Today, there are several training facilities around the United States that unfortunately devalue the importance of IPO training. IPO is an intensive test that was developed to put stress on the dog and the handler, evaluating the ability of the dog to function in even the most high stress scenario. Dogs that are IPO titled have been temperament and nerve tested by a licensed judge (third party). At Vom Berk Haus, we hold high value in the importance of this training, testing, and strict judging by an unbiased professional. Our clients do not want to take just anyone’s word that a dog is trained, and IPO provides them with proof and peace of mind. This is the foundation of our practical protection candidates.
So what is Schutzhund/IPO?
IPO stands for Internationale Prüfungs-Ordnung, which basically means "protection dog."
The first Schutzhund (also referred to as IPO, and recently IGP) trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and abilities in the German Shepherd Dog breed. IPO was designed as a breed worthiness test specifically for the German Shepherd Dog. It is a dog sport focused on the devleopment and evaluation of the versatile qualities that make an effective working dog and trustworthy companion. Dogs can achieve different levels based on their ability and training. It is impossible for a dog to be successfully trained in IPO without the proper traits and a balanced, stable temperament in every environment. The tests very accurately assess the dog's true character and versatility under a variety of stressors.
The IPO titles (now referred to as IGP) are comprised of 3 phases. In each phase, the presiding judge observes and assesses the dog for sound working temperament, as defined in the USCA rules for working dog trials.
In Europe, IPO titles are called Zvv or Svv titles. The 3 phases are the same, with the same requirements, only slightly longer and more difficult.
Phase 1: Tracking
At all levels, track is laid earlier by a person walking normally on a natural surface such as dirt or grass. For IPO 1, Zvv1, Svv1, and FRr 1 titles, the track is laid by the handler. For IPO 2 or 3, FPr 2 or 3 and higher level tracking titles, the track is laid by a stranger. The track includes a number of turns and a number of small, man made objects left by this person on the track itself. At the end of a 10 meter leash, the handler follows the dog, which is expected to scent the track and indicate the location of the objects, usually by lying down with it between its front paws. The tracking phase is intended to test the dog’s trainability and ability to scent, as well as its mental and physical endurance. For a dog to achieve success in the tracking phase, he must show the following:
- Natural ability and isntinct
- Problem solving
Phase 2: Obedience
The obedience phase includes a series of heeling exercises, some of which are closely in and around a group of people. During the heeling, there is a gun shot test to assure that the dog does not openly react to such sharp noises. There is also a series of field exercises in which the dog is commanded to sit, lie down, and stand while the handler continues to move. From these various positions, the dog is recalled to the handler. With dumbbells of various weights, the dog is required to retrieve on a flat surface, over a one-meter hurdle, and over a six-foot slanted wall. The dog is also asked to run in a straight direction from its handler on command and lie down on a second command. Finally, each dog is expected to stay in a lying down position away from its handler, despite distractions, at the other end of the obedience field, while another dog completes the above exercises. All of the obedience exercises are tests of the dog’s temperament, structural efficiencies, and, very importantly, its willingness to serve its owner. Obedience requires these traits to achieve success:
- Desire to please
- Intelligence/Propensity for learning
- Balanced temperament
Phase 3: Protection
Phase 3 is protection, the most exciting and adrenaline packed portion of the IPO test. In this phase, the handler's control over the dog is of extreme importance. The dog performs a search to find the decoy (a person posing as a threat) and guards him until the handler approaches. The dog pursues the decoy without hesitation when he attempts to flee or attack, holding him with a firm grip until commanded to "out". Throughout the phase, the dog's tenacity is tested by the decoy with threats and hits with a padded stick. As the ultimate test of the dog's courage, the decoy comes out of hiding a football field's length away, aggressively charging at the dog and handler. The dog is sent to bite, and must quickly and confidently engage the decoy who continues to run directly at him, yelling and threatening with a stick. The protection phase tests the dog’s courage, physical strength, and agility. The handler’s control of the dog is absolutely essential. All grips during the protection phase are expected to be firmly placed on the padded sleeve and stopped on command and/or when the decoy discontinues the fight. The protection tests are intended to assure that the dog possesses the proper temperament for breeding. The IPO protection phase tests temperamental qualities that no other dog sport can so accurately assess. The test is designed to expose the true character of the dog as well as any potential weakness. An unwilling dog can't be forced to do protection work, but rather he must possess the necessary qualities:
- Balance of drives
The IPO/IGP Titles
Before a dog can compete for a IPO1, Zvv1, or Svv1, he must pass a temperament test called a BH (Begleithundprüfung, which translates as “traffic-sure companion dog test”). The BH tests basic obedience and sureness around strange people, strange dogs, traffic, and loud noises. A dog that exhibits excessive fear, distractibility, or aggression cannot pass the BH and so cannot go on to Schutzhund/IPO.
There are three levels of the IPO test:
IPO 1, IPO 2, IPO 3
Or the European equivalent:
Zvv1, Zvv2, Zvv3 or Svv1, Svv2, Svv3
In addition to the IPO titles listed above, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America offers several other training degrees: the STPr, FH 1, FH 2, and IPO-FH tracking degrees; the AD which is an 12.5 mile endurance test (one of the requirements for the Breed Survey); separate obedience, protection and tracking titles that reflect the routines for IPO 1, 2, & 3 levels; and BH titles.
For IPO 1 the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass an initial temperament test by the judge. In tracking, it must be able to follow a track laid by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier. In obedience, the dog must heel off leash, demonstrate the walking sit, the walking down, and the long down under distraction, as well as the send-out. It must retrieve on the flat and over a hurdle, and over the scaling wall. In the protection phase, the dog must search 2 blinds, perform escape and courage test exercises, and demonstrate a side transport.
For IPO 2 the dog must be at least 19 months old and must already have earned its IPO 1 degree. In tracking, the IPO 2 candidate must be able to follow a track laid by a stranger at least 30 minutes earlier.
It must again pass all of the obedience and protection tests required for the IPO 1 degree, but those tests, for IPO 2, are made more difficult and require greater endurance, agility, and, above all, control. There is an additional walking stand exercise required in obedience. In protection, the dog must search 4 blinds and demonstrate a back transport of the decoy in addition to the IPO exercises.
For IPO 3, the dog must be at least 20 months old and must have earned both the IPO 1 and the IPO 2 titles. Again, the tests now are made far more difficult. The track has four turns, compared with two turns for IPO 1 and 2, and there are three objects, rather than two, that must be found by the dog. The track must be laid by a stranger and be at least 60 minutes old. All exercises in obedience and protection are demonstrated off leash. The walking stand is replaced by the running stand. The picture of obedience, strength, eagerness, and confidence presented by an excellent IPO 3 team is a beautiful illustration of the partnership of human and dog.
At all three stages – IPO, IGP, Zvv, Svv, or Schutzhund I, II, and III - each of the three phases: Obedience, Tracking and Protection, is worth 100 points, for a total of 300 points. If a dog does not receive a minimum of 70% of the points in tracking and obedience and 80% of the points in protection - or if the dog fails the pre-trial temperament test - it is not awarded a degree that day and must repeat the entire test, passing all phases at a later trial. In each event the judge is looking for an eager, concentrated, accurate working dog. High ratings and scores are given to the animal that displays a strong willingness and ability to work for its human handler.
Various breeds of dogs are permitted to compete in IPO i.e. German Shepherd dogs, Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, Boxers, Dobermann Pinschers, Bouviers, Airedales and Belgian Shepherd dogs. In Schutzhund only German Shepherd dogs may compete.
IPO and Schutzhund are intended to demonstrate the dog's mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage, and trainability.
This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train their dog and compete with each other for recognition of both the handler's ability to train and the dog's ability to perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by persons of varied professions, who join together in camaraderie born of their common interest in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages and conditions of life enjoy IPO and Schutzhund as a sport. Often, it is a family sport.
The IPO and Schutzhund Trained Dog in the Home
Since IPO and Schutzhund are the demonstration of the working dog's most desirable characteristics, dogs well trained in IPO or Schutzhund are usually excellent companions in the home. The IPO dog - like any other working dog that possesses mental stability - has trust and confidence in itself, allowing it to be at peace with its surroundings.
In addition to sound structural efficiencies for long, arduous work, the standard for the IPO dog calls for mental stability and a willingness to work. The dog should be approachable, quietly standing its ground, showing confidence and a willingness to meet overtures without necessarily making them itself. It should be fearless, but also good with children.
Do Dogs Enjoy IPO and Schutzhund Training?
If trained in the right manner, dogs enjoy working, as anyone who attends an IPO and Schutzhund competition can see. The joy of the dogs in working with their handlers is evident.
For thousands of years, dogs have adapted to serve humans in a mutually beneficial relationship. While dogs could move quickly, hunt prey, and protect flocks and their owner, the humans could provide food, shelter from the most severe elements and protection from larger predators, love, affection, rewards, besides tending to the dog's injuries. A dog's reason for being is to serve humans.
IPO and Schutzhund training helps develop the dog's natural instincts to a high level. Self-confident dogs, doing work for which they are well trained, are happy dogs. Wagging tails, sounds of excitement, and strong pulling on a leash all show an observer at a trial how much fulfillment dogs find in this work.
At VBH Shepherds, our dogs are trained and titled in IPO to show their genetic, physical, mental and emotional capabilities. They make excellent, loving and loyal home and family companions and protectors. They are happiest when given a job and a family that they can be a beautiful and loyal companion to for years to come.