Introduction

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“Schutzhund Wall” defined, current standards and typical design

My wife and I belong to a number of dog clubs. A few of these are focused on various types and aspects of dog training. One of these clubs is a member club of DVG America (http://dvgamerica.org) which is the North American representative of a larger, world-wide organization called DVG which is headquartered in Germany. The major dog sport which is the focus of this organizaton is called Schutzhund. This sport was originally designed to help determine if a dog has the mental stability and capcacity as well as the physical abilities to be a good candidate for police work. This has evolved into a three phase sport which is enjoyed by both canine and human team members in many countries around the world and has recently been endorsed and embraced by the American Kennel Club.

I’ll blog more about this great sport in other posts or maybe even put up a page on it later, but to get to the meat of the project that I’ve been working on, you need to know that one of the phases of this sport is an obedience routine. In addition to the expected heeling, “stay”, “down”, “sit” and other such typical commands and behaviors, there are a number of “retrieve” exercises required in the obedience phase. There are three separate retrieval exercises described as “retrieve on the flat”, “retrieve over the hurdle” and “retrieve over the wall”. The last one in that list is the one that my current project is related to.

The retrieve over the wall exercise requires the human team member (called the handler) to throw a wooden dumbell over an obstacle and then ask the canine team member to scale that obstacle, locate and pick up the dumbell and return back over the same obstacle and present that dumbell to the handler. This obstacle is the subject of my current project.

The “wall” is actually referred to as an “A-Frame” in other dog sports and consists of two “panels” which are 75″ long and 59″ wide covered with carpeting. These panels are laid flat on the ground and joined at the short (59″) sides in some fashion, usually with hinges). They are then picked up by that hinged joint and raised up so that they are a total of 71″ high at that apex and 51″ across (between the other ends of the panels) at the ground level. They thus form what looks like an “A” when viewed from the side. A pair of safety chains are usually employed, one on each side of the A, to ensure that the A shape remains constant and the “wall” does not collapse back down to the ground. Three “cleats” or narrow strips of wood are attached at various distances down each of the two sides to act as aids to the dog in climbing the wall and then descending the other side. These cleats measure 1″ thick by 2″ wide and extend across the whole 59″ width of the wall. They are typically screwed or bolted through both the cleat, carpeting and the underlying panel.

Typcially, these wall panels are constructed of 2×4′s, laid flat and arranged in a rectangle to create the dimensions described above. This frame (well, two of them, actually, one for each side of the A-Frame) is then covered with plywood, typically 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Some folks will add an additional 2×4 running lengthwise down the center (long side) to provide additional support. A piano hinge (along the whole 59″ width) or a pair of barn door type hinges (one at each side of the 59″ width) would be used to join these panels together. The carpeting is then draped over the plywood covered side, pulled tight from the underside of the panels and stapled along the sides of the 2×4′s and then again underneath the panels around the periphery. The cleates are then bolted through the cleat, carpeting and plywood at 3 different distances from the top (3 cleats on each side of the A-Frame). Here is a diagram from the DVG America site that visually describes the specifications for such a “wall”.

DVG Schutzhund Wall Specifications

DVG Schutzhund Wall Specifications

So, why am I trying to do something different? Here are the drawbacks that I found in the above, commonly used design:

1. Where the two panels come together, at the top of the A-Frame, there will always be a rather large gap. This cannot (in this sort of design) be avoided as both panels are at least 2″ thick at the top and many are 4.25″ (if you turn the 2×4′s on their side to provide better support and prevent “drooping” over time of the panels and if you use 3/4″ thick plywood.) This makes for a triangular shaped gap at the top of the wall which is 4″ on each side of the triangle with the apex of the triangle located dead center in the A with it’s apex point pointing downwards. People will cover this gap with a piece of carpeting but that is a imperfect “patch” for a design flaw.

2. The hinge solution starts out fairly strong (depending on the screws and hinges used) but, over the years, will rot out and deteriorate. Often the point of failure comes when the wall comes “crashing” down, often at inconvenient or dangerous times.

3. The wall panels are covered with plywood. Unless you know the owner of a sawmill, you will typically be forced to use 4′x8′ sheets. When trying to cover a frame which is 75″ x 59″, you will have to have at least one seam. Whether you decide to have that seam run along the middle lengthwise or across the 59″ width, people typically don’t have any supports underneath the seam into which to screw the plywood edges that make up that seam. Over time, that seam will lift or sink without that support and securing and result in an imperfect join which may or may not affect the look and/or function of that wall.

4. Screwing or bolting the cleats typically is done through the cleats and through the plywood. This results in either bolt or screw holes in the surface of the cleats (even if you use wood filler after countersinking the screws). The canine participants typically will beat these cleats up over time and the screws may become exposed posing a potential source of injury to the participants.

5. If you create the wall using the best materials, it will be quite heavy — difficult if not impossible for two people to move comfortably.

6. The panels have one side which rests on the ground for each side (the bottom of the “A”). This is typically one side of a 2×4 running along the bottom of the panel. If you think about it, this will often result in a wobbly wall unless you have perfectly level ground across the whole 59″ width. In addition, having the whole width resting on the ground encourages deterioriation and rotting of that wide 2×4, the attached plywood and carpeting since all of it is resting on the ground. It also makes it difficult to maintain the lawn around the wall without moving it since using a lawn trimmer would be difficult without damaging the carpeting or wood over time.

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  • Von Kunz Gsd

    thankyou for sharing this scaling wall pattern.

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