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.
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.
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.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.