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Info / faq

Fit for purpose by Jim Jackson

The world of IPO (International dog sport) is a very broad church. For some it is just an opportunity to train their dogs for the sheer pleasure of it, gaining qualifications over a number of years - not necessarily competing at the highest level but more importantly building a better relationship with their dog and gaining a better understanding of what really makes the working Dog so unique.

For some it is a prerequisite to enter dog shows on the Continent . For many it is a method of training their dogs to a high level and attempting to compete at a national or even international level.

The original aim of the IPO programme was to ensure that the dog remained ‘fit for purpose’, ie to be a service dog who has the physical and mental characteristics that would enable it to carry out its duties.

Only by breeding from stock which had qualified in all three disciplines, and also been assessed for courage and hardness, could you ensure that future generations to come the GSD would remain supreme as the ultimate utility dog.

2010 WUSV Champion Ronny Van Den Berghe

So what do you need to get started in this world of dog sport?
Let’s start by looking at an overview of all three disciplines.

Phase A: Tracking

The dog is required to follow a line of human scent and recover intermediate articles and the article at the end of the track. The dogs can be worked on a collar or a harness attached to a ten-meter line. The difficulty will increase from IPO one to three.

There are also two advanced tracking degrees, FH1 and FH2; no obedience or protection is required for these two qualifications.

Phase B: Obedience

The dog instructed by the handler will perform a series of exercises including a heelwork pattern, which includes a steadiness gun test; positions on the move; a retrieve on the flat, retrieve over a one metre hurdle and a six-foot A frame; a send away and long down under distraction complete the routine.

Throughout the work the dog must show a happy attitude in his/her work and perform each task in a fast accurate spirit which shows a natural desire to work. The obedience phase also shows the relationship between the dog and the handler and plays a big part in the overall grade.

All exercises are completed off the lead and the difficulty increases from IPO one to three.

Phase C: Protection

Perhaps the most controversial and misunderstood of all of the work is the protection phase.

The dog is required to search and locate the helper and then must hold and guard the helper, prevent his escape by chasing and biting the sleeve, let go on command, and re-attack when threatened by the helper, who will then drive the dog across the field under the threat of the padded stick.

The dog will then perform a long attack where the helper will come directly towards him. The dog must show a fast committed and unerring attack. A controlled out on command, re-attack and out will follow. The helper is then disarmed and escorted back to the judge.

All exercises will be performed off the lead and the difficulty will increase as the dog goes from level one to three. A prerequisite to starting any of the above qualifications is the Begleithund or BH examination (companion dog test). This was set up in a similar spirit to the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme. However in IPO there is a greater emphasis on the temperament of the dog.

The dog must be social with people and other dogs. He must then pass an obedience test and if successful he will then be allowed to go on to the traffic test where he will be assessed as to his behaviour with joggers, cyclists, traffic and other dogs.

Throughout all of the IPO disciplines an emphasis is placed on temperament- if the dog shows any weakness, ie nervous aggression, gun-shyness or aggression to other dogs the test will be terminated. In protection only the dog who bites full on the sleeve with a strong grip, and who lets go on command will be awarded the qualifications.

It has been said that the IPO dog is a generalist, not a specialist. He must be capable of performing many different tasks all in one day. If you do not have the desire to participate in the tracking or protection phases you can still train for the BH and obedience tests.

All helpers are licensed by the GSDL judges and all judges are WUSV approved.