Schutzhund and Service Dogs? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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Schutzhund and Service Dogs?

Can a self-trained service dog also participate in schutzhund? Obviously this question assumes the dog is 100% sound for both tasks and also assumes that schutzhund would not be undertaken as a sport, nor would it be the primary goal. Is this a liability concern? Is this a training concern? This would be for a physical assistance dog (body/mobility support, picking up objects, carrying objects, etc).

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 03:56 PM
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That is a very good question.

I believe that a dog can be trained to do several things, tell the difference between them, and be good at all of them. For example, my Ronja is a Therapy Dog and knows that when her bandana goes on, we're going visiting. She also knows that when I bring out the green harness, we're going to do bite work and she gets really excited and is ready to work. The fact that she has been trained to bite a sleeve on command does not keep her from being a great Therapy Dog, nor does it make her a liability as a Therapy Dog, especially as she knows the difference in how she's dressed (bandana for visits, harness for bite work).

That said, I think ours is a very different situation from that of a Service Dog. A Service Dog isn't on duty only for a few hours, like my Therapy Dog is, but for most of the day when wearing its vest or harness. That is a lot to ask of any dog - to focus and perform all day long for their disabled handler.

I don't think it would be confusing to the dog to also train in Schutzhund, BUT I think it's an awful lot to ask of any dog because the Service Dog work is so involved and requires so much focus on commitment, and so is Schutzhund. I think it would really tax a dog to have to do both.

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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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BUT I think it's an awful lot to ask of any dog because the Service Dog work is so involved and requires so much focus on commitment, and so is Schutzhund. I think it would really tax a dog to have to do both.
I think so too, but I wonder if that would depend on what the service dog is expected to do and also how the training in schutzhund is accomplished and also if the dog finds all phases enjoyable. This would not be a situation where the dog would be titled at 24 months of age, pushed for every possible point, and done because it must be done. Of course remembering that the dog's first task is to be a service dog which means schutzhund ends if it affects the first line of duty. I suppose the same question can be asked of agility or rally, except there is a bit less bitework in those and safer in the eyes of John Q Legal.

I know some therapy dog organizations prohibit anything with bitework which is why I ask. If a problem arises with a working service dog and it comes to be that the handler and dog train in schutzhund, could there be legal issues?

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 04:22 PM
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I believe it's the Delta Society that does now allow dogs with any kind of bite training to register through them as Therapy Dogs, even if the dog would otherwise pass the test with flying colors. Personally, I think a dog can be good at a sport - including a protection sport - and still make a good Therapy Dog.

Of course, it's possible that I am a bit biased on that point, considering my Ronja's training and background. When I got her, I had no idea that she had ever been trained to do any kind of bite work - it wasn't until I got a hold of the ACO's who seized her from her previous home that I got some level of information about her previous training. We have been keeping up with her bite work and obedience because she very, very much enjoys both, but I honestly could not imagine a better Therapy Dog than her. Heck, she LOVES to be HUGGED by complete strangers. As in, full body HUG. I have never had another dog who did more than tolerate a hug, but Ronja will actually "ask" for them.

AS far as legal issues go with Service Dogs trained also in Schutzhund - someone with a legal background would have to answer that. I honestly wouldn't know.

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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Good info, Chris, and Ronja's reaction is pretty much how I would envision a TRUE GSD- able to do it all. Bitework and therapy work or schutzhund and service work, I think that is a very good test of good nerves and a clear head.

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I have never had another dog who did more than tolerate a hug, but Ronja will actually "ask" for them.
What a sweetheart!

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-10-2010, 09:07 PM
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Ronja's reaction is pretty much how I would envision a TRUE GSD- able to do it all.
I agree, that's what a true GSD should be - able to do a big variety of things and able to do all or most of them well. To avoid confusion on this thread, though, I need to point out that my Ronja is a Malinois, not a German Shepherd.

We use Ronja for public demos when we do our reenactments / living history events and people are impressed by how she goes from being friendly and pet-able to working mode.

We do a demo where we walk her around for people to pet, then put her in the harness and give the "watch him!" command as DH goes to put on the sleeve. Then she gets to get her bite (he will run and she will go after him), he will walk her back toward the crowd as she hangs on to the sleeve, and I will have her "out", take off the harness (and have DH put the sleeve away), and walk her back around for people to pet.

Of course, this is done AFTER we give a long talk about how she is a special dog because she is now a Therapy Dog and how people should NEVER approach a working police or military dog or attempt to pet them because they will be (and are expected to be) protective of their handler, vehicle, etc.

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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-11-2010, 04:56 PM
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Training is one thing. Temperament is something else entirely. In a litter, there are confident high drive dogs that are usually ideal for ScH, and there are the dogs that are a bit softer, with lower drives, especially those who adore people and are willing to tolerate A LOT from humans. These are better candidates for SD work.

Excellent breeders, evaluators for assistance dog programs, service dog trainers and those of us who have done self-training for a while know that you MAY be able to make a service dog out of a high drive dog, but he's probably not going to thrive in that situation. You may be able to push a softer dog in ScH, but he likely won't thrive either.

When I say "soft," I don't mean a dog with bad nerves either. My GSD pup has nerves of steel. He is smart, has a good work ethic, and is very trainable. But he doesn't have that great drive that makes an amazing ScH dog. Many of his littermates do. They showed it very early, and they're doing good work already. The breeder, with assistance of others who are knowledgeable, helped us select THIS puppy because he would THRIVE as a service dog. And he is thriving. He loves the work.

Do I sometimes wish he had stronger specific drives? Yes. For example, when it comes to training certain tasks, crazy ball drive would be helpful. But my experience is that as helpful as those drives can be on occasion, they work against us and our training far more often.

Yesterday, we got out of the car; a squirrel ran by about 5 feet away. Celo turned quickly toward it, and I told him, "Nope." And he walked with me in the opposite direction, satisfied that he had better things to do. He's only 8 months old. That was a bit of training and a lot of temperament at work.

I suppose that you can have a dog that is a moderately good ScH dog and a moderately good service dog. And actually, that's sort of what the GSD was bred to be -- rather good in a lot of things. . It takes some work (and skilled breeding) to find GSDs that are truly excellent at a particular job.

IMO, if you want a dog that's great at both, you'll almost never find it. K9 units, ScH dogs, PPD dogs... they just require stronger drives than what an SD does.

A therapy dog like Ronja, I can understand. Ronja has a job to do for a couple hours, and then goes home. But as Chris astutely pointed out, a SD is 'on' most of the time, but much of the work is tedious -- standing around while the handler shops for clothes at the mall, lying at the airport and on an aircraft for hours, sitting at a doctor’s office while people come and go, going to work or school on a daily basis, etc. All of these situations have lots of unknown factors... children, strangers, unusual noises. We have to train SDs not just to tolerate these (which most ScH dogs will do easily), but to even avoid being too alert to what's going on around them, because they have to attend to their handler. (Aware is what we want, but alert can be counterproductive).

Different jobs require different temperaments. Different jobs require that we emphasize different skills in training. SD GSDs aren't "less than" ScH GSDs. I think they have temperament and skill sets that higher drive dogs often don't have. Some of us are athletes and some of us are doctors... just different skill sets.

I'm sure there are a few dogs -- in the hands of talented experienced handlers -- who can do both very well. And I'd love to meet them, especially the trainers, from whom I'm sure I could learn a lot. But I think these gifted individuals are rare.

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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-11-2010, 08:06 PM
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I think that would be a LOT to ask of a single dog.

Considering how vital the SD is to its owner, I would worry about doing SchH and injury. I'm not saying injury is common in SchH, but it *does* happen, and while a SchH competitor can wait it out or retire the dog and work a different dog, the disabled owner would be without a dog that performs tasks necessary for normal daily life.

Also I agree with the others about the temperament and drive being different. Not better or worse, but different. I think that many dogs can go either way as long as they are mentally sound and stable dogs, but the owners are encouraging different traits in the dogs, some that might conflict what is best for SD work vs. SchH.
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-11-2010, 10:52 PM
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I'm going to warn you way ahead of time that this very topic got blown up in a thread of mine a while ago. I suggest holding back and biting your tongue with some of the members here and what they will say.

Anyhow, I've come to the realization that I can only choose one or the other. I chose to do Shutzhund since Titon's owner has encouraged me to do so since Titon is one of the best puppies (German Shepherd) that he's had in his classes for a while now. He thinks Titon would do fantastic. (Titon's dad is a National SchH3 Champion from Czech.). Must be something in his blood that gives him that awesome drive.

As for the service part of Titon, I chose to do very BASIC things at home that he can help my wife and I with. Doorbell, baby crying, oven timer, phone ringing, etc. This in no way will allow him to become a certified service dog by any means.

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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 02-12-2010, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by TitonsDad View Post
I'm going to warn you way ahead of time that this very topic got blown up in a thread of mine a while ago. I suggest holding back and biting your tongue with some of the members here and what they will say.

Anyhow, I've come to the realization that I can only choose one or the other. I chose to do Shutzhund since Titon's owner has encouraged me to do so since Titon is one of the best puppies (German Shepherd) that he's had in his classes for a while now. He thinks Titon would do fantastic. (Titon's dad is a National SchH3 Champion from Czech.). Must be something in his blood that gives him that awesome drive.

As for the service part of Titon, I chose to do very BASIC things at home that he can help my wife and I with. Doorbell, baby crying, oven timer, phone ringing, etc. This in no way will allow him to become a certified service dog by any means.

-E
I haven't a clue where the warnings are coming from, so I won't comment on those.

As for lines and breeding, it's not about pedigree. My GSD SDIT has the pedigree and then some: Cullen vom Haus Mansfield pedigree information - German shepherd dog

It's about temperament. COULD my dog be a ScH dog? I'm sure he could, if you look at his pedigree alone. But it's about looking at the puppies in the litter and who they are as little creatures. What is best for them? In what jobs would they thrive? You refer to Titon's owner (I'm not sure who you are then?)... but clearly he seems to understand what's best for Titon. If he's a high drive dog, then ScH may a good match for him. We have to look at the whole picture.

That's what I was trying to explain to Diana. She understands the GSD soul very well. We can train a GSD to do a lot, but will he thrive in that role? Shouldn't we pick the dog that is best suited for the job we need him for, if we prefer one job over another? If we want a specific dog, then is it best that we choose the job that is best for him rather than trying to push a square peg into a round hole?

Or perhaps, is it better that we actually perhaps consider getting two dogs -- one for each job? Depending what work the SD needs to do, it may be preferable. Depending on the family's budget, this may be possible, especially if the SD is obtained as an adult (whose health and temperament are well established).

And just for clarification, there is no such thing as a "certified" service dog.

Service dog agencies may (or may not) issue their own documentation.

But there is no official certification for service dogs. An SD should pass a Public Access Test administered by a disinterested (or at least, objective) third party, but even this doesn't happen as often as it should. Sometimes, it's because the self-trainer lives in a remote area and can't find anyone to administer it. Sometimes, it's because the self-trainer isn't aware that this test is an option (it's a nice protection for the PWD and the public to know that the dog is truly sound). Sometimes, it's because the dog almost certainly wouldn't pass. And surely, there are likely a plethora of other reasons as well. It's not mandatory, after all.

The PAT is the MINIMUM an SD should be able to do for public access. This doesn't include task work.



IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access

Public Access Test - Assistance Dogs International

ADI's webpage lists additional minimal standards based on the type of work (tasks) the dog does (listed in column on left of page):

Assistance Dog In Public Training Standards - Assistance Dogs International

But that's as close as it gets to certification on a national level. Some municipalities may have their own requirements.

Anyhow, no arguments, no conflicts (this section of the board doesn't usually lead itself to arguments anyhow .... ). Just my opinion.

Last edited by 3K9Mom; 02-12-2010 at 06:30 PM.
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