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End of Schutzhund?

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schutzhundBelow, Brian references Jim Engel’s article “Schutzhund is Over in Europe” regarding the  removal of stick hits from the FCI IPO Championships. Brian has a few things to say on the future of schutzhund:

Although I think this article is a little on the dramatic side, I totally agree with Jim that its time for Americans to take charge of our own working dog affairs. I also believe its time to get back to the fundamentals that made Schutzhund great in the first place; testing dogs for courage and hardness, and promoting the ones that have it. As far as the stick hits go, I’ve already heard fellow Schutzhund competitors say, “Who cares? What difference does it really make, someone is still going to win.” At this rate, I too believe that the stick hits will be gone from competition in two years time.  Like the old saying goes, when you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything, which is really the larger issue at hand here.

In all fairness, I don’t believe that this can be blamed on the show dog community.  It probably has more to do with the outside pressures to be politically correct and our leadership’s growing concern with the public perception of what Schutzhund is. But if show and pet people are indeed determining the path of our sport, it is only because we — the working dog people — are allowing them to.  If the consensus is that show people care more about a dog’s conformation and movement than its skill and performance, then of course they’re going to welcome any rule change that makes getting a title easier.  Since the working aspect of the dog isn’t their main focus, who can blame them for that? In the three decades I’ve been involved in the sport, this hasn’t changed. Conformation people want now what they wanted back then. If anything, I think I’ve seen an increase in the working ability of show dogs over the years, which is what I would like to see working dog people continue to support.


On the other hand, however, the mentality of most Schutzhund people has changed drastically in the last thirty years.  What they want today is totally different than it used to be. Today, the number one concern of most of my working dog friends is points. That’s the main focus; how can I get another point? They are willing to abandon all the fundamentals of Schutzhund just to get a higher score. Thirty years ago, no one would have traded their real protection dog for a dog that could simply win a trial. If a dog wasn’t serious, nobody cared about the score it got anyways. But these days the score is all anyone cares about.


The point is that if we are to be the champions of the working dog, we have to take responsibility for the evolution our sport is undergoing.  Its people like us, the people who are reading these articles, that are most concerned about the direction the sport is headed in. We have the most to lose here. So why not stand up and take charge while we still have the chance?
~Brian Harvey

What do you think?

14 thoughts on “End of Schutzhund?

  1. I love reading perspective from those that have been involved in the sport as long as you. Though I love sport, and it’s the framework for some of the training I do – I prefer to focus on making great protection dogs rather than competition dogs. We are completely aligned on that. Love the blog by the way!

  2. Very well said with the heart and soul that is so sorely needed in today’s working dog sports. People have embraced form first with function a dubious second. The sport should and must showcase a fully functioning real world dog , not a dog that will not come unless on a training field or only for a ball and clicker…not a dog that will not defend unless the attacker has a sleeve and will then play fetch with the sleeve…. I want to have a proud, patently visible
    and obvious working partnership
    with my dog without the need to to pull out his scorebook as the only visible evidence of his ability

  3. Amen Brian! Just like everything in this country or even in Europe I am sure. If we continue to let “Political Correctness” rule us we lose! Score shouldn’t be the most important in my humble opinion, but the strength and courage of a dog. We will ruin the breed if people stop testing what they are breeding.
    Although ours are not all titled we do things to test and make sure they aren’t fearful, as well as overall health and intelligence.
    Keep up the same great work you have always done. You have never hurt a dog in your work that I have seen or heard of. You have always been able to read dogs well! Do not give in! Great article.

    1. I find some of these comments contradictory. I am in the SPORT OF SCUTZHUND. I know how many years of training it takes to get on the trial field and get titles. People who say you dont need to be in the sport to prove whether you dog has courage or not are similar to those who hav backyard champions.
      We hav to hav some test to affirm this. Hence the scorebook.

  4. The SV should have taken a hard look at their breeding program and aspirations for the breed when the Bundespolizie publicly walked away from the DPO program.

    Brian, in our day if your dog ran from the helper once, that was the end of the dog’s working career. Everyone in the region quickly heard about it. Now we are treated to the sight of dogs running at the National Championship.

    The worst rule change – the beginning of the end – came when the attack on handler out of the blind was eliminated from SchH1. This was a test that quickly washed out the weak dogs and we never had to look at them again.

    We can not let others define our sport and our dogs’ temperaments for us. We can not train in secret because our dogs have hardness, are serious, and need firm corrections.

    I support what Jim has to say. More of us need to, or find another sport.

  5. Great article Brian, I myself am new to IPO and I understand a dog needs to be of strong character to deal with the pressure of IPO so when certain elements are been removed surely common sense will tell you the weaker dogs are going to thrive and this cant be good seeing as IPO is fundamentally a breed test and tests a dogs courage, is this a done deal can pressure not be put on the FCI before it comes into practice ?

  6. I too,have been in the sport for 30 years. Although in all that time I have never had a truly good dog…but that aside. Like Mr. Harvey alludes to ,back in the day we didn’t give a rats rear end about points and loved to see a dog on the verge of being out of control in the bitework..not dangerous, just a little wild.
    10 point for courage and hardness, 80 in protection suited a lot of us just fine. I ‘ve seen more than one judge back then give a dog 80, pronounced or 10 when the dog was clearly lacking in the out and rebit a couple of times…or so. 🙂 They would say that the dog has such good fighting drive they cannot fail it..You don’t see that anymore..I guess you can’t if 3 rebites fails you.

  7. What is schutzhund’s rally cry?

    The Schutzhund USA website says, “protecting and preserving the German Shepherd Dog’s working heritage through Schutzhund training. Schutzhund is a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more fulfilled and happier companions to their owners.”

    Fulfilled is defined as “satisfied or happy because of fully developing one’s abilities or character.” (

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