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Choosing a Puppy with Schutzhund Potential

So, you've decided you want a working dog. You want to train for Schutzhund, you have enough time and energy to cope with a working dog. You have secure facilities and enough money to pay club fees and for equipment. You have read and researched and you know experienced people who will help you. You have found a litter with excellent bloodlines. Now you are faced with a bunch of gorgeous pups.

So now, all that's left to do is to pick that incredible puppy!

There are many types of puppy tests, some of which are good, some not so good and some which are great for picking out a pet but not for picking a future Schutzhund prospect. We asked our training director what he thought, and this is what he said:

"I take the whole litter in a 500 crate, at 8 weeks old, to a place about a mile or two away from home. I like it when there is about 4 to 6 pups in a litter. If some pups do not come out after 5 seconds, I do not test them. If only one comes out then I go home. I am not going to test one pup. It is too hard to test pups, especially if there is only one to choose."

"If one shys from gun fire about 15 paces away then I go home. I do not look at a litter if one of them shows sound sensitivity. That is too strong of a genetic trait that carries through to the litter of pups."

"The next thing I look at is that it bites the rag and can come off the ground for 3 seconds. For me, to have a high competition dog, the animal must be calm and comfortable in its prey drive. A higher defensive dog does not track as well, will have good obedience, and protection can go either way if pushed too much or not pushed at all."

Just from these things I should have an estimate that the dog will be:
  • Ok away from home (trials are normally out of town).
  • Willing to withstand some stress and still be able to work or play.
  • Not sound sensitive.
  • Has enough nerve to bite off its home field, comes off the ground showing security in itself.
  • Able to pass a Bh with a basic temperament test.


"After that, I look at drives, the grip on the rag, then I throw food on the ground and see who finds it first. Last thing is to pinch one of their toes and watch their response. Too strong of a reaction here is not good either. I still have a tape of a pup I wanted to buy about 9 years ago. The pup did all this, but when the pup got hurt he bit the handler enough to leave a mark. I said too much puppy for me. I called on the dog for a couple of years. At 2, he bit the handler one day at training. I think the handler received about 30 stitches."

"I have never tested pups at 6 or 7 weeks or 10 plus weeks. Testing other than 8 weeks can be difficult. At a younger age they sleep a lot, then people say they have no drive. At older ages they go through fear stages."

"As far as how the whole litter interacts, is not that important to me. If there is a more dominant dog in the litter it does not equate to a dominate dog to humans. The behaviors are not the same towards a dog as they are towards humans. I believe in what some call "species specific" dominance. In other words, a dog will fight another dog harder than he fights a human."

What all this testing doesn't tell you is:
  • If the dog will have good hips
  • If the dog has allergies to dirt or grass
  • If the dog will have medical problems like a skin problem
  • If there is enough drive left after you train the dog
  • If the dog can hold up to the training to get to the Nationals