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Dog Obedience and Training

    The bring front portion of the retrieve exersise.

Obedience of the Schutzhund Program


1. In earlier days obedience was a matter of learning by giving corrections or forcing the dogs to learn. Rewards were only given by the voice (Praise). These dogs were also not well socialized and the owner kept the puppy at home until about 10 months of age. Then they were brought to the training club where it was not preferred for a stranger to touch the dog. The training began at about 12 months because of the high pressure during the training sessions. The end result was a correct but submissive working dog. These dogs had no pleasure doing their work because of the fear of doing something wrong and the correction after. As long as they were "on the line" they worked relatively fast, but once released or from a distance of the owner, much slower. The total image was a submissive dog, so the judges decided to give more points to a happy looking dog. This led to finding alternatives in the education.

2. About 12 years ago a younger generation of dog trainers invented a whole new method. The puppies were raised as social as possible, playing with strangers, accept food from strangers, etc....even the training began at about 3 months in place of one year. Because the learning process was based on "play and learn" they had no pressure of forcing anymore. These little dogs learned their exercises during "play time" and got a reward after each good deed. This younger generation of trainers saw that it was necessary to give a lot of stimulation and as little as possible of corrections. The whole system was based on "corrections and rewards" and the end result was a fast dog who liked his program with a minimum of submissiveness.

3. The last two years there has been a new method developed which is called the "positive learning method". This way of training was invented by American dolphin trainers. It is based on each dog learns himself without any sign of pressure from the owner. There are no corrections made by the trainer. An example is when a puppy sits down by himself, the owner gives the command "sitz (sit)" and gives him a reward. The same as with lay down, the command "platz (drop)" is given and a reward. After a short time the youngster understands the relation with sit down and the word "sitz" which is followed by something to eat. Another example is when a dog is not looking at his trainer during "fuss (heel)" the trainer ignores him. The moment the dog looks to him a reward follows immediately.

The system of "positive learning" is most of the time used together with a little "click maker" (a construction of plastic and steel blade the size of a match box). When you push with the thumb on the steel blade a unique click sound is made. Once a dog knows what a reward (a piece of food or a ball) is, the click sound is built in. Just before the reward comes, the dog hears a "click", so after several times the dog is responding to the click, and after each good exercise, or part of the exercise, the click warns of the reward. This method seems to find more and more friends, but a lot of people stay skeptical because of the longer learning period. The "positive way" takes more time than the two other methods, but you have a guarantee of a very vast and always attentive friend who is never submissive. When this way of training is superior, the results must be seen in the next years on the trial fields all over Belgium.

My way:

I believe wholly in a mix of the "correction and reward method" and the "positive learning method".

But be careful. There is a very important point in obedience training which is often forgotten; dog and owner have to be a real team; the "contact" of both is of very big importance! This "contact" is the base of the whole training!

When a dog is not attentive or does not adore his owner there is no good result possible. So the first and most important thing a puppy has to learn is the "attention exercise". You can start with a youngster of 12 weeks, make sure he is hungry. You decide to search for a unique noise that you can make with your mouth. A special noise with your lips or a clicking or thrilling with the tongue. Something that the puppy never hears from another person or thing. This is between you and your dog. First you have to teach him to react on this. You make your "sound" and when the youngster is looking, you give him a reward (flesh bit or something he likes to eat). The next step is to let him look to you when he is distracted (when smelling or something) once you have this first contact you have to build up the "noise reward" method. When you go walking with your puppy you ask for his attention from time to time and always give him his reward. Next step is to teach him to play with a ball or a small biting roll. We use a rubber ball which is not hollow and contains a rope of about 30cm. Do not use the ball without the rope as it is not possible to pull or play with this (Fig F).

Fig F

When we start to play with the ball we always train with a long line hanging on the dogs chain. (A line of about 5m with no knots at the end.) We make our "sound" during showing him the ball and pull the ball away several times to let him, in high prey drive, take his toy (while you are keeping the end of the rope tight and pull the ball to play). When he is pulling hard, you give him the ball but you hold his line at a distance and then run backwards and call him. Do not let him make circles with his toy or retrieve object. Always hold the end of the line and go backwards when calling him. Next step is to learn the "apport" exercise at playing. You have the ball in your right hand and making your "sound". When the dog is really longing to take his ball, you throw it away and 1et the dog take it as soon as possible. The moment he takes the toy you pull on the line and run backwards and call him. To make the dog release the ball you never pull it out of his mouth but you make a triumph tour running with him at your left side, when you stop you lift the dog (with your left hand in his chain) with the forelegs off the ground, the ball will fall out after a time and at this moment you say "aus (out)". The ball is lying on the ground and you move it teasing a little bit more but don't let your dog retake it at this moment. You can take the ball again in your right hand and give the command "fuss", to teach him in full prey-drive the "marching on the line". In the beginning you cannot train too long because when you see the youngster's attention slowing down it is already too late. In "following on the line" you don't have to throw the ball away (this costs too much condition) but you give him the toy when he is correctly following. Make sure that he is always carrying a long line, even with a SchH I or SchH III dog ! It will take us too long to write on paper the whole system, but the base is the most important. The following "fuss" and the retrieve "apport" exercises have to be perfect before beginning with the "sitz" or "platz"!

Take your time and always train "step to step"; one exercise at a time.

Copyright by Guy Verschatse



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