One of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with clients involves Schutzhund titled dogs. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the difference between Schutzhund (sporting) dogs and true protection dogs, even within the dog industry itself. Both dogs vary widely in their training and genetics but one thing is fact: Schutzhund trained dogs, with few exceptions, rarely make excellent personal protection dogs. It’s a controversial statement to make but my years of experience have shown this to be true. Unfortunately, much to the detriment of a person needing true protection, companies are selling Schutzhund titled dogs and labeling them as protection dogs.
“Schutzhund” literally means “protection dog” in German. The sport, originating at the turn of the century, was used as a testing method for determining if a dog was suitable for breeding. Through the years the strong genetics once indicative of a Schutzhund dog have become diluted. Additionally, the training required to become a titled dog is contradictory to the methods protection dogs need to utilize when fighting off an attacker.
You have most likely seen photos or video of sporting dogs biting and holding onto a sleeve of a decoy pretending to be “the bad guy”. It can be a rather impressive display. However, true protection dogs should never be trained in this manner! Hanging onto the sleeve of an attacker gives him time to use a weapon against the dog. Unlike protection training, Schutzhund does not require the dog to target the weapon hand first. In fact, sporting dogs focus on the forearm. Our training method involves teaching our dogs to bite the wrist of the hand holding the weapon since this is fastest way to disarm him. True protection dogs will then inflict a series of deep bites to both the legs and the arms until the handler calls the dog off. If you were being attacked and your dog needed to come to your defense, which method would you prefer?
Other training techniques vary greatly. For instance, sporting dogs are trained to search and rescue by taking scent on the ground. Our dogs are also trained for search and rescue but, like wolves in nature, they take their scent from the air. Taking scent from the air is very useful for rescue since the terrain of the ground may be aged- an impediment for ground tracking. Dogs trained to take scent from the air are more productive and have fewer challenges in finding a missing person, especially along large expanses of ground.
It is rare to see a sporting dog with the genetics needed for protection work. Genetically, we look for dogs that have a ‘guard drive’, a strong desire to defend and the nerves to back it up. On rare occasion, I will run across a Schutzhund dog that is genetically equipped for protection but it doesn’t happen often, perhaps five times in my career. CCK9 does not sell sporting dogs; we only sell protection dogs. We take the safety of our clients very seriously and will not jeopardize this for the sake of sales or for the display of flashy titles. Frankly, I couldn’t sleep at night if I did.
I am often asked if Schutzhund trained dogs can be trained to be protection dogs and vice versa. The short answer is no. When placed in a situation where the dog needs to defend its handler, he or she will revert to their original training. Dogs resort to their foundation education under stress. For the most part, a titled dog will likely run out of a room with its tail between its legs; they lack the nerve and training. Cross training simply is not a good idea.
Sporting dogs definitely have their place and many find the sport enjoyable. The sport does have a dark side and I have heard of dogs being granted a Schutzhund title over a cup of coffee. It’s important that these dogs are purchased from reputable breeders. If a client of mine insists on a titled dog I will evaluate Schutzhund dogs for them- but only after making sure they know that the dog isn’t trained to protect. I always emphasize, however, how great it is to own a true protection dog. Not only are they balanced, stable and great with children and pets but ready and able to defend your family. Plus, you can take them anywhere- the park, shops, the airport, anywhere without worrying about the dog’s behavior or your own safety. Personal protection dogs truly are the best of all worlds.
The choice is yours. But do your homework before purchasing a protection dog. After all, if you ever have the misfortune of being attacked one thing is certain- titles will not serve to defend you.