he has various characteristics of strays like:
    a) he gets real aggressive whenever he sees a dog on a leash or with a collar (thats his way of recognizing house dogs)
    b) whenever he sees a street dog, he literally cries to go near it
    c) he has a huge attraction towards garbage dumps, trash and other filthy stuff that litter the roads

    is there any way i can get rid of this behavior, especially the one in a) ?
    it gets very embarrassing and sometimes downright ugly.

    – Debal


    Minette Reply:

    You will need to specifically work on a. with people you know who can put their dog on a leash and help you out.

    You will need to slowly desensitize him to on leash dogs. Work at his comfort zone and then work your way up. Aggression leads to going the opposite direction of the dog. He can only look at the dog if he can be good.

    Keep doing this and slowly work your way up.

    Then add different dogs to you scenario and you will be on the “long” road to recovery 🙂 Hope this helps


  13. P Wong says:

    Please tell me how to do it. More practical ways.
    If I do not have a treat on hand that he sees or smell, he doew not obey my commnand. Shameful to say, I dd hit it sometimes. Eg when I call many times come and he does not listen, When I brush him he try to bite me, so I hit him with the brush.
    I have been to training class since he is young. I end up in tears since the teacher scold me harshly and punish me to stand in the playground since I cannot hold my dog on leash.

    Now he is better since I spend more time with him,, but he still pull on leash,
    When I walk the other way, he start walking in circles.
    He does not like my praising or my touching much and repsonse positively only to food.

    However he is afraid of stranger, and listen to their commnands immediately. like sit , heel . With me, he is like a kid who does not listen to mum.


    Minette Reply:

    You have to use intermittent reinforcement read my article here : http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/intermittent-reinforcement-building-dog-training-foundation/

    Stop hitting him. He doesn’t like your touch or your praise because he has gotten use to you sometimes being violent with him. Violence and physical punishment causes dogs and people (yell at me and see what happens…I hide in my “shell” too) to shut down and not bond. They are too scared to try a multitude of good behaviors so they stop doing anything you ask and pray you don’t get mad.

    If you have had a bad day don’t work with your dog! If he tries to bite you, take away another privilege like your working with him or his treats. Use psychology to take away the things that he wants instead of physically hitting him.

    This is also why he is good for others, yes he is probably intimidated…but the odds of them hitting him for making a mistake are much less so he is willing to try with them.

    work on his leash skills with patience and make all of your training a game. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/good-walk-hard-beat/

    Games are fun, you can make mistakes and nothing terrible happens. If he makes a critical mistake stop playing with him. He is like a child. Imagine taking your misbehaving child from the park. He would be devastated and next time he would listen to you.

    Dogs learn on the same principles! http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/times-pushover-repeating-dog-training-commands/

    Go through my training blog. I will teach you how to use doggy psychology to get him to do just about anything. You can search articles on the left in the search tab.

    But go back to square ONE and reteach him. Treat him like a pup and learn to work together without physical manipulation. You will see your bond and his willingness to listen to you vastly improve. He will still be more unwilling to try new things, but know that and cut him some slack! Teach him it is not only OK to fail, but you expect it and nothing bad will happen!

    If you restart your training program you will see a huge improvement!

    I wish you both all of the best and THANK YOU for being honest with me and asking for advice. Shame and negativity will not help you to change and I am thankful that you gave me the opportunity to honestly answer your question! I promise you are not the only one who hits or uses punishment and hopefully this post will allow others to see what steps to take when they need to make a change!


  14. Coralie says:

    Thank you so much for all this good advice.

    I have a mix that has been a street dog for a long time before his rescue. He comes from Romania and has had some terrible experiences before coming to a shelter where I adopted him 6 months ago.

    1. He used to be a watch dog and guard livestock on a small farm,then he was thrown out on the street when his eyesight deminished by approx 30%.

    2. He has been hit by a car and is sometimes very frighened of traffic that comes from behind, sometimes he throws himself into the ditch,but not always.

    I don´t comment on this other than praise him when he gets up and walks on.

    3. Amazingly, he is over friendly towards strangers and often stops and stares at people he meets. Many people don´t like this as they think he may attack them! Others think he is the sweetest dog they have ever met!
    * I train him to focus on me and say “Here I am” click and reward him as soon as he continues to walk beside me.

    4. He ignores all dogs unless they show interest or bark at him in which case he growls and barks. Many dog owners get upset and cross the street to avoid him because they think he will go to attack, which he never does. He just turns his neck away from the dog and wags his tail! But he sounds very angry!

    As soon as I see another dog coming toward us, I prepare myself with clicker and treat and get him to look up at me.(this can be a bit of a problem as he does not see very well, but he tries to focus on me). If he walks by without taking notice of the other dog,I click and reward him with a treat and let him know what a “good dog”he is. If not, I am not certain what to do, except try to distract him as quickly as possible by calling his name (Astro) while saying “look at me” This seems to work quite well.

    He walks very well on and off the leash and never leaves me.

    I train him to run between me and my husband when he is off the leash which he enjoys.

    He is learning to play a little, but is not very interested in toys yet, but likes hunting for hidden treats.

    Sometimes he does not want to go out for a walk and just potties outside and then refuses to go anywhere.

    He can sometimes look so sad, but has so much love and trust within him.

    My hope is that he will become a happy dog always! Astro is rescue dog nr 10 in our family,every one has had problems,but we have managed to understand each other and they have all taught us about what it is like to be an unwanted badly treated dog. I am so grateful to them. God Bless them All! Now it is Astro´s turn to teach us new lessons and to make use of the good advice here.


    Minette Reply:

    He is lucky to have such a kind and wonderful owner! Good for you! You are doing all the right things to find the happy dog he is deep down inside 😉


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