My First IPO Trial – Testing For The BH
The day my Rottweiler Zeus and I had been training for since January of this year finally arrived – The Southwest Ohio Schutzhund Club (a member club of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America) had their Fall 2015 Club IPO trial the weekend of October 3rd and 4th.
This was my very first IPO trial – not just as a spectator, but also as a competitor as Zeus and I would be testing for our BH. This club level trial was intended to be somewhat small, but a surprising number of entries were received including 11 BH’s. So what was to be a one day trial turned into a two day trial with the IPO Tracking dogs starting first thing in the morning on Saturday, followed by the testing of all the BH dogs. IPO Obedience and Protection then followed on Sunday. The event was judged by USCA judge Aurthur Collins.
WHAT IS A BH?
BH is short for Begleithund which means companion dog test in German. The BH is a basic obedience and temperament test that is a prerequisite before the dog may move on to a Schutzhund (also known as IPO) title. Here is a photo of my dog and I that were part of a group of 11 people who tested for the BH (which is considered a degree, not a title) – a large number for a local club trial.
The BH test has four components – the written test, the temperament test, the obedience test, and the traffic test.
Because of the large group, our temperament testing was in a couple of different phases throughout the day, but here’s a good run down of things our dogs were asked to do.
- Heel in a group of people.
- Be surrounded by a group of people that closes in on the dog with the handler, and then again without the handler. The dog cannot react aggressively or be nervous.
- The dog is placed in a sit in the center of a group (someone in the group takes the dog’s lead) and the owner goes out of site for about a minute. The dog must stay and not reactive negatively in the situation.
- Be back tied and have another dog (a puppy in our case) walked in front of them. The tested dog cannot react aggressively or negatively toward the other dog on lead.
- The dog’s microchip or tattoo is read to verify the dog’s identity. The dog must behave well while the judge is involved and examining in this manner.
The elements of the temperament test are difficult to train for because 1)they require multiple people to be involved and 2)they are unique to the BH in IPO so unless there are others in your club also going for a BH you may find little opportunity in your club for you and your dog to be exposed to temperament testing. I think this is an area that could have been practiced more in my own club – we practiced exactly once during the weekend prior to the trial. A big key here is for the owner to be calm and confident – your dog will pick up on nervous emotions. Zeus did quite well during the temperament testing. I was thankful that a puppy was used for for the dog aggression test and that the puppy wasn’t walked particularly near to Zeus. After we did some parts of the temperament testing we moved on to the written test before lunch.
In USCA, a written test is required of any handler who has not previously done a BH. Check the USCA Home Page for the most recent version of the test. My honest opinion is there is little value to be gained in the written test process. There are two kinds of questions on the test – those questions you know the answer to because they are relevant to the exercises you’ve been training for to pass your BH, and those that you’ll have to look up in the USCA Rules & Regs that you’ll likely forget minutes after handing in your test. Would you like proof? Start asking more senior members in your IPO club questions from the BH test. The usual response is “it’s been years since I’ve had to take the written test.”
There are several IPO topic related discussion groups on Facebook – if you’re having trouble finding the answers to the questions on the current version of the test, compare notes with other BH newbies in one of the groups. This strategy proved quite helpful for me.
The obedience test portion of the BH is the primary obstacle to be cleared. My dog and I started doing IPO work in January of this year, and while we’ve done work in all phases of IPO, we focused considerably on obedience. Obedience testing is made of of the following:
- The BH heeling routing on and off lead
- Heeling through a group on and off lead
- The motion exercises
- The long down.
I took some private lessons from my club’s Training Director, and spent quite a bit of time working on our own to improve. In my case, most of my own training time was spent on the down with recall part of the motion exercises. My biggest problem was getting my dog to run (not walk) the entire distance during the recall (30 human paces from the dog). I discovered during our training in the Summer months leading up to the trial that most Rottweilers do NOT work well in heat. Healing in a group was another challenge for us as Zeus is naturally curious and wants to sniff new people (which also became problematic during check in). Fortunately there is a park with a basketball court near my home and most Summer evenings there was a crowd of young adults playing basketball. I usually was able to get 3 or 4 of them to form a group and let me take 2 minutes to heal between them. My favorite joke for the guys visibly nervous around the “vicious” Rottweiler was “don’t worry guys – if my dog bites someone while I heel through the group in my BH test, I only lose a point!” Of course, heeling off lead was also a significant challenge.
As I mentioned, my dog isn’t particularly motivated to work in warmer weather, so I was praying our trial would be cooler – below 80 degrees. God has a “wonderful” sense of humor – not only did he provide cooler weather, he provided rain to ensure my dog would remain well hydrated. The temperature ended up being 48 degrees with wind and rain. Here are some photos:
Walking back for the critique:
THE TRAFFIC TEST
The traffic test is another area of testing that is unique to the BH and therefore harder to train for unless others in your club are also testing for a BH. For our traffic test, the judge had all 11 dog and handler teams walk in a large square pattern. While doing so, a bicycle rider went by, a vehicle drove by (blowing the horn) and a jogger ran by. In each case, the dog can’t react negatively to the testing conditions – the dog should remain calm and continue to heal at your side. We didn’t practice this at our IPO club. The only thing we did in preparation was many walks on the sidewalk next to a busy street. Fortunately for us, everything goes by pretty quickly so the dog doesn’t have much time to react.
It would be no exaggeration to say that USCA Aurthur Collins was a saint during our BH testing. You may hear people say things like “nobody fails a BH” or “anyone can pass.” Yes, anyone CAN pass, but not everyone does…I know people who have failed a BH before…it happens to even experienced IPO people. The judge can make a huge difference during the test. I’d like to think that Zeus would have passed under any judge – he didn’t really do anything particularly wrong that day. But Mr. Collins certainly made the process more enjoyable and less stressful – I can’t imagine a better judging experience. All 11 dogs that tested for their BH at the trial passed.
The BH training and testing process rates as one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever attempted. I’m very proud of both my dog Zeus and myself – it’s a huge time commitment when you’re first starting out and everything is “new.” Such an accomplishment cannot be done without the help of others, and certainly in this case, I’m indebted to many others for the help including Tammy Molner (Training Director for the Southwest Ohio Schutzhund Club), Christy Hutchinson (breeder, Krafthaus Rottweilers) and my wife Karen.
We’ll take a break for a couple of weeks and resume our training and preparation for an IPO I title.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.