Most dog owners aren’t aware of the existence of Schutzhund turns until they embrace the sport of Rally Obedience of Canine Musical Freestyle the very first time. What exactly is a Schutzhund turn? Also known as a left about turn, the Schutzhund turn is a motion exercise where the dog is initially next to the handler in heel position and then moves clockwise around the handler while the handler at the same time turns 180 degrees to the left. At the end of the rotation, the dog finally ends back into heel position next to the handler. This coordinated movement is quite appealing to watch and is a great manifestation of the communication and bond between dog and handler.
At a first glance, the exercise may look a tad bit complicated, but it’s fairly easy to teach. All that is needed is a motivated dog and a coordinated handler. Food can work wonders for the food motivated dog, but a toy will work as well with dogs that enjoy a game of tug or a game of fetch. Ideally, this exercise should be practiced in a spacious room that allows dog and handler to make wide turns without feeling crammed and without bumping into objects. The following are step-by-step directions on training a Schutzhund turn.
- Start with your dog standing next to you in heel position. In dog obedience, the dog is in heel position when he is on the left side of the handler. Dogs that are trained to stay by the handler’s right side are known to be on the “side position.”
- Walk together a few steps in a straight line.
- Hold a treat or toy in your left hand. The treat or toy will be used as a lure to guide your dog to circle around you clockwise while you turn 180 degrees.
- Step forward with your foot while you lure the dog to move forward with the treat or toy.
- Pivot towards the left making a 180 degree turn, pass the treat or toy to the right hand, as you turn together in opposite directions.
- Praise your dog and reward the dog with the treat or toy when you meet together again with him in heel position on your left.
- If your dog doesn’t follow your hand movement, try using higher value treats or try practicing in an area with less distraction.
- You may need to split the exercise in parts to help your dog. Reward your dog for starting to turn, then when midway, and then finally at the end of the turn.
- It’s best to start training the Schutzhund turn without the leash as sometimes it gets confusing when the leash gets tangled and in the way. As the dog gets better at turning, you can then try it with the leash, but be prepared to have to switch hands holding the leash as you turn.
- Some handlers may prefer training the Schutzhund turn while holding the leash though as they feel they have more control of the dog and can use the leash to guide the dog through the movement.
There’ no shadow of doubt that the Schutzhund turn is quite impressive to watch. You may want to train it if you are planning to compete in Rally obedience or you can add it to your choreographic Canine Freestyle performance. Either way, it’s a sure way to amaze those who watch it.