One of the hardest things about IPO/Schutzhund, in my opinion, is the getting started. Check out any IPO Facebook group and it is flooded with newbies that want to get involved but have no idea how.
I experienced first hand how hard it is, too, being a relative newbie myself!
So, one newbie to another, I’m going to share some of the dos and don’ts (in my experience and opinion – keep in mind that your mileage may vary) of getting started in IPO.
Part 1 – What Comes First – The Dog or the Club?
This is the “chicken or the egg?” question of our sport – are you getting a puppy for the sport? Or starting the sport because of the puppy?
For me, it was the latter – I decided to get Brody, then decided on a sport. This has worked out for me so far, but there are some potential pitfalls involved in this route for sure – frankly, I got pretty dang lucky.
What if the puppy you have isn’t cut out for IPO?
True, any dog should be able to get at least a BH, but not every puppy will have what it takes to go the distance to a full IPO title. If you are starting out already owning a dog or puppy, you do need to be prepared for it not to work and be open to being told that by your training director.
When I brought Brody home, and decided I wanted to try IPO, I was fully prepared for him to want to do something else. I was mostly looking for a way to give my dog the exercise and stimulation that he needed – I didn’t really care if that came by way of schutzhund or agility or AKC obedience. For me, it was all about having fun with my dog.
If you’re like me, and you’re just looking for a way to enjoy your dog, regardless of the potential competitive outcome (or lack thereof), you’re probably going to be okay. Have fun at club going as far as you can go.
If, on the other hand, IPO is absolutely what you want to do, you’re probably better off finding a club before you find a puppy. Attempting to force a square peg into a round hole by way of trying to force a dog or puppy into IPO isn’t going to be any fun for anyone.
It won’t just be frustrating for your dog, it will also be frustrating for you. You have no idea how hard it is to watch someone with all the drives and commitment necessary for the sport struggle unhappily every day with an inappropriate dog!
So, if you know for sure that IPO is your sport, do yourself a favor and find a club before you find a puppy. They will be able to help you find a breeder that produces for the sport, thus maximizing your chances of being successful.
Now, caveat – can a puppy bred for the sport just not work out? Of course. But you are far more likely to find success with a purpose-bred puppy than with anything else – this is called stacking the odds in your favor.
There is a second part to this as well, that is maybe more important than anything else I’ve written – there is something to be said for making sure you have the commitment for the sport BEFORE bringing the puppy home. For every 50 or so guests we have out to our club that swear they want to do schutzhund, maybe one sticks around for any length of time. This sport is a massive, massive commitment – it costs a decent amount of money, and it is a HUGE time suck. I always wonder what happens to those people that purchase a high-drive, high-energy dog, and end up not having the commitment to work it…
So, the take away from this should be – don’t do what I did. Find a club before finding a puppy and save yourself, your future dog, and your training director a few headaches. 😉
Coming tomorrow – Part 2 – Finding a Club and How to be a Good Guest!