Dog Sports – PSA vs IPO

There are a host of sports you can get your dog into that involve bite work. The most popular bite-sports are IPO aka Schutzhund, PSA (Protection Sports Association), Mondio Ring, and French Ring. This article will compare the differences between IPO and PSA.

First lets dive into the basics, the core fundamentals of each dog sport. Take note that I’m only diving into this at a mile-high view. To help you explore which dog sport you might be interested in. To find out which sport will fit you, you must research a local club in your area, go meet with them and watch what they do. My words admittedly don’t give either sport the true justice they deserve.

IPO (Schutzhund)

IPO is centered around 3 main skill sets obedience, tracking and protection. Obedience in Schutzhund is very structured and routine with no distractions other than the judge and a small group on the trial field. The main exercises are focused heeling, recall, down and sit in motion, dumbbell retrieve, and a long down stay with no handler interaction. Tracking consists of tracking on a grass field with a track laid by the handler in the lower levels of competition. There are articles on the track, which the dog must alert on. The protection exercises in IPO consist of a blind search, bark and hold, courage test, and transporting a “prisoner”. All bites are given on an “barrel sleeve”, in this sport the dogs will never see a bite suit on the trial field.

PSA (Protection Sports Association)

PSA is structured around 2 main skill sets; obedience and protection. There is no tracking in PSA. The obedience in PSA is similar to that of IPO in the exercises that are required. There is no dumbbell retrieve, but there is a food refusal test in the higher competition levels. One major difference in PSA obedience is that there are distractions on the field, decoys, balls, frisbees you name it. PSA obedience is not sanitized as it is in IPO. The protection exercises are vastly different than IPO as well. In PSA the exercises are more scenario based. For example there is a carjacking scenario, you will be sending the dog on directed bites and fend off 2 decoys. Plus, there are surprise scenarios that will only be disclosed on trial day. PSA focuses on real-life situations, including a bad guy putting a large amount of pressure on the dog. All PSA scenarios are done with a bite suit on the decoy, unless in the PDC-Sleeve division.

Now, I want to give you my opinion on these two dog sports.

Disclaimer, this is my opinion and is based off of my experiences in training for both sports and spectating. I haven’t trialed yet because I switched sports halfway through my dog’s development. Which sucks and has set me back quite a bit.

>I personally choose PSA over IPO. Here’s why, I want a real dog that is not only good for a routine set of tasks. (Harsh I know) I’ve seen FANTASTIC IPO dogs that when it comes down to it would not and will not bite a man without a sleeve on. I’ve decoyed for these dogs and know it to be true. I’ve seen World Championship IPO dogs break from too much pressure of a man screaming and waving a stick at them. I also have a strong distaste in my mouth for the way I was treated in the IPO community, when I entered it.

PSA is the new kid on the block that gets away from the structure and routine of IPO. The community is more supportive as a whole and there is not near as much bureaucracy or politics as there is with IPO. The training fits my needs and offers me the confidence that my dog will perform under stress and in real-life situations.

That’s my take on PSA vs IPO. As I said earlier the choice is yours. If you want a dog that is more show than go choose IPO, if you want a dog that will protect you in real life, PSA. Either way, you are sure to be happy. Just make sure you do your research and visit a local club before you commit to either.

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5 Responses to “Dog Sports – PSA vs IPO”

  1. Robert

    My GSD (IPO 3) passed his PDC first time with highest score in OB and second highest in protection. He was the only GSD dog that passed. The other passing dogs were Malinois. The protection in PSA was more intense than I had expected, but I really enjoyed it. 70 to 80% of the dogs failed. I plan to keep doing both sports.


  2. Robert

    I love both sports. I have multiple IPO 3 titles one different dogs. Last year I decided to take my IPO 3 GSD and get a PSA title. I did not have a bite suit, so I bought a full length arm sleeve and trained my helper and my dog one redirecting the bite. It was not difficult and my dog loved it. This year I hope to trial him again in PSA after the AWDF championship. My Demanet Bite suit arrived I a few months after my first PSA trial and it is great.

  3. william b

    Great article. Have. A 7mnth old Mal. I already see the stark difference in the community PSA/IPO. I agree with you. Unless, my beast shows me differently, PSA will be my direction.


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