It may be the best keep secret in Scottiedom but ask your Scottie what an Earthdog is and he will be happy to tell you! In fact, he or she probably has. That dug up flower bed? Maybe there’s a vermin down there!
A story is told of one Scottish terrier lost for days below ground. Every day, faithful keepers returned to call the dog’s name and peer into the cairn to no avail. Finally, they saw a pair of shining eyes at the bottom of the hole, but the terrier was too weak to climb out. Quick thinking provided a solution. A rabbit skin was folded and wrapped around a small stone, which was lowered into the den. Immediately, the dog grabbed the skin, held on, and was drawn up to the surface. The little terrier fainted in the stiff breeze and, cradled in secure arms, was taken home. After a short period of convalescence, he was hunting again. -Earthdog Ins and Outs, 2nd Edition. Jo Ann Frier-Murza www.earthdog.info
Scotties, like all terriers, were built to hunt and what they hunted was underground or in the rocks. Bred in the highlands of Scotland, the “Scotch” terriers had to be tough and self reliant. Scotch terriers would enter the den and wind through warrens looking for prey. It was not always possible for the handler to dig down to the dog, the rocky lands of Scotland did not always yield to shovels. The dog would have to make its way in, around and out of the dens. Fierce determination was a key trait in the hunting dog and we see that same determination in today’s Scottie.
When one understands the role the Scottie was bred to do, you can easily understand the structure and makeup of the Scottie. Truly a big dog in a small package, many are surprised the first time they pick up a Scottish Terrier. The short stature of a Scottie belies the bone, muscle and heft of the breed. The tough, short tail is an apt handle, and my what large teeth you have!
AKC Earthdog Trials
The purpose of non-competitive Earthdog tests is to offer breeders and owners of small Terriers and Dachshunds a standardized gauge to measure their dogs natural aptitude and trained hunting and working behaviors when exposed to an underground hunting situation.
-AKC Regulations for Earthdog Tests for Small Terriers and Dachshunds
Today we have the opportunity to see our Scotties work, and earn titles doing what they were bred to do without the dangers inherent of a real hunt. In an AKC Earthdog trial, the Scottie must enter a wood lined tunnel to find the “quarry” - typically rats. Along the way, and depending on the level at which your Scottie is working, he must negotiate corners, explore false dens and false exits and overcome obstacles designed to safely emulate the natural barriers found in a den. In advanced classes, earthdogs must exhibit the ability to work with the handler by returning on recall and hunting with a randomly picked partner dog. Once the quarry is reached the dog must work the quarry by exhibiting certain behaviors showing their willingness and desire to engage to the quarry. (The quarry is protected behind wooden bars, inside a cage and cannot be injured.)
AKC Earthdog Classes and Titles
In an AKC Earthdog test there are 4 levels offered (Refer to the AKC for full regulations).
Introduction to Quarry: “Intro” is a non-titling class designed to expose the Scottie and handler to the quarry for the first time. Essentially a teaching class, the tunnel is short and simple, and the Judge can instruct. If you or your dog have never Earthdoged before—Introduction to Quarry is for you.
Junior Earthdog: JE is the first AKC titling class. In JE you release your dog at the end of a 10ft scent line leading to a 30 ft tunnel with 3 turns. To qualify, your Scottie has 30 seconds to reach the quarry, 30 seconds to start working and must work for 60 seconds.
Senior Earthdog: In SE the dog is released 20 feet from the tunnel and this tunnel is more complex with a false den and exit. After finding and working the quarry your Scottie must return to you upon command after the quarry is removed (to simulate a quarry that has bolted).
Master Earthdog: In ME you and your Scottie must hunt (off leash) with a brace mate during a 100 yard walk to the den. After finding the den and indicating where the quarry is, the ME dog must negotiate a tunnel that includes obstructions, false dens and exits, work the quarry and then allow the you to quickly remove him the presence of the quarry. Your dog must also stand at ‘honor’ on a short leash while the brace mate works the quarry.
Endurance Earthdog: The EE title is earned by a dog having a ME. For EE your master Earthdog must, on five occasions complete SE and ME at the same event Multiple EE titles can be earned, the number of EE titles a dog has will be indicated by a number after the title.
Are Scotties Good Earthdogs?
In a word—yes. Scotties are natural Earthdogs! Unfortunately, they can’t read, which means they sometimes don’t follow the rules we humans have created. But of course, if you have a Scottie, you are used to that. It may take a few years to put a ME title on a Scottie—but, you and your dog will have a great time doing it!
Training Tip: Can’t get your Scottie in the tunnel? Buy a 12” concrete “tube form” at your local building supply. Stabilize it on the ground in your yard and encourage your Scottie to go through it. Add a second tube to make corner and over the end to make it darker. Encourage them slowly and praise them when they go in. NEVER force your Scottie it a tunnel or block their exit once they are in the tunnel.
Scotties, by nature are intelligent and courageous, but deliberate. Unlike some Earthdog breeds that dive into the tunnel, a Scottie may approach it quickly but will often stop and carefully consider before going down. They are thinking dogs, after all, and whatever made that tunnel must be about as big as them. Scotties may not top out on the fastest masters titling list but they have one of the highest prey drive in terriers.
Your Scottie will quickly learn the “signs” of going to a trial. Sleeping Scotties have been known to jump up and bark as soon as you turn down a certain road leading to the Earthdog site.
The Death Stare
As an Earthdog Judge, I’ve learned to expect different behavior from the different Earthdog breeds. They each have their particular approach. Some run into the tunnel—others approach carefully. When working—some dig, some bark and whine, some bite, some lunge. Some Scottiesstare. They are waiting quietly for the quarry to bolt so they can get to it. Remember, the quarry is behind bars and a staring Scottie is hoping that, by being quiet, the quarry may come out where they can be reached. Unfortunately, in AKC Earthdog events, the death stare does not count as working. So you may have so spend some time teaching your Scottie to bark at the quarry. Intro to Quarry is a good place to do this because the Judge is allowed to encourage the dog a bit. If you have a Scottie that is locked into the “Death Stare”, you may want to consider an AWTA or American Working Terrier Association event for Certificate of Gameness. The AWTA CG counts “a frozen, concentrated, focused stare” as work.
Where do I start?
Earthdog events are growing in popularity but you may need to travel a bit to find one. It is well worth it. The camaraderie within the Earthdog community is great. Because it is a performance event where the dog is demonstrating their natural instincts, you will find positive, encouraging people and who are ready to help! Everyone wants others to succeed. Titles aside, you will find the Earthdog event is a great time for you and your Scottie. Yes a Scottie sometimes wishes to do it on “his own terms,” but what the heck, we love the independence of their spirit and the joy is irreplaceable!
Consider taking in an Earthdog event, the delight and profound joy your Scottie will have will certainly put a smile on both your faces. Search the AKC website to find an event near you—or look for a local Earthdog club. You and your Scottie will have a great time doing what comes naturally to the breed. You won’t be sorry.
Some References: (The STCA does not endorse any particular event, club or source)
AKC Earthdog Events—search for Earthdog under Performance events: www.akc.org
American Working Terrier Association: www.dirt-dog.org
Earthdog Ins and Outs, 2nd Edition (2010). Jo Ann Frier-Murza: www.earthdog.info
—by Bob Gann - Reprinted from the 2010 Bagpiper
Performance : Earthdog
The Scottish Terrier was bred to hunt vermin such as mice, rats and badgers. Since most prey live underground, hunting for the Scottie was "going to ground". Like other breeds that hunt underground, the Scottie is categorized as an earth dog. Hunting prey this way requires to the dog to crawl through the tunnels often in total darkness, digging out the tunnel if it is too small, following the prey via scent. Often the ratter, would use a shovel to dig out the dog and the prey.
The Scottie was designed to hunt underground. Its short stature allows the Scottie to navigate small tunnels. Its large chest and firm keel allows the Scottie to both rest on its chest while digging and provide for good lung capacity. Its beard and long eye lashes provide a defense against bites of the vermin and dirt while crawling through tunnels. The large muzzle, large teeth, and strong neck facilitate dispatching quarry. The strong hind legs help the Scottie to pull his quarry out of the tunnel. The Scottie tail is strong and well attached, so the hunter/ratter can pull the Scottie out by the tail if needed. The Scottie's very independent nature, assertiveness, and intelligence are critical for the dog to make decisions while hunting.
American Working Terrier Association
The American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) was the first organized group to have awards for going to ground. The AWTA was founded in 1971 by Patricia Adams Lent to encourage and promote the breeding, hunting, and ownership of terriers of correct size, conformation, and character to perform as working terriers. From modest beginnings, the organization has grown to include over two hundred member breeds and holds field trials across the country and throughout the year.
AKC Earth Dog
The AKC approved Earth Dog event is designed to mimic the real earth dog experience in a manner that is safe for the dog and the quarry. In earth dog, the burrow is made of wooden tunnels typically 12" x 12". To simulate real life, the tunnels contain one or more turns and even false dens. Typically each leg of the tunnel is about 10 feet long. The overall length of the tunnel, the number of turns depends on the Earth dog trial level. The dog starts outside the tunnel entrance, and navigates through the completely dark tunnel to the quarry. The quarry is protected by a steel cage. Once at the quarry, the dog must work the quarry -- barking, scratching or digging at the prey.
Earth dog events typically are held separately from other AKC events due to the need for digging tunnels. Earth dog events are very much all day events.
The AKC Earth Dog trials have numerous classes including introduction to quarry, junior earth dog, senior earth dog, and master earth dog.
Practice and Training Your Scottie
One can train your dogs or at least bring out their natural instincts. One can place tunnels on top of the ground and allow the dogs to "run" though them. Simple tunnels eg 12" x 12" by 10 feet work well. One can block one end and cut a hole on one side to connect two tunnels in an "L". Often only a few encouraging pushes is enough to get your dog to go through. It is fun to watch a litter of puppies learning to go into the tunnels.