An earthdog trial tests the working ability and instinct of the small, often short-legged terriers or Dachshunds. These dogs were bred to hunt vermin and other quarry which lived in underground dens. Earthdog den trials involve man-made underground tunnels that the dogs must negotiate, while scenting a rat, “the quarry.” The dog must follow the scent to the quarry and then “work” the quarry. Depending on the sanctioning organization, “working” means barking, scratching, staring, pawing, digging; any active behavior. The quarry is protected at all times by wooden bars across the end of the tunnel. The hunting encounter is controlled, and neither the dog nor the quarry (usually two rats) are endangered by the activity.
In Canada, earthdog trials are sanctioned by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). In the United States, two major organizations sanction earthdog trials: the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Working Terrier Association (AWTA).