Is Your Dog an Earthdog?
What's an Earthdog? Simply put, an Earthdog is a dog that burrows underground to go after vermin!
Earthdog trials are a competitive sport where dogs must maneuver through man-made underground tunnels in attempts to be the first to find their quarry (typically a rat) and "work it" by barking, scratching, staring, pawing and digging (any type of "active" behavior) at the quarry.
NOTE ABOUT THE QUARRY: No critter is harmed during Earthdog trails! They're protected at all times by wooden bars across the end of the tunnel. Earthdogs do not come into contact with the quarry. Both the Earthdogs and Quarry are under a controlled hunting environment that keeps everyone safe.
Does this sound like a sport you and your dog would like to participate in?
Before you sign up, here are a few things you should know about this very competitive and fun sport.
Earthdog Competitor Requirements
Earthdog competitions are organized and sanctioned through the following clubs; CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) AKC (American Kennel Club) and the AWTA (American Working Terrier Association).
At this time the AKC only allows a select group of purebreds to participate (though they need not be AKC certified). The rest allow terrier mix breeds. None of the Earthdog organizations allow dogs that are deaf or blind or female dogs that are in heat.
Purebreds accepted by the AKC include:
- Australian Terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Border Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Cesky Terrier
- Dandie Dinmont Terrier
- Glen of Imaal Terrier
- Parson Russell Terrier (formally known as the Jack Russell Terrier)
- Lakeland Terrier
- Manchester Terrier
- Miniature Bull Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrer
- Rat Terrier
- Scottish Terrier
- Sealyham Terrier
- Silky Terrier
- Skye Terrier
- Smooth Fox Terrier
- Welsh Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
- Wire Fox Terrier
Competition By Skill Level
Earthdog trials allow the competitors to progress through 4 skill levels, matching dogs of the same relative skill level together. Below, you'll see that progression:
Level 1 - Introduction to Quarry
This program is introduces the sport to your dog. Dogs with different prey drive might need encouragement. This level's purpose is just to get your dog familiar with going underground, following a scent trail and learning to "work" the quarry.
Level 2 - Junior Earthdog
This is the first level of competition that a title can be earned. The tunnel is 30 ft. long and has 3 right angles turns. The dog has 30 seconds to make their way through the tunnel and locate the quarry. The dog then must "work" the quarry for a complete 60 seconds. Handler must be able to remove the dog.
Level 3 - Senior Earthdog
To earn this title, a dog must receive 3 qualifying scores from 2 different judges. In order to do this they must make their way through a 20 ft. long tunnel, then track another 30 ft tunnel in pitch darkness. The tunnel contains three 90 degree turns to reach the quarry and must not make a wrong turn or exit (that are scented with the quarry smell). Once the dog reaches the quarry, a full 90 seconds of "working" the quarry is required before leaving the tunnel. Once called by their handler, the dog must return within 90 seconds.
Level 4 - Master Earthdog
To achieve the ultimate Earthdog title, your Earthdog must compete in a strenuous trial. To begin, two dogs are drawn at random and both dogs hunt for the tunnel entrance from a distance of 100 - 300 yds. One at a time, each dog must enter the tunnel, passing obstacles such as tree roots, construction tunnels and false entrances and exits that are baited with quarry scent. When the dog locates the quarry, they must "work" the quarry for a full 90 seconds and not be distracted by a judge making noises alongside the tunnel where they are working the "quarry." The handler has 15 seconds to remove the dog from the tunnel after their 90 seconds of "working" the quarry. Another dog is staked out near the tunnel and must be able to not make so much noise that the judge cannot hear the Earthdog working in the tunnel. 4 passes by 3 different judges is required for this "ULTIMATE" title!
Even if you Earthdog doesn't take to the sport like a champion snatching up titles, handlers can take pleasure in watching their "Earthdog" get a profound enjoyment out of the sport. If you have a terrier at home, this could be a great way to work their minds and their bodies, while having fun at the same time!
Dog Fancy Magazine, 2012