Let's Go to Ground! | Keoki's Corner

Keoki's Corner

Let’s Go to Ground!

People get pets for many reasons. Maybe you want companionship or maybe you want motivation to get active, or to get out and meet people. One of the things we hope to accomplish with this blog is to let you know about some of the great activities you can participate in with your pets. Having an activity that you do together is not only a great outlet for them to use up some of their energy but it also can give them a “job” to do and strengthens the bond between owner and pet.

Earthdogs is a non-competitive activity that is for terriers and dachshunds. Trial events test the ability and instinct of individuals who were bred to hunt vermin that naturally live in underground dens. “Go-to-ground” is another term for den trials. The idea of the trials is not to replicate a hunt, but to give dogs an outlet for their hunting instinct and have fun.

The trials involve manufactured tunnels the dog must navigate through to find its quarry. The quarry is one or multiple rats that are placed in a cage at the end of the tunnel, safely out of the dogs reach. Once the dog finds the quarry, he or she must alert the handler (also known as “working” the quarry) by barking, digging, scratching, or pawing at the ground.

There are two organizations in the United States that sanction Earthdog trials. The first organization to develop these trials is the American Working Terrier Association (AWTA), which was formed in 1971 to help promote ownership and working of earth working terriers and dachshunds. The second is the American Kennel Club (AKC), which started Earthdog trials in 1994.

Trials under the AWTA involve a 30-foot tunnel that the dog must be released near and find its way to the tunnel. The dog must navigate the tunnel to the rat in 30 seconds or less and must work the quarry for 60 seconds. The dog can remain in the tunnel or come back out, as long as the quarry is found and worked in the required time.

AKC Earthdog trials award titles based on completion of increasingly difficult tunnels. The AKC permits fewer breeds than the AWTA and does not allow mixed breeds. The titles the AKC offers include Introduction to Quarry, Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog, Master Earthdog, and Endurance Earthdog. Each title requires the dog to navigate the tunnel and work the quarry in a certain amount of time just as the AWTA.

The more difficult AKC trials increase the number of 90-degree turns and include false exits and or dead ends. The AKC requires dogs attempting to earn the Senior Earthdog title to navigate back out of the tunnel while the other titles allow the owner to pull the dog out of the tunnel. The Master Earthdog must track to the entrance of the tunnel from 100 to 300 yards away with a partner dog who must wait outside the tunnel until the first one is finished working the quarry and then he or she must navigate the tunnel and work the quarry. The Endurance Earthdog earns this title by completing Senior and Master Earthdog trials at the same event.If this sounds like something you and your dog might enjoy and are interested in, please check out some of the resources we have listed here.


American Kennel Club – Earthdog

American Working Terrier Association


Local Earthdog Clubs

Rivanna River Earthdog Club

York County Dog Training Club

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