Training at Home
The following are tips to get your dog(s) started at home for Earthdog events.
- Firstly try to always train when your dog is hungry.
- Reward often (treats, voice) for the smallest efforts at what you want your dog to accomplish.
- Train one step at a time - that is train the tunnels separate from the quarry at first. Your dog should do the tunnels readily before you add the quarry factor. Use a command word such 'tunnel' each time you send him in to find the treats spaced out in the length of the tunnel. Reduce the treats down to just one or two as his ability increases over training sessions. Start with a straight tunnel about 1.5 metres long.
Large boxes such as for washing machines are great to cut down into strips of 27" wide then fold length wise (two folds 9" apart) to make the 9" tunnel shape. Also liquor store boxes taped together work well. When your dog goes through the straight tunnel readily then add another length of boxes set at a right angle to create a turn. Repeat the rewards and praise for going through the tunnel. Add another right angle turn, and a third one when your dog is ready.
- Teaching the quarry - you don't have to use a dead rabbit at home, you can use and SHOULD use anything that will bring out the PREY drive in your dog. If your dog loves to go after and 'get' a favourite toy then use that (squeaky toy, furry mouse/rat toy made from real or fake fur/skin, mechanical robotic toy - furry toys are best). It might take some experimenting with your dog to find out what he really would like to go after and 'win'. This is the key to building his interest in getting the quarry in Earthdog.
If your dog is not very interested in going after the toy/skin try attaching it to a piece of thin rope about 2 meters long and drag it around to stimulate your dog to chase it. Most dogs will go after something that moves quickly, eliciting a natural chase reflex. When he catches it let him own it for a moment before doing the exercise again. Repeat two more times and give plenty of praise if he goes after the toy. Stop at this point and leave him wanting more for next time.
If your dog already likes to go after a favourite toy then create a barrier (a fence or x-pen works well) and have him try to 'get it' (the special toy) through the bars/fencing. Move the toy around to stimulate a chase reflex in your dog. Encourage him to really go for it and let him win it after a few seconds. Each time your dog shows working efforts towards the toy (biting, barking, digging, pawing, growling) give him the toy as his reward. Let him have a good chew for a moment and then remove the toy and try again about 2 more times. As training progresses lengthen the time to 30 secs before he wins the toy/skin. Always finish on a good note - when the dog has done the session correctly or tried to do it as best he can.
- Do not train tunnels more than once per week, it needs to be kept interesting, not boring. If your dog does it 2 or 3 times correctly in one session that is plenty. Once they know it they will remember it so don't overdo - it will turn the dog off. Even better, when your dog knows the tunnel game wait a few weeks before training again, it will keep him fresh and not overdone.
- Never use live quarry (rats etc) for Earthdog training because your dog will prefer that to non-live. The live quarry is more exciting with its adrenaline and movement. In
The purpose of Earthdog training/tests is to offer breeders and owners a standardised gauge to measure their dogs' natural and trained hunting and working abilities. Don't get too discouraged at the beginning if your dog isn't clueing in. Many dogs will not understand what it is we are showing them at first, but after a few practices and seeing other dogs get excited often wakes up their instincts. Young dogs often take a few months to clue in as well, and intact dogs can get distracted by hormones.
Important note - bitches in season cannot enter practices or tests as their scent would affect any training going on. ; )
Happy training everyone!
By: Brigitte Walkey
A Working Partnership by Brigitte Walkey
The Earthdog Committee has held 3 successful training sessions at SACA Park on the 24th August, 14th September and 25th October, with the latter including an ED Theory and Practical Seminar.
We have had a very good amount of interest from owners and their dogs, with most of them progressing really well, they will certainly be ready for official tests next year.
There has been a question raised, regarding waking up and encouraging the dogs’ instincts to go after a quarry. The concern is: will the dog then want to go after all forms of creatures it encounters in everyday life? The answer is a definite ‘NO’!
Firstly Earthdog events are a controlled event. We are training under standardised conditions. We are training in a specialised, designated ED area. We are giving our dogs commands and directions to follow. We are conditioning our dogs to work WITH us and utilise their natural and trained instincts. We are NOT training our dogs to have a ’free for all’ attitude where they can do what they please.
Secondly the Earthdog quarry is non-live. Such a quarry may be a piece of skin and fur, rabbit carcass, or various toys that interest the dogs. Non-live quarry is quite different from a live animal, the former cannot give off adrenalin, movement nor extra scent which are very stimulating to a hunting dog. Just as a dog knows and differentiates in other activities it may do with you, and whether the cat (or other creature that is in his house/yard) is part of the family or not, your dog can and will know the difference of training in ED and normal day life with other creatures. The very fact we, the owners, are giving our dogs commands to either “go tunnel” or “find rabbit” is letting the dog know that it’s okay to do when we say it, but not okay if we don’t give the command.
Each level of Earthdog test, from Introduction to Quarry, through Novice, Senior, and finally Master level will give the dog further training and understanding of Earthdog events and will enhance his partnership with his owner because each dog soon learns that by listening and following directions, it gets a reward as a result. Senior level especially creates a closer unit of dog and owner because of the required recall that is part of the test.
Earthdog events are a simulation and glimpse of real life working in the field, and anyone who has worked a Terrier or Dachshund in the field knows that a dog that does not follow commands is useless and could get himself into a heap of trouble.
Earthdogging is a great way to let your Terrier or Dachshund have some safe fun and work in partnership with you, proving and enhancing natural instincts according to what it was bred to do, and reminding us of their qualities – those we admire and made us choose that particular breed in the first place!