My First Interest In Smooth Fox Terriers and AKC Earthdog Tests

By Sharon Yon

We all have stories of how we became interested in the Smooth Fox Terrier.  My story starts with a brindle Great Dane; this was my first show dog.  I found quickly that it wasn't the breed for smaller children to use as a juniors dog.  One of my girls saw an ex-pen of SFT puppies and decided that's what she wanted. 

I enjoyed the breed as well as my children did so we had a litter and found they loved to play and hunt as well.  One day while I was in the kitchen my boy Angus saw a mouse.  Well no biggie right, of course not to a savvy fox terrier.  The one thing that will forever stay in my mind is this little critter leapt from the pantry shelf over Angus' head.  Needless to say, he didn't make it!  Angus caught him but not how you'd think, he did a somersault in the air as the mouse jumped and caught him in mid flight.  From that moment on I was interested in the function of the breed and have been hooked ever since.

 One day shortly after the sport of terrier grounding was recognized by the AKC, I was reading the Gazette Events magazine in the back and noticed this event called "Earthdog".  Well I was curious, of course, but didn't know anything about it. I had some interest but that was not in the front of my mind.
Then one day in a dog chat room, I met some people that were talking about working their dogs in Earthdog.  Of course this sparked my interest again.  I contacted some of these people, exchanged email addresses, and asked questions about what they were talking about.  They sent an invitation to come to their home and train my dogs with them!  Well as you can guess my interested was certainly piqued!  I couldn't help myself at this point you know the old saying "Curiosity killed the RAT"!! 

  Sharon Yon's Smooth Fox Terrier, Ace, working in the den.

A few weekends later we loaded up my van with 5 fox terriers and headed off to Richmond, Virginia which is about 3 hours from my home.  We arrived safe and sound to the home of Richard Kinsler.  He took me to his back yard where he had dug and sank tunnels for his dogs to train with.  Yes, you heard right! He dug his back yard up for his dogs!!!  Richard's breed is the Border Terrier and the first thing he did was to take one of his guys and send him through the tunnel so I could see how it works.  He instructed me to bring one of my dogs so we could do some training.  At this time Richard wanted me to hold my dog so he could see what was going on with a seasoned Earthdog, so he repeated the process of running one of his dogs to ground.

The next step was to take a caged rat and sit the cage on the ground and place one of the dogs next to it and then just observe. This process went slowly; we'd move the cage about so the dogs would see the rats moving.  At first they would watch then you'd see them as they'd step on the cage.  Talk about exciting for me as well as my dogs.  After we finished working with each dog this way we'd place the cage at the end of the tunnel in a secure area just as you would see at the trial.  Well it got interesting after this, Phoenix was the first to go.  But she was smart. After turning my back with her in my arms so she could not see where they were being placed, I  released her so she could work the rats. Well, you guessed it, She thought it easier to go across the top of the tunnel rather than go through the tunnel to the quarry.  After striking out with her I went to another dog.  I tried Angus to see what he'd do, well he'd only stick his head in the tunnel then he'd run around the yard.  During all this something happened to the cage and the rat managed to get out.  I watched as it ran to the shed and you can only imagine what went on then.  Well I expected Phoenix would chase or be able to locate the rat.  As of course she did, however it retreated to the tunnel and no one wanted to go in, or so I thought.  At that point I picked up my girl Ali and tried her.  This proved to be interesting. Not only did she enter the tunnel to find the rat, but I didn't think she would ever come out.  Those of you that do Earthdog know about the Senior recall!  I tried and tried but after about 15 minutes of calling Al we thought we were going to have to dig up the tunnels.  Well low and behold Ali finally popped out of the tunnel, yes with a great big foxie smile on her face!!!  Yahoo! we had a dog that would work!  So far we were 1 out of 3.

I tried another dog, Angus or as people know him (The A Man).  He adapted quickly and was an awesome working dog.  So we were 2 out of 4!!!!! for the weekend not bad for someone who knew nothing about the sport.  Now I had to wait for an event so I could take my dogs to compete. 

Our first show was in Crosswicks, NJ which is lovingly called the Beanfield.  There was a smaller entry then what you see today in the sport.  The fellowship among exhibitors was the same as now.  The first weekend I had entered 3 dogs which wasn't bad especially with the entry fee of only $8. per dog.  There was even a catalogue that we had at the table where the secretary was located.  How times have changed!!!!  The first weekend it was awesome. I came in with some of the only smooths being shown at the time in this area other than the wonderful little dog Fast Eddie who was owned and loved by Jacqueline Austin!!   My guys quickly turned the heads of the other handlers and judges as they were fast and furious to make it to the quarry.  They were soon to be known as the "Head Bangers".  While barking at the quarry they would raise their heads and bang the lid of the exit hole.  Judges would have to stand on the door to keep it closed as my dogs would work the prey.  As I recall the first weekend I came home with at least one titled dog.  My girl Ali was fast at earning her titles as was her uncle Angus, who I can now brag and say that he is the first male, Smooth Fox Terrier to earn the title of Master Earthdog.

  Sharon Yon with her two Master Earthdogs, Ace and Ali.

As my interest heightened in the sport I had heard there was going to be an Earthdog Seminar that was being held in Boston, MA.  I promptly made reservations for the seminar and bought my airplane ticket.   This is a great way to learn the rules of the sport as an exhibitor as well as a prospective judge.

So if you ARE interested in the sport don't be taken Aback and miss a seminar.  Especially when offered by people who really know the sport. These are great learning tools for everyone. This sport is so amazing I can only wish more people would participate or even just come and watch and listen to what the dogs are saying.  The people are always friendly and supportive; the dogs are always revved and ready to go.  This is nothing like conformation in any respect.  The only problem is its limited to the warmer months so come March its Earthdog time!!!!  So we pack up and head to places like the Beanfield in NJ and Stokesdale, NC and now we're fortunate to have a new site near Charlottesville, VA.  There are also some sites planned in Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee. So if you're ever in the neighborhood come and listen.  See how these little dogs of ours can really turn on...