What Is Schutzhund?

By: Marilyn Brubaker Thompson

Reprinted from Giant Steps © May/June 1996

The work “Schutzhund” exactly translated from German to English is “Protection Dog”. But there is much more to SchH (the abbreviation for Schutzhund) than protection. Actually this literal translation is misleading. In the simplest and most condensed form, this is an attempt to explain what SchH is about, although this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as going into all the rules, regulations and working ability, resulting in the ultimate goal we all strive for‑“The Total Dog”, sound in mind and body. Schutzhund was originally a test to determine which were quality dogs for BREEDING PURPOSES in Germany for the German Shepherd.

Schutzhund is designed for dogs with working ability. It is not restricted to a particular group or breed of dog. The Deutscher Verban der Gebrauchshundsportvereine, more commonly known by initials “DVG” recognizes all breeds capable of doing the work.

Schutzhund training involves 3 phases: Tracking, Obedience (including retrieving), and Protection. There are 3 levels: SchH 1 (considered the novice), SchH II (the intermediate), and SchH III (the master level). A perfect score is 100 points. A total perfect score is 300. In the tracking and obedience phases, you cannot get less than 70 points or you fail. In the protection phase you will fail if you get less that 80 points.

The tracking phase simulates a dogs natural abilities of using his or her nose by locating its master (or a stranger in the higher levels) as well as discovering articles dropped along the track at various intervals. Depending upon the level of the SchH degree one is going for, depends on the length of the track and the age of the track, and the amount of articles, and the size of the articles. For instance, in SchH I the track is aged a minimum of 20 minutes with the handler laying the track, dropping 2 articles; two 90 degree turns, approximately 500 paces in length. The SchH III track is aged approximately 1 hour, with a stranger laying the track, dropping 3 articles, with no less than four 90 degree turns, approximately 1400 paces in length. Tracking is done in grass or dirt.

The obedience phase involves numerous exercises. The most basic is SchH I consisting of heeling off and on leash in a pattern you must execute on your own. It is not like AKC where the Judge tells you the exercises. Heeling is also done through a group of milling people; there is gunfire; you must do a walking sit in motion; a walking down with a recall; retrieving on the flat; and also the retrieve over a 39" jump; a go‑out of no less than 25 paces with a down; and a long down while another dog is working (also with gunfire) as the handler stands with his/ her back to their dog at a distance of 50 paces. The obedience phase is usually done on a large field, like a football field because you are required to walk no less than 40 to 50 paces straight before your first turn. The fast must be no less than 20 paces as well as the slow. The obedience phase takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. As you go on to the higher levels of Schutzhund, the exercises become more advanced. For instance, in SchH II the dog must retrieve a 2 lb. dumbbell; also climb and retrieve over a 6’ wall. In SchH III the dog must retrieve a 4 lb. dumbbell as well as retrieve over the 6' wall, plus all exercises are off lead and must be much more exact‑besides doing additional exercises like a walking and running stand.

In the protection phase as trained for competition it is more intricate and advanced than average protection training and taught with much control. A dog competing in the sport of Schutzhund must prove him/herself to have a reliable temperament and show courage without viciousness. In SchH I the dog is trained to search and locate the 'bad guy' and hold him at bay by barking. In the sport, blinds are used to simulate hiding places. In the higher levels of SchH II and III the dog must search 6 blinds. There is an EXACT PROCEDURE for each level which must be followed and is scored on a point basis. The 'bad guy' known as the 'helper' in the sport, wears protective leather pants and a special sleeve covered with burlap which the dog bites and must bite correctly, otherwise losing points; and on command must release his/her bite. A DOG WILL FAIL IF IT DOES NOT RELEASE THE BITE WHEN COMMANDED.

When you become involved with the SPORT OF SCHUTZHUND it is like getting into an OLYMPIC EVENT. You must view your dog as an athlete, learn the aspects of conditioning, proper diet and the psychology of it all, you as well as your dog. To compete in Schutzhund, you must yourself be competitive. To be a competitor in the breed ring is a start to compete for an obedience title is an advancement, to compete in Schutzhund is the ultimate!



A minimum score of 70 points in tracking and obedience and a minimum of 80 points in protection is required. When a tie score occurs, the winner shall be determined by the highest score in the protection category. If the dogs are still at tie score, then the winner will be the one with the best score in the obedience category. All dogs entered in the trial must pass a temperament test. Dogs not passing will be disqualified. Two weeks between new titles except the Begleithund (B) is required


The “B” is an abbreviation for the German work BEGLEITHUNDE or Companion Dog. This title is required before dogs are allowed to compete for their SchH titles. All breeds are eligible for the “B” but dogs must be 12 months or older and have a scorebook issued by one of the recognized organizations. There is no waiting period between trials.

What is required? In “Part A” the dog must complete required obedience exercises and earn 70% of the total allowed points. The total possible points are 60 and therefore the handler must earn at least 42 points in order to go on to the traffic test. “Part B” involves a test of traffic security in practical application. The over all impression of the dog's performance in these types of traffic situations will be the deciding factor for the judge.


  1. Ability to Perform in Traffic: The dog must demonstrate indifference to joggers and bicycles and must walk willing at the handler's left side.
  2. Behavior of the Dog Under Extreme Traffic Conditions: The dog must demonstrate the ability to negotiate heavy pedestrian traffic and not be reactive to normal street noises and conditions.
  3. Behavior of the dog Left Alone During Traffic Conditions: The dog will be tied off to a post with the handler out of sight and the dog must demonstrate calmness when subjected to pedestrian traffic and passing dogs.
  4. Obedience Under Traffic Conditions: The dog must return to the handler when called.



COURAGE                            absence of fear toward objects or in situations

HARDNESS                          resiliency toward unpleasant experiences

SOFTNESS                           remembering unpleasant experiences

SHARPNESS                        tendency to react aggressively to stimuli

DRIVES                                subconscious impulses to react to stimuli

TEMPERAMENT                   attitude toward life

SENSORY  THRESHOLD       (high,low) amount of stimulus required to obtain a reaction



HUNTING                    drive to pursue   

TRACKING                  drive to follow ground disturbance odors (animal tracks/footprints)

AIR SCENT                 drive to fellow windborne scents

RETRIEVE                  drive to bring objects to the pack (handler) or yard

PREY                         drive to bite/kill pray (refusal to release when playing tug‑of‑war or when sleeve happy

FIGHT                         drive to measure physical prowess with rivals (same as rowdy human)

GUARD                      drive to warn intruders to stay out of territory (yard, crate, car) by harking, growling or biting

PROTECTION             drive to defend the pack (family or handler)

RANK                         drive to achieve higher rank in the pack (growling or biting handler when under stress)

TRAINABILITY             drive to follow desires of the pack leader (handler)

SURVIVAL                  drive to survive                  

FLIGHT                       drive to flee from real or imagined danger

SELF‑DEFENSE         drive to attack real or imagined danger

HOMING                     drive to return to territory or pack (handler)

PLAY                         drive for physical contact with pack members

ACTIVITY                    drive to move and act (running fence, chewing, digging)

PACK                         drive for emotional contact with pack members


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