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Balancing Schutzhund and Life - Part 1

Schutzhund is tough. Training three different phases to a level of fluency is forever an ongoing task, requiring the Schutzhunder to find the right balance that works for them and their dogs, while still allowing them to be successful out there on the trial field. We must train advanced obedience, which calls for numerous different behaviors to teach individually and then string together. Additionally, we must find time and locations for tracking, and then finally fit in our protection training, which requires a knowledgeable helper and a special day of training out at the club. Toss in extra conditioning in order to keep the dog in top shape, and we have a full week of “dog stuff” ahead.

So how do we find balance between Schutzhund and life? We have to train all these things, but we still need to work, raise families, take care of laundry and go grocery shopping, and maintain our sanity. Already our weekends are devoted to Schutzhund, but now, our week must be too. Is it possible to successfully do Schutzhund while working a typical 9-5 job? How do we find time to train each phase during the week?

Frank Phillips with Helper Dominic Scarberry during the 2014 USCA National Championship. Photo by Skribull. Photo courtesy of Frank Phillips.

To answer this question, I interviewed four different handlers who actively compete at the top levels of Schutzhund while working non-dog-related jobs. In this first blog, Dominic Scarberry and Frank Phillips join SCHUTZHUND LIFE to share their experiences and perspectives. Dominic Scarberry is one of the very first youth members of USCA’s Youth Program; he has been working with Schutzhund dogs since the age of 4, joined the Youth Program at the age of 10 when it first began, and has since continued in the sport as a handler and National-level helper. Frank Phillips is a one of USCA’s top performance judges, in addition to being a top-level competitor. Frank has been involved in Schutzhund for over 20 years in a variety of ways: teaching helper, training director, performance judge, former Vice President for USCA, and national-level handler. Thank you to both Dominic and Frank for taking time out of their very busy schedules to share their experiences with the Schutzhund life!


Occupation: I'm a full-time college student (first and foremost), but my occupation is a delivery service, and a high school assistant wrestling coach. I average about 40+ hours a week from my "main" job, on top of an extra two to three hours of wrestling, and still go to college full-time.

Other activities/involvements: I'm a national level helper in USCA and starting my teaching helper license. I compete/have competed at numerous levels i.e. club, regional, national. Additionally, I have handled numerous dogs at the USCA Sieger Show, and one at the WUSV Universal Sieger.

Best Known For: I would say I'm best known for being Mark and Michele's son! Besides that, some know me for competing and other because of my helper work at events. I've also done some show handling.

Number of Dogs Actively Training: I'm actively training two dogs that are HOT. My female, Vici von Peroh, is V-rated, IPO3, KKL and is currently almost five years old. My male, Varus ze Stribrneho kamene, is only eleven weeks old and we've started training already!

Making the time to train: I make time whenever I have it! If I have a couple hour gap between classes, I'll try and do something. The hardest is making time after work. Getting home after 5, or sometimes even 6 in the evening, I'm always tired. The way I motivate myself, is by saying, "Do what most won't to have what most can't." It pushes me to do more, and give my dog the most out of training.

Time per week training in:

  • Tracking: I'll go track about five times a week.

  • Obedience: I do obedience three to four times a week. I try to break it up to where I only do a little bit to keep my dog's drive higher (not that she needs it). So, I'll do heeling and motion exercises one session. The next, I'll do a little heeling, retrieves, and a send out. Roughly, after a few sessions of that, I'll do an entire routine just so my dog can see an entire picture.

  • Protection: I do protection about three to four times a week also. Same concept as obedience to where I'll run blinds and do a front half. The next, send her directly into the "find" blind, and working on guarding and secondary obedience.

How many trials per year: I enter roughly three trials a year to compete, and do four or five trials a year as a helper.

Advice for those looking to find that balance between Schutzhund and the rest of their life: The best advice I can give to someone to find a balance between work, school, and other extracurricular activities is to remain dedicated and persistent. Schutzhund/IPO is not a sometime sport, and the best stay committed to their training regimen. Is it hard to balance being a full-time college student, working roughly 50 hours a week, training two dogs, and being a large driving force in a club? Without a doubt. The balance between all of them, has just been dedication and being persistent about wanting to be the best handler or helper I can be.



Occupation: My title is Principal Mechanical Designer, I design mechanical systems for a defense industry company.

Other activities/involvements: USCA IPO Performance Judge, USCA Teaching Helper, Play Golf once in a while, travel.

Best Known For: Probably the best 2 things I'm known for is being the lunatic that is tracking in the dark at 5:00AM with a headlamp, and snow-blowing a 60" x 90" area in my back yard every snow storm so I can train.

Number of Dogs Actively Training: Three - current competition dog, young dog hopefully to be next competition dog, and a breeding female to IPO2 and IPO3 in club trials.

Making the time to train: If it’s important to you, you find a way....If it's not, you find an excuse.

Time per week training in:

  • Tracking: 5-6 days per week for approx 6-7 hours per week.

  • Obedience: 4-5 days per week for approx 1.5 hours per week.

  • Protection: 2-3 days per week for approx 20-40 mins per week (actually working MY dog).

These estimates are for one dog...OB and Prot would be straight proportion for other dogs, tracking is less because travel time is for all dogs the same time.

Number of trials per year: 5-6 championships and then usually a couple club trials with the upcoming dogs.

Advice for those looking to find that balance between Schutzhund and the rest of their life: No, there is no balance. It is 100% a scale of how important it is to the individual. Some will make all the time they need, some will make just enough and say they don't have time. But then they have time for other activities. 20 years ago I did a lot of other activities and gradually as I became a better trainer and I got higher drive dogs, more and more of my time went to IPO training. I don't have much time for other things because training my dogs and competing with them is what I love to do, so I make the time to do whatever I think is necessary to try to get to the level I want to be at. I'm still trying to get there.

Thanks again to Dominic and Frank for their candid interviews, and for providing the accompanying photos. Join me next blog to hear from Laurie Coppola and Sean O'Kane as they share about the Schutzhund life!


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