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IPO Definition

IPO is a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating traits in dogs that make them more useful and stable companions to their owners. The purpose of IPO is to demonstrate the dog's intelligence and utility. As a working trial, IPO measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage and trainability.

This working dog sport offers an opportunity for dog owners to train their dog and compete with each other for recognition of both the handler's ability to train and the dog's ability to perform as required. It is a sport enjoyed by persons of varied professions, who join together in a camaraderie born of their common interest in working with their dogs. Persons of all ages and conditions of life - even those with significant disabilities - enjoy IPO as a sport. Often, it is a family sport.


The first IPO trial was held in Germany in 1901 to emphasize the correct working temperament and ability in the German Shepherd breed. Originally, these dogs were herding dogs, but the industrialization of Germany encouraged breeders to promote the use of their dogs as police and military dogs. The Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, became concerned that this would lead to careless breeding and undesirable traits such as mental instability, so it developed the IPO test. Since then, many other countries and working dog organizations have also adopted IPO as a sport and a test of working performance in dogs. International rules have been established, and they are administered by the Verein fur Deutsche Hundesport (VDH). More than 25 countries worldwide, including throughout Europe, the United States, Asia, South Africa and New Zealand practice this sport. 

IPO Titles

In addition to the IPO titles, the Australian United IPO Clubs (AUSC) offers three additional training degrees. Two of these, the FH 1 and FH 2, are advanced tracking degrees that require the dog to follow tracks over changing terrain, discriminate between cross-tracks and is at least 3 hours old.

The third is the BH. The BH is a degree for traffic-safe companion dogs that tests the dogs temperament in and around people. It includes basic formal obedience - heeling on and off leash, sits, downs and recalls - as well as practical tests of the dog’s character in everyday situations. These include reaction to normal situations involving crowds of people, strange noises, joggers, cars and other dogs. Before being allowed to enter for a IPO I title, the dog must first have successsfully completed the BH.

There are three levels of the IPO test for which titles can be earned.

For IPO I the dog must be at least 18 months old and pass an initial temperament test by the judge. The dog must heel on the leash and off, demonstrate the walking sit, the walking down, and the stay tests, as well as, the send-out. It must retrieve on the flat and over a hurdle. In tracking, it must be able to follow a track laid by its handler at least 20 minutes earlier. There are also protection tests.

For IPO II the dog must be at least 19 months old and must already have earned its IPO I degree. It must again pass all of the obedience and protection tests required for the IPO I degree, but those tests, for IPO II, are made more difficult and require greater endurance, agility, and above all, control. There is an additional retrieve required over the six foot slanted wall. In tracking, the IPO II candidate must be able to follow a track laid by a stranger at least 30 minutes earlier.

For IPO III the master’s degree, the dog must be at least 20 months old and must have earned both the IPO I and the IPO II titles. Again, the tests now are made far more difficult. All exercises in obedience and protection are demonstrated off leash. There is the additional of a walking and running stand. In tracking, the dog must follow a track that was laid by a stranger at least 60 minutes earlier. The track has four turns, compared with two turns for IPO I and II, and there are three objects, rather than two, that must be found by the dog. The picture of obedience, strength, eagerness and confidence presented by an excellent IPO III team is a beautifully illustration of the partnership of human and dog.