Schutzhund/IGP Training

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About Schutzhund/IGP Training

The word Schutzhund means “protection dog”, and it refers to a training method that was developed in early 20th-century Germany as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd. Schutzhund has since evolved and been modified over the years and is now referred to as IGP. It is an intense multi-phase dog sport designed to demonstrate a dog’s workability and versatility. Most dog breeds were actually originally developed for a working purpose, such as herding and farm work, scent work and tracking, hunting, estate and livestock guarding, pest control, military and police use, and more. 

The purpose of IGP is therefore to ensure that the pedigree of the German Shepherd breed, specifically, is maintained and improved to ensure that this breed never loses the ability to work as it was originally designed. The German Shepherd is a very intelligent, driven, loyal, powerful, and versatile breed. IGP is a sport that utilizes these marvelous qualities and demonstrates just how incredible it is to watch them in action. 

The sport has gained a wide following and is actively competed with several other breeds such as Malinois, Cane Corsos, Dobermans, Dutch Shepherds, and more! IGP has three main phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. There are also four stages, or “titles”, that get increasingly more difficult the further a dog advances. Additionally, there are various levels of training trials that are judged on a local and world level. 

This sport is designed for the most elite dogs and  owners, excited to delve into IGP. To train and compete at a high level requires years of training, with always something new to learn! There is always a behavior to fine tune, speed up, and develop, which is the reason David loves this sport so much. It is a true testament to an owner’s dedication to training and the passion they share with their dog. Attached below is a link to the United Schutzhund Clubs of America website, the official regulating organization, where you can find more detailed information about the history, rules, and scoring of IGP training.

Schutzhund Training | United Schutzhund Clubs of America (


Tracking requires a lot of precision and patience. This phase requires a dog to use its nose to follow a particular trail that someone has taken. The dog must then indicate when they have found articles, objects containing human scent, by lying down and waiting for the his owner to return to the dog and pick up the articles. The dog can even distinguish the smell of disturbed grass or dirt from undisturbed grass and dirt; he can actually smell where you stepped! The created track will get increasingly more difficult with more paces, more articles, more turns, and more difficult terrain and conditions. This illustrates the power of the dog’s nose, as well as his incredible precision and drive.


This phase is arguably the most important, because every other phase depends on obedience. This exercise includes some focused heeling, both on and off leash. It also includes behaviors such as sits, downs, stands in motion, recall, retrieves, and more. The dog needs to show power, precision, and above all, control. A powerful dog without control is like a racecar on mini-van tires. The beautiful part of this sport, and phase in particular, is that it is also a temperament test. A judge wants to see a confident and friendly dog who has an extreme eagerness to work. A judge can actually disqualify IGP competitor’s if a dog comes onto the field showing extreme anxiousness, fear, or unhappiness. This means that an owner cannot succeed in this sport if their dog does not enjoy the work, or if someone trains with only force and pressure. This phase truly demonstrates the Intensity, excitement, power, grace, control, and an undeniable connection between handler and dog.


Protection is David’s favorite phase, and he believes it is also the most misunderstood. Most of the time dogs trained in protection are thought to be an aggressive or mean dog, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Protection is actually taught through play and prey drive – a dog’s natural desire to chase something that moves. The dog learns that when he barks, the toy moves, and if he keeps barking, he will eventually get the toy. This starts as a cute puppy chasing a rag and naturally progresses to a tug, pillow, and eventually a sleeve of a trained helper. This practice will not make a dog more aggressive when taught properly. In fact, David’s dog Drax is an incredibly friendly dog who thrives in protection. This phase involves a dog searching around blinds on the owner’s command, until the dog finds the “helper” (person wearing the sleeve). The dog then proceeds to bark continuously at the helper while maintaining a close distance. A dog may bark anywhere from 40-100+ times, depending on the dogs natural rhythm. The owner will then call the dog back into the heel position while the helper walks away. There are then a series of exercises such as escapes, transports, and various bites. This phase  demonstrates how intense and powerful these dogs can be, while the owner maintains absolute control.