IGP (formerly known as IPO/Schutzhund) is a challenging three-part sport, originally designed in the early 1900s as a breed test for the German Shepherd Dog in Germany. It has since grown into a popular dogsport throughout the world, with dog-handler teams competing for a number of titles and distinctions.
IGP consists of three phases: Tracking, obedience, and protection, each of which has to be passed successfully in order for the team to attain their title. There are three levels of difficulty, with IGP 1 being the entry level, and IGP 3 being the highest attainable level.
The tracking phase tests a dog’s ability to follow a human scent trail and find lost articles along the way. He has to work independently and with high concentration, leading the handler to each article and to the end of the track. The length, complexity, and age of the track increase with each difficulty level. IGP 1 tracks are laid by the dog’s owner, with his own tracking articles, and the track is only 20 minutes old when the dog gets to run it. IGP 1 tracking is ‘only’ 300 paces long, more advanced titles go as far as 600 paces, are aged an hour, and laid by someone other than the dog’s owner.
The obedience phase, on the other hand, has the dog-handler teams switch leadership roles and show off the dog’s willingness to perform increasingly difficult obedience exercises: i.e., heeling, retrieves, jumps, stays, and directed send-outs. Throughout the performance, the sought-after picture is one of harmony between dog and handler, with the dog obviously enjoying his interaction with the handler, while showing great precision and compliance.
The final phase of IGP is the protection phase. It is often said to be the sport’s most exciting phase, as we now observe the dog’s strength, courage, and hardness, while remaining under complete control of the handler, as he displays his ability to find the “assailant”, keep him at bay, prevent his escape, and protect his handler from attack.
Trials are scored by an official learned judge, who compares the ideal picture of each exercise with the performance at hand and assigns a score from 0 to 100 for each phase. The higher the score, the better the performance, but a minimum of 70 points are required in each phase to pass the trial. High scoring teams may even go on to compete in regional, national, and international events. For example, winning teams from this National Championship may be invited to represent LV DVG America in the overall DVG Championship called “Bundessieger Pruefung” held yearly in Germany.
*Photo by Jenya Chernoff