A Refresher on the New Rules

by Karla Deithorn, Executive Field Representative

With the new rules having gone into effect on April 1, 2004, it seems a good time to clarify the changes for exhibitors, committee members and judges. No, the rules changes were not an April Fools joke. And yes, the new rulebooks are available. You can order them online at the AKC website for convenience. All the changes were proposed by the Earthdog Committee and voted on by the National Clubs of eligible breeds.

The major change made is in regard to practice at trials. At ALL levels there is to be NO practice DURING the trial. This means that any activity outside the defined qualifying performances is NOT allowed. For example, allowing a dog to work longer than the required time for ANY class; second commands to enter the earth, except in Master; and physically placing the dog in the den. This applies to ALL classes, including the non-regular class, Introduction to Quarry. If a dog enters the den past the allowed time or fails a portion of the test while IN the den, he may complete the test but under no circumstances should additional commands or encouragement by the judge be used except as specified in the Introduction to Quarry rules. The IQ qualifying performance allows specific help that may be used without causing failure.

In ALL classes, regular and non-regular, the rat cage may NEVER come in contact with the dog. This includes the Junior class where a difficult removal is not to be penalized. This particular rule change requires judgement on the part of the judge as to what will be a qualifying performance. Since Master contains the new requirement of 15 seconds maximum to remove the dog, judges should keep this in mind at the lower levels.

You might ask yourself, “If a dog comes 3 seconds late to the quarry and he does not meet the minimum requirements to pass, does this dog’s removal problem meet the minimum requirements?”. It is permissible to use an empty rat cage to aid in the removal of a particularly difficult dog but keep in mind the aforementioned comparison when considering scoring.

The Senior class remains unchanged. Master however, has a few changes. The walk up may now be from 100 to 300 yards long. There are specific behaviors listed in the rulebook that are to be judged on the walk up and the longer walk up allows the dogs to display these behaviors more readily. On the walk up the dogs MUST be directed to the empty den. If the dog discovers it on its own, the judge must still have the handler direct the dog to check out the den.

One thing that has not changed is the fact that the dog may not work the empty den. The judge should continue to walk once the empty den has been checked. The dog should not require numerous commands to leave the den. If the dog fails to come out and continue the walk up, the dog may be failed if he fails to reach the main den scent line before the judge. The empty den is unscented and the dog should readily leave it of his own accord.

Once the dogs find the den entrance and mark it decisively, they should STAY at the den entrance when the handler goes to retrieve them. The dog should not walk away from the entrance. This may be considered a failure to mark the den. Remember that if you are out hunting and the dog walks away from a den, you would assume there was no quarry present and not stay to work the den.

In Master there is now a 15 second maximum allowable time to remove the dog from the den “without resistance which results in injury to the handler or the dog….A collar and leash shall not be attached until after removal.”

All dogs, except dogs with ME titles, are only allowed to enter ONE regular class (IQ is a non-regular class). ME dogs may enter “more than one regular class”.

As far as the den itself, the rules specifically state that the quarry cage must be inside “a fully enclosed rigid container open only toward the working area.” In the Master den, the exit opening at the quarry end must be 9”X15”; in other classes it may not be smaller, but may be larger.

In Master the judge may lay random scent lines on the walk up but they may not lead to the unscented den or the occupied den. These scent lines may not be used as the sole criteria for failure on the walk up.

In the main den in Master, the false den or bedding area may be placed at the first turn. The false exit may be placed at any turn EXCEPT the first turn.

In all classes the dogs must wear a flat collar and a 4’-6’ solid lead. The handler may walk to the dog up to the release point but the dog may not pass the release point or it must be failed.

All these rule changes are covered in the new rulebook which can be obtained online, by mail or with a call to the AKC performance department.

One thing has not changed, AKC Earthdog tests are fun for the dog and handler!