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.
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:
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:
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:
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.