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 non-competitive 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.
The initial test is called Introduction to Quarry and it is an instinct test for terriers and dachshunds. The behaviours tested are willingness to follow a scent to the entrance; willingness to enter a dark den; and willingness to work the quarry. The dog may work the rabbit skins and/or fox tails by barking, digging, growling, lunging, biting at the protective bars, or any work that the judge feels displays a desire to get to the quarry.
You can start by building a set of wooden liners and installing them in your yard, but if that is not feasible, you can easily build a simple set with cardboard boxes. At this stage you just want to introduce your dog to going into a dark place. Once you build a maze of tunnels with boxes you can start the dog by throwing a toy or ball in there for him to retrieve.
Next comes laying a scent trail for him to follow. If you do not want to keep a set of rats for your training, simply go to a local pet shop and ask them for some of their used bedding when they clean the rodent cages. You can soak it in water and use the strained liquid to lay trails in the tunnels for the dog. You can also take a toy he likes and put it in a jar with some used bedding. It will get the scent of the bedding and can be used to lay scent trails.
Of course, the only way to know if he will work the rats in a den is to either have rats yourself or go to an Earthdog test or practice. If you want to attend an event, contact the Event Secretary to see if they will be having a practice after the event. Or just enter your dog in the Introduction to Quarry class! Many Earthdog events have a day of trial entries for at least Introduction to Quarry. And since this is an instinct test some dogs do quite well their first time in this class.
Even if your dog doesn’t qualify, you will have a fun time and will meet lots of other terrier and Dachshund owners who will offer help in learning more about the wonderful world of Earthdogs!
Article from The American Kennal Club,copyright remains with author.