Earthdog Overview


This topic was created to answer a few basic questions and provide some pointers to additional resources regarding American Kennel Club Earthdog Tests. Someone who enjoys AKC Earthdog events probably directed you to as a way to share their enthusiasm for the event and help you learn a bit more about it. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note – this page is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative. These are just a sampling of the sorts of questions I get when I 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 tons more information on the web – at the AKC site, various club web sites, and in books like Jo Ann Frier-Murza’s excellent Earthdog Ins and Outs.

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, Getting 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:

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 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, 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?

Not at all. You do not have to belong to a club to participate.

Are there any clubs near me?

If someone handed you a card with this web site address on it, 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!

Admin note: Comments have been turned off for a while. You may thank spammers for this time-out.

  1. Larry Nattrass

    September 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    We have a Glen of Imall Terrier puppy which will soon be old enough to participate in Earth Dog activities. We would like to receive information on trails and training in Northern California.


  2. bradl

    September 19, 2010 at 10:19 am

    The AKC event search above shows that there are upcoming tests in October and November in Oakdale, Dixon, and Woodland, put on variously by the Border Terrier Club of the Redwoods, the Northern California Dachshund Club, and the Golden Gate Dachshund Club, Inc.

    If you can, attend the tests above. If your dog is too young yet, attend by yourself and you’ll be freer to check everything out, without having to watch after your pup all the time.

    I strongly advocate working (volunteering) while at tests. Most clubs are pleased to have volunteers offer to be leash stewards, or rat stewards, or den diggers, etc. and will train you on the spot. Being involved helps the host club and offers you an up-close and personal look at how things go – overall and for each specific test; watching other people’s dogs work (or not) provides insight that may help you with your own dog when the time comes.

  3. Michaela Starke

    October 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I have a 9 year old AKC Champion Miniature Smooth Dachshund who is ALL ABOUT the critters. I inherited him and find that he isn’t happy with being in our laps or being fussed over. He needs a home that is interested in what he wants to be doing! I will place him with the right home, but I will require references, and I will ask lots of questions. I just want him to be happy, and I can’t give him that. Please direct me to someone who can help me. Thank You.

  4. bradl

    October 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Contact the breeder of the dog. If the breeder is not reputable, I’d suggest engaging Dachshund Rescue. Google Dachshund Rescue

  5. caryn werman

    November 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Please let me know how to find events near cleveland ohio

  6. bradl

    November 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Caryn, I’d use the Event Search as described under “How can I find out when and where the next test is?”

  7. Aleah Laster

    February 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I have a terrier mix that I would love to do earthdog with. I understand that they can not title in this because they are not AKC registered, however, I would love to meet new people and get involoved with the sport. Are there clubs in the area that allow mixed breeds just for fun? I am having a hard time finding this info. Thank you!!!

  8. Dale

    February 23, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Like Aleah, I have a mixed breed dog that will never qualify for a title but, she seems like she would love and be good at earthdog related activities. Should I, or can I, bring her to one of the events planed in my area just to check things out? All I have been able to find so far are breed specific trials. Maybe I should email a couple of the clubs and ask them.


  9. bradl

    February 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Unfortunately, as I understand it, no – AKC earthdog tests are limited specifically to the eligible breeds listed in any given premium list. (That will be either all the eligible breeds, or one specific breed – so far as I know clubs are not allowed to “mix and match” eligible breeds.) In the old days, once a regular class was done, otherwise ineligible breeds could run “for exhibition only” but I think even that is no longer allowed. (I could be wrong – ask the AKC directly for a ruling.)

    Clubs putting on AKC earthdog events are bound by AKC rules and can be fined or have their license to offer tests revoked for failing to apply the rules. So it’s a bad idea to ask an event-giving club to bend the rules at an event.

    Some clubs offer training or practice days that are not AKC events. It’s possible that some of those events might be more open to just trying it out. There is a lot of work involved in putting tests together so some clubs limit practice to those who do the actual digging and so forth, while others might use a practice day as a fundraiser and welcome anyone with the small fee. The suggestion to simply contact a few clubs and ask them how they roll is a good one.

  10. Karla

    September 28, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Mixed breed dogs can contact the American Working Terrier Association if they wish to compete in den trials held by that organization. They do accept mixed breeds but it is best to check with them on any requirements. It goes without saying that the dog must be able to fit in a 9″ wooden liner in order to compete.

  11. Jo Ann Frier-Murza

    January 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Hi! I appreciate your reference to Earthdog Ins & Outs. Unfortunately, there has been a change of server for my web site and your link doesn’t work any more. Please fix the link to go to Thanks!!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    Jo Ann

  12. bradl

    January 30, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Thanks for the updated URL – great to see a second edition and increased availability.

  13. Stannette Weaver

    March 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Please notify me of any earthdog events that are coming up in NC

  14. bradl

    March 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Stannette Id use the Event Search as described under How can I find out when and where the next test is?

  15. mark

    March 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I was wondering if there were any events some what close to the Portland oregon area And what does it take to host such an event ?

  16. bradl

    March 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Sure, Oregon Trails End Earthdog Club ( is one of several local clubs licensed by the AKC to offer tests. OTEEC is having a series of tests on May 12-13 in Turner (near Salem). The event is not yet posted on the website, unfortunately – but it will be in plenty of time for the test. If you use the AKC Events Search, you will find many other tests in the Northwest this coming year. The OTEEC site also lists web sites for several of the NW clubs.

  17. mark

    March 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you for the info


  18. Jeff S

    August 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Can “rat tea” be purchased or does it have to be made?

  19. bradl

    August 14, 2012 at 6:24 am

    I wouldn’t even know how or where to buy it. Everyone I know makes their own: used rat bedding, soaked in a bucket of water for a day or two, strained into spray bottles.

  20. Jeff S

    August 15, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Thanks. I thought maybe it was sold like Coyote Urine or Skunk smell. Came in a packet called Rat NesTea or something.

    Finally, something that can’t be bought over the internet.

  21. Kit

    August 23, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Hi Have an organic orchard with lots of vole problems would like to see if a local club would like to have training days at the ranch. approx 150 acres available for earthdog activites!

  22. Kristi

    September 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    There will be an Earthdog test Oct 20th and 21st at Columbus all breed training club. We are located in Columbus, Ohio. The premium is avail in the AKC events listing.

  23. Kristi

    September 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Kit, where are you located? General area…


  24. Jeff S

    October 1, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I need advice about training.

    I have a smooth fox terrier and we are working on the Junior Title. We skipped Intro.

    He is great at all aspects of EarthDog except going into the tunnel during the trial. When we practice at home, he shoots into the tunnel on command. Perfect. But during the trial, he wants to investigate the course. He’ll sniff the tunnel but won’t go in. He’ll circle the entire course and then circle it again. I sense that he is looking to see if there is another entrance or if there aren’t other rats around.

    After the time is up and they let me practice at the tunnel, he’s fine. I’ll pick him up and carry him to the tunnel and once he understands that he has to go into the tunnel, bam – he’s gone and is at the rats in record time. I’ll let him take a second pass from the starting line, and he goes directly to the tunnel and to the rats without delay.

    Any advice? Or is it just a matter of exposing him to more and more events?

    What he’s doing seems perfectly normal in a real hunting situation, but I’m beginning to understand that EarthDog is about the dog understanding what he needs to do for EarthDog.

  25. Ashley Diaz

    October 23, 2012 at 8:10 am

    This was a great “low down” of what Earthdog is all about having Dachshunds in the home they need a new outlet to burn energy and have fun. Thank you I will be looking into this.. Just one question- is there an age restriction? I have a still VERY active 12 years old weeny

  26. bradl

    October 23, 2012 at 8:26 am

    No age limit :-) The rules say “Dogs that are blind and/or deaf shall not be eligible. Blind means without useful vision, and deaf means without useful hearing. The judge shall determine whether the dog is fit to participate.” I’ve seen 12 year old Borders and 13 year old Westies. We ran our Cairn occasionally until 14 or 15 when he eventually told us that he didn’t want to stoop into the tunnel any more.

  27. Lisa Wilson

    October 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I have a 2 1/2 yr. old Border Terrier I’d like train for Earthdog events and trials.

  28. Kristi

    October 29, 2012 at 5:44 am

    In what part of the country are you located

  29. Jane Thompson

    October 31, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I have a border terrier, in Woodland, CA, and am interested in havinghim participate in an earthdog event in my area.

  30. Jen

    November 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

    A friend has a Lakeland terrier who finished his JE but is having a lot of problems with the jump to Senior. I am looking for forums or training tips. Can you direct me to a good place to get some feedback on how to get this little boy back on track and back on the rat?

  31. Annette

    January 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    how can i get my 3 dogs into earth dog . please can you help me find some where in northern california.

  32. Carol

    February 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

    There will be 3 tests (AKC) on Feb 23rd and 24th in Woodland. They are sponsored by the No Cal – info at for the first test.

    There will be 2 AKC tests and an AWTA trial in Southern Calif on March 9th & 10th. Check for info.

  33. Chris McCafferty

    February 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    We have 2 parsons and would love to get into the earth dog scene!!!

  34. David Mullis

    March 11, 2013 at 8:13 am

    We will be getting our new Rat Terrier puppy around april first. I want .be pro-active with this new puppy. I’ve already enrolled him in puppy kindergarten and want to get his Canine Good Citizen but, I want something to do with my new pal. I’ve always loved Earthdog trials….I used to love watching them back home in Georgia when I was a kid. I was just hoping someone could point me in the right direction. We live in Doylestown Pa….it’s in the southeast part of the state just across the river form Jersey. If anyone has a suggestion or can put me in contact with someone it would be greatly appreciated.

  35. Jeff S

    March 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Congrats on your new Rat Terrier. You are in luck. The New Jersey Beanfield EarthDog club is probably an option for you. Each May, they host an Earthdog Festival in Crosswicks, NJ. This is the premier Earthdog event in the northeast. You should reach out to them for tips on what to do to get your puppy ready for Earthdog.

    Good luck.

  36. David Mullis

    March 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Jeff S–thanks so much. I sent an email to their website and put them in mapquest. They are less than an hour away. So excited! Thank you, thank you.

  37. Yvette Peterson

    April 8, 2013 at 7:40 am

    My husband and I are interested in the earth dog event for our two dachshunds can you send us some information on the event we live in Kansas city thanks

  38. Becky scully

    May 27, 2013 at 9:30 am

    We have two dachshunds both about a year old and interested in learning. More about the sport

  39. Danny

    June 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm


  40. Kristi

    June 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Patterdales are not approved to compete in AKC earthdog. You will want to look at AWTA- or check into Den Dog with UKC.

  41. Jeff Smith

    June 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Sorry about the Patterdales. Only AKC recognized terriers and dachshunds can do Earthdog. But they can do Barnhunts, which are becoming more popular. It’s basically earthdog but above ground.

  42. Patrice

    July 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    The Greater Portland Dachshund Club in Oregon is hosting an Earthdog trail on October 19th and 20th. There will be 3 test, Iron Dog competiion, and a Canine Good Citizen test.

    Email me for a premium

  43. Johnny M

    September 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Hi there I’m interested in getting my Rat Terrier into this earth dog event – we are on Long Island. Anyone know where t get those tubes for training purposes? Thanks

  44. Joan allnutt

    September 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

    please put us in contact with someone here in Northern California for earthdog. Thank you

  45. Joan allnutt

    September 8, 2013 at 11:42 am

    P.S. Our dog is a wire with a great nose. I echo what someone else said; the links don’t work.

  46. bradl

    September 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Would you be kind enough to say which links are not working for you?

  47. Jeff S

    September 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Johnny M. When you say tubes, I assume you mean the tunnels. I made a tunnel. It wasn’t too hard. Make the opening 9 x 9 and 5 feet long should suffice. The tunnel should have a top and 2 sides with no bottom.

  48. Johnny M

    September 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    @Jeff S. Do you know where to get the small “tunnels” they are about a foot long – they hide them in bails of hey with a rodent placed inside the “tunnel/Tube” thanks!!!

  49. Jeff S

    September 8, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    The tubes are used in Barnhunts. You can find instructions on how to build them on the Barnhunt website. I simpler version is use the 4 inch PVC the as instructed with caps. No need for the more complex ends for practice.

  50. Johnny M

    September 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    @Jeff — What is the link to the Barn Hunt Site? the 4″ PVC sounds great – should I drill some small holes in it? And where can I get a Rodent online? does it have to be living or can it come frozen? Thanks again!