I find the most difficult aspect of the sport is that it is very time consuming.
Also, it can be difficult to find a good club so it isn't uncommon for people to travel large distances weekly for training.
Boy aren't those the understatements of the year
I totally agree. The most important thing is to find a GREAT club. There are usually people that will help you get started. Sometimes people even get together outside of club training days to track or do obedience or whatever.
I think the most important thing in Schutzhund is being dedicated to it. It does take a ton of time aside from club training days. Very early morning tracking, and obedience until your ready to scream. It really is alot of fun though.
As far as age to title, I think that really depends on you and your dog. What you put in, is what your going to get back out. I will tell you this much......the dog cant even attempt a BH until they are 15 months old. I think a Schutzhund I is 18 months. Most people dont title until they are much older though. It is alot of work. I think it also depends on what you are expecting out of your dog. Some people just "do it" and get it over with, and other people would like to see the dog perform to the best of it's potential.
Yes, you can have an altered dog and compete.
I think CARA has John Soares as the trainer. Carlos Rojas is also up that way. So is T Floyd and a few others. I dont know much about the specific clubs though.
Some of the equipment can get expensive. At the club I used to train at they liked for you to have your own sleeves, tugs, bite wedge, dumbells...whatever. So, that stuff was expensive. The collars, and harnesses, and long lines, and short leashes, and tabs, and blah blah......it all adds up fast, but that is stuff you can use for a long time.
I think you would enjoy it Carol, good luck