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Dachshunds and smaller terriers were bred to bolt (chase the animal out of its earth, tunnel, lair or den) or face fox, badger or otter. These dogs were also used for vermin control such as rats.

History of the Earthdog


Time obscures their history. And with good reason. It was not shouted from the treetops of Sherwood Forest; the poaching the terriers did was enough to have their masters jailed or hung. The terrier was always the dog of the common man, sharing his master’s anonymity, helping to hunt his food and protect his domain from predators and vermin.

The first written mention of terriers occurs in Natural History by Pliny the Elder, during the first century. When the Romans invaded Britain in 55 B.C., the records, “they found much to their surprise, small dogs that would follow their quarry to the ground.” The Romans called these “workers in the earth”, terrarii from the Latin for the earth, terra. Terriers are indigenous to the British Isles.

The earliest terriers were short-legged and most resemble the descriptions of the ancient “prick-eared curs”. The Old Scotch Terrier, now extinct, is said to be the ancestor of all modern day short-legged terriers. The “Old Scotch” was a stable worker that had great strength, courage, and stamina and was bred to breach rocky predator dens.

The progenitor of the long-legged terriers is assumed to be the Old English Terrier of which has been extinct since about 1920. This family branch consisted of diggers who worked in the soil. They were bred with generally narrow fronts and straight legs placed relatively close together so that when digging, loose earth could be propelled between their spread rear legs. The ears of most long-legged are natural and drop to prevent loose earth from entering the ear canals.

When hunting was revolutionized in Britain in the early nineteenth century, almost every region produced their own variety of terrier; many of these are now extinct or have been absorbed into other breeds. These include the Devon, Poltalloch, Clydesdale, Roseneath, Cheshire, Paisley, Sommerset to name a few. Terriers are one of the most homogeneous of all the canine hybrids.


Dachshunds descended from the now-extinct hunting dogs of The Duchy of Burgundy, which once included parts of the low countries. The Imperial Habsburg family brought backpacks of these Burgundian hounds in 1477 to Austria following the marriage of Maximilian I to Marie of Burgundy.

These were eventually bred with German “earth hounds” and small bloodhounds. These were the progenitors of the modern-day dachshund. By the middle of the sixteenth century, woodcuts began to appear of a badger-hunting breed that closely resembles today’s breed – a dog with an elongated body, short legs, and houndlike ears.

Earthdog Den Trials

Earthdog Den Trials are a simulated hunting situation usually held in a field in which the dachshund/terrier tracks the game by scent to the constructed game’s earth (lair,burrow,tunnel), enters the animal’s tunnel and then works (barking,engaging etc) the animal until the vermin either bolts (flees) from the earth or until the owner digs down to the den in a real hunting situation.

The simulated earths are trenches dug and liners inserted of which are usually constructed of wood. The trench or path is scented with i.e. rat scent. A caged rat serves as the simulated quarry at the end of the trench where the dog can see and smell but not physically touch or harm the rat.

Believe me, these feeder/pet rats seem bored with the proceedings and merrily sniff the dog and then go about the cage while the dog, external to the cage, is working.

The test is non-competitive; either a pass or a fail. However, it is a very exciting event and one of camaraderie and enthusiasm. There are two separate and independent governing bodies:

  • (1) The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was formed in May 1971 by Patricia Adams Lent has members throughout the US and Canada. The Canadian Kennel Clubbdoes recognize the AWTA Certificate of Gameness and will record it on a CKC pedigree
  • (2) The American Kennel Club (AKC) began offering Earthdog Performance Den Trials in October 1994. The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) does not offer Earthdog Performance Den Trials but does recognize the AWTA Certificate of Gameness and will record it on a CKC pedigree.

The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA)

AWTA Founder and Trustee Coordinator
Patricia Adams Lent
503 NC 55 West
Mt. Olive, NC 28465
(919) 658-0929

Earth Dog Trial Contacts

  • President/Co-ordinator: Esther C. Krom , 16 Linwood Terrace, Clifton, NJ 07012 201-472-0957
  • Trial Secretary : Louise Snyder, 31800 Hwy. 20, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 707-964-4667
  • Membership: Cindy Todd, 6861 Greenleaf Dr. N., Richland Hills, TX 76180

Membership is $U.S.15.00 for single or $U.S. 20.00 for couple. There is a quarterly newsletter Down to Earth. Individuals may join by sending dues along with pertinent information about themselves and their dogs.

The AWTA recognizes the following breeds : Dachshunds, Australian Terriers, Bedlington Terriers, Border Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers, Lakeland Terriers, Norwich Terriers, Norfolk Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Sealyham Terriers, Skye Terriers, Welsh Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Patterdale Terriers and Jagdterriers (German Hunting Terrier) The breed list applies for the AWTA applies only to participation in the trials. Any breed may earn a “Working Certificate” (WC) or a “Hunting Certificate” (HC) if the dog performs the appropriate work.

Technically the club will consider other breeds if that breed group wishes to proceed with an appeal for recognition through a probationary period. The criteria is having a national breed club of which the breed was bred for and has a history as a hunting terrier, either for earth work or above ground.

As an example, this would be applicable to i.e. Miniature Schnauzers. However since the artificial Den Trial Earths are 9-inch x 9-inches to obtain a Certificate of Gameness , it may not be feasible to i.e. Glen of Imaal Terriers.

It is usual that a “novice dog” is entered in the Novice Class. This artificial earth is a liner total 9 feet long with one 90 degrees right angle turn. The dog is released 10 feet away from the earth’s entrance and the handler is allowed 1 short command. You may walk to the side of the earth’s entrance.

The dog has 60 seconds to enter and find the quarry. The dog must then “work” the quarry continuously for 30 seconds. No certificate is awarded for a perfect score. The dog then moves to the Certificate Of Gameness Class.

Certificate of Gameness (CG)

This certificate is awarded to the dog who qualifies with a score of 100% in an open class at an AWTA sanctioned trial. The dog is required to travel a thirty foot earth, reaching the quarry within thirty seconds (50%). The dog must then work the quarry, as defined on Judge’s score sheet, continuously for a full sixty seconds (50%).

The handler may give one command on release, then must stand quietly at the release point throughout the test. Time in the Open Class is started when the dog is released. The dog may enter the earth, come out, and re-enter providing he does not go all the way to the quarry.

He is not penalized as long as he reaches the quarry within thirty seconds from the time of release.

Once the dog reaches the quarry he must not leave it; if he does, he receives no score for working even though he may return to the quarry. If the dog reaches the quarry within thirty seconds and works the quarry continuously for a full minute, he earns his CG.

The scoresheet will be sent, with the trial report, to the Trial Secretary who will issue the Certificate of Gameness.

“Work” is defined on the judge’s score sheet as barking, growling, whining, digging, biting at the cage and lungeing at the cage. Any definite break in work marks the dog’s time even though he starts up again.

Working Certificate (WC)

Awarded only to dogs whose owners are AWTA members in good standing at the time of qualifying work. Only one certificate is awarded per dog. The WC is issued to a terrier or dachshund who has worked in natural earth to one of the following quarry: woodchuck, fox, raccoon or badger. This does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth. The dog must enter the earth without encouragement and disappear into the earth.

He must work down to the quarry and cause it to bolt or draw it from the earth. If the quarry does not bolt or is not drawn, the terrier must hold it at bay. There is to be no doubt that the dog is right up to the quarry. If the dog is not dug to, he/she must show evidence of a face to face encounter with bites or quarry-fur in the mouth. The baying must be continuous for at least three minutes.

Hunting Certificate (HC)

This certificate is issued to dogs regularly used for hunting game as rabbits, squirrels, oppossums, rats raccoons, muskrats or for flushing and/or retrieving upland birds. Game must be either killed by the dog or shot by its human hunting partner.

A dog must spend a full season hunting before this certificate is issued. A season is whatever time is allowed by state/provincial hunting regulations when the species is controlled by state/provincial game laws.

An AWTA member must have witnessed the dog hunting on at least six occasions and attest that it is used regularly for hunting.

The American Kennel Club (AKC)

Earth Dog Trial Contacts

  • Most trial events are sponsored by AKC-licensed clubs. Consult the events calendar in the AKC Gazette for dates and locations. The American Kennel Club: 51 Madison, New York, NY 10010 212-696-8200 Field Rep: Gordon Heldebrant, 2406 Watson Street, Sacramento, CA 95864 916-485-5950
  • Advisory Member: Jo Ann Frier-Murza, 131 Bordentown-Crosswicks Rd., Crosswicks, NJ 08515 609-298-3150, e-mail

AKC approved Earthdog Judges

  • – Sheila Taylor Allen, 6323 Riverview Road, Everett, WA 98205-2634 phone/fax (206) 334-0681 e-mail
  • – Jean Clark, 441 Sugar Hill Road South, Weare, NH 03281 (603) 529-3076
  • – Karla Diethorn, RR4, Box 153, Bonne Terre, MO 63628
  • – Tim Doyle, 41839 Via San Miguel, Fremont, CA 94539 510-226-1576
  • – Chris and Pam Dyer, 3685 Montee 4ieme Rang, Ste. Madeleine, Quebec Canada J0H 1SO 514-584-3951
  • – Gordon Heldebrant, 2406 Watson Street, Sacramento, CA 95864 916-485-5950
  • – Esther Krom, 16 Linwood Dr., Clifton, NJ 07012 (201) 472-0957
  • – Joyce Moore, 7412 Caren Circle, Loveland, CO 80537-8736 (970)667-1163
  • – Jo Ann Frier-Murza, 131 Bordentown-Crosswicks Rd., Crosswicks, NJ 08515 609-298-3150 e-mail
  • – Charlene Ownes, 3401 “L” Street, Vancouver, WA 98663 (360) 693-5547
  • – Pat Quinn, P.O. Box 545, Silverhill, AL 36576
  • – Lynn Niebur, 1960 SW Wynwood, Portland, OR 97225 (503) 643-1806 email
  • – William R. (Sil) Sanders, 33101 – 44th Ave. NW Stanwood, WA 98292 (360) 629-6434
  • – Ron L. Sebastiani, 18 Rahilly Road North , Hanover Twsp., NJ 08562 (609)- 890-3743,
  • – Larry Sorenson, P.O. Box 1288, Oak Harbor, WA 98277 (360) 675-7770
  • – Karl and Helene Stearns, P.O. Box 249, Cresco, PA 18326 717-595-3097 e-mail Fax 717-595-6082 (They also publish Ring Steward’s Quarterly. Contact them for details.
  • – James Tebbetts, 4437 Casa Grande Cr., # 385 Cypress, Ca. 90630; (714) 229-1941
  • American Kennel Club Home Page
  • e-mail the American Kennel Club

The AKC recognizes the following breeds for the Earthdog tests: : AKC-registered or ILP Dachshunds, Australian Terriers, Bedlington Terriers, Border Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers, Lakeland Terriers, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Bull Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Norwich Terriers, Norfolk Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Sealyham Terriers, Skye Terriers, Welsh Terriers, West Highland White Terriers 6 months or older.

Bitches in season may not participate. Patterdale Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers* and Jadgterriers (German Hunting Terrier) are not eligible to receive AKC Earthdog certificates.

* The AKC is reported to be considering an application from the Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association for breed recognition, breed standard and inclusion in the AKC registry.

Introduction to Quarry

Offers no credit toward titles and is not a prerequisite for other classes. The tunnel is 10 feet long with one 90-degree turn. The handler brings the dog to a point 10 feet directly in front of the entrance, releases the dog, gives one short command and may stand quietly beside the entrance.

The dog has 2 minutes to reach the quarry and must work it continuously for 30 seconds. (Working quarry includes barking, lunging, pawing, digging and generally harassing the caged rats.)

Junior Earthdog Class (JE)

The tunnel is 9 inch x 9 inch x 30 feet long with three 90- degree turns. The handler must stand quietly at the release point and may not give any command or signal after the release. The dog must reach the the quarry within 30 seconds and work it continuously for 60 seconds. A dog must be registered in the AKC Stud Book and qualify at two licenced or member club tests under two different judges to earn a J. E.

Senior Earthdog Class (SE)

The Senior Earthdog test is open only to dogs with a J.E. The release point is 20 feet from the den entrance, which is steeper and less visible than the J.E. test. An unscented false entrance is supposed to be a short tunnel located about 50 feet away from the test den and an exit are added to the tunnel structure. The rules do not offer a complete description of this, but this is what is expected. The dog must reach the quarry within 90 seconds and work it for 90 seconds.

Then the judge removes the quarry and instructs the handler to recall the dog. By command or whistle only, the handler must retrieve the dog within 90 seconds. A dog must quailfy at three tests under two different judges to earn the S.E. title Open only to dogs that have earned the Junior Earthdog title. Three qualifying scores under at least two different judges are required for the Senior Earthdog title. The Senior earthdog course layout is more complex, more closely resembling an actual den in the wild.

The tunnel in this class is again 9×9 inches, and approximately thirty freet from entry to exit. However, in addition to three 90 turns on the main tunnel, there is a false exit and a false den, neither of which are visible from the main den entry.

Dogs are graded on approach to quarry, working thequary, and leaving the den on command. The dog has 90 seconds to find the quarry. Then it must work the quarry for 90 seconds. Finally, the handler must be able to call the dog back to the original entry.

Master Earthdog Class (ME)

Open only to dogs that have earned the Senior Earthdog title. To earn the Master Earthdog title, dogs must qualify four different times under at least two different judges. Dogs with the Msater Earthdog title may no longer enter Junior or Senior Earthdog classes.

The Master Earthdog course layout is a modified form of the Junior/Senior course modified as follows: The entry is not readily visible, and is marked with a scent line. A false entry, with no scent, is visible. The tunnel contains a constriction point where it is 6 inches wide rather than 9 inches. An obstruction consisting of a 6 inch diameter pipe that can moved 2.5 inches either way is included. In addition, dogs are worked in pairs, selected at random.

Qualifying performance: Dogs are released on the scent line approximately 100 feet from the real entrance. The dogs must reach the entry in about 60 seconds. Once the entrance is found, one of the dogs must honor the other (and then switch places when the first dog has worked the den).

The working dog has 90 seconds to find the quarry and must work it for 90 seconds. The Judge will tap on the roof of the tunnel when it is working as a distraction. The honoring dog must remain quiet, collared and staked during the honor.

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