Earthdog Test

Scotties in Earthdog Tests By John McNabney

The Scottish Terrier was developed in the highlands of Scotland to hunt and kill varmints that destroyed crops or small livestock. Given the economic conditions in that region for centuries, dogs that were not functional were not kept as pets. If a dog could not perform its intended function, it was disposed of. This form follows function style of breeding (if it could not function, it was not bred) is what accounts for the personality, instincts, and form of the present day Scottish Terrier. Most of the quarry dwelled in small underground dens, so it was incumbent on the dog to locate the den, determine if it was inhabited and if so, to enter and engage the quarry and either fight it to the death or to drag it out or the den so that its handler could kill it.

The AKC Earthdog Test was established to demonstrate if a dog possessed the necessary physical and mental traits to perform those functions that were fundamental to the development of the breed. Participation is limited to those breeds that were developed for underground den work consisting primarily of short legged terriers and dachshunds. There are three titling classes and one instinct class at an AKC Earthdog Test. The titling classes are Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog and Master Earthdog. The instinct test is the Introduction To The Quarry class. The class qualifying and titling requirements are described below.


In all tests a scent line is laid from the quarry den through the active tunnel and out to the release point. This scent line is usually “rat tea” consisting of water with rat urine and dissolved rat feces.

Working is defined as aggressive action such as attaching the bars, digging, barking or whining within 12 inches of the quarry. A change in the nature of the work or brief pauses (less than 10 seconds) are not penalized, nor is dirt removal from the den area so that the dog may continue to dig at the den. Staring or “active staring” is not considered working.

The rats are in a metal cage in a den at the end of the tunnel separated from the dog by 1”dowels make of wood or plastic. The rats can not be removed from their den during the test except when required in the Senior Class.

The tunnel is 9” x 9” inside with a dirt floor and totally underground. The tunnel is to be light tight so that the dog is in total darkness after the first corner. It may be permanently installed in the ground with a removable top for cleaning and scenting or built in sections that are removed from the ground after each test.

The release point is clearly marked and can not be passed by the dog or handler before the release command is given by the judge. The dog may be brought to the release point on lead or carried to the release point by the handler. The dog may be released by being dropped by the handler from a point no higher than the waist or released on the ground. Tossing or pushing the dog towards the entrance is a disqualification. A single command may be given by the handler on releasing the dog. While walking up to the release point and before the release the handler may talk to the dog. The dog MUST run without a collar or it will be disqualified. This is a safety issue as a collar may catch in the tunnel and cause injury to the dog.

Introduction To The Quarry

In this class the tunnel is 10 feet long with 1 corner. The release point is 10 feet from the entrance to the den and the entrance is fully visible to the dog from the release point and inviting to enter. The handler brings the dog to the release point and at the direction of the judge, releases the dog with a single command. If the dog is unsure about entering the den or can not find the den, the handler may move to the entrance and tap on the tunnel and/or give verbal encouragement to the dog to enter. However, making contact with the dog will preclude qualification. Once the dog enters the tunnel, the handler must remain silent. The time begins when the dog enters the den the first time. The dog has 2 minutes to reach the quarry and begin working and must work for 30 seconds. The dog may reach and leave the quarry within the 2 minute time period without penalty but once working has begun the dog cannot leave the quarry or stop working. After completing the test, the dog is removed from the tunnel at the den end through a door on the top of the tunnel. During the 2 minute time period, if the dog reaches the quarry but does not start working, the judge may scratch on the tunnel or shake the rat cage to encourage the dog to begin working without penalty. Such encouragement must stop when the dog begins working. Reaching the quarry and beginning to work within the 2 minute time period and working continuously for 30 seconds is a qualifying performance.

Junior Earthdog

In this class the tunnel is 30 feet long with 3 corners. The release point is 10 feet from the entrance to the den and the entrance is fully visible to the dog from the release point and inviting to enter. The handler brings the dog to the release point and at the direction of the judge, releases the dog with no more than a single command. Once the dog is released the handler must remain stationary and silent. The dog has 30 seconds to reach the quarry from the release. Once reaching the quarry, the dog must remain at the quarry for the remainder of the test in order to qualify. When reaching the quarry the dog has 30 seconds to begin working and must work for 1 minute. The judge may motion to the handler to come to the den area before the working is complete, but the handler must remain silent during the entire working period. Once the working period is complete, the dog is removed from the tunnel at the quarry end through a door in the top of the tunnel. There is no penalty if the dog backs up from the den or otherwise prolongs the removal process. If the dog has met the time requirements and the handler has not caused a disqualification, the dog has passed the test.

Senior Earthdog

In this class the tunnel is 30 feet long with 3 corners. Additionally, at the 2nd and 3rd corners are a false den and a false exit. The false den is approximately 5 feet of tunnel with no exit, a door on the top of the den at the far end and scented bedding at the far end. The false exit is approximately 6 feet long with one corner. The false exit is not scented. The sequence of false den and false exit is not prescribed and can be in a variety of configurations as shown in the den diagrams at the end of this article. The release point is 20 feet from the entrance and more than that from the false exit. Neither the entrance nor the false exit can be seen by the dog from the release point. Construction of the entrance and false exit shall require to dog to climb down to gain entry. The handler may carry the dog or bring the dog on lead to the release point. Before releasing the dog the handler may talk to the dog. Once directed to release the dog by the judge, the handler may drop or release the dog with no more than a single command. Once the dog has been released the handler must remain stationary and silent until directed to recall the dog by the judge. The dog has 90 seconds to find the entrance and reach the quarry. If the dog enters the false exit before entering the entrance it must come back to the entrance and return towards the quarry, either above ground or through the tunnel before reaching the quarry. The dog must transverse the entire tunnel from the entrance to the quarry in order to qualify. The dog

may investigate the false den, but will be disqualified if it begins working in the false den. The dog may exit and enter the false exit as many times as it wants as long as it reaches the quarry in the 90 seconds. Once reaching the quarry, the dog has 15 seconds to begin working and must work for 90 seconds. After the 90 seconds, the rats are removed from the den and the judge will instruct the handler to recall the dog. The handler may recall from the release point or the entrance or some point in-between. If the dog comes out the false exit the handler may more towards the dog and may recover the dog anywhere above ground. If the dog re-enters the tunnel the handler must move back to the entrance before recalling the dog again. During the recall, the handler may call, use a whistle or scratch on the tunnel at the entrance. No other noise makers, toys, food, etc are allowed. The handler has 90 seconds to get the dog under physical control. If all of these requirements are met, the dog has qualified.

Master Earthdog

In this test the tunnel is identical to the Senior Tunnel with the additions of a squeeze section and a roller section. These sections are in the second and third segments of the tunnel in any sequence. The squeeze section is 18” long with the width of the tunnel reduced to 6”. The roller section consisted of the piece of 6” plastic pipe running the full width of the tunnel constrained by a 1” dowel located 3 inches above the tunnel floor running through the center of the pipe. The roof of the tunnel is raised 6 inches for a length of 18 inches centered on the dowel. For dogs the size of a Scottie, the dog must move the pipe forward as far as the dowel will allow it to roll, climb over the top of the pipe and then roll the pipe backwards as it comes over the top so that it may get back into the tunnel at the end of the 18” section of raised roof. The squeeze requires the dog to force its way through the narrowed section, challenging any claustrophobic tendencies. The false den and false exit are the same as in the Senior Tunnel.

This test is run by a brace of dogs, paired together by a random draw at the beginning of the class. At the beginning of the test, the tunnel entrance and false entrance are blocked by dowels and the rats are placed behind the dowels at the tunnel entrance. The test begins with a 200 yard walk-up from the release point to the tunnel entrance. During this walk-up the dogs must hunt actively without interfering with each other. Approximately 100 yards from the release point there will be a false tunnel that is unscented and approximately 4 feet long. Upon reaching the false tunnel each handler must have their dog investigate the false tunnel and indicate that it is empty by taking no interest in working the false tunnel. This must be done in the presence of the judge who is accompanying the handlers. The handlers and judge will stop their forward progress when they reach a point approximately 20 feet from the entrance to the tunnel. Each dog must find and mark the entrance. Marking is indicated by the dog entering the entrance and remaining there until removed by the handler at the direction of the judge. The dogs are allowed to investigate the entire tunnel area until finding the entrance, but once they enter the entrance they must remain there until removed by the handler. If the dog(s) can not find the entrance, the judge may direct the handler to move towards the entrance to indicate to the dog where the entrance is, but the handler cannot direct the dog to the entrance. The first dog to mark is the first dog to run and the second dog is placed in the honoring position (a stake with a short leash attached). The handlers are directed to face their dogs away from the entrance while the rats are removed from the entrance and returned to the den at the end of the tunnel. Once the rats are in place, the honoring dog is secured to the honoring stake and the first dog is brought to the entrance and released by the handler. If the dog exits the tunnel, the handler may give a second command without penalty. The dog has 90 seconds to reach the rats, negotiating the squeeze and roller, false den and false exit, 15 seconds to begin working and must work for 90 seconds. After 60 seconds, the judge will begin to scratch on the top of the tunnel above the dog for the remaining 30 seconds of this portion of the test. The dog must continue working without break despite this

distraction. After completing the working portion of the test, the handler has 15 seconds to remove the dog from the den through a door on the top of the tunnel. The dogs are swapped with the working dog placed in the honoring position and the honoring dog taken to the entrance and released by its handler. While in the honoring position, the honoring dog must remain quiet and still. A little noise and movement is permitted, but it can not be a distraction to the judge. The elements of the test are an active hunt without interfering with the bracemate during the walk-up, investigating the false tunnel under the direction of the handler, finding and marking the entrance, finding the quarry, working the quarry and being removed from the tunnel meeting the time requirements for each portion and completing the honoring requirements. Passing all elements will result in a qualifying score.

Title Requirements

Junior Earthdog (JE)
Qualifying in 2 tests under 2 different judges.

Senior Earthdog (SE)
Qualifying in 3 tests under 2 different judges

Master Earthdog (ME)
Qualifying in 4 tests under 3 different judges

Endurance Earthdog (EE)
Qualifying in 5 different tests in both the Senior and Master classes at the same test (a Double

“Q”). This title may be awarded multiple times by earning an additional 5 Double “Qs” for each award. Each award is indicated by a number at the end of the title (i.e. EE3 if the dog has earned 15 Double “Qs”)


Working the quarry is an instinct which may be developed by repeated exposure to the rats and encouragement when interest or aggression towards the rats is displayed. Working can not be “trained” in the normal sense of training as that would lead to serious problems in the Senior Class where a recall is required.

Entering the tunnel can be trained by starting with a short section of tunnel and encouraging the dog to pass through, using food or other enticement to get the dog to enter. Some handlers require their dogs to pass through the tunnel in order to get to their dinner. Once the dog willingly enters the tunnel, it can be extended and corners added as the dog gains confidence dealing with the constricting nature of the tunnel.

Dog aggression can not be tolerated in the Master Class. If your Scottie has any tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs, or overly interested, especially males investigating females, it will be necessary to work through this tendency by socialization and controlled engagement with many different dogs. Females in season can not compete in a test in any class so males will not be distracted by this factor.