What is IGP?
What is IGP?
You may have noticed elsewhere on our website that the sport of IGP is mentioned as something we both compete in and also offer training programs for other sport dogs and handlers. IGP is the current name for what was originally called Schutzhund and has been previously known as IPO and VPG. Schutzhund means “Protection Dog” in German.
In The Beginning
In the early 1900s in Germany the sport was created originally as a fit for breeding test for the German Shepherd Dog, to enable breeders to make better decisions about the temperament and character of dogs used in breeding programs. The German Shepherd Club of Germany (S.V. or Schaeferhund Verein) mandated that only dogs who had achieved a Schutzhund test would be suitable for breeding and to have their progeny registered as German Shepherd Dogs. This rule remains to this day.
Schutzhund soon expanded to take in all five of the German protection breeds, including the Boxer, Dobermann, Riesenschnauzer (Giant Schnauzer) and Rottweiler, although any breed can take part in today’s sport.
The Schutzhund breeding test included tracking, obedience and protection, as the IGP sport does today. Some people will recognise the sport as being similar to police dog work and police dog trials. Indeed Schutzhund as-was has been used to identify the traits and abilities of dogs who would be well suited to work of this type and allow them to be incorporated in the various breeding programs in place at the time.
Over the years the sport has evolved from those original Schutzhund tests into a highly stylised triathlon for dog and handler where both are required to perform to the highest levels of accuracy. When you obtain an IGP title, you will have earned it with blood, sweat and tears of frustration for sure! It remains one of the most difficult dog sports to master and compete in.
Even now, IGP titles and within that, the grades and scores of each exercise, are recognised to be useful and insightful in highlighting the nature and characteristics of any dog.
How Do You Get A Title?
The titles in IGP are awarded at Trials where each dog and handler team are examined by a specialist Judge. Those who attain a good standard are awarded a title. There are three titles, IGP1, 2 and 3 all of which are preceded by the BH Test.
The first step on the IGP ladder is the BH (Begleithund – or Companion Dog) Test. This test is a combination of obedience and temperament. The dog is exposed to loud noises, cars, joggers, cyclists, strange dogs and groups of people and is briefly tethered alone. Each dog must exhibit themselves with confidence and any dog showing signs of aggression, anxiety or fearfulness will not attain a pass and therefore cannot proceed to any of the other IGP examinations.
The first real title is IGP1 and consists of three phases, A-Tracking B-Obedience and C-Protection. A dog must pass all three phases in a single trial with a minimum score of 70% in each phase to be awarded a title. IGP2 and IGP3 titles involved the same three phases and same minimum score but there are additional exercises in each examination and others become increasingly more difficult at each level.
The tracking phase tests the dog’s ability to execute scentwork and concentrate and apply themselves to the exercise in a specific manner for the duration of the test.
A person (known as a track layer) walks through a field depositing three small items (articles) over the distance (which varies according to the level of the title).
After a period of time, the handler directs their dog to follow the track and will follow the dog on a 10metre leash. As each article is located by the dog he will indicate this to the handler, usually by lying down with the article between his front paws.
The judge will evaluate the performance based on the level of care, accuracy and intensity shown by the dog in working out the track.
In a large field similar to a football pitch, two dog and handler teams will enter and report to the judge. One dog is placed in a down position on the side of the field and the handler leaves it whilst the other dog works.
The dogs are asked to carry out several heelwork exercises whilst gunshots are fired, Sit out of motion, Down out of motion, Stand out of motion, several recalls, retrieve of a dumbbell on the flat, over a 1m hurdle and over an A frame and a sendaway where the dog must run fast, and as directed, away from the handler and lie down on command whilst he is running.
All exercises are graded by the judge according to speed and accuracy and must be seen to work collaboratively with his handler and with joy and enthusiasm for the work.
Protection or Defence
In this phase the judge requires an assistant to help test the courage of the dog to protect itself and its handler. The assistant is known as a ‘Helper’ or ‘Decoy’. The Helper wears a heavily padded sleeve on one arm and carries a padded stick with which to threaten the dog. There are six ‘blinds’ on the field which are like tepee tents.
The Helper will be hiding in one of them and the dog is directed by the handler to search for the helper and look in each of these 6 blinds to locate him. When the dog locates the helper he indicates this by barking continuously, guarding the Helper to prevent them from moving until the handler arrives. A series of prescribed exercises follow in which the Helper is directed by the handler to move around the field and makes various attempts to escape, attack the dog, attack the handler and is escorted to the judge.
At certain points the dog must stop the attack or escape by biting the padded sleeve and must also release the sleeve and cease the attack on the handler’s command. Failure to comply with the handler’s commands results in a disqualification.
At all times the dog is expected to engage with the helper without hesitation and with courage and must always obey the handler. Any signs of fear, lack of control or inappropriate aggression will result in termination.
What Do I Need To Do This?
- A reasonable time commitment
A high proportion of people who are interested in the sport drop out within the first year as they become discouraged by the amount of time they need to invest or their perceived lack of progress. This isn’t a sport that measures progress in 6 week chunks like other dog training courses or clubs you may have been involved with.
As a guideline, an average member in regular training seeking progress will be attending sessions at least weekly and working at home on obedience and tracking. On a weekly basis this time commitment could be:
- Obedience – around 6.5hrs (2 club sessions of 2 hrs each plus 10 mins twice per day at home)
- Tracking – around 4-6hrs (3-4 tracks per week)
- Protection – 10 hrs (2 club sessions of 5hrs each)
Training with a group or club is not a solitary endeavour and members are expected to help one another by attending training regularly, staying for the duration of the session and helping support the smooth running of the group/club.
Naturally, many hands make light work so if you join a group, feel free to roll your sleeves up and pitch in with something you feel comfortable with!
- A dog
The sport was originally conceived as a ‘fit for breeding’ test for the German Shepherd Dog. It goes without saying therefore that the sport is best suited to German Shepherds. However, many other breeds are active in the sport and have competed with great success at club level and can be seen at all levels up to and including the FCI All Breed World Championships.
We are proud to welcome handler and dog teams with the necessary drive and commitment to succeed in the sport, irrespective of breed. We have supported dog and handler teams in many breeds to excel at all levels. You can see therefore that our training philosophy is to accommodate the individuality of each dog.
Is your dog suitable?
Before joining a group you will meet with our Head Trainer and your dog will be evaluated to confirm that he/she has a stable temperament. The Trainer will advise you of their opinion concerning the abilities of the dog. Please understand that this honest appraisal of the dog’s capability to participate in this sport is no slight on either yourself or the dog by its very nature. Sometimes a dog doesn’t have the motivation or heart to succeed in a sport that requires a high level of drive and a high level of self control. We don’t believe in forcing participation on a dog who doesn’t want to play; we want to make sure that participating in our sport is fun for both the dog and the handler. We may agree that you have a fantastic dog, but also tell you that this just isn’t the sport for him/her.
If you don’t have a dog at the moment but you are interested in the sport, we can help guide you during your research and support you in asking questions of any vendor before making your decision on whether to get a puppy or a young dog that has been started in work or a titled dog.
In order to trial you must be a member of an appropriate working dog club and in possession of a score book/performance book for your dog. This will vary according to your breed of choice and location. We can help advise you in due course.
Over the years you will, as most people do, accumulate a vast array of toys and equipment if you remain in the sport.
In your first year however you can start with a very basic kit. You will need:
- A padded agitation collar or harness for protection work. Look for a harness specifically designed for agitation and protection which is well padded in areas that are unlikely to rub.
- A standard leash with clip fastening
- A fur saver chain link collar
- A crate or method of containment appropriate for securing your dog when you are away from your vehicle at training
- A 10m line for tracking and protection
- Whatever treats or toys motivates your dog
- Thirst for Knowledge
We don’t expect you to know it all when you get here but we do want you to push yourself to learn and develop. We want you to ask questions. We want your knowledge and understanding of the sport to grow and develop.
We tend to conduct a more ‘hands-on’ style of training and instruction, which means you will see all of our group members being accompanied through their obedience and protection routines with the Head Trainer and with the support of other group members. You should expect that you would be instructed in a similar manner.
What Can I Achieve?
The achievements of our group members are largely dependent on their goals and aspirations, their level of skill and training and the ability of their dog. Our group members have had varying achievements over the years including multiple National, European Championship and World Championship entries with multiple breeds, and too many IGP 1,2 and 3 club titles to count!
With a good dog and a lot of hard work on your part, we will do everything we can to help you succeed.
Hopefully this guide has given you some basic information on our sport and give you an idea of how to get started.
If you’re interested in joining one of our training groups, just drop us a form or email and we’ll get you hooked up.