Let your dachshund show you what they were bred to do!
The purpose of the CKC Earthdog Tests is to promote, preserve and recognize the working characteristics of Dachshunds and those Terrier breeds that were bred to go to ground on quarry such as Fox, Badger, Otter and bolt, bay or draw the quarry.
Dachshunds and many terrier breeds were developed to hunt vermin such as rats, foxes, badgers, often perusing them into their dens (going to ground) to dispatch or ‘bolt’ them – chase them out of their hiding places. In modern times, these game little dogs have fewer opportunities to practice their craft and can get into trouble by attempting to go to ground in the back of the sofa.
Earthdog is meant to enhance and test the natural abilities of these spirited dogs using constructed dens with live quarry. Judges lay a scent trail using ‘rat tea’, a liquid created by steeping soiled rat bedding in water. Then they lay liners (three-sided tunnels) over the trail and cover them with tarps, plywood, earth and branches for a natural look.
The scent trail has to be laid at the beginning of each test day, so the liners need to be relatively easy to move. Some enthusiasts have more permanent tunnels covered by real mounds of earth – it all depends on how much digging you want to do. Rats (the quarry) are placed in a cage behind a set of bars at the end of the tunnel.
Handlers bring their dogs to the scent trail that will lead them to the den and release the dog with a short command; then it is up to the dog to find the den entrance, negotiate the tunnels and find the quarry. The dogs are expected to ‘work’ the quarry for 30 seconds to begin with; as they get more experienced, they are expected to work for longer periods of time. The Canadian Kennel Club Earthdog Test rules define work “as barking, growling, digging, or any other form of activity which, in the Judges opinion, indicates the dog’s keen interest in the quarry.”
Before anybody gets upset about the rats, let me assure you that they are well treated and cared for. The area where the rats are placed in the den is carefully constructed so the dogs can see and smell the rats, but cannot touch them. Like a cat taunting a dog from a fence post, the rats soon learn they are safe. In Alberta, either gerbils or mice are used as there are no rats here.
Who can participate?
Dachshunds, as well as Group 4 terriers and terriers on the Miscellaneous list seeking eligibility for Group 4, that are small enough to fit in the 22.86×22.86 centimeters (nine-inch) liner.
Earthdog is a safe sport for dogs, rats and people.
You can make your own den to practice with by using PVC pipe or cardboard Sonotubes® available at building-supply stores, tubes from carpet stores, etc. Give your dog time to get used to the tunnels and allow the instinct to surface. Dogs need to learn to follow the scent trail and also need to reliably come when called.
Levels of Difficulty:
Introduction to Quarry is a simple instinct test using a den that consists of a straight line and one turn to get to the quarry. The dog has two minutes to enter the den and find the quarry, then has to work the quarry for 30 seconds. The dens get more complicated as the dogs become more proficient at their job.
A Master Earthdog den has a false entrance and a correct entrance, and a few obstacles such as narrowing of the walls and a “roller”, a bit of PVC pipe that moves. The dog must find the quarry, then the quarry is removed and placed in another area of the den and the dog must find it again. At this level, dogs are expected to work with others that are picked by random draw. The first dog to find the hidden den entrance is allowed to work the den first while the other dog waits in a tie-out. The dogs cannot be aggressive and must ‘honour’ – allow the other dog to work without undue fuss.
You need a Dachshund or small terrier, some tunnels, a rat or two, and a strong back since you’ll be doing a lot of digging.
CKC titles to earn:
Junior Earthdog (JE)
Senior Earthdog (SE)
Master Earthdog (ME)