by Karen J. Brittan

Going to ground! Den area, with judge and rat steward in background

Effective June 1, 1996, miniature schnauzers became eligible to compete with other small terriers and dachshunds in one of AKC's newer recognized sports. Earthdog Tests are a non-competitive program beginning with a basic introduction to den work and quarry, and progressing through gradual steps that require the dog to demonstrate that it is capable of being trained to follow game to ground and work its quarry.

Judge timing quarry work
These timed tests are designed to help evaluate a dog's natural abilities, using a pass/fail scoring system. While the American Working Terrier Association only requires one passing score in the Open Class to receive a Certificate of Gameness, the AKC requires two legs in Junior Earthdog, three in Senior Earthdog, and four in Master Earthdog. The dog must be capable of getting through a 9" x 9" wooden liner, which is buried underground, over a scent trail which leads to caged rats at the end.


Entrance to the denGetting the quarry

The den for the Junior Earthdog Test provides a tunnel approximately 30 feet in length, with three 90 degree turns. The dog has thirty seconds in which to reach the quarry, and then he must work it for one full minute. Working the quarry is defined as digging, barking, growling, lunging, or biting at the quarry. At the end of 60 seconds, the top of the liner is removed and the dog is lifted out of the tunnel.


Rat steward removing the quarry Quarry is removed while handler recalls dog

The Senior Earthdog den is similar, except that a false tunnel, den, and exit are added. The dog has ninety seconds to reach the quarry, and he must work it for ninety seconds. The quarry is then removed by the rat steward, at which point the judge directs the handler to call his dog.


Calling the dog out of the Senior den Dog under physical control for a successful Senior test conclusion!

The handler has ninety seconds in which to get the dog back out of the tunnel and under physical control.


Peter caught a whiff of rat scent as he was hunting toward the Master den and left his bracemate and the handlers and judge far behind
The Senior Earthdog tunnel is used for the Master Test except that a visible false entrance and hidden actual entrance are added. In Masters, the dogs are worked in braces and actual hunting is simulated in that the handlers and judge follow along behind the dogs as they approach the den, and the dogs must indicate the location of the hidden blocked-off entrance.


Cairn terrier honoring Peter as Peter attempts to get into the blocked off den entrance Handler sending dog into Master den

The first dog to indicate the actual den entrance runs first, while the second dog honors the working dog. In the Master tunnel there is a constriction point (to about 6"), with a 6" movable obstruction also added somewhere along the tunnel. This portion of the tunnel is elevated enough for the dog to get over the obstruction.

Honoring dog on tie-out while bracemate is being sent into den. Judge opens den so that dog can be removed by handler.

Once the handler sends the dog into the den, the dog has ninety seconds to reach the quarry and ninety seconds to work it, at which point the judge directs the handler to remove his dog from the den.


The dog must have good hunting drive in order to succeed in Earthdog, but that is generally not a problem with most schnauzers, as many of them love nothing better than to chase the neighborhood squirrels, cats, and birds. Some actually become quite adept at catching and killing some of the smaller game. One of mine killed a snake that had gotten into our house. He also participated in killing a raccoon that was threatening our ducks. Good boy, Peter!

Puppy playing in liner

I have made an 8-foot wooden liner, which sits in my yard, and the puppies quickly learn to run through it, over it, and on it. This makes a great toy for them, and they enjoy it immensely. While they are enjoying it, they are also learning how to bend those joints so they can still race through the tunnel, even though they are quickly outgrowing the 9" dimensions of the tunnel. It is amazing how small an area a dog can squeeze itself into. (Ever had a bitch about due to whelp go into seclusion? We've had to lift furniture off the dog in order to extricate her.) As the dog continues to grow, you can still motivate the dog to go through the tunnel using treats or a favorite toy. Try rolling a ball through the tunnel and getting the dog to chase after it.

Even though I had done bits and pieces of the test above ground many years ago before I took Ch. Britmor Sunnymeade Frost, CDX CG, to his one and only terrier dig, the one problem that I had not foreseen was the fact that once the dog turns that first corner in the tunnel, he is in total darkness for several feet. That highly motivated dog unquestionably had to think that part through, as he almost backed out of the tunnel after reaching that first turn before deciding to continue onward, obviously to a successful conclusion, as Sunny became the third schnauzer in history to receive a Certificate of Gameness (through the American Working Terrier Association).

Some happy earthdoggers made for a record entry!

This must be some sort of record! Pictured above are all of the schnauzers who competed for their Junior Earthdog title in Des Moines in November, 1999, and dogs' ages ranged from 6 months to 13 years. I was the only one who had ever done this before (okay, I'm the one in the tan T-shirt). Although this may sound like an easy-enough sport, there are an awful lot of things that can go wrong from somewhere between the start and the finish. Only one dog out of 30+ dogs qualified for JE on the first day, and the next day the total was up to FIVE!

Four schnauzer qualifiers!

No question but this WAS a record! On Sept. 8, 2002, all four of the schnauzers entered at the Earthdog Test sponsored by the Greater Twin Cities Fox Terrier Club QUALIFIED in their classes! Pictured are Britmor Nova's Orion, CD with owner Mary Novakowski, Britmor Fly Boy, ME AX AXJ CGC and Britmor Bewitched, CD MX MXJ CGC with Katie Brittan, and Britmor Adam Double Trouble, UD CGC with owner Gail Arnoldi. Hunter, Witch, and Adam earned their first Junior Earthdog legs.

Britmor Fly Boy, RA ME MX MXJ CGC, aka Peter the Snake and Raccoon Killer (or occasionally "Peter Perfect"*g*), completed the requirements for his AKC Master Earthdog degree on Sept. 7, 2002, at tests sponsored by the Twin Cities Sumac Cairn Terrier Club, becoming the second miniature schnauzer to earn this title.

The first to finish was a bitch owned by Bob Miller and Sheree Bittner, Fussfehler Freifrau von Schuldorf CD ME, who finished her Master Earthdog title a year earlier in the summer of 2001.

FINALLY, five years later, we have a third Master Earthdog! Lexis von Loepp, ME CD CGC, owned by Norma Loepp, finished her Master Earthdog title on March 4, 2007, at the Tampa Bay Terrier Club Earthdog Test in Ocala, FL. Way to go, ladies!

CH Katcha's Starta Commotion RN AX AXJ ME, owned by Bob & Kristie Beamer and Katherine Dodge, became the fourth Master Earthdog on July 29, 2007, at the Rocky Mountain Earthdog Test in Bellvue, Colorado.

Number five was MACH11 Askew Midnight Posey, ME, RN, XF, PDIII, EAC, OGC, OJC, UAG-II, CGC, owned by Susan Marshall; they earned their ME on Oct. 28, 2007, at the Cairn Terrier Club of Denver Earthdog Test in Elizabeth, CO. That makes THREE Master Earthdog titles earned in 2007!

Number Six was Abiqua I Believe CDX RA OA OAJ AXP AJP ME AMSC-VA, owned by Jalynn Davis. Ebenezer completed his ME title in Elizabeth, CO, on June 21, 2008!

MACH Abiqua Rhythm of The Wind VCD2 UD RE ME AMSC_VAX became the seventh Master Earthdog on Sept. 13, 2008, at the Columbine Dachshund Club Earthdog Test in Bellvue, CO. Breezy is also owned by Jalynn Davis.

ME #8 was Jalynn Davis's Daree's Naughty By Nature CD MX MXJ ME AMSC_VA. Daria's Master Earthdog title was earned on October 26, 2008, through the Cairn Terrier Club of Denver in Elizabeth, CO. Jalynn was busy in 2008!

WOO-HOOOOOO! The Schnauzers are on a roll now!!!!!!!!

Give it a try; you and your dog may really enjoy "Going-to-Ground" together!

AKC Earthdog Regulations

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Copyright © 1996-2017 Karen Brittan and Britmor Miniature Schnauzers. All images and written material on this site are my property and may not be used without my express written permission.