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Doberman History & Schutzhund

In Apolda Germany, in the 1800's a man named Louis Doberman needed a courageous, guard dog with strong mouth, good nose and one who would be protective. Herr Doberman had various jobs, which required protection. It has never been proven just what he did, but some have said he was a tax collector, while others maintained he was a night watchman. For whatever reason he succeeded in fixing the guarding character in the dog he created, but was not really interested in the conformation aspects of that dog. While crossing many breeds to obtain what he wanted, he did not keep records of these crosses, so we have to rely on others who knew him to supply us with some of his efforts.

According to his son, Herr Doberman owned a black bitch called Bissart who had tan markings and a gray undercoat. One interesting thing about Bissart was her naturally short tail and a short coat. He tried to produce a naturally short tail by selective breeding but was unsuccessful. We do know that some of the breeds that were used were a gray Pinscher, a black and tan butchers dog, and a local sheep dog type. After his death in 1894, the Germans named the breed Doberman-pinscher in his honor, but a half-century later they dropped the pinscher because it was a German word for Terrier and was no longer appropriate. The Germans goal was to develop a dog capable of the ultimate in protection and companionship. They selected the bravest, toughest and most loyal. These headstrong dogs were known as "Doberman's dogs" or "Thuringia Pinschers," and were sharp, aggressive with other dogs, of medium size, with a body that is compactly built, muscular, and distrustful of strangers.

It is believed the first Doberman came to the United States in 1908, but it wasn't until the end of WWII when GI's brought back Dobermans from Germany that the breed attracted fanciers. In 1921 the Doberman Pinscher Club of America was founded. Many imports arrived to gain popularity with breeders in this country. Many times when these imports were shown, the Judges could barely touch them if ever. One German import won Best In Show at Westminster, the judge never putting a hand on him.

Over the decades, the Doberman breeders refined this tougher temperament to a more suitable disposition allowing this breed to co-habitat with the laws of our land. Today, the Doberman is a trustworthy family companion. His protective nature is still sought, but selective breeding, making him one of the most favored family dogs controls it.


The Doberman was originally bred as a personal protector and for police and soldier work. These stressful and difficult tasks require a dog with a sure temperament and possessing a high level of bravery and drive. When Schutzhund began development in Germany in the early 1900’s, its purpose was to test for these characteristics in a dog, often referred to as workability.

In order to maintain the working traits in the working breeds such as the Doberman Pinscher, Germany and other European countries required and still require a Doberman to achieve a Schutzhund title before becoming a confirmation champion and before the dog’s offspring can be registered.

Besides serving as a test for workability, Schutzhund has also become a popular sport. There are three levels at which a protection dog can title:

Schutzhund 1 (SchH1)

Schutzhund 2 (SchH2)

Schutzhund 3 (SchH3)

Each level is progressively more challenging and complex, starting with level 1. However, before competing for a SchH1 title, a dog must first pass a temperament test called the B or BH (Begleithundprüfung which translates to "traffic-sure companion dog test"). This test assesses basic obedience and sureness around unfamiliar people, dogs, smells, and noises. The dog must show that it is, obedient, steady, and unafraid or it will be dismissed and not be aloud to compete in Schutzhund. This test is important in order to protect dogs unable or unwilling to perform these challenging tasks, who would not only frustrate the handler and waste his time, but who would also suffer needless stress from the intense training.

Schutzhund competitions have three phases: Obedience, Tracking, and Protection.

The obedience phase is performed in a large field. Done in pairs, one dog is placed by its handler in the down position, who then leaves him while the other dog works in the field, then the dogs switch. While working in the field the dog performs several heeling exercises including heeling through a group of people.

Two or three times throughout the heeling exercise a gunshot is fired, testing the dog’s reaction for sureness. Also performed are one or two recalls, two or three retrieves, and a send where the dog is commanded to run away from the handler, then on command quickly lie down. Judgment on the obedience phase is scored based on the dog’s accuracy and attitude.

For the tracking phase of the Schutzhund trial, a track layer walks a track in an open field placing several small articles along the way. After a period of time the dog is commanded to follow the track, stopping at each article and signaling (indicating) that it is found, usually by lying down with the article between its paws.

In this phase judgment is scored on how intently the dog follows the track and indicates the articles. Length, complexity, and age of the track increase with each level of Schutzhund.

The protection phase is the most intense phase and tests the dog’s control under stress and his ability to protect himself and his handler. In this phase the judge has an assistant called the ‘helper’ or ‘agitator’ who wears a heavy padded glove.

On the field there are several blinds were the helper can hide. The dog is commanded to search these blinds. When the helper is found the dog indicates this by barking and guards the helper, not letting him move until his handler arrives. At this point, the handler performs a few exercises such as imitating a police search of the helper. Then the helper is transported by the handler and dog to the judge.

At specified points, the helper will either simulate an attack on the dog or handler, or attempt an escape. The dog must then aggressively stop the helper by firmly biting down on the helper’s padded sleeve and pulling him to the ground. When the helper stops the attack or escape, the handler will give the ‘out’ command, directing the dog to release the helper. The dog must immediately release or be dismissed.

The judge scores this phase based on the dog’s control under the handler and courage overall.

Schutzhund is popular throughout Europe especially in Germany where it was developed. The first Schutzhund trial in the United States was held in California in 1963 and since has maintained a devoted group of handlers, trainers, and dogs. Popularity in the US is limited, likely due to the different cultural approach Americans have toward dogs as well as litigation. Additionally, the American Kennel Club ( AKC ) does not allow its member clubs to sponsor Schutzhund events because the protection phase includes bite work.

The decision to disallow bit work under the AKC caused a break away national club, the Untied Doberman Club ( UDC), which conducts Schutzhund trials under the auspices of the American Working Dog Federation ( AWDF) .

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