Schutzhund Part 1 – A Guest Blog From Janethegreat

The First Essential Scary Truth

Today’s guest blog is from janethegreat.  This is first in a series of posts about her involvement in a century old sport called Schutzhund (Protection dog).  Unlike extreme sports, as seen on ESPN, which allow adrenaline junkies a public fix, Schutzhund combines precision, leadership and patience.

Janethegreat explains it far better than I can.  So dear reader, enjoy!

I never thought things would get this far, but they did. It’s an old story: I recently moved to a new area, didn’t know anyone, etc. I was looking for friends to hang out with and have some good times. I fell in with a certain crowd and now – especially on weekends – I’m not even home to eat breakfast with my husband and son. But I don’t think I really have a problem because I could stop whenever I want… Heroin? Booze? Salvia? No, the monkey-on-my-back is Schutzhund. But it’s not illegal and you certainly won’t see Miley Cyrus smoking it in a TMZ video. It’s a dog sport, and in 8 short months I am its bitch.

Schutzhund is German for “protection dog”. It originated as an evaluation program in the early 1900’s to test German Shepherd dogs for working ability and breeding potential. In simple terms, it is a triathlon of dog sports: tracking, obedience, and protection. Schutzhund has since evolved into a worldwide dog sport that includes a variety of breeds such as the Belgian Malinois, Doberman, Rottweiler, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, American Bull Dog, and Bouvier de Flanders.

I’d gotten more interested in dog training when we got a Boxer in 2009 and was looking to train beyond basic obedience. When I went to the first training session with my current Schutzhund club, I was like a virgin on prom night – scared, excited, and trying desperately to look as cool as I possibly could.  I’d heard that Schutzhund people could be bristly to newcomers, especially if they didn’t have a German Shepherd or Malinois – the two dominant breeds in the sport. But there I went with my re-homed, non-working bred Boxer! And happily everyone was really encouraging and positive. They took me under their wing and began teaching me basic principles. I was also lucky in that they work ‘new-school’ motivational techniques (lots of food, play, handler/dog communication) and use few corrections with prong and shock collars. There certainly is a place for those tools, but only when refining a fully trained behavior or when the handler is physically remote.

So now I’m officially addicted to it. I train at least twice/week with my dog. I’ve never been able to summon the energy to wake up early and hit the gym, but somehow I haul myself out of bed every Saturday (sometimes at 5 a.m.) so that I can track when dew is still on the grass. I hate driving but travel an hour each way to our training field on the weekend. I am lucky to have a great husband who understands that on Saturdays I am frequently gone from early morning to early afternoon. It’s not a quickly mastered sport and the majority of dogs train for 2 or 3 years before ever getting to the most basic level of competition. The bond with my dog is immensely gratifying and it’s amazing to see how quickly that grows when you train regularly. Small successes, like getting an off-lead heel or doing a good track, are the things that keep me going from week to week.

I’ve also developed a penchant for dog related accessories – no, not cutesy T-shirts – but leashes, a training vest with big pockets for bait and toys, and a variety of tugs, wooden dumbbells, and so forth. I feel like the Imelda Marcos of dog stuff. One of my major newbie mistakes was leaving crumbs of bait in my vest pocket and hanging on the coat tree while I picked up my son from school. I came home to find my new $70 vest on the floor with a huge hole where my dog had chewed the pocket off.  Seventy bucks – more than I spent on my own winter coat! Luckily I have a nice tailor nearby and for $20 he made me a new pocket. Granted it doesn’t match the vest, but thankfully dog sport is not haute couture.




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