Welsh Terriers were bred for a very specific job: to hunt and kill vermin that dared disturb their master's farm. As with many dog occupations, nowadays, there isn't much call for a Welsh Terrier to dispatch vermin, especially in suburban or urban areas. What's more, there are quite a number of animal rights organizations that have been successful at having terrier jobs regulated or even banned. So what's a Welsh Terrier to do with all those pent up instincts for chasing little critters? Get involved in Earthdog tests!
Earthdog trials are non-competitive events in which small terriers, and even Dachshunds, are tested on their natural drive to "go to ground", or work with underground prey; terriers must also be trained to follow certain rules and regulations while working their prey underground and so Earthdog trials also gauge how well the dogs were trained and how well they retained their training regarding underground work. An entire program has been developed to measure the abilities of these dogs, with different stages and levels; first, the dog is introduced to the prey, or quarry, then the dog must demonstrate that he knows how to locate the quarry underground and, finally, he must show that he is capable and willing to work it underground. The different levels introduce the dogs to different degrees of difficulty.
The first test that your Welsh Terrier must undergo is technically called "Introduction to Quarry" and essentially tests your dog's instincts for doing what he was bred to do. Dogs must show that they are willing to follow a scent trail to the entrance of a den, that they are willing to enter that den, even though it is dark and they know nothing about its internal layout, and that they are willing to "work the quarry." Your dog will be disqualified if he follows the scent inside the den, but then completely ignores the quarry. In Earthdog trials, the "quarry", or prey, is composed of a group of rats in a cage; the rats are not hurt during the trial (neither is the dog). Since the rats are protected in a cage, the dog's working the quarry can consist of any behavior that demonstrates his desire to get at the rats; this could include trying to dig under the cage, barking, growling, biting at the cage or lunging. The judge may deem other behaviors as sufficient examples of the desire to work the quarry.
Earthdog tests are a great way to give your Welsh Terrier some constructive exercise and an opportunity to vent all that terrier energy; they will think that they are doing the job they were bred to do and they will be very happy! As with other canine events, it is also an excellent way to spend some quality time with your dog and consolidate the bond between you. Welsh Terriers love the work they were bred to do and will take very enthusiastically to Earthdog trials.