Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where did Schutzhund Go?

I read the new rules for IPO and it made me sad.  We have wandered so far away from the foundation of our sport that it is almost unrecognizable. The governing organizations are a reflection of our unfortunate times of political correctness and offer a similar re-write of history.  I wonder how many people involved in the sport still remember its proud heritage?  Do they know that the sport of schutzhund was formed as a breed worthiness test for the German Shepherd Dog after breeders watched the police dog training, and adopted those exercises?

There was a motion at the 2010 General Board Meeting of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America to change the name to" United Schaeferhunde Clubs of America.”  The author of the amendment wrote, "Unfortunately, to the general public, governmental officials, and activist agencies, the word “Schutzhund” is primarily associated with the protection phase of our sport. That
image can be detrimental to our organization. In today’s highly scrutinized and litigious world we must be conscientious of our image. “  I would imagine he has friends among the Swiss, who banned stick hits and as a result, the new rules now advise that we have "stick pressure." The physical action is the same, only the name has changed. Are we fooling anyone?  Might I suggest, if that works, we henceforth refer to waterboarding as "a warm shower".

Our sport began as Schutzhund. Translated, it means "protection dog". What we do has a proud heritage.  Our work produces dogs for the police and military, and makes well-behaved companions of family dogs. The breeders who adhere to these standards create dogs who have the stability and drive for Search and Rescue and scent detection work  They are the backbone of our working dog community.  Why must we run from this reality?  If we believe that we have to deny the word "protection" in our name and history, our public relations efforts are failing.  We must do better.

We have lost so much already.  When I began in the sport, in the early mid-80's, the protection routine closely resembled the behaviors required by a police service dog. The blind search simulates the search of an area or building, and requires the dog check left and right as the handler moves forward through the area, making the way safe.  The dog knows that the suspect is concealed in the last hiding place but it would be unsafe for the handler to move forward to that location without having the dog search before him.  Thus, it is also an obedience exercise. Once the dog locates the suspect, he must bark to alert the handler, who can then approach tactically.  Even as a police officer cannot strike a suspect who has surrendered and is not aggressive, so the dog cannot bite him.  He must hold the person in place with strong guarding until his handler takes control of the scene.  In the early days of the sport, we would order the suspect (decoy) from the blind and then return to search the hiding place while the dog lay in wait and guarded him.  We actually searched for "weapons" as an officer would.  As that was occurring, the suspect would attempt to flee and, without command,  the dog would pursue and bite the sleeve.  The handler would command the dog to release and approach, ordering the suspect to step back and frisking him for weapons.  In those days, the weapon was a reed stick, not a thickly padded stick.

I miss this. It has become a stylized affair that even the participants do not recognize as similar to police work.  There is no search of the hiding place, or the suspect.  It makes me wonder if people would understand what we do and support it if we were able to make this comparison. Instead, we are left with a ballet of biting dogs.  Oops! I'm sorry! We cannot say that the dogs "bite".  According to the rules, they "grip." (once again, is anyone deceived? Who looks stupid in this picture? The fool or the fooler?)  We have lost the courage test, as well.  In this, the handler would call to the suspect to stop and he would ignore the warning, at which point the dog would be released to pursue and stop him.  Yes, by biting.  Apparently courage is something that is not honorable because that was tossed aside in favor of the "long grip".  The odd part is that we no longer yell a warning for the man to stop; instead, the dog is released.  It seems to be in conflict, but perhaps the ultimate goal is to have the dog run down the field and give the decoy a hug.  Check with the Swiss. They would know.

What happened to the proud Germans, the fathers of our sport?  Why have they lost their voice?  They lead the WUSV and SV meetings.  They, more than anyone, are familiar with the famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
[wikipedia]    The quotation begins, " They came first for the Communists
 and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist."  Piece by piece, our sport has been picked apart until only the bones remain.

The Germans waved the white flag of defeat in 2004 when they caved to political forces and the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) made substantial changes to Schutzhund, and adopted the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules that govern IPO titles.  By doing so, they gave up control of the sport to the FCI. The DHV changed the name of the titles from "SchH" (Schutzhund) to "VPG" (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung für Gebrauchshunde) which roughly translates "Versatility Examination for Working Dogs".  Our parent organization, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, had retained the word schutzhund in their name, though we had lovely "versatile working dogs" under the terms of surrender.  And now, in 2010, there were people who wanted to complete our emasculation by removing the protection work as we now compete for IPO titles.  Where did Schutzhund go?   When I read the 2010 rule changes, I saw how far we have moved from our past. I am fearful to read new revisions for fear there will be reference to tunnels and pause boxes.  In the future the dogs will only guard, never bite.

 Where will we find our working dogs?  While I remain hopeful that our leadership will recognize the path we are on and make an abrupt halt, it seems unlikely.  Clearly, we cannot look to Germany for a solution. With the protection sport organizations under the same umbrella of the FCI, and competing under the same rules, it ensures that we will drink the koolaid together.  The dogs that pass under the embarrassingly weak rules and low score requirements of the new rules will be the same from USA to DVG to WDA. Sea to Shining Sea.  I am optimistic that the AWDF will provide a haven for those who still value a working dog, with titles that rank courage and hardness and bring back the attack out of the blind.  We are Americans and we should not run and hide.  Our sport is nothing to be ashamed of.  Stand up for it.

If not, will the last one out of Schutzhund please turn out the lights?