The Art of Picking a Puppy for Schutzhund Training

Jun 23 07:38 2009 Joseph M. Sabol Print This Article

Schutzhund training is very intense and specialized. How do you know from looking at a litter of puppies, which one will do well in Schutzhund?

For a working dog to earn a prestigious Schutzhund title,Guest Posting he must excel in obedience, tracking and protection. So, how can you determine the ability of a playful, young puppy for such a demanding specialty?

If for example, you have a litter of Doberman puppies, you notice as they grow from week to week, that they have different personalities and positions in the group. The bigger pups get to the food dish first. Some like to instigate play fighting and some are "barkers". Some puppies are shy and some are curious to explore. Observing their play behaviors is good way to start assessing the pups potential for Schutzhund training.

There is an aptitude test that is available to use as a guideline for testing puppies. It scores specific criteria based on a scale of 1 to 6. Even before testing a puppy, it is important to examine his physical structure because physical soundness is necessary for the rigorous training.

When a puppy is around 8 weeks old, testing can begin. The first test is for Social Attraction. It indicates confidence or dependence. The tester moves away from the pup and kneels down, then calls the puppy to him. The tester is looking for the puppy to come to him readily, tail up and may even paw and lick at the testers hands.

The next test is Following Attraction. If the tester walks away from the puppy, and the puppy does not follow, it shows a degree of independence. The puppy should follow, tail up and may even get underfoot. This shows interest in the tester and a lack of fear.

Restraint shows the degree of dominant or submissive tendencies. The handler should kneel down and gently roll the puppy on his back and hold him for 30 seconds. No struggle and avoiding eye contact shows the pup to be too submissive for Schutzhund training. A better result would be for the puppy to settle, then struggle a bit, then settle again with some eye contact.

Social Dominance can be shown by gently rubbing the puppy from head to toe while crouched beside him. He may try to dominate by jumping and nipping. A less desirable response would be the puppy rolling over and licking the hand of the tester.

For Schutzhund trials, a working dog must be accepting of dominance by his handler while in a position of no control. To test a puppy for this characteristic, bend down and cradle the puppy under his belly with fingers interlaced. Lift him just off the ground and hold him for 30 seconds. This test is called Elevation Dominance. A potential problem result would be if the pup struggles fiercely, bites or growls at the handler. He should be able to relax.

A Retrieving test demonstrates the willingness of the puppy to work with a human. There is a high correlation between the ability to retrieve and successful guide dog, obedience and field trial dogs

Touch Sensitivity can be evaluated by taking the webbing on one front paw between finger and thumb and pressing gently. While squeezing the toe, count slowly. Stop as soon as the puppy shows discomfort. A higher count shows a lesser degree of sensitivity to touch.

It is possible to determine the Sound Sensitivity of a pup by standing a few feet away and hitting a metal pan with a big metal spoon. If the puppy looks, locates the sound and walks toward it to investigate, the puppy will not be jumpy or easily startled.

A final test is a Sight Sensitivity test which demonstrates the degree of intelligent response to a new or unfamiliar object. A string is tied to a large towel and yanked across the floor a few feet in front of the puppy. Some puppies will attack and bite the towel and some will look curiously and investigate. A pup that barks and tail tucks or runs away will not be a good candidate for Schutzhund.

This is a general overview of the criteria used to evaluate working breed puppies for Schutzhund training. There is really no perfect score as each handler will have his own preferences in what he wants in a puppy and what characteristics are important to him.

An important factor not scored by a test is a good connection between puppy and handler. A trusting relationship between the two is crucial because of the intense training required to achieve a working title at all levels. A trusting relationship also insures the puppy will want to please his handler so they will be able to work well together toward the same goal. Schutzhund training is a long term commitment between dog and handler to achieve excellence.

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Joseph M. Sabol
Joseph M. Sabol

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