Is Schutzhund right for my dog & me? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Alabama
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Is Schutzhund right for my dog & me?

I’ve been thinking about joining the local club for a few months now. This past weekend the club had a trial. I thought it would be a great way to spend a day with my daughter and Ava. I also thought it was an opportunity to meet some of the members, see their dogs in action and get a feeling for culture of the club. I asked for permission to bring Ava and she was welcomed. This was the first trial I ever attended and it was a great day with good people.

I am concerned though… I don’t want to join a club and quit because it’s not right for me or my dog is not right for the work. I am really more concerned about me and want a better understanding of what I’d be getting myself into. Once I commit to something, I generally stay committed but I also have a solid understanding of what’s to be expected beforehand. I know there are many members here doing Schutzhund or have in the past. So, I am hoping some of you can challenge me with some things that have led to other people or dogs failing, quitting etc. Please, put me (and my dog) through a difficult interview if you will.

I wrote about Ava below and realized how long it is and made a short version for those that hate long posts.

About Ava (short version)
· 10 month old from WGSL, pedigree in sig
· Heavily socialized (dogs, people, environments), friendly but aloof, loves kids
· No resource guarding
· No dominate or aggressive behaviors, but plays rough and will stand up for herself
· Appears to have high thresholds, except for prey drive
· No fear of noises – guns, thunder etc.
· High ball / prey drive
· Very quick recoveries from surprises, corrections
· Very confident and curious
· Not fearless – fear brings out cautiousness but she investigates scary things
· No skittish or submissive behavior since 4 to 5 months old (only a few times then)
· Low food drive, moderate “willingness to please” levels, does not like over the top praise
· Smart, thoughtful dog
· I have done all her training, no classes. Knows basic commands.

About Ava (long version)
She’s a 10 month old from WGSL, pedigree in sig. We got her at 13 wks. We have 4 kids from 7 to 14 that are very active and social. We have multiple kids and their parent to the house almost every day – and we have an open door policy, most just walk right in. Hardly a day goes by that Ava does not go somewhere with me or the family – pet store, Lowes, Tractor Supply, C-store, ball game, festival, park etc.

She is aloof with unknown adults. She will keep her ears up and accept a quick pat of the head from a stranger without really acknowledging them and go about her business. She’ll drop her ears to greet a known adult for 5 to 10 seconds, and then go about her business. Any kid under 10 is greeted with ears down and she’ll wash their face.

I worked hard with the kids when Ava was young to build her trust and treat her with respect. Nothing was ever taken away without her getting something better in return. I also had many kids from outside the family from 3 to 15 years old help with this. I encouraged non-intrusive contact when she was eating, sleeping, chewing on a bone etc. Through conditioning or genetics she has displayed zero resource guarding.

She seems to have high thresholds primarily observed with interactions with other dogs. She has some dominate/aggressive buddies and they play ROUGH. In the past couple months Ava has clearly stepped out of play mode a couple times to issue a FIRM correction that things were getting too rough or her buddy crossed the line with her. The offending dogs froze and backed up and Ava immediately recovered back into play mode. She has encountered a few non-aggressive but clearly dominate dogs trying to push her around at the dog park. She really just ignored them, never showed any submissive behavior and just went about her business.

In the spring and summer we had some CRAZY thunderstorms here. As the storms were approaching we would go outside to play ball or train. The thunder, lightning and wind gusts had no effect on her. I have a picture of her sleeping on her back oblivious while the tornados were rolling through here. A few months ago we were at a friend’s cabin. I fired my 45 (very loud gun) with Ava about 30 feet away, she did not flinch a bit, but ran to me. No fear, just curiosity. She was in the garage with me last week while I was making her a perch. While cutting the first board with a circular saw, she calmly approached and put her nose on the saw when I was halfway through the first board. The vacuum drives her crazy though – lots of front end bouncing, high pitched barks, fast approaches and retreats.

Prey drive is high. She’ll play ball all day. We live on a small lake and have seen just about every type of common wild animal in AL in our yard at one time or another, except alligator. They all drive her crazy.

She will aggressively play / tug but has shown no aggression towards people or dogs other than what was mentioned above. Zero protective behavior has been displayed either, but she’s never been exposed to any real or perceived threat (probably still too young anyway). If she’s up when the doorbell rings she will quietly prance to the door to see who it is. If she’s asleep when it rings, she’ll give a low woof or two and go see who it is. She’s never barked at anyone standing on the other side of the door (glass panes).

I’ve always thought she was a confident pup. With new stuff she has been cautious on occasion, but nothing has ever caused her to back away, cower or hide behind me. A local pet store has an employee with a 2 yo male GSD Ava loves. I stop in for Ava to visit whenever I see her car and know she’s there. Going into this store is one of the few times she pulls with excitement. We walked in, she rushed around the corner expecting to see her boyfriend and ran smack into the chest of a MONSTER Great Dane – she took it in stride, did not back up and she has a new buddy. I was as surprised as she was and glad I didn’t react by pulling her back.

At the trial we attended she stayed alert and excited the entire time. All the dogs and open space amped her up, lots of quiet whines, she was dying to meet, greet, play and run. But, she contained herself. No pulling or lunging to get to anything, even while dancing with excitement at times. My 7 yo was able to walk her and keep control. A member offered to handle her while I ate lunch, she did great. At the trial I got many compliments on her confidence and behavior - much more than her looks, which was nice.

Food is not a great motivator for her. She like treats, but it does not get her highly amped up for training. She likes to please, but this is not super strong either. Not a love bug, always in your face for attention kind of dog. She seems to have the most fun executing commands while playing, wrestling etc. I have done little to no training with her in any kind of drive.

Training has been all me. She knows the basics - sit, stand, heel on leash, stay, back, off, wait, come etc. as well as good basic manners. I couldn’t ask anymore of her as a family pet, especially at 10 months old.


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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 01:34 PM
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Honestly - you won't know until you get out there and start training.

Is schutzhund right for me? Yes.

Is schutzhund right for my dog (Stark)? No.

Is schutzhund right for my dog (Zefra)? Heck yes.

All depends.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 01:40 PM
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You will only know if you go try it with your dog a few times. No ome will be able to tell you based on an owners description of their dog if out is right for you or them

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 01:46 PM
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I would visit the club and just hang out with them for a month to get a feel for the training. SchH/IPO requires a huge time commitment even for those who only want to do club trials. It means long training days, a willingness to train on non club days, early morning tracking, training in the rain, sleet, bugs, cold and heat. It can also mean a decent financial commitment for equipment for you and your dog. For many it also means a lot of driving to get to the club. For many of us it is a life choice.

Lisa Clark

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 01:51 PM
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She sounds like a great dog to learn about the sport with. There is no perfect dog so every dog that comes out to our place will have an area or two that need to be addressed or worked in a different way, but that is the fun of it. She sounds like a great family dog and as long as the training at the club you are going to sits well with you and with her you two should get a lot out of it. As to the zero protective behavior, I would think that is totally appropriate giver her age and level of socialization. A well socialized dog can read a threat pretty reliably and my guess is she hasn't seen anything to worry about. A screaming kid or an old person walking very slowly will seem threatening to a dog that hasn't ever experienced it before if you know what I mean.
Confidence and an enjoyment of the activity with the handler goes a long way in getting the most out of Schutzhund. We have quite a few members in our club with WGSL dogs and the dogs enjoy it, the handlers are learning and the dog/handler are becoming a great team. What more could you want ?
I say go for it, just beware, it is addictive.

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by lhczth View Post
I would visit the club and just hang out with them for a month to get a feel for the training. SchH/IPO requires a huge time commitment even for those who only want to do club trials. It means long training days, a willingness to train on non club days, early morning tracking, training in the rain, sleet, bugs, cold and heat. It can also mean a decent financial commitment for equipment for you and your dog. For many it also means a lot of driving to get to the club. For many of us it is a life choice.
This is definitely true of me being a "club level" person. Last weekend my friend and I drove 2.5 hours each way and trained for 5 hours (just our two dogs!), then the next morning were on the road again by 6:30, drove 1.5 hours each way, trained 7 hours. Today I was out in the pouring rain and wind with my dog for an hour laying and running a track (had to walk a mile in the rain to the tracking spot and the mile back still pouring). This past week has been insane, 5 hours training on Sat, 7 hours on Sun, Mon I had my dog out to track and do obedience during my lunch break, then took him somewhere on my way home and met someone for a quick round of protection, Tues again we tracked and did obedience over lunch and then took two dogs to Flyball, today I did a much longer track in the pouring rain and then take a different dog for his CGC test this never ends. I have to carefully budget and don't do a lot of things most people my age do. I don't have much of a social life but luckily have made a lot of close dog friends so training doubles as a social event for me which is nice. I get crap from my family all the time because I can't go to church, can't do this or that (either will be gone training or at an event, or just can't afford it). My biggest expensive is gas and routine stuff for my van but luckily I almost always carpool so my friend helps with gas and throws in a little extra b/c of my oil changes, cleaning the van out every week, etc. Honestly I put more of myself into my dog training than I do at my job or did for my college degree.

I would say to the OP to look at this from the angle of what YOU want, what commitment YOU can make, what YOU hope to achieve either for yourself or with a club and not worry as much about the dog because many find that they need a different dog for this training but still do lots of other things with their other dogs. If YOU really want to give it a try, go for it!

Last edited by Liesje; 11-09-2011 at 02:13 PM.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-09-2011, 02:18 PM
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The biggest reason I couldn't do Schutzhund was the time commitment. Its such a huge commitment and I'm not someone that likes to do something half way. I figured the amount of time to do this exceptionally well was going to be way more than I could afford. The closest club is an hour away and I wouldn't be able to drive there for training sessions every weekend so it just wasn't in the books for this dog. If I had a club closer to me that I could go to more often and not lose all that time driving it might be different.

I think it really depends on the type of person you are. If you want to do it and are ok with not being "the best" but just doing it, it might be worth it. But if you need to be "the best" and will want to be up at the level some of your club members probably are at you will have to sacrafice a lot of time.
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