As the name suggests, earthdog work tests a dog’s natural instinct to delve underground in the hunt for small game (foxes, badgers, otters) or vermin (rats, rabbits). One step at a time, dogs are introduced to quarry, are encouraged to follow a scent trail, and finally learn to negotiate underground tunnels until the quarry is found—mind you, the quarry is protected by bars and is never touched. In advanced tests, problems like side tunnels and hidden entry points are introduced to challenge the dog’s skills. Besides being exciting and satisfying for dogs, earthdog work is designed to be fun for you, the handler, at every level from beginner’s to master’s.
Earthdog work is another example of a sport created as an outlet for a specific group of dogs’ innate gifts. For anyone sharing his life with a small terrier or Dachshund, this is potentially a great pastime. You can pursue earthdog work privately or in the organized setting of the AKC (American Kennel Club) or the AWTA (American Working Terrier Association) tests.
Interested in awakening your dog’s hardwired instincts? The Getting Started in Earthdog Tests section on akc.org has tips for practice sessions in your own area or back yard.