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How to train your american pit bull terrier The American Pit Bull Terrier Handbook The Ultimate American Pit Bull Terrier The Working Pit Bull World of the American Pit Bull Terrier

Irondog and the APBT By Dave Putnam

Irondog is a protection sport like Schutzhund or Ring Sport, but designed specifically for working Bull breeds, primarily American Pit Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs. The mainstream protection sports are designed for Shepherds and it is unlikely that we will ever see Bulldogs achieving top honors and beating the Shepherd at his own game. This does not mean that German, Dutch or Belgium Shepherds are better sport protection dogs than Pit Bulls, just that the sheepdogs will do better in sports designed for them and judged by people that own Shepherds.

An Irondog trial consists of six events that are scored separately and then added together to get a total score. The six events are:
1) 12-mile Endurance Test, a timed long distance run.
2) 100-yard Sprint Race, each dogs runs one at a time against the clock.
3) Weight Pull, this is the best single measure of body strength, we allow baiting to lessen the amount of training required.
4) Hardest Hitting, whether on a suit or sleeve, we want to see the dog pound the decoy with incredible power.
5) Tug of War, this event measures jaw strength, body strength and tenacity.
6) Hangtime, after all the other events have exhausted the dog, he must hold himself up on a spring pole for a set time limit to test jaw strength.

When combined together these six events become a marathon that measures all the physical traits that Bulldogs are known for.

To enter an Irondog trial your American Pit Bull Terrier must either already have a recognized sport title like Schutzhund/Ring/WABA BST, or he must pass a simple obedience/protection test that Irondog administers called the Guard Dog temperament test (GDT). The reason for a qualifying title is that an Irondog trial measures raw physical ability and prowess, not control or temperament. These latter traits are measured quite effectively by traditional protection sport and Irondog International does not want to reinvent the wheel. The GDT requires much less training than the other sport titles yet essentially measures the same things. Our motto is, “test the dog, not the handler.”

The premise behind Irondog is that the while traditional protection sports do a fine job at measuring control and temperament, they do not adequately measure the tremendous body strength, jaw strength, blinding speed and tenacity of a well bred protection trained Bulldog. A top Pit Bull might compete against a GSD in a Schutzhund trial and score lower in the protection phase because he does not bark as well in the guard exercise. Yet it is likely that the Pit Bull hit the decoy with more force than the GSD and gripped the sleeve with jaws that are twice as strong. None of these factors are taken into consideration when scoring a Schutzhund trial. Jaw strength and body strength are the heart and soul of Irondog.

When the German Shepherd was converted from a sheepdog to a police/military dog, the sport of Schutzhund was the ideal vehicle to make this transformation. But is it the best vehicle to transform the Pit Bull into a guard dog? Trying to make the Pit Bull fit into the world of Schutzhund is like trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. The Pit Bull does need to be slightly transformed from his original task to find a useful working role in society. The key word is ‘slightly.’ While there will always be a handful of diehards that will continue to clandestinely breed a tiny number of game fighting dogs, one way or another the APBT is being converted from a pit fighter to an athletic family guard dog. The Pit Bull achieved his legendary strength, endurance and speed under the crucible of blood sport. Without another type of sport to maintain his athletic prowess the Pit Bull will not be able to become a functional guard dog, instead he will succumb to the fate of the AKC Bull breeds and become a non-functional show dog. Irondog does not see itself competing for the 1% of Pit Bull enthusiasts that still match their dogs. Rather we want to draw from the remaining 99% that essentially do nothing with their dogs in a working or sport sense.

Irondog trials are held in all parts of the US and Canada. The sport is one year old and entering a period of rapid growth. The trials are generally held at American Bulldog shows and most of the Irondog titles have so far been issued to ABs, however we have had a couple Pit Bulls in our trials and have issued two Pit Bull Irondog titles. There is a small but growing interest in the APBT community to compete in this protection sport designed especially for working protection trained Bulldogs. Soon we will see large numbers of protection Pits in Irondog trials. At that point we expect the Pit Bull to dominate the sport. Pound for pound the Pit Bull is the best combination of speed, strength, hitting power and tenacity of any dog breed on Earth. To learn more about Irondog check out our two-hour long video Irondog and Beyond. Here we show you how to train for the Working American Bulldog Association’s Breed Suitability Test I and II, plus the six Irondog events. WABA’s BSTs are also designed specifically for working Bulldogs, quite a few Pit Bulls have earned BSTs and done a superb job of it. The extra control that you will be able to train into your Pit Bull by passing the BST will help you immeasurably in an Irondog trial. In our video you will see a highly trained Staffy Bull Terrier going through a fantastic protection routine and a killer Colby Pit Bull doing advanced work alongside a host of American Bulldogs being trained in obedience, protection and Irondog. There are no Shepherds in our video or in our trials. All the training in our video is geared for Bulldogs.

Pit Bull owners that have participated in European protection trials will get a pleasant surprise when they enter an Irondog trail. No one will look down their nose at you for not having a European breed of dog. You will be welcomed with open arms, both you and your dog will have the time of your life.


Dave Putnam, ®2000
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