The Working Terrier


Paul Day


If you’re new to working dogs and to remain within the law of working to legal quarry you would be well advised to do some homework


Working your terrier below or above ground is still legal as long as you follow the rules.

The Countryside Alliance is a good place to start. They produce a really concise and helpful booklet called the Hunting Handbook

Hunting with dogs can and does legally continue.


My advice is, keep this book with when out hunting along with full written permission from the landowner. You will also need to carry a method of despatching the quarry humanly. A locater collar, one for each dog and a selection of spades for digging out if necessary

Joining the Fell and Moorland Working Terrier Club would also be a good idea. This group are experts in recovering lost dogs who have gone to ground and may be trapped. The club can get experienced working terrier men to the scene as quickly as possible to recover your dog. They can also help with the legal side for instance; you may have been walking down a footpath when the dog goes to ground. The Club change a small annual fee, in my opinion; the cost is well worth it. I’ve seen reports where they have brought several twenty ton diggers in for a couple of days to recover terriers at a very high cost but at no extra cost to you 


Working your terrier is fun and worth- while activity. Providing a service to farmers and land owners, whether out after rabbits or a days ratting or the real job of fox control below ground

A day’s work begins with a thorough check of useable holes for evidence of Badger or Otter, any hole that shows evidence of these two animals has to be discarded as a possible site.

With this done, time to net up and check you have got all the holes including the bolt hole netted up Farmers are not happy if you let them get away! The use of an experienced Gun, standing by the holes can also be used

We’re now ready for the next stage, your terrier should then have a locater collar fitted to him and checked that it is working. The locator collar is a wonderful piece of technology that our forefathers would have given their eye teeth for, it allows the terrier man to know where his dog is and more importantly when he stops moving. All kitted up your dog is introduced to the set of holes that we call “the earth”

All this should be done in complete silence

Then hopefully, your terrier should find his quarry and start to bark, we call this baying.

The whole idea of sending a Border Terrier into an earth that contains a fox is to get Reynard to bolt out of his resting place and into the net where he can be quickly and humanely dispatched.

That's how it can go, and on a good day, it will.

However, a lot of the time the fox will not want to come out so the dog will have to bay harder to try to get it out or to a point were it cannot go any further back

All the time the terrier is underground you should be checking his position and be aware when he stops moving forward.

If he has stopped moving about, give it a few minuets then you may have to start to dig down to your dog, so he can be got out as quickly as possible and the fox despatched.

The depth you will have to dig will be on your locater box and then judge the size hole you will need and start to dig.

Whatever way your day goes, the experience of working a dog for the job he was bred for is a thrill, knowing that he is doing a useful job of work in a natural environment holds a great feeling of accomplishment for both dog and handler.




When things don’t always go to plan


While walking a old terrier and a pup round the field out the back of my house in my breakfast break one winter morning, the old boy started to hunt up in a bit of cover as normal then both went in right out of sight and ear shot 

As time went by thought nothing of it and thought they will catch up at work in a little while so off I went about my jobs

A while later still nothing so I thought I had better take a look as a now knew he must have found a fox in a hole

I was worried about the pup as he was only 7mths old too young from me to want him to be to ground

So off I went, climbed in the cover and had a good look around, finely I found a hole then another half way down the a steep bank

I wasn’t too worried at this point the dogs had been there before, the earths were only a couple of feet deep the last time I looked.

Had a listen at a hole but could only just hear a dog baying in the distance

So decided to go home get my spades and another terrier and the locaters, also to tell someone what I was up to.

When I got back to the earth two hours had gone by, another listen, I couldn’t hear any sound of baying now. A few moments later and the young pup scrambled out of the hole. One down, one to go. I made a start and cleared the brambles so I could check for more holes and see if I could here him, no joy. It was of course possible the fox had bolted and my old terrier had followed. Best thing to do was send down my other terrier in the earth she went straight to ground but no baying 

I gave here ten minuets or so and located her with her collar, after a long while I had her marked

Yes, at last! Then, Oh no! I was standing on clay and the terrier was twelve foot down!  Ahh, the joy of terriers

I now had to make another trip to the house this time to make a couple of phone calls to call in re-enforcements. I was lucky, the man I wanted was in as he worked nights

I waited for his arrival and we both climbed back up to the earth. We remarked the terrier with the locater, she hadn’t moved an inch, we both had a listen at the hole still no baying. The question was, do we give them time maybe they will kill the fox and come out?

It had been four hours now so we set to work

It was hard work, tractor tyres, bits of old scrap, you name it, all had been dumped there. Four hours gone and only four foot down, it was now dark; we had another eight foot to go and no sound below us.

We needed more help, so a few more telephone calls later we had two more sets of hands to help. What a difference those people made and yet the work was still slow and painful.

Eight feet down now and were putting in a step to get down, as we couldn’t lift the spades any higher. At ten o’clock we heard one dog baying from below, a wave of relief swept over us all. I knew it was the bitch, no sound at all from the old dog. The bitch was obviously tired and couldn’t keep up her baying constantly.

We renewed our efforts and got stuck in again, we now knew we had a live dog to rescue. At one o’clock in the morning we broke through and found the little bitch flattened but alive lying on top of a mass of dead matted fur. I pulled her out and passed her up through the hands who had spent so long digging deep to recover her

My heart sank as I pulled out the lifeless body that had been beneath her. Gently handling him with due respect, I mourned my old dog .As he came into the makeshift lighting we had set up around the hole I could hardly believe it. It wasn’t my old boy; it was the corpse of a fox!

Back into the hole I went. scraping more heavy soil . I grabbed my torch and pushed myself head first into the narrow earth. Two of my mates were hanging onto my ankles; reaching fore-ward I could feel fur, warm fur!

We dug on, another hour and my old dog came out of his cold, would be, burial ground, alive and well. Alongside him was another dead fox.


It all started with a morning’s quick walk, just the same as always.


I hope this true story shows why I love these game terriers so much, It’s my intention to keep them that way, fit for purpose and with a genuine respect for their working roots.