What is an Earthdog?

Dachshunds and small terriers were traditionally used to hunt and track a variety of game – rabbits, badgers, foxes, etc. Prey animals of this sort typically live in tunnels (or dens) that they dig in the ground. The “earthdog”, regardless of breed, was developed to follow their game (quarry) down into it’s den and either flush it to the surface or hold it until the hunter dug down to them. The purpose of an AKC Earthdog Event is to test a dog’s willingness to perform this type of work – trailing game and following it to ground. In order to make these tests as natural as possible, livequarry is placed in the den. Typically domestic rats are used for this purpose because they are easy to obtain and can be safely handled.These tests offer a standardized format to measure a dog’s natural hunting and working abilities. By moving through progressive levels of the earthdog program, a dog is able to demonstrate it’s aptitude for the work for which it was bred.

Earthdog tests are one of the fastest growing AKC events for dachshund owners and we should all celebrate in the diversity that our breed displays. The AKC has certainly recognized this diversity and has made it possible for dachshund owners to explore the talents of their dogs.


AKC Earthdog Tests

Dogs must be six months of age or older and be registered with the American Kennel Club. Spayed and neutered dogs, dogs with Limited Registration, and dogs of an eligible breed that have been granted ILP (Indefinite Listing Privileges) are eligible to participate. The only dogs not eligible are dogs that are blind or deaf, along with bitches in season.

*Aside from Dachshunds, the following terrier breeds are classified as eligible to participate in Earthdog tests:
Australian, Bedlington, Border, Cairn, Cesky, Dandie Dinmont, Fox (Smooth & Wire), Glen of Imaal, Jagdterrier,  Lakeland, Manchester, Miniature Bull, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Schnauzers, Norfolk, Norwich, Parson Russell, Rat, Russell, Scottish, Sealyham, Silky, Skye, Welsh, West Highland White & Yorkshire Terriers.

Classes and Titles
Introduction to Quarry

This test is a simple instinct test requiring no training or previous exposure to earthwork. No titles are earned and it is not a prerequisite for advanced tests.

Junior Earthdog (JE)

The Junior Earthdog class is open to all eligible dogs. To be awarded the JE title, a dog must qualify in the Junior Earthdog class at two different tests under two different Judges.

Senior Earthdog (SE)

The Senior Earthdog class is open only to dogs that have acquired the Junior Earthdog title and to dogs that have earned the Senior and Master Earthdog titles (but no further Senior certificates will be issued). To be awarded the SE title, a dog must qualify in the Senior Earthdog class at three different tests under two different Judges.

Master Earthdog (ME)

The Master Earthdog class is open only to dogs that have acquired the Senior Earthdog title. Dogs that have earned the ME title may continue to run in this class, however, no further certificates will be issued. To be awarded the Master Earthdog title, a dog must qualify in the Master Earthdog class at four different tests under two different Judges.

Den Design
All den liners are three sided with the natural smooth earth on the floor. The top of the liners are flush with the ground. Dens should be constructed to ensure a safe and danger free environment for dogs, quarry, handlers and judges. The earth should be prepared to look as natural as possible and the entrance to the den should look as inviting to the dog as possible.

Introduction to Quarry

9″x9″ liners with a 10 foot tunnel and one 90 degree turn. The entrance is readily visible.

Junior Earthdog Test

9″x9″ liners with a 30 foot tunnel and three 90 degree turns. The tunnel has an entrance at one end, and a quarry area at the other end. The den should have no additional entrances, exits or dead ends. The entrance is readily visible.

Senior Earthdog Test

9″x9″ liners with a 30 foot main tunnel and three 90 degree turns, a secondary exit and a false den. The secondary exit should be approximately 7 feet in length with one 90 degree turn. The false den will be a side tunnel approximately 4 feet in length with no exit . The false den will have a heavily scented simulated litter/bedding area. The entrance to the den is camouflaged by a 4 inch dirt mound providing a steep 45 degree entrance to the den.

Master Earthdog Test

Same as Senior with the following modifications: Entrance is not readily visible but blocked with a removable obstruction. A 20 foot scent line leads to the entrance, but an unscented false den entrance is located midway along the scent line. There is an 18 inch section of the tunnel which constricts to a 6 in passage. There is an obstacle in the tunnel, which is a 6 inch diameter section of PVC pipe, suspended crossways in the tunnel with 9 inches on each side of the pipe’s center line.

Qualifying Performances
For Introduction, Junior & Senior tests, dogs may be placed on the ground before release or they may be released from a point no higher than waist level. Throwing the dog in the direction of the den entrance is not permitted, and will cause the dog to fail the test. At the time of release, the handler can give the dog one short command, but afterwards should remain silent and stay at the release point until instructed by the judge.

Introduction Test

Dogs must begin working the quarry within 2 minutes from the time the dog enters the tunnel and continue working the quarry uninterupted for 30 seconds. This is the only test in which the Judge may attempt to interest the dog in the quarry by tapping or scratching the quarry cage.

Junior Test

APPROACH – Dogs are released 10 feet from the den entrance and have 45 seconds to reach the quarry from the time they are released. Dogs have 30 seconds to begin working and must stay with the quarry once it has been reached. WORKING – Dogs must work within 12 inches from the quarry continuously for 60 seconds. Dogs are eventually removed from the tunnel by way of an opening in the quarry end.

Senior Test

APPROACH – Dogs are released 20 feet from the den entrance and have 90 seconds to reach the quarry from the time the dog is released. Dogs may enter and leave the den provided it has not yet reached the quarry.

Wirehaired dachshund in earthdog tunnel

A view of the dog from within the tunnel.

The dog has 15 seconds to begin working the quarry and must remain with quarry once it has been reached. WORKING – Dog must work the quarry continuously for 90 seconds. Working is defined as digging, barking, growling, lunging, and biting at the quarry cage, or any other action which, in the opinion of the Judge, indicates the dog’s interest in the quarry. Staring does not count as work. RECALL – The Judge removes quarry and then instructs the handler to recall the dog. The handler may go to the den entrance and call or use a whistle to recall the dog. The handler is allowed to reach into the entrance to retrieve the dog. The handler may leave the den entrance to retrieve the dog once the dog has left the den. Dogs must be retrieved by the handler within 90 seconds from the instruction to recall.

Master Test

Dogs are worked two at a time. Dogs, Handlers, and Judge proceed in the direction of the scent line from a release point 100 feet (sometimes more) from the real den entrance, which is blocked. Dogs must reach the real entrance before the Judge (about 60 seconds). Dogs barking at the false den do not qualify. If neither dog indicates the real den entrance they do not qualify, but they can continue to be tested. The first dog to reach and indicate the entrance is removed by the handler so that the second dog has a chance to indicate the entrance. The second dog or honoring dog is staked approximately 10 feet from the entrance with a two foot chain. The first dog must then reach the quarry within 90 seconds and work the quarry for 90 seconds. While the dog is working, the judge will simulate digging sounds by lightly scratching the top of the area for 30 seconds. The dog should ignore this and continue working. The 1st dog is then removed from the working area and placed in the honoring position and then the 2nd dog is tested in the same manner.It is always best to attend the Orientation that each Judge presents prior to the start of the test. Ask questions at that time, so you will know what is expected.

This description is not intended to cover all of the rules applying to Earthdog tests. For more information seeRegulations for Earthdog Tests for Small Terriers and Dachshunds available from the American Kennel Club 5580 Centerview Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh NC 27606.


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