The AKC Earthdog program progresses through gradual steps to require the dog to demonstrate that it is capable of being trained to follow game to ground and work its quarry.
Few small terriers and Dachshunds are regularly hunted to ground by their owners in natural hunts, but the AKC Earthdog tests allow these game little dogs an outlet for their excess energy and instincts in a way that benefits the dogs and the owners.
The main purpose of the tests are for a dog to demonstrate they have mastered the den hunting skills for which they were bred. The tests are not competitive; they are about skill mastery. Each level adds additional skills. The final level, Master Earthdog, include off-leash work with another dog, investigating empty dens, searching a den with obstacles, and working while digging noises are present.
INTRODUCTION TO QUARRY
The initial test is the Introduction to Quarry (IQ) where the dog is introduced to a 10 foot tunnel with one right angle turn and at the end is a cage of rats behind a set of bars. There is a scent trail of rat scent leading into the tunnel and to the rats. At this level the handler can encourage the dog into the tunnel and the judge may help get the dog working at the rats by shaking the cage or making a noise to incite the dog's instincts.
The first level where a title is earned is the Junior Earthdog test where the dog may earn a Junior Earthdog title (J.E.). The dog must travel a 30 foot den with at least three right angle turns in 30 seconds; work the rats at the end of the tunnel (in a cage behind bars as in IQ) for 60 seconds; and then allow the handler to remove him without injury to the dog or handler. Once the dog completes these requirements twice under two different judges he will receive the title of J.E. and receive a Junior Earthdog certificate from the AKC.
The second level of Earthdog test is the Senior Earthdog test where the dog may earn a Senior Earthdog title (S.E.). The den is 30 feet with at least three right angle turns and there are the added distractions of a false, unscented exit and an unscented bedding area with used rat bedding at the end. The dog has 90 seconds to travel the tunnel length and get to the rats; must begin working the rats within 15 seconds of arriving at the end of the tunnel; and must work the rats for 90 seconds. At the end of the 90 seconds the rats are removed and the dog must recall from the den to the handler within 90 seconds. Once the dog completes these requirements under two different judges at three different tests, the dog will be designated a Senior Earthdog (S.E.).
The final level of the Earthdog test is the Master Earthdog (M.E.) title. The dog must actually hunt his way to the den with a bracemate 100 to 300 yards. On the way he must investigate an empty, unscented den when the handler asks him to. Then both dogs must find the entrance to the den and mark it decisively so that there is no question the dog is indicating an active den. The den itself is like the Senior den with the addition of two obstacles: a 6 inch diameter PVC pipe crossways in the den to simulate a root and a narrowing down to 6 inches for a distance of 18 inches. The Master competitor has 90 seconds to get to his quarry; must work the rats for 90 seconds and must allow himself to be removed from the den by his handler within 15 seconds. While one dog is working the other dog is staked out and must wait his turn with minimum amount of noise while his bracemate works the quarry. Once a dog successfully completes all parts of the Master test four times under three different judges the dog shall be designated a Master Earthdog and may continue to compete at all three levels at Earthdog tests.