If you decide that the sport is definitely something that you want to pursue farther, make sure to visit several clubs in your area. Schutzhund is something that requires a club or training group to train properly, particularly for the protection work as athletic decoys that are good at reading and judging dogs are a must. Each club is different, with its own different "culture". Look for a club whose members you can get along with, because you'll be spending a lot of time with these people. Talk with them and ask a lot of questions.
Consider carefully what your goals for schutzhund are. Do you want to go all the way and become a national level competitor? Or are you more interested in an enjoyable pastime for you and your dog? Some clubs are for serious competitors only and don't want to waste time on people who just want to have fun. Other clubs are more geared toward the weekend hobbyist, and may have neither the knowledge, experience nor desire to work with a member who has more lofty goals. And many clubs have a mix of both and are equally supportive of competitors and hobbyists alike. Look for a club that has the same goals and people with the appropriate experience to get you where you want to go and, just as importantly, make sure that they are willing and able to help teach a novice. Meet their dogs and watch the training to see whose dogs you like and who's training methods and overall philosophy is something that you agree with.
In Germany, every town typically has at least one schutzhund club, many of which have been in operation for decades. Schutzhund is very much a family affair and social outlet as well, and some of the clubhouses and training grounds are so extravagant they are more like a country club than a dog training group. So fanciers have literally dozens of clubs to choose from, and many belong to more than one club and can train at any time, any day of the week. Not so here in North America. Schutzhund clubs are still relatively few and far between and many enthusiasts drive a couple of hours or more each way to meet for training. So while distance is a factor in club selection, it is worth the effort to visit as many clubs that are a within a reasonable distance, and pick the one that best fits your personality and goals. This is far more important than which club is the cheapest or closest.
If you have a dog already that you think may make a good schutzhund prospect, take your dog to the club and have it evaluated. The Training Director and other members will have the experience and objectivity to give you an accurate evaluation of your dog's schutzhund potential. If you don't have a dog for the sport, but would like to get one, start first with visiting local clubs and finding one to join. Watch the club dogs carefully, and when you see ones that you especially like, inquire as to the dog's bloodlines and from where the dog came. Your schutzhund club members are a great resource to help you to locate the right dog. They can also give you advice based on your skills and experience as to what mix of characteristics to look for in your first schutzhund dog. They may know someone who has a good dog for you, recommend breeders, or at the very least can help you sort out bloodlines and other information to help in your search for your future schutzhund star
Dog at home
By design, a schutzhund dog is an outstanding companion. There do exist some dogs who are extreme in drive and aggression and do not settle well into family life, and occasionally a dog with faulty temperament and nerves who never should have been bred or titled in the first place can slip through the cracks.
However, as a general rule schutzhund dogs make great pets, particularly for active people who enjoy going out and doing things with their dogs. Every dog owner, whether they are interested in a dog for sport, work, or family companionship, values the characteristics that are present in a schutzhund dog; mental stability, physical soundness, confidence, fearlessness and a high willingness to work for and please the handler. Likewise, a schutzhund dog has been well socialized and well trained, making them safe, reliable and obedient companions who can accompany their family anywhere. Schutzhund dogs are approachable and excellent with children, while being courageous and protective. They are alert and aware of their surroundings, yet are unbothered by unusual sights and sounds. They are neither fearful and timid, nor inappropriately aggressive, standing their ground calmly and confidently without backing down, but not looking for a fight. They are willing to spring into action and work or play at a moment's notice, but in the interim are content to enjoy quiet time with the family. The control that schutzhund training gives the handler, and the good overall temperament that a schutzhund dog possesses, allows the handler to take the dog more places and do more things with the dog, increasing their bond and having more fun together.
Even if one is not interested in having a dog for work or sport competition, but instead for family companionship, careful research of breeders and dogs is critical. Most problems that pet owners encounter with their dogs are due to lack of socialization, lack of training or poor genetic temperaments. Socialization and training are the responsibility of the dog's owner, but a good dog starts with good breeding. Most dogs that are fearful, skittish and timid are this way because of genetics. Many times, such dogs that are spooky and easily threatened become dangerous fear biters. In fact, most dogs that are dangerous and unsafe are this way because of an underlying fear of strange people, objects and events. Fearful dogs commonly react aggressively in an attempt to scare away the threat. Proper socialization and training can improve the situation greatly, but the underlying genetics cannot be changed and the truth is that such dogs are never as stable and reliable as a dog that does not have genetically weak nerve and temperament to begin with. The schutzhund exam does not allow for a dog that shows nervousness and fear, or reacts in a timid and skittish manner. Such dogs are quickly weeded out of schutzhund, and therefore are also weeded out of the gene pool of breeders who still value schutzhund as a test of breed worthiness and utilize it as such.
Many people are fearful of "protection" dogs and question how such animals can be safe around their families, the general public, and especially children. While protection work is a part of schutzhund training, it is done in a very careful manner with the utmost emphasis on the handler's control of the dog. Not only do schutzhund dogs possess the proper nerve and temperament to make them safe around children, they have been well socialized and their training stresses proper control. While schutzhund dogs are supposed to be willing to defend the handler when required, more importantly they must be willing to trust and obey the handler's judgment and direction.