Schutzhund Training Tips For Improving Your Obedience Scores
First about mind set. Most people go onto the field with the thought of making a certain amount of points. If we change our mind set to, when we go on the field we already have 100 points but the final score will depend on how many points that you and your dog will allow the judge to take away. To become more focused and aware of how many points you, as the handler, are costing the team, you should have someone video your obedience routine a few times. Look for things that you are not able to see when you are handling the dog. Look for handler help that you may not be aware, that you are doing, i.e. bobbing your head when recalling your dog or moving your arms slightly or twisting your body when you finish the dog. When you see how many points the dog is costing the team, you will be able to focus on certain things that will have to be improved upon through training. Focus on these things first, when training, then finish with an exercise that your dog does well, thereby leaving the field on a good note for your dog. To work your dog with a pattern or mix things up has always been disputed. I do not work with patterns, for a few reasons.
- If you train 2 or 3 times a week and you are doing this whole routine over and over the dog will become bored and start loosing drive and you will have to keep giving him bigger rewards. When prey drive is used for the same things again and again prey drive runs out and you are starting to cause a burn out.
- If you are doing whole routines all the time you are only training for his problems and the rest of the routine, you are just practicing.
- Once the dog has learned all the exercises well he will not have to do them over and over because he will become so familiar with them that he will be able to coast and lose focus on you. This will leave him more open to distractions.
- Most people in the sport way over train with their dogs and start taking the edge off of them.
The benefits of not using patterns:
- You can do just a few exercises each session and take him off the field while he is still up. Work on a couple of his problems then something that he does well and out of there.
- The dog has to stay more focused on the handler and listen for which command is coming next. Do your exercises out of order.
- He will not have to be introduced to a new field every time you trial him. Obedience is obedience where ever it takes place or which ever order it is in.
- New experiences create spice in life.
When reporting in with the judge you should come onto the field lively and with a confident attitude. When you go to the starting place to begin your heeling free exercise, walk up field of it, make a turn and walk at least 5 paces before stopping. This should give you a straight sit and you are ready to start your exercise. Many handlers go to the starting spot, pivot around and stop which gives the dog a crooked sit. They then stay in place and turn there upper body and head to the left and tell the dog fuss. You are not being judged here but it looks unprofessional and you are keeping the judge waiting. All exercises start and finish with the dog being in basic position (sitting at you left side).
By the rule book you are permitted to give slight praise between each exercise. This should be done in a way that the dog does not move from his basic position and he is ready to start his next exercise.
The exercise that is most missed is the sit out of motion. Once a handler has experienced this mistake, I think some become a little nervous and he will, unknowingly, give his sit command with a different tone which confuses the dog and he hesitates to sit. This was a 3 point deduction but now they have eliminated the walking stand and that adds more points to the other exercises. A missed sit now costs you 5 points.
A lot of handlers, when turning to face their dog and see that he is not sitting, they get instantly deflated. The shoulders slump and the head tilts downwards. When they return to the dog their body language tells the dog that the handler is not happy with them. and some dogs become a little unsure. You cannot get your 5 points back but you can go back briskly to your dog and give him a little extra praise, otherwise there is a good chance that the rest of routine will go down because your dog now feels pressure.
Every exercise requires heeling except for the 3 retrieve exercises. For this reason you must make your heeling perfect and your sits and finishes correct or the small points will eat you up.
All of your moving exercises that require a certain number of steps before giving a command or changing pace, make sure that you do a couple extra steps so that you will not be deducted for being 1 step short. Some deductions are left to the judge’s opinion but most mistakes have a mandatory deduction that the judge must follow.
Obedience is the most difficult of the 3 categories to make high points. Protection is next and tracking is the easiest.
To people that are new to the sport, focus on your routine and block out the spectators. You owe it to your dog to “suck it up” and not loose points because you are a nerve case.
In your recall and retrieve exercises, if your dog stops short by a few steps, when returning to you, if you give an extra command you will loose some points but do not take even one step backwards to coax him in because by leaving the basic position, anytime during the exercise , the judge is required to take all the points for that exercise.
When the judge sees a performance that shows speed and a willingness for the work while at the same time being correct and the dog and handler works as a good team, the judge does not want to take points away and sometimes will forgive very minor mistakes. The reason being is that this is the picture that is desired for a Schutzhund Obedience routine. On the other hand if your dog is slow to respond and he acts like he does not want to be out there, you will be deducted for every minor error and in your critique the judge will comment that this is not the attitude that is desired in the sport.
If you train using very quiet commands, except for your recalls, retrieves and the platz on the send away, your dog will respond much better. If the handler is having a bad day and his tone changes on the loud commands it can cause negative results.
On the retrieves, speed both ways is required but placement of the dumbbell is very important. Except for the retrieve on flat you should hold the dumbbell by the bell end and throw it underhanded in an arc with a back spin on it. This way when it lands it will stay within a few feet of where it lands. You should spend a lot of time throwing the dumbbell without your dog being there. For your retrieves over the 1 meter jump and the A frame, the dumbbell should be far enough past the jumps to allow the dog to get enough speed to return easily over the jumps. If the dumbbell rolls to the side and the dog can see it, you risk the chance of him going straight to the dumbbell without taking the jump. This would be a major deduction.
For the retrieve on flat you should hold the dumbbell by the shaft and throw it without a back spin. This is especially important for the female handlers as this dumbbell is heavy and you want to make sure that it goes the required distance.
If at anytime you make a bad throw, you can ask the judge to allow you a re-throw.
On the 3 retrieve exercises your dog is required to go out quickly, pick up the dumbbell and return quickly. The biggest problems with some dogs is they go out fast and then drop back to a trot when returning. If you have this problem and you have not been able to work it out in training or sometimes he comes back fast and sometimes not, there is a way to eliminate this deduction when doing the 1 meter jump and the A frame.
You must stand closer to the jumps in a place that your dog can still clear the jump without touching it. When finding this spot you must always train from this position.
When the dog is returning he must get enough speed to clear the jump and the A frame and if he lands a few paces from you, his forward motion will bring him to you and it will not be possible to be deducted for this.
When training for the send away some clubs use a fence post at the end of the field to place their objects. Some will put a separate post in for this and some will even paint them white so the dogs will see the better. This being done for an extended length of time can bring problems later. In regional and national events they usually use a high school or university stadium which usually have white goal posts at each end. I have seen many dogs fail to go down when the command is given, trying to reach the goal posts. In training you should always mix up your distances and at times go in different directions. You should bring him to the point of being able to do a send away on any field that you take him on without working him there in advance.
To consistently do faultless send outs the dog must have a high build up of drive training and be 100% on his down command. The down should be done as a separate exercise by itself using compulsion. Once the dog will take his down command instantly , when it is given in a whisper, you are then able to incorporate it into the send away.
For the long down out of sight of the handler you can reinforce this for reliability. The handler leaves the dog and goes to a place not far away where he can see the dog but the dog cannot see him. Instead of having another dog doing obedience and the gun being fired, have a dog on the field doing bite work. If you can reinforce the dog to stay under these conditions he can be considered 100 % trustworthy on the down exercise.
In my opinion complete and reliable obedience training can only be achieved by strong motivational training to show great attitude and joy for the work. He can only be considered 100 % reliable under distractions by later use of compulsion. The right combination of drive and compulsion brings complete obedience work.
The judges must look for the dogs that show a joy for the work, go together well with his handler as a team and obey all commands quickly.
Most people are now training in the protection phase using mostly prey drive. The following article is for dogs 1 year or older. A lot of the trainers are agitating the dog, then giving the bite and slipping the sleeve, having the handler run in a big circle and stopping 5 meters or so in front of the helper. NOW IS WHEN THE CONFLICT BEGINS. The handler is grabbing the dog by the collar and hanging him while they are stepping on the sleeve and screaming “out”. Once he releases the sleeve it is quickly
kicked out where the dog cannot reach it. Then the helper challenges the dog for the sleeve. This not working through defense drive, it is still working in the prey drive.
The longer the dog is worked this way, the more he becomes imprinted to not release the grip on the sleeve. Later when you want to teach the out, it becomes more difficult and eventually it takes more force. These are the dogs that when they are finished have problems with the outs i.e. slow to release or double commands to out.
This method will start to channel in some drive in defense. It will give a safety margin to dogs that are not real hard. It will make the handlers job easier. It will make the helpers job easier, with a margin of safety to work close with the dog, as it will be in done in a controlled manner. It will start to imprint the dog in a way that he will understand that if he wants to bring more action when the helper stops fighting and locks up and bring the sleeve back to life, he has to release the grip and challenge the helper by barking. He must understand that the out is not the end of session but a way to bring the sleeve back to life , fight the helper and be able to win the prey and take it back to his den (car or crate). This method eliminates the conflict between dog, handler and helper, which often becomes a 3 ring circus.
You build a fenced area. It can be off to the side of the training field. It should be 25 centimeters high and 50X50 with an opening 1.2 or 1.5 meters wide in the rear for entering and exiting. A gate can be used hear if you want to do defense work without the handler inside , at a later time. There should be a stable bench built along the front of the pen and up against the fence. It should be .75 or 1 meter wide and run the entire length of the front section. The helper will be using 2 sleeves and a whip or stick for agitation purposes. I work dogs with a fur saver collar (the long links) and clip the leash on the live ring and then come back to a dead ring and clip the leash again. The collar should be snug so the dog cannot back out of it but it is not on choke. I’ve read other post where it was suggested to use a wide leather collar so it is more comfortable for the dog. My opinion this is hooey!!! The chain collar is only going to bother dogs of soft temperament. This is protection work. When wide leather collars are used, the dog starts associating it with protection work, the same as he does when he see the sleeve or the helper in scratch pants. When challenged he must come in full drive without training aids. No this will not hurt the dogs’ throat.
Now we are ready to start. The handler comes into the pen about half way and the helper agitates the dog coming in and running back. The handler should let the dog go to the fence and try to bite the helper. The handler should not be talking to the dog or praising or patting him. This only distracts the dog. It is the helpers job to bring the dog out. If this is a beginner dog you can use a young dog sleeve. When the helper knows that the dog is in high drive he puts on sleeve # 1 and goes up on the platform, bends over the fence and puts the sleeve down to where the dog can bite it. He can then pull the dog up slightly giving him a very short fight and slipping the sleeve . The handler takes the dog out the back of the pen while he is carrying the sleeve. The handler doesn’t have to run like a nut case just a fast walk making a circle of medium size and returning to the pen about half way. Still no talking to the dog. The helper starts agitating with the whip or stick and the dog will drop the sleeve and go to the fence. At this moment the handler throws the sleeve over the side fence and the helper gets # 2 sleeve that is behind him. One or two bites in the beginning and the dog carries the sleeve to the car. You should stop when the dog still wants to fight . Put him away frustrated. When a dog reaches his peak in drive you must stop or you will be doing negative training.
When the handler returns to the car or crate, stand and relax. Do not give the dog out commands, just ignore him, he will get tired of holding dead prey and release it. As training progresses the helper can start to stay more up right making the dog come a little airborne to get the sleeve and he can at times lift the dog off the ground. These high bites will make the dog bite hard and full or he will lose the grip. This is just basic build up work and getting the dog to learn a system. The out is not the end of the game. You are not doing true aggressive, defense training but you are at least mixing prey with some defense. The young dog working behind the fence will be more sure of himself. When you are satisfied with this basic work you can take the dog to the training field to start the outs. If there are questions of this article, Please no e mail or PM’s. Address them to the post. There are many other members that can give good input and alternative methods.