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How to Get Started

Find a IPO/Schutzhund club that suits you Get in touch with the club contacts for several clubs nearest you and see which one fits your style and personality. Each club in your area will have a different "feel" to it and will promote different training styles. Aim to stay with one club/training director until your dog achieves IPO1 (likely around 2-3 years with focused effort), so that you both learn one style and have consistent training towards your first title. Ideally join a club before you buy a dog. That way you can be sure you have the time and resources and you enjoy spending time with club members. They can also help you to choose a suitable dog or puppy. Unfortunately this step is not really optional when you are brand new to the sport. Even experience of different dog sports does not fully prepare you for IPO.

 

Find a mentor Choose a trainer/handler whose dogs work in the way you would like your dog to work, watch them and ask questions and try with your own dog. Your mentor should have a training program that you can follow. As you learn, you can tailor the methods and add to your program to suit you better. Ideally your mentor should have the same philosophy as you and have accomplished the goals you have set for yourself, whether it is to have fun working with the dog, complete titles or compete at the highest levels.

 

Patience The foundation for each of the three disciplines is most important. If you have a young dog, remember that some lines are slow to mature and that behaviors will change slightly as the dog matures. Keep sessions short and don't expect young dogs to focus for long periods or be able to do long stay exercises. Make sure commands are fully understood in many different situations and gradually add distractions.

 

Learn your dog The relationship between you and your dog is key to enjoying IPO and presenting a harmonious picture. Watch your dog carefully and learn what makes him tick. Does he prefer a type of food, a particular toy, praise from you? Is he naturally driven, quick, lazy, nervous, independent, serious? Developing a 'feel' for dogs involves choosing the correct type of training and being able to react in the best way to help the dog understand what is required.

 

Keep going Perseverance is an important quality for a handler in IPO. There will be good days and bad days, frustrating days, wet and cold days, and wonderful light bulb moments! Try not to let the politics and unpleasant people discourage you and ruin your enjoyment of working with your dog. It is also important to be patient with yourself, IPO is a challenging sport that takes several years to learn as far as training and also handling in trials, it takes a lot of practise to make perfect!