Earthdog Overview

Much of our enjoyment of earthdog tests as human participants derives from the clear, obvious, and exuberant joy our dogs display when they are given an opportunity to do something similar to their ancestral purpose: going to ground, working quarry, partnering with a human handler. We think you and your dog might enjoy it too.

This page is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative — just a sampling of the sorts of questions we get when we meet someone on the street and suggest they might enjoy taking their small terrier or dachshund to an earthdog test.

If this information piques your interest, you will find lots more information on the web – including at the AKC site and various club web sites.

What is earthdog?

Straight from the AKC:

The purpose of non-competitive Earthdog tests is to offer breeders and owners of small Terriers and Dachshunds a standardized gauge to measure their dogs’ natural aptitude and trained hunting and working behaviors when exposed to an underground hunting situation. The noncompetitive program begins with a basic introduction to den work and quarry and progresses through gradual steps to require the dog to demonstrate that it is willing to perform the required tasks including seeking its quarry, locating and working it underground.

Read more at the AKC web site, Get Started in Earthdog Tests, and About Earthdog Tests.

Can my dog participate?

Sure, if your dog is one of the AKC eligible breeds. At the moment (subject to change of course) that includes the following:

American Hairless Terrier, Australian Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Cesky Terrier, Dachshund, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier, Jagdterrier, Japanese Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, Miniature Pinschers, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Silky Terrier, Skye Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, Welsh Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier

Spayed and neutered dogs of eligible breeds are OK (as are cryptorchid and monorchid dogs). However, bitches in season and deaf and/or blind dogs are not permitted.

What if my dog is not AKC registered?

If your dog is an eligible breed, but lacks AKC “papers” you can still register your dog with AKC in a way that will let your dog participate in earthdog. Check out the AKC PAL program (formerly ILP).

How much training do I need to do before we go?

Amazingly, none. There is a special class offered that is exactly *for* those people and dogs who are new to earthdog. It is aptly named Introduction To Quarry and it is the perfect place to get a feel for what earthdog is all about, in a friendly, helpful, safe environment. Of course, you should always read the rules (PDF) before entering any event, but rest assured, Intro to Quarry is a great place to start and No Experience Necessary.

My dog is a great natural hunter and catches mice and chases squirrels all the time. We’ll pass right away, won’t we?

You might, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t.  As a test, there are rules – but some natural hunters play by their own rules. It’s important to recognize that while rats are used as “quarry” in the test for practical reasons, an earthdog test is not a ratting test, and the skills being tested are not ratting skills. What is effective for a dog working alone, or ratting in the barn, is not necessarily useful to a dog working underground, out of sight of its owner, facing quarry more formidable than a rat. Some dogs take much longer than others to “read the rulebook” but most dogs seem to enjoy the game whether they earn a ribbon or not. The ribbon is for you – for the dog, the experience is its own reward!

Do I need to join a club first?

No. You do not have to belong to a club to participate.

Are there any clubs near me?

Chances are good there’s an earthdog club *somewhere* near you. Within a couple hundred miles, anyway. To find out for sure, the AKC has a very handy Club Search page. Choose “earthdog” as the club type, enter your state (or nearby state) and any earthdog clubs in your area will be listed.

How can I find out when and where the next test is?

The AKC has an Event Search page. Choose earthdog as the competition type and then choose one or more states. Also, contact any earthdog clubs in your general geographic area. Ask to be put on their mailing list, if they have one.

Good Luck!

We hope you give earthdog a try, and look forward to seeing you at a test in the near future. Good luck, and have fun!