This past summer, Mom, Elvis, and I, took a road trip out to the St. Louis area to see if we had what it took to compete in AKC Earthdog! Before I tell you about my experience, let me give you a little background to what Earthdog is. Earthdog is a canine sport that is run as trials. These trials test the working ability and instinct of us small terriers (and other small breeds such as Dachshunds). In case you didn’t know, us West Highland Terriers were bred many years ago to hunt vermin (rats, mice, etc.) that live in underground dens. Earthdog tests our natural hunting ability.
The humans make these mazes of man-made underground tunnels that we must figure out how to navigate by following a trail of rat scent. The goal is to find the rat in the cage at the end of the maze. Don’t worry, we can’t actually get to the rat (but man we want to!). Once we find the rat at the end of the tunnel, we must “work” the quarry. That means we need to go crazy and bark, scratch, paw, and/or dig at the box. We have to be saying in dog barks “we found the rat, we found the rat!”
To compete, there are several different classes/levels and you work your way up to become a “master” Earthdog. For example, I would start with introduction to quarry. The tunnel is ten feet long with one single right-angle turn. Once I pass that, I move up to junior Earthdog with a course that has three right-angle turns. I only have 30 seconds to figure out where the rat is. To earn the title, I have to pass the test twice under two different judges. Then it is on to senior Earthdog, and finally master Earthdog,
My (Preston’s) Attempt
First, they showed me the rat to see what I would do. Well, I admit, I was interested in the rat, sniffed it a lot, and then I asked for it to play with me with a doggie play bow. Well, I quickly learned that wasn’t the right response. Apparently, I shouldn’t want to become friends with the rat, but to want to GET it! I finally figured it out and swatted at the cage a little bit. Next, they moved the rat onto the course. I sniffed in the entrance of the tunnel but didn’t really feel the need to run inside it when I could just walk around it to the other end where the rat was hanging out. Again, I learned that was not the right way to compete in Earthdog either. I guess they weren’t prepared for such a smart dog! The instructor said I had potential but I needed to become more in sync with my dog instincts. She recommends I attend a couple more Earthdog fun days before entering an event.
Elvis … what can I say? Those puppy mills dogs know how to be a primal dog when they want to be. For once, the crazy Elvis mode was an asset for him. He saw that rat and went into full on terrier mode. He got super excited and was ready to go rat hunting down that tunnel. When they first showed him the rat he immediately started barking, pawing, and scratching at the cage. I think he even kind of scared the rat a little bit. I bet the rat was wondering if his cage would hold up to this crazy Elvis dog! Next, they placed the rat at the end of the tunnel. Before
Mom could let go of the leash, he was underground! I hate to admit it, but I was very impressed with Elvis. That dog has mad rat hunting skills. The group running the fun day pulled Mom aside and said, “We think you need to start competing with Elvis. He has Earthdog talent!”
It was a hard pill to swallow that my intern/brother Elvis was better at something than me … I am used to being the star. Regardless, he is still my brother and I am proud of him. It looks like one day our Elvis may have some Earthdog titles after his name!
Overall, Earthdog is a fun sport and you get to meet a lot of great dogs and their parents at these events. To learn more and find matches and fun days in your neighborhood, go to: http://classic.akc.org/events/earthdog/index.cfm