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!

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69 thoughts on “Earthdog Overview

  1. @Jeff – I’ll check out the site – Mice direct and all these Rodent websites have OUTSTANDINGLY HIGH shipping it’s crazy – did not know petco had rats – can I use mice? I guess I get the mice or rat and put them into the tube – what should I do when done just let them run free? I’m Petrified of them LOL

  2. Whether you train Earthdog or barnhunt, you want rats. They should be well cared for and kept safe. Letting them loose afterward is not a good idea. It is not fair to the rat, who has no idea how to live in the wild, and if it does survive, and multiplies, then that is a whole other issue. If you do not want to keep rats and properly care for them, you need to find a group in your area that trains either sport and work with them. AKC has info on Earthdog clubs, or search the web. Often events has the tests listed, the premiums will have the committee members listed, reach out to them for info. If it is Barn Hunt that you want look at the BH website, there is a yahoo group and a face book page. I am training and working both events, I am in Central Ohio. I am also the rat owner.

  3. My local club has stopped holding earthdog events. we are searching for another event. Does anyone know of one within a reasonable distance from southeastern Tennessee? Also considering hosting one ourselves. tank you.

  4. Hello, looking for earthdog classes or a course to bring my dogs to in South Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach area). Years ago my dachshunds went in NJ and loved it. They are now 13 and getting on in years and we just want them to go through the earthdog course searching for rats for fun. We have no problem renting the place or paying for lessons. Please let me know where/who I can contact. Thank you.

  5. It’s ON! DFSW is sponsoring an earthdog judges seminar on Saturday September 13th, 2014 in Portland OR. We want to fill the room so here is the info:
    Sign up before August 1st:
    DFSW members $25
    Barn Hunters: $25…
    ED judges $10 for audit only
    All others $30.
    After August 1st:
    add $5 to the cost.
    Sign up starts NOW. Contact Claire at We will send you a sign-up sheet!
    More logistic info later.
    THIS IS AKC approved!!!! Yay!

  6. I would like to have my Terrier trying something like Earthdog but I absolutely not find acceptable to use little animals for the FUN of my dog. All animals deserve respect and before changing my mind I would love to read more on how your program cares for the Rats as much as cares for the dogs.

  7. Pao – I have 8 rats – 2 females and 6 females. They males/females are kept in seperate cages which get cleaned weekly. They are feed daily and wate bottle changed regularly. They are kept in the basement which is heated/cooled. They have an additional heater set up for the winter. The females are not bothered in the least by the dogs barking at them. The makes are new and are still learning but they seemed to be more afraid of me than dogs. The rats are considered “feeder rats” and are usually used to feed snakes. Oh, the domestic rats are extremely calm – they’ve been bred to be calm, I wild rat would completely freak out.

  8. I saw a site using have-a-heart trap to catch wild squirrels for use in cage to keep them safe from dog. The squirrel could be released back into the wild with nothing more than a fright, which they regularly get already. The precautions I see for keeping vermin seperate from dogs is as much for safety of dog and handler as for safety of the pest being hunted. If you are upset by your working dog doing what it was bred for, you might be happier to teach him to catch a frisby.

  9. My dog, Daisy. A Parson Russell terrier was a rescue. I am looking for an activity that would build her confidence. I think Daisy has natural aptitude to track prey, but this is my first hunting dog. I’ve had shepherds and Daisy has very different habit from my black shepherd, Marcie.

  10. You should visit the AKC Website. Go to the calendar and search for Earthdog Trials in TN. If there are any trials scheduled, it will list the hosting club. You may need to check the sight several times before finding a trial. Also, you could look for Terrier clubs in the area and Border Terrier Club members are usually active in Earthdog (if you don;t have a border, you can still ask the club secretary to point you in the right direction).

  11. Will this be open to yorkies soon? I am surprised they r not on the list of eligable breeds.

  12. It’s already open to yorkies. We’ve been wondering why they haven’t shown up. It’s just been opened to Min Pins.

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