Arizona Earthdog Club                
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Welcome to the Arizona Earthdog Club 

 Spring Trial Premium List Available Now!
 April 9 -  10, 2016 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ  Dig-in on April 8, 2016

This is the official site for information about the Arizona Earthdog Club. Earthdog is an American Kennel Club (AKC) sanctioned sport that includes fun events for our dogs and their humans.

If your dog is one of the breeds listed below, you and your pet are welcome to

join the Arizona Earthdog Club

Quite a few AKC Breeds are eligible to compete in Earthdog Trial events: 
  • Dachshunds 
  • Australian Terriers 
  • Bedlington Terriers 
  • Border Terriers 
  • Cairn Terriers 
  • Cesky Terriers 
  • Dandie Dinmont Terriers 
  • Glen of Imaal Terriers 
  • Parson Russell Terriers 
  • Lakeland Terriers 
  • Manchester Terriers
  • Miniature Bull Terriers
  • Miniature Dachshunds
  • Miniature Pinschers
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Norfolk Terriers
  • Norwich Terriers
  • Rat Terriers
  • Russell Terriers
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Sealyham Terriers
  • Silky Terriers
  • Skye Terriers
  • Smooth Fox Terriers
  • Welsh Terriers
  • West Highland Terriers
  • Wire Fox Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terriers

The Arizona Earthdog Club is a group of terrier and dachshund owners who enjoy watching their dogs compete in Earthdog Trials. The club’s Trials are held in Cottonwood, Arizona every year in April and October, with practices held at various times prior to Trial events.

An Earthdog Trial (also known as Terrier Trial or Go-to-Ground Trial) is an officially sanctioned American Kennel Club event that attempts to replicate the conditions a hunting terrier would encounter in the field.  In order to closely approximate an underground tunnel complex dug by a burrowing rodent in the wild, the sponsoring Earthdog Club digs a trench in the ground that is twelve inches deep, by twelve inches wide, by thirty feet long, and then places nine-inch square wooden tunnel liners in the trench.

Here is what a Senior tunnel looks like before it is buried in the ground:

Rest assured, the tunnels are of adequate size for the terrier and dachshund breeds that are qualified for this event. All trials and practices run by the Arizona Earthdog Club follow the AKC guidelines and rules for these events.

The thirty-foot long tunnel must contain three right angle turns.  At the end of the tunnel, wooden dowels prevent the dogs from reaching two live rats in the cage.  The entire structure is covered with dirt, forming an underground maze which the dog must traverse in the dark.  

Before the liners are placed in the trench, the ground along the entire length, or the liners themselves, are sprayed with rat scent. It is this smell that leads the dog to the quarry at the end of the tunnel. Once at the quarry, the dog must “work” the rats. 

Working is defined as barking, digging, scratching, lunging, or actively trying to get the quarry. The rats are not harmed – they are kept safe behind the dowels. The rats sometimes sleep or even mate through the entire process. The length of time the dog must work the quarry varies with the title being pursued.

Arizona Earthdog Club Trials are usually held in Fall and Spring in Cottonwood, Arizona at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Pre-entries with entry fees must be received in advance of the trial. The link to the Premium is posted on this page when it is time to pre-register. 

The four Earthdog titles are: Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog, Master Earthdog, and Endurance Earthdog.

To complete for a Junior Earthdog title, the dog must accomplish the following:

  • achieve two qualifying scores under two different judges. 
  • The dog is released 10 feet from the tunnel entrance and must reach the rats in 30 seconds. 
  • After reaching the rats the dog must work for 60 seconds.

The junior tunnel is 30 feet long with three right angle turns.

The next title is Senior Earthdog.  To complete for a Senior Earthdog title, the dog must achieving three qualifying scores under two different judges. In order for a judge to successfully qualify a dog for a senior leg, the dog must comply with the following standards:

  • Follow a twenty foot scent line to a tunnel entrance that the dog cannot see from ground level. 
  • Track through a pitch-black, thirty-foot tunnel containing three 90-degree turns to the rats. 
  • The dog cannot be distracted by a false entrance/exit or by a dead end tunnel that is scented with rat bedding. 
  • Once at the rats, work the rats for 90 seconds. 
  • After working the rats for 90 seconds, and after the rats are removed from the tunnel, leave the tunnel when called by the handler and return to the handler within 90 seconds. 

Many handlers and trainers consider the Senior Title the most difficult to achieve.

Master Earthdog is the top activity at the Earthdog Trial.  To achieve this title:

  • Two dogs are drawn at random.
  • As a brace, the dogs hunt for the tunnel entrance from a distance of 100 to 300 yards. 
  • They must actively indicate where the entrance is located. 
  • One at a time, the dogs move through the tunnel passing obstacles that simulate roots and constrictions in the tunnel. 
  • The dog must work the quarry for 90 seconds and not be distracted by the judge scraping on the top of the tunnel.  (The scraping is meant to approximate the hunter digging down to the spot where the dog is holding the vermin at bay).
Once your dog has earned the Master title, a further goal is the Endurance Earthdog title. This title is new as of 2010, and is earned when a dog, on five occasions, passes both the Senior and Master classes at the same event. Your dog may earn additional Endurance titles after the first Endurance title is completed. 

A non-title event called Introduction to Quarry is intended for young or inexperienced dogs to gain experience with the sport.  The Intro tunnel is ten feet long with one right angle turn.  The dog has two minutes to reach the quarry and must work the quarry for 30 seconds.

Note: Because of the endemic problem of Valley Fever, coccidioidomycosis (a fungus found in the soil), Earthdog enthusiasts from the Phoenix and Tucson area do not practice by placing their tunnels in the ground as that would expose the dogs to the disease. When preparing for practices, the local Earthdog group places the liners on top of the ground and covers the joints between the sections with blankets or towels in an effort to darken the maze. Arizona Earthdog Trials are held in Cottonwood, Arizona which is out of the endemic Valley Fever area.

Arizona Earthdog Club members sharing a moment of glory together after their dogs' success at the Trials at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
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