The Wee Welshman and I traveled to Iowa this weekend to attend an earthdog test. What is this earthdog-thing, you ask? Well, it goes something like this....
Most terrier breeds were originally bread to search out and kill vermin and/or to flush out foxes and other quarry when hounds chased it into its den. Earthdog tests are meant to emulate that type of work. Generally speaking an earthdog "den" is begun by digging trenches in the ground. The sides and roof are made with a plywood "liner" which is then covered over to create an underground tunnel. At one end of the tunnel--behind bars so they don't get eaten--are rats in a cage. The terrier is released at the other end and (hopefully) makes it's way to the rats. Once there the terrier has to "work" (bark, bite, or paw at) the rats for a set length of time.
There are four different levels a terrier can work up to. The first is called Introduction to Quarry, then Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog, and Master Earthdog. As you go up each level the tunnel gets longer, the terrier has a different length of time to get to the rats, and the terrier has to work the rats for longer. Also, for each step up the terrier has to "qualify" one extra time.
For example, this weekend Moe did Intro and Junior. For Into he had 2 minutes to get through a 10 foot tunnel to the rats and had to work them for 30 seconds once there. He only had to do this one time to qualify. For Junior he had 30 seconds to get through a 30 foot tunnel and had to work for 60 seconds once he got to the rats. He had to do this 2 times to get the title. In Senior obstacles get added to the tunnel and the dog has to do it 3 times, and for Master the dog is released a long ways away from the tunnel and actually has to find the tunnel. A Master dog has to qualify 4 times to get the title.
So now that you (hopefully) understand what earthdog is--our weekend.
This is the Junior Earthdog den from far away. Everyone else has to stay 100 feet away while each dog is taking the test so I didn't really get any good close up pictures. But you get the idea kinda-sorta. The tunnels were literally in the middle of a sheep pasture. The Wee Welshman had a great time eating and rolling in the sheep poop.
This is me and Moe with our judge, Carol Anderson, accepting his ribbon for the 1st leg of his Junior Earthdog title on Saturday. That morning he had done ok on the Intro tunnel, but when we got to the Junior he was a little unsure about the longer tunnel and it took him 29.5 seconds to get to the rats. Phew--just under the wire!
Once the tests were over for the day (and after a shower and a nap) Moe and I did a little exploring. We found a little state park, Nations Bridge park, just up the road from our hotel so we went for a little walk along this stream there.
We found these tracks in a soft spot along the stream. I'm not good enough to tell what they were. A few were definitely dog tracks, but some had really long claws. They were almost what I thought beaver tracks would look like?
Saving the best for last! Here's me and Moe with judge Jim Moore as we got the ribbon for his Junior Earthdog title. By the time we got to his last test--he did one Intro and one Junior each day--he wasn't messing around. He got to the rats in under 9 seconds, and barked and dug well for the entire 60 seconds.