Schutzhund is a German word that means “protection dog” and was developed in Germany as a breed suitability test in the early 1900’s. This evaluation determined if the dog displayed the appropriate characteristics of a working German Shepherd. Today, Schutzhund has evolved into a sport were dogs compete in a very demanding exam.
This exam is now called IGP. Over the years, the name has been: Schutzhund, IPO, and now IGP. This exam is very demanding and not all dogs can pass. The IGP evaluation consists of three phases: Tracking, Obedience, and Protection.
Contrary to what many say, the exam of IGP is still difficult even though it has changed over time. Yes, it is a sport but can still demonstrate the necessary traits owners and breeders are looking for in their dogs. The purpose is still there: to identify dogs that have or do not have character traits.
Some of those character traits are:
- Physical Strength
- Desire to work
- Relationship with the handler
IGP also evaluates for balance, temperament, and control. The goal is to see the character through training and then in designed stress. These designed stressful situations are: weather, locations, environment, and other handlers and dogs. For example, the competition is not canceled in rain, the trial is held. And all trials are held outdoors. This is an outdoors sport where inclement weather can change at any moment. This can be insightful to breeders to see what a dog “is made of” under designed stress.
The tracking phases tests scenting, mental soundness, obedience, and endurance. The track is laid in a field by a track layer (for IGP1 the handler lays track) and small articles are placed on the track. Time is kept for aging (depending on the track) by the judge and the dog and handler work the track. The dog must scent and follow the laid track and then indicate the placed articles. Scoring is based on how intense or intent on the track, article indication, etc. Each title has their own length, articles number, and age of track.
Obedience is worked in handler and dog pairings based on entries. One dog is placed in a long down position while the other pair works and then they switch. The obedience routine is multiple heeling exercises such as: the heeling pattern, retrieves, and send-out. Overall, the dog must demonstrate power, enthusiasm, and precision during this routine. This might sound easy, but then add in control, makes for a difficult routine.
The protection phase has a person on the field called the “helper”. The helper’s responsibility is to test the dog under the designed exercises for the judge to evaluate. There is lots of safe equipment used for the dog and person. Again, this program is about control and precision. Not violence or biting as many outside the sport tend to misunderstand. The dog searches the blinds, guards the helper once located, and must be recalled. Then a variety of exercises that are similar to police work and transporting are completed. Like in obedience, the dog must demonstrate power, enthusiasm, precision, and control.