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Special Achiever: Russ Fox and His Schutzhund Dog Artus

By Linda Cole

The word Schutzhund is German and means “protection dog.” Schutzhund is a very demanding canine sport for working dogs, to test their physical and mental abilities in a competition that measures tracking, obedience and protection. Although any dog breed can compete, the sport was developed for the German Shepherd as a way of showing off the dog's intelligence, willingness to work, endurance, body structure, tracking ability, courage and ability to follow commands. It's a sport that tests the dog and his handler. CANIDAE is proud to sponsor Russ Fox and his dog Artus who qualified for a spot on this year's Team Canada and recently returned from the World Championships held in Kiev, Ukraine. I had a chance to talk with him about this exciting sport.

Russ and Artus live in Ontario, Canada. Russ is the K9 trainer for a large municipal police service outside of Toronto. He works with 12 service dogs which has helped him develop as a handler and trainer for his own sporting dogs. “Every dog is different in how he/she reacts to training. Where some dogs react well to food or toys in training, others will work for genuine praise from its handler.”

Russ was drawn to the sport of Schutzhund because of the precision needed in training a dog in all aspects of the sport in tracking, obedience and protection, and he wanted to learn how to develop that in his working dogs. “When selecting a sport dog, we look for many qualities, similar to selecting a police dog. We evaluate the dog’s various drives – food, toy, fight and play – all of these and more helps us train the dog to excel in the sport. We want a well-balanced dog that is a confident social animal with high drives and heart to do the work.”

Russ prefers to feed Artus CANIDAE All Life Stages formula dog food. “Schutzhund is a very demanding sport on the dogs both physically and mentally. Like any athlete, nutrition plays a critical role for these dogs to succeed. With CANIDAE, I know my dog is getting quality nutrition so that I will get the best performance from him. All Life Stages has met the demands that Artus goes through during training. I have also used the pureSEA Salmon formula for another sport dog, and she is doing extremely well on it.”

I asked Russ how important it is to understand a dog's individual style and personality during training. “This is a great question. I don't like to add human traits to dogs, but they definitely all have individual traits and personalities, so I like to use different training techniques dependent on the dog. Some dogs will work hard for just your praise, while others will do wonders for a food treat, and still others want a toy. The trick is to find the right motivation that works for you with that particular dog.”

Russ has been involved in Schutzhund since the late 1980's and has trained German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd dogs. Artus is a sable colored German Shepherd dog from Germany, and Russ obtained him in November of 2010. He and Artus developed an immediate strong bond which Russ says has helped both of them reach the level of success they've enjoyed this year.

I was curious to know whether Artus enjoys one part of the competition better than other parts. “Artus is a really super well balanced dog. He has great drives to track as well as being willing to work with me to do obedience, but if you asked him, I think he would always choose to do the protection phase of training!”

I asked Russ how the competition went at the World Championships in Kiev. “We didn't do as well as hoped, but ended up 87th in the world out of 105. Still, for our first attempt at such an event, I'm not complaining and have had a lifetime of memories and experiences to help me in the future.”

Not too bad for their first year together, I'd say. All of us at CANIDAE would like to send a big congratulations to Russ and Artus for a job well done. In the off season, Russ and Artus like to just hang out on their property and go for hikes in the back fields.

The CANIDAE Special Achievers Program includes dogs that show us how extraordinary canines are, and how important they are to us. Because of search and rescue dogs, K9 units, therapy dogs and working dogs, many lives have been saved, protected, improved and entertained because of the special relationship we have with dogs. You can read more stories about these wonderful people and their dogs on the CANIDAE website.

Read more articles by Linda Cole
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