Your dog may think just about any day is a good one for some digging and tunneling fun, but the AKC sport of Earthdog allows them to win titles for doing what comes naturally!
Born with the instinct
Have you ever been frustrated by your Dachshund’s or small terrier’s penchant for digging? Does she go crazy every time she sees a squirrel or chipmunk? Well, she’s just doing what she was bred to do! These dogs were used by farmers and hunters to pursue vermin to their lairs and then to follow the game into the ground. The dogs’ physical attributes, their tenacity and independent (not stubborn!) nature, are very important parts of what makes them good at their intended job.
Small terriers and Dachshunds still possess these qualities, and Earthdog gives them the perfect outlet to go to ground and show them off. The sport is limited to certain eligible breeds. Dogs of these breeds with PALs (Purebred Alternative Listing) enrollments are also eligible.
Titles and classes
Titles can be earned in three levels: Junior, Senior, and Master. It is non-competitive, which means that dogs don’t compete against each other but instead against a set of rules. When they earn enough qualifying scores in each class, they earn a title. For specifics on what is required at each level, read Earthdog: About.
How does the sport work?
First, don’t worry – the quarry, rats, are not injured. At the end of the tunnel, they are safe in wire cages behind wooden bars. All levels involve going into underground tunnels of specific lengths, with one or more turns. As the levels become more challenging, there are false, unscented tunnel exits, and the dog must come back to the handler within 90 seconds when called. At the Master level, dogs must hunt their way to the den in pairs, 100 to 300 yards. Read Earthdog 101: Tap Into Your Small Terrier's or Dachshund's Instincts to learn more about what makes this sport such a rewarding way for dogs and their owners to bond.
Digging fun for all dogs
Of course, everyone knows that many dogs, including breeds not eligible for Earthdog, have prey drive and enjoy some good old-fashioned digging. A chance to use this instinct can be a relaxing way to burn some energy, in a way that won’t destroy your entire yard. Just set up a designated area in your yard, or a sandbox, where you bury treats and toys for her to find.
Finding an event
The best and most fun way to learn about Earthdog is to attend a trial. You’ll meet like-minded dog lovers having a wonderful time with their dogs, doing what they were born to do. Find an event to attend here: AKC Event Search.
Written by Hilarie Erb. Hilarie Erb is a professional dog trainer and a member of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline team. GoodDog! Helpline is a live telephone service that offers daily individualized training advice to new puppy owners and all dog owners in need of training support. You can purchase AKC GoodDog! Helpline for a temporary discount of only $79.99. More information: https://www.akc.org/products-services/akc-gooddog-helpline/