Before a German shepherd dog begins the Schutzhund part of training, he or she must pass the initial “Begleithund” or “companion dog” test to ascertain that he or she is capable of entering into the Schutzhund training regimen. Dogs, who must be at least 12 months of age, are tested on a pass/fail basis in a series of challenges that cover heeling both on and of a leash, sitting upon instruction, lying down with recall, and remaining lying down upon command. Dogs are also tested on their ability to behave calmly in an atmosphere with a large concentration of people. If a dog passes this test, he or she will be able to take the SchH I test.
For the SchH I test for your German Shepherd, the tracking portion generally consists of a trail between 350 and 400 paces long in which the scent is no less than 20 minutes old. Dogs are expected to track at least two articles of clothing, which will be placed along the track. For the obedience portion, the dog will be tested on and off leash heeling, article retrieval, and ability to sit and lie down on command despite planned distractions. For the protection phase of the test, a dog must search for the “helper,” who plays the role of a “villain” to be warded off, hold and bark, attack the “helper,” and pursuit him or her before withdrawing on command.
The SchH II test can be given when the dog is 19 months of age, and requires the dog to have passed the SchH I test; likewise, then Schutzhund Examination III requires the dog to be at least 20 months old and have passed the SchH II test. In both cases, the protection, obedience, and tracking modules are fundamentally similar to the SchH I test, but increase in complexity and difficulty for your German Shepherd. The United Schutzhund Clubs of America also offers an Advanced Tracking Dog Test, which can be given from 16 months of age.
If you are considered training your German Shepherd in the skills of Schutzhund, look up Schutzhund clubs in your local area for more information.