Preparing for Earthdog Season

It’s almost the time of the year for earthdog once again! Earthdog is a ‘winter sport’, spanning from approximately May to August, weather permitting.

Earthdog is a fun sport for dogs of ‘earthdog type’ (small terriers, dachshunds, and mixed breeds of), where these little dogs get to test out their natural instincts. The sport involves small tunnels being set up, so these dogs can have the chance to ‘go to ground’ and encounter ‘quarry’ at the end.  In South Australia, our quarry is typically a deceased rabbit, but judges have the discretion to use other quarry (like fluffy toys).  For many terrier and dachshund type dogs, this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for, to put all their fire and enthusiasm into what they were bred to do!


Earthdog den setup at SACA Park, Kilburn, Adelaide, South Australia.

Earthdog den setup at SACA Park, Kilburn, Adelaide, South Australia.


There are two key parts of teaching earthdog: Teaching a dog to travel through the small tunnels, and teaching the dog to ‘work’ the quarry.


Tunnel Training

In earthdog tests, we use wooden liners to create tunnels. For those wanting to train at home, you can easily make tunnels out of cardboard. Tunnels should be 9 inches by 9 inches square. For the instinct test, the ‘easiest’ level for earthdog, they are expected to go through 3 metres of tunnel with one right angled turn. Lots of dogs have difficulties with corners, so do make sure you design your home made tunnels with a corner! You can make many segments to create 3 metres or more worth of tunnel.

The simplest way to get your dog to go through an earthdog tunnel is to lay a food trail and get your dog to gobble it up piece by piece, going through the tunnel as they do so.  Overtime you can make the food trail more sparse, and use a word to get your dog to go through the tunnel – a command like “Tunnel!” or “Get the bunnies!” are most suitable.


Quarry Training

In an earthdog test, once your dog gets to the end of the tunnel, your dog is expected to ‘work’ the quarry’. Working is normally digging or scratching, barking, or biting at the quarry. I would suggest you either invest in your own deceased bunny (most butchers can order one in for you – make sure they keep the fur on) or, if you’re faint hearted, invest in a particularly fluffy and life like toy. See if you can get your dog excited and tugging on the bunny or toy. Having a dog very committed to getting their quarry is an excellent start.

The next step is to get the dog to work even when they cannot get the quarry. Set your dog up behind a wooden or cardboard grill (again, you can make this out of cardboard boxes).  As you wave your quarry in front of the grill, your dog needs to work (bark, dig, scratch, or bite) at the grill from the opposite side.  Reward your dog by giving him his quarry for small inclinations to work at the start, but over time, build up what you expect from him.  At the most advanced level of earthdog, the dog needs to work for 60 seconds – so if you can get 60 seconds of continual work from him, you’ve got what you need!


Put it all together

If you have a dog that is going through tunnels, and is working quarry through a barrier, you then need to put the pieces together by putting that barrier at the end of the tunnel.


If you need help, the Earthdog Advisory Committee is running a training day on the 14th June 2014 at SACA Park (Kilburn, South Australia).  It is $2 per dog for you to come try, and get some training and help from members of our committee.  Only dogs of ‘earthdog type’ (small terriers, dachshunds, and crossbreeds of) are eligible to train.  RSVP is not necessary, but if you require more details contact Tegan Whalan on 0421 506 482 or email teganwhalan@gmail.com


The Week in Tweets – 14th May 2014

The ‘Week in Tweets’ is name in the optimism that I will post a Twitter round up on a weekly basis. This sometimes happens, and sometimes (like this time) it doesn’t. But here’s everything we’ve tweeted about for the last few weeks. It’s basically my ‘recommended reading’ list.

Kelso is waiting for his new home.

Kelso is waiting for his new home. He’s our current foster dog! Read more about Kelso.


Tweet of the Week

This is one of my favourite readings on bringing a puppy into a new home. There is a rhetoric that puppies should be allowed to ‘cry it out’, otherwise you’ll be rewarding their crying and so create an ongoing problem. I argue if you let your puppy cry it out, you have in itself developed a habit of crying when left alone – bad habit!

Dr Rachel Casey more pitches her post ‘How puppies become anxious ‘home alone’ dogs‘ at the psychological level, but reaches a similar conclusion. I think this is one of the must reads for new puppy owners, and I have included it in my new puppy owners resource list.


Dog Bites

One of my niche areas is dog and child safety (and, indeed, my business is based on this). So it comes as no surprise that I present some dog bite resources this week.

Danger! Or: The worst can happen to any of us from aggression expert Jim Crosby.

National Canine Research Council Preliminary 2014 Updates on Dog Bite-Related Fatalities

Register for the UK’s National Dog Bite Prevention & Behaviour Conference

Infant Swings and Dog bite Risk: National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Can fatal dog attacks be prevented?


Dog Training and Behaviour

Do you know what the canine hip nudge behavior means? by Roger Abrantes.

More than just training: Changing your lifestyle to change your reactive dog from Crystal Thompson at Reactive Champion.

Ferren dog low stress vet practice by Jade Foundation of Animal Behaviour Matters.

Designing stress studies, part 1: what do you sample? from Jessica Perry Hekman at Dog Zombie.

Sound masking for reactive dogs from Eileen at Eileen and Dogs.

Religious Dogmatism or Meet Carrie’s Mom by Leonard Cecil.

Why I train dogs the way I train dogs by Robin K Bennet.

Jumpy, Skidboot (video).

How to teach your dog to get along in a multi-species household from Pat Miller.

5 calming signals (video).


Dog Rescue and Rehoming

KC Pet Project 2013 year in review

Rescued with Love Sponsorship Program

Genevieve’s vet bill (Adelaide All Breed Dog Rescue)

Sharon Harmon – What does it take to G2Z (video)

No safety for Kiki“, “Homeless animals without a hope in Orange“, “Welcoming 2014“, and “Sacrificed on the altar of temperament testing“, from Saving Pets.

The real reason homeless dogs die

One Picture Saves Lives

The Myth of Christmas Dumping


Spay-Neuter Laws Kill Dogs from Time4Dogs.

Cruelly Abandoned Dog from Viral Nova.


Dog Health

Shave my Newfoundland Dog?

Seven Canine Diabetes Myths

Blood Draw Lateral Saphenous

Sweden doesn’t repeat unsafe and unnecessary vaccines to pets

Loving tribute to dog erected at beach


Other Dog Stuff

Owners’ heartbreak as would-be thieves kill Belmont puppy

Safely securing a Kong to a crate

Pied pipers and the blot on the fancy’s landscape

Legacies: How to ensure your bloodline goes forward


Other Animal Stuff

The Goat (video)

What my beagle does when we are not home (video)

Pet Owners of Laos

Squeaky Duck Toy


Human Issues

Vegetarian Too Young

RSA Shorts – The Power of Empathy




Kelso’s here and likes the ball.

Landy cuddles.

At the Adelaide Animal Expo.

Just waiting for my new home.


Monty aka Bucket Head.

Casca the cafe dog.

Landy pants = public relations officer.



How to choose a rescue or shelter to adopt from

Purchasing a dog or puppy: What to look for in a rescue or shelter


Congratulations on choosing to add a new dog or puppy to your family.

It is great that you are considering adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter. However, not all rescues/shelters are created equal – indeed, some facilities are merely posing as rescues and are more like an animal-broker than an animal-rescue.

It’s not a ‘black and white’ matter, but here are some suggestions that will hopefully help you when you’re looking at adopting a pet.


Green traffic lightNecessities

Do not purchase a dog from a shelter unless the facility:

  • Shows concern and regard to the physical health of their dogs and puppies
  • Shows concern and regard to the psychological well being of their dogs and puppies – either in providing enrichment on site, by frequently taking their dogs ‘out and about’, by using Dunbar’s methods of raising puppies (with toilet area, kongs, socialisation), and by providing training to dogs with behavioural problems
  • Is willing to provide life-long support to you as a purchaser, and is willing to take their dog or puppy back if things don’t work out. (There should be a trial period of anywhere from 1-12 weeks where a refund is provided.)
  • You feel comfortable approaching the rescue or shelter for advice, and feel they would be supportive and give you clear advise you can understand.
  • Sells all dogs and puppies microchipped, vaccinated and sterilised (or on contracts to have these procedures performed at a latter date, or with a medical certificate exempting them from these procedures)
  • Gives you some time to ‘think about’ adding the dog/puppy to your household



It’s ‘nice’ if a shelter/rescue does these following things, but not a deal breaker.

  • The rescue/shelter asks you lots of questions about your household and what you’re looking for
  • There is a sales contract
  • The rescue/shelter seems to have a great deal of knowledge about dogs
  • The rescue/shelter uses foster carers so they know what the dog is like in a house (instead of just living in a kennel)
  • The rescue/shelter has had the dog in care for at least 10 days, to serve as a quarantine period
  • Friends, family, or other shelters and rescues have heard of this rescue and have positive things to say
  • Identifies as ‘no kill’ or ‘out the front door’ or as ‘saving 90%’


Red Flags

Have some concern about the shelter or rescue if any of these events take place.

  • The rescue/shelter seems overly concerned about the purchase price
  • The rescue/shelter puts the hard sell on – “I might sell her next week if you don’t take her today”, or “I’ll give you 10% off if you buy her now.”
  • The rescue/shelter sells puppies together to the same pet family
  • The rescue/shetler is willing to sell a puppy/dog to you without you even meeting the dog/puppy to assess it for yourself


Do Not Buys

If the shelter or rescue does any of the following things, then walk away and source a dog from an alternative source.

  • You cannot meet the dog or puppy before sale
  • Dogs/puppies are not microchipped – in most states of Australia, this is a legal requirement
  • The dogs or puppies seem unhealthy or in poor condition (dirty, matted, skinny, fat)
  • There seems to be no plan to improve the socialability/behaviour of dogs that have problematic temperaments
  • The rescue/shelter is not willing to show you all the dogs in their care


Is there anything you would add to the list?


Further reading: See How to Find a Good Dog Breeder