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Would you like to own an IGP dog?

Dog sport is an excellent way to engage with your dog as training creates a strong bond between dog and handler. Before you decide to enter the competitive world of dog sports, you need to ask yourself a number of questions.

What job was your dog originally bred for?

Most breeds have historically been developed for specific reasons (hunting, protection, guiding). Breeders selected those parents that were best at the tasks they needed to do. Thanks to this selective breeding process, today we have a wide range of breeds with a wide range of physical characteristics and abilities.

For example, working retrievers need a soft mouth. This trait makes them great for retrieving game for their hunters without damaging it. On the other hand, a dog protecting a herd needs to be brave and bite hard to successfully defend against predator attacks.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an “universal dog” that possesses all possible working qualities. Therefore, to be able to participate in a certain dog sport, physical features and character traits of your

need to match the demands of the sport. A good example is the mandatory requirement of jumping over a one-meter wall in IGP, which is physically impossible for small breeds.

Do I want to show my dog?

Until the early 1900s, there was no real division between show and working lines within a breed. Dogs were supposed to assist their owners in their job. Nowadays, reputable dog breeders need to decide if they want to breed for sports or for showing. It is unlikely that dogs can reach the highest standards in both.

The separation between working lines and show lines happened when the need for practical work of dogs significantly decreased. As the overall standard of living improved, many families were able to keep a dog as a companion rather than as a helper or guard. Hence, dog shows became a popular pastime whilst working abilities began to lose importance.

The notable exception is the need to preserve the outstanding working qualities of dogs used in the police, army, for hunting, protecting herds, and guiding.

Breeding programs also aim to maintain and promote abilities that are required for dog sport. Successful sport dogs are selected for the breeding program, so the best genes are passed on from generation to generation.

Dog sports - such as Schutzhund (IGP), Mondioring, French Ring, or Search and Rescue - are highly demanding for a dog, and a working line is the best choice. There are show lines that have achieved good results in IGP training, but this is the exception rather than the rule. There are also working lines that do very well in shows; look at some of the handsome dogs at our club, with many rated V (Excellent) and SG (Very Good) against the breed standard.

Where can I find a quality working line sports dog?

Knowledge and experience are an absolute must when purchasing a high-quality sport dog. Novice handlers entering the dog sport tend to be unfamiliar with the high physical and mental demands on a dog in IGP. The wrong choice of puppy may lead to a lack of desired results, frustration, and ultimately leaving the sport.

Breeding high quality working dogs requires following strict regulations in case of German Shepherds, working dogs have to conform to breeding standards set by SV (Verein für deutsche Schäferhunde), which include a number of strict health test and passing breed surveys. Breeders have also an important role in training and stimulating puppies in the first eight weeks of their life before they go to their handler. In addition, a working dog needs to be “clear headed”, which is the ability to remain focused in highly stimulating environments.

The idea that success in the sport can be determined solely by titles of the parents alone is flawed. Outstanding parents do not guarantee outstanding descendants; some great sport dogs have had no descendants that could come close to the abilities of their parents. Therefore, it is important also to evaluate the performance in the sport of the wider pedigree. There are many websites providing information on selecting a suitable breeder and how to ask the right questions. We strongly recommend requesting professional independent advice before purchasing a puppy for the sport.

When people approach our club with the intention to become an IGP handler, we invite them for an evaluation where we assess their dog on suitability for IGP. Those who do not have a dog yet, we can help them selecting a working line puppy that does have potential to do well in the sport. That means a working dog within the handlers experience range and with a character that is compatible with that of the handler, only than they can be a team.

With a well-structured training program and the right working dog, IGP is a rewarding and enjoyable sport for dogs and their handlers.


K9Force (2023, August). Would you like to own an IGP dog?

© K9Force WDC 2023. For permission to reproduce any article in this blog, contact


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