What on Earth is Earthdog?

Little dogs have a lot of energy – especially the ones that were bred to hunt and catch critters. Dogs such as terriers and Dachshunds started their existence as hunting dogs whose job it was it track game above and below ground. Once they cornered their prey, these dogs would bark to alert the hunter to their find. But most of these dogs are no longer used to hunt. More often, you’ll see them in the home as a beloved pet. But that instinct is still strong. They still like to bark and dig in the yard or garden. You can’t train this instinct out of them, but you can put these skills to great use at Earthdog trials, classes and competitions.

Earthdog offers a multitude of benefits for these small hunting dogs. It’s a great way for these little dogs to get rid of their excess energy and lets them use their instincts in a way that benefits the dogs and the owners. As well, training is a bonding experience for a dog and his owner, bringing them closer together and establishing a clear leadership role in the relationship.

The official Earthdog Trials are put on by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The organization has four levels of Earthdog trials: Introduction to Quarry, Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog and Master Earthdog.

The following breeds of dogs can compete in the AKC’s Earthdog Trials:

  • Australian Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cesky Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Silky Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Smooth Fox Terrier
  • Rat Terrier
  • Russell Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Wire Fox Terrier

If this is your first time at Earthdog, no need to panic – there are special courses that will get your dog competition ready. The Introduction To Quarry level is a great place to learn what these trails are all about and introduces the training to your dog in a friendly, safe environment.

Even if your dog is a natural hunter already, he may still need some training to help him focus and learn new skills that will help him out in the Earthdog Trials.

Dogs taking part in Earthdog are tested on their ability to enter the den, find their way to the quarry (prey) through a series of turns and tunnels, and work the quarry. As the dog progress through the stages, the challenges become more difficult.

The three-sided lined dens are constructed as a series of trenches dug in the earth. These den liners have wooden roof and sides, while the floor is exposed dirt. They make the dens safe, so there’s no worry that they may collapse. Each of the levels has its own testing criteria. For example, when your dog is just starting out, the length of the den is only three metres and has one turn. When your dog makes it to the Masters level, there are over nine metres of tunnel, with multiple turns, exits, false dens, a constriction and an obstruction. He’ll have his work cut out for him!

To learn more about Earthdog trials and competitions, visit the American Kennel Club website.


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