How to Build an Earthdog Trial Ground

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Earthdogs are little dogs, generally terriers and dachshunds, that have been bred to hunt rats and other small animals underground. An earthdog trial is a competitive event sanctioned by the American Kennel Club that tests how fast these dogs can find rats underground. Dogs seek the rats in a buried wooden tunnel and they are graded on their speed and the style with which they dig, scratch and lunge. The rats are caged and further protected from the dogs by wooden dowels installed in the end of the tunnel.

Select an area for your trial ground which is at least 40 feet square.

Design your tunnels using a tunnel design variation approved by the American Kennel Club. In general, underground tunnels must be 30 feet long and be between nine and 10 inches high and wide. Senior earthdog designs have seven tunnel sections, including two turns and two dead ends. Junior earthdog designs have four sections.

Build tunnel sections out of boards that are one inch by 12 inches wide. These boards usually have true dimensions of 3/4 of an inch and 11 and 1/4 inches. Tunnels are rectangular wooden sections buried underground.

Cut four of the boards to the same length with a circular saw to make the parts for each tunnel section. Narrow two of the boards by 1 1/2 inch by cutting away the excess width with a circular saw. The two narrower boards will be the sides of the tunnel section

Shorten one side of each tunnel section by 9 3/4 inches to connect sections that turn. Make all cuts with a circular saw unless otherwise noted.

Fasten the tops and bottoms to the sides with wood screws that are one inch long and a portable drill with a driver bit to create tunnel sections with inside dimensions of 9 3/4 inches on each side.

Build a tunnel section that is two feet long to hold the rats at the end of the tunnel. Cut three wood dowels that are each 9 3/4 inches long from a standard section of 3/4 inch wood dowel stock using a backsaw and a mitre box.

Fasten the dowels to one end of the two foot long section of tunnel using wood screws and a portable drill with a driver bit. This section will hold the two rats the dogs must find to complete the trial. American kennel club regulations state the rats must be behind wooden dowels.

Dig a trench with a shovel that mirrors your design for the trial ground.

Spray the interior of all tunnel sections with rat scent. Place a wire cage containing two, live rats in the final tunnel section. Insert the rat cage through the open end of that tunnel section so that the dowels will face the rest of the tunnel.

Assemble all tunnel sections into the trench. The tunnel sections do not need to be fastened together.

Cover all tunnel sections except the final section that holds the rats with plastic sheeting. Cover all tunnel sections except the final section that holds the rats with dirt. Leave the final section uncovered to determine when dogs find the rats and to recover successful dogs.

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