Because of their long history as working hunting dogs, Border Terriers still retain much of their hunting instincts. While they have found success in present day agility and obedience trials, they really excel in Earthdog trials. As a matter of fact, more Border Terriers have won American Kennel Club Earthdog trials than any other breed. If you're looking for a way to get involved in competition and exercise with your Border Terrier, Earthdog trials are a great option.
Unlike hunt and field tests, Earthdog trials are an artificial exercise in which both dog and prey are completely safe, thanks to a controlled atmosphere. The dog must negotiate a series of underground tunnels, following the scent of rats, which are safely kept in a cage. Once the dog finds the rats, he must bark, scratch or dig to show that his hunting instincts are intact.
Earthdog trials are hosted by the American Kennel Club, the American Working Terrier Association and other clubs around the United States and some countries in Europe. While there are some subtle differences in the Earthdog trials offered by AKC and AWTA, we'll concentrate on the American Kennel Club trials to give you an idea of what's involved. In AKC Earthdog trials, there are four classes of testing in the program. The beginning class is called Introduction to Quarry, and any eligible dog can be entered in this class, regardless of experience. With the help of a good judge, the beginners will usually discover their hunting instincts in a short, ten foot tunnel.
The next class, Junior Earthdog, is a step in the direction of earning a title. The dog must negotiate a thirty foot tunnel with three turns. In order to pass, the dog must leave your arms, find the tunnel, and go to the end, where the dog must show that he has found the rats by barking, pawing or digging. The next classes are built around the same theme but increased in skill. In the Senior Earthdog trial, the dog must find a hidden tunnel by scent, and after he has found his prey, he must come directly back to his handler after being removed from the tunnel by the judge. For the Master Earthdog trial, the dog must find the tunnel in a field no less than three hundred feet from the starting point, and find the right path to the rats, when there could be side tunnels to distract him. For this highest trial, the handler must retrieve the dog from the tunnels.
Dogs eligible for the AKC Earthdog trials include Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers and most terriers. The main difference between the AKC and the AWTA trials is that more breeds are accepted in the AWTA, and the AWTA also offers working certificates, hunting woodcock, fox, raccoon and rats. These dogs can go on to help their hunting handlers to flush game, including fowl and rabbits.
Whether you're interested in introducing your Border Terrier to hunting or just want to enjoy some time with him outside in a natural environment, Earthdog trials may be an excellent choice for you and your Border Terrier! Those that are interested in learning more about this growing event should contact their local AKC or AWTA club to join up and start training.