Monday, January 11, 2010

A Visit with Aloha Schutzhund Club

I had the privilege of sitting in on one of Aloha Schutzhund Club's weekly meetings. Schutzhund means "protection dog" in German, and was originally developed in Germany in the early 1900s to test whether German Shepherd Dogs exhibit the traits necessary for police-type work (Wikipedia). Schutzhund is now a popular dog sport among people with working breed dogs.

Aloha Schutzhund Club's president Robert Blok was kind enough to explain and show me all the exercises they do in Schutzhund. He has many years of experience training police dogs, and owns his own training business Hawaii K9 Solutions as well. Watching Robert and another trainer named Jim Philson work with the dogs and coach the club members was pretty inspiring.

Below are some photos and videos I took. I didn't get any photos or video of the scent tracking exercise but that was also fascinating - something that many pet dogs might enjoy, even if they're not doing Schutzhund.

The dogs learn to do a precise heel and pay very close attention to the handler. The dog and handler could be running at full speed, but as soon as the handler gives the Sit or Down command, the dog immediately stops and does it. Often the dogs would get to fetch a ball after doing a good job with obedience. According to Robert, it starts out as a play reward, but ultimately they are allowing the dogs to express their prey drive.

Below is a video clip of a dog jumping over an A-frame and retrieving a dumb bell thrown by trainer Jim. Amazing and so beautiful!

In the video below, you'll see Robert's dog Bear protecting an object on the ground. When trainer Jim approaches, Bear guards the object. Bear knows Jim and is normally friendly towards him, but Bear still guards the object from Jim because his handler has asked him to. Would you try to take an object away from a dog that was barking and lunging at you like this? I don't think so!

The bite work seemed to be the most exciting activity for these working dogs. What happens is the handler and her dog walk behind the "decoy" person (in this case trainer Jim). The decoy person suddenly turns around and pretends to attack the dog and handler. The dog jumps up and bites the protected arm piece on the decoy person. The dog lets go when he is asked. With this kind of training, it's really important for the dog to have self-control and listen to the handler, for instance when he is asked to let go of the arm.

In the video below, you'll see one of the club members doing this with her Rottweiler, who LOVED the bite work. Even the German Shepherds who were watching from their crates got really excited and started barking while the bite work was going on - it was like a gladiator ring! (My 8-year old Golden Retriever Luka was sitting in the corner of the field, quivering amidst all this intensity. He is obviously not cut out for Schutzhund!)

All the dogs that I observed thrived on the exercises. These are not your average couch potato dogs - they NEED and LOVE to work...all the time! If you have a super-driven dog and you are committed to this type of training, contact the Aloha Schutzhund Club for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice summation of the training on Sunday. Thanks so much for coming by and sharing our story.