Let your small terrier or dachshund test his natural abilities at an Earthdog event
By Kim Campbell Thornton
If you live with a terrier, you know that these dogs love to dig and live to hunt. Those behaviors are strongly developed instincts in these little dogs who were developed to find, dig out and kill rats, moles, gophers and other vermin. Their name comes from the Latin word "terra," meaning earth.
A terrier's love of digging can be frustrating to lawn- and garden-proud owners, but you can channel your dog's natural desire to carry out underground search-and-destroy missions with a sport called Earthdog, offered by the American Kennel Club, which allows him to exercise his instincts in a fun and constructive way.
To get started in Earthdog tests, you can practice at home in your own backyard or a nearby park. Help your dog find the scent of a rabbit or squirrel by showing him where one has just run into the bushes and let him do some sniffing and following. This gives him the idea that his job is to scent out quarry and that the two of you are a team.
Use cardboard boxes to make a tunnel. Throw a favorite toy or ball inside to encourage your dog to enter it. Once he has the hang of that, lay a trail through it for him to follow.
Make the scent with used bedding from the rat or rodent cages at a local pet store. (Ask them to save some for you when they clean the cages.) Soak the bedding in water, strain the liquid and use it to lay the trail.
A simpler route, if available in your area, is to sign up for the Introduction to Quarry class at the next AKC Earthdog event. This basic instinct test is enough to get many dogs started.
If you want to see if your dog can earn a title, sign him up for an Earthdog test. The tests, held at different levels, measure a dog's natural aptitude at hunting underground as well as hunting skills or behaviors he has learned. They are noncompetitive, meaning your dog isn't out to beat any other terriers, but simply to show his skills.
All small terriers and any varieties of dachshund can compete. Dogs must be six months or older to participate in a test, but they can begin training earlier.
The beginner level, called Introduction to Quarry, has a 10-foot tunnel with one right-angle turn. At the end is a cage of rats. (Never fear: The rats are kept safely away from the dogs and are not harmed.) The dog is encouraged to follow a scent trail to the rats and to "work" them by barking or scratching at the area where they're located. This basic introduction to "den work and quarry" requires the dog to show that he's willing and able to seek and find his quarry (the rats) underground.
Once he passes the Introduction to Quarry test, a dog can begin earning titles, starting with Junior Earthdog and moving on to Senior and Master levels. As he works his way up the title ladder, the tests become more difficult, with longer distances, distractions and obstacles such as PVC pipes or narrower tunnels, and work alongside another dog. Depending on the level, the dog must pass the test two or more times under different judges before a title is awarded.
Overachieving terriers can go for an Endurance Earthdog title, awarded to terriers who pass both the Senior and Master classes at the same event on five different occasions.
For more information on getting started, visit akc.org and search for Earthdog clubs in your area.
Dog won't go
out in rain
Q: It's been raining like crazy here in Oklahoma, and my dog is starting to piddle indoors instead of going outside. How can I overcome his reluctance to get wet? -- via email
A: Rain and other inclement weather is one of the reasons we think it's a good idea to take a pup out to potty on leash when you're housetraining him. Besides ensuring that he does his business before you let him back indoors, it teaches him that there's no alternative to going outside to potty, even if it's pouring Persians and Pekingese.
Put on your raincoat and do some remedial training with your dog. Lure him outdoors with a favorite treat -- something really high-value that he doesn't get very often, like steak. Or if he's small enough, you can just carry him out. Then be willing to play the waiting game. If he's smart, he'll potty fast so he can get out of there. As soon as he does, say, "Yes!" in a happy tone of voice, give him another treat and hustle him indoors. Put him back on a regular potty schedule, just like you did when he was a puppy, so he doesn't have any opportunities to pee or poop indoors, and always praise and reward him for going out in the rain and pottying where he's supposed to.
Make it more comfortable for him as well, especially if he has a thin coat. Shield him with an umbrella while you're waiting. Even better, get him a raincoat that fits well so he doesn't get as wet when he goes outdoors. In a pinch, a plastic trash bag with holes cut out for the head and legs will do, but a properly fitted raincoat will probably be easier to put on, keep in place and take off. -- Mikkel Becker Shannon and Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Cats by the numbers:
5 facts about felines
-- The total cat population in the United States at the end of 2013 was approximately 74 million, down from 81.7 million in 2006. Spayed cats live an average of 3.1 years longer than unspayed cats, a difference of almost 40 percent. Most cat owners, 41 percent, acquired their cats from family, friends or neighbors, while 22 percent found them as strays and 18 percent adopted them from shelters. In 2011, 42 recognized breeds of cats were being bred in the United States. Persians are the most popular pedigreed kittens, followed by exotics, Maine coons, ragdolls and British shorthairs.
-- Take your dog to work day? One Scottish collie mix apparently thought so. Paddy, who lives in Croy, North Lanarkshire, with his owner Thomas McCormack, bounced over a fence with the aid of a trampoline, tracked McCormack to the train station, boarded the train and plopped down in the seat next to his astonished owner. No word on whether he had to pay for a ticket.
-- The presence of pets may help reduce anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders, according to a new study published online in Developmental Psychobiology. Dogs, cats and guinea pigs may help children with ASDs improve their social skills. "This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations," said James Griffin, Ph.D. Researchers speculate that because companion animals offer unqualified acceptance, their presence makes children feel more secure.
The findings do not mean that parents of children with ASDs should rush to buy an animal for their children, cautioned Marguerite O'Haire, Ph.D., at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who conducted the study in conjunction with colleagues in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. She says further research is needed to determine how programs aimed at developing social skills might include animals. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Earthdog tests are a fun way for terriers to fulfill their natural instincts. (Photo courtesy American Kennel Club.) Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Persians top the charts of feline popularity. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1