Earthdogs

Terrier Logic # 2:  “I live to hunt.”                                                                                   Your terrier is almost certainly an “Earthdog” even if you don’t recognize it.

Terriers are ‘of the earth’. Most people know that.  Yet few actually see their dogs using all their faculties, doing what nature intend them to do and loving it.  Instead, they see their terrier digging up the petunias and call it ‘getting into trouble’.

Terriers aren’t diggers. They’re hunters. And they’re workers.  Bossy and Bark rarely dig for the sake of digging. So if your terrier is trashing your flower bed, there’s almost certainly something in it. Check it out!

To understand Earthdog is to understand many of the smaller terrier breeds who go to ground in search of varmits.

Young Cairn Terrier scenting the quarry in an IQ (introduction to instinct) test at an Earthdog training day in Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada. The training day, hosted by The Canadian West Highland White Terrier Club, was a kick off to the 2012 Earthdog season. (Photo: courtesy of J.McLaughlin)

To do this work, Terriers need quarry instinct, a sensitive nose, a focused mind and courage. They need to make good decisions on their own underground in the pitch-black.  And once they find their quarry they must have a solid “work ethic”. They need to bark, dig and carry on until we tell them it’s time to stop.  No wonder we call our terriers stubborn and willful when we’re frustrated they’re not following our program.

These qualities amount to something astonishing when we give our terriers a job. Watch a Master Earthdog at work and you’ll be awed by their ability to balance drive and self-control, as well as independence and collaboration. Taking loose direction from their human handler, Earthdogs range a distance off-leash in search of the quarry with another dog they’ve just met. Then they go to ground. One dog at a time.

Terriers can do Earthdog Trials where no quarry is harmed.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but giving your dog this outlet for their instinct actually helps you to channel it. I’ve spent a lot of time training my Borders to ‘leave it’ when it comes to other living creatures. And they do pretty well. Birds can now hop around and the dogs don’t go for them. But I also let them do Earthdog trials when I can. They get to build self-confidence and be who they are.  But on my terms.

In controlled trials or training days such as you see above, the quarry (usually two nonplussed rats) is protected from harm and treated humanely at all times.  Dogs can earn titles recognized by national kennel clubs all around the world, including Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.  Or dogs and their handlers can just come out just for fun. Some of our Earthdogs never figure out all of our (somewhat arbitrary) trial rules, but still approach the ‘test’ with zeal.  Like life, there’s joy in just Showing Up.

If you know about Earthdog, please add your perspective.  Leave a comment below. Or if you’re a terrier owner and want more info, Earthdog Ins & Outs by Jo Ann Frier-Murza is an excellent reference and a great way to get to know your terrier better.

2 thoughts on “Earthdogs

  1. There are no awards or earthdog trials in the UK. You are wrong. I have taken my dogs to France, Italy and Czech Republic to work in earthdog. Both my dogs carry French title of Champion in Terre Artifical Renards as they are both certified working in contact with fox. They work the tunnels in Italy with no contact and there are awarded CAC which is a national ticket and also leads to champion status. There is nothing in the UK and since 2003 with hunting with hounds ban it is virtually impossible to work a terrier. There is afar more going on in Europe and the titles are rewarding. You can train your dog and both have success. I work my dogs also with rabbits, wild boar. They have an enchanted life as they live on a small holding with horses so, as Border Terriers, live how they were bred to live. Following horses.

    • Hi Charmaine k,

      Thanks for following. It’s been a while since my last post so thanks for bringing me back. I appreciate your correction on this. So no trails even as in North America where we set up a completely fake challenge with dogs in man made tunnels and rats in cages so they cannot be harmed? {I’d like to learn more about the ban and will update my post. I can understand the motivation for animal welfare.]

      I had dreams of having my terriers come out with me on horseback. No, actually, that would be a nightmares. They’re sticky enough (mostly) but I think the size of the horses frightens them. When they’re near horses both of my dogs lose their minds. It would not be a good time for any of us. Great to imagine you in your setting with horses and hounds!

      Toni Terrier

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