The new dog sport of Barn Hunt is spreading across the country like wildfire, and our dogs are burning with excitement about another way "to get the rats!" While this sport is for all dogs, our go-to-ground terriers are naturals.
Some devotees of terrier sports have had the opportunity to participate in real hunts for rats or informal recreational games, such as ‘Ratting for Ratings’ sometimes held in conjunction with Earthdog tests. Barn Hunt Association founder Robin Nuttall has taken it to a whole new level by developing rules, a sanctioning organization, and a title structure. Barn Hunt Association LLC, http://www.barnhunt.com, is an independent organization, whose titles are recognized by the AKC.
Fun Tests were held to flesh out rules and enable event organizers to learn the ropes, while affording dogs, handlers, and judges the opportunity to hone their skills. Training Clinics and Judges' Seminars have been held on both East and West coasts as well as at the Barn Hunt home base, the Columbia Canine Sports Center in Columbia, MO.
Barn Hunt kicked into high gear at the first BHA sanctioned trial in Columbia, MO on April 13-14 where the first titles in the sport were awarded.
Five westies, from Missouri, Colorado and Illinois were among the 50 dogs entered. Of these, four westies, three owned by Susan Chapman and Michele Czarnecki and one owned by Deb Borgo earned Novice legs. Blue (BISS CH Czarcrest's Blue Moon VCD1 RAE OA OAJ AJP NF ME ROM PROM) was the 1st westie to earn Barn Hunt titles (RATI and RATN).
Despite its name, Barn Hunt is not necessarily held in a barn. It can be inside or outside. The course is constructed of hay/straw bales with the rat (or multiple rats in the advanced levels) hidden in PVC tubes. To add challenge, other tubes are hidden on the course – these are empty or contain soiled bedding but no rat.
There are 5 levels – Instinct, Novice, Open, Senior and Master. Dogs are divided into three height groups: small for 13 inches and under, medium for over 13 to18 inches, and large for over 18 inches. Placements (1st through 4th are awarded in each size based on time to course completion).
Unlike Earthdog where the outcome is based mostly on the dog’s performance, Barn Hunt also tests the ability of the handler to ‘read’ the dog when they have found the rat tube. This ranges from the seemingly very ‘obvious’ action of vigorous digging and scratching to more subtle indications of a slight wag of a tail or the perk of ears or prolonged sniff and look.
In the Rat Instinct class (RATI), the course is constructed to encourage the dog to go through the tunnel and climb a bale, though these actions aren’t required to pass Instinct. Three tubes are openly displayed – one empty, one with soiled bedding, and one with a rat.
The handler has 1 minute to correctly identify the live rat tube based on the dog’s actions. If successful, one pass results in the RATI title.
The Novice, Open, Senior and Master classes require the dog to go through the designated tunnel(s), climb atop a bale and indicate the rat(s). These required elements can be performed in any order but must be completed within the course time.
The Novice Barn Hunt class requires 3 passes to earn the RATN title. This course has 3 hidden tubes – one empty, one with soiled bedding, and one with a rat. These are tucked into the nooks and crannies between or on top of the bales and covered so they are not apparent to the handler. Completions of all elements – tunnel, climb, find the rat - within 2 minutes – is required to pass this course.
The Open Barn Hunt class requires 3 passes to earn the RATO title. This course layout is more complex and has 5 tubes - one empty, two with soiled bedding, two with rats. ‘Climb’ and ‘tunnel’ are also required as well as finding the 2 ‘live’ rat tubes. Course time: Two minutes, 30 seconds.
Senior Barn Hunt class requires 3 passes to earn the RATS title. The course contains 8 tubes - four with rats, three with soiled litter, one empty. Course time: Three minutes 30 seconds.
Master Barn Hunt class requires 5 passes under at least 2 judges to earn the RATM title. There are 10 tubes - all contain soiled litter. One to five tubes will have rats. The handler declares to the judge when the dog has completed the search and indicated all rats on the course. Couse time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds.
Barn Hunt fun trials will be held after the Roving Specialty Earthdog tests.
This is a sport for all breeds. Come on out and try it!
For information on rules, registration and scheduled events, go to www.barnhunt.com.