On the ‘hunt’ for a new event you can share with your dog? Try attending a Barn Hunt. I recently participated in one as a helper, the judge’s scribe to be exact, so I had a front row seat for my very first hunt and I have to say I’ve never seen so many dogs having so much fun at a competition event.
There are many venues out there that we can do with our dogs but the majority of them tend to be more about us. They showcase our training abilities or our breeding programs or how well we can present a dog and while many of the dogs enjoy these things it’s probably not the sort of thing they are dreaming about when you see those legs churning when they a nap.
But they could well be dreaming about a Barn Hunt.
The idea of the barn hunt is for the dog to find a live rat (well protected in a custom made PVC tube) hidden amongst the bales of hay in the ring. Specifically, he or she must identify the live rat from other tubes that are also hidden but are either empty or have rat droppings in them. It is the handlers responsibility to be able to read their companion’s reaction and call ‘rat’ under the time allowed. It is a timed run so the faster the handler can do this, the better pup will do in the overall competition. If the dog cannot find the rat in the time allowed (or as I saw numerous times, the handler did not KNOW the dog found the live rat) the team is disqualified.
There are other rules of course such as the dog must ‘climb’ onto at least one bale in the earnest hunt of the rodent and he must also go through a tunnel of bales to qualify the run and, naturally, find the live rat. Pee-peeing in the ring is a naughty thing and will get the team DQ’ed as will not handing off the leash before the run.
But the beauty of this sport is that the dog truly gets to play with his guardian. He is not really required to do anything accept be a dog and do his dog thing. There are no pedigrees papers to produce, no breed or size restrictions and very little training if any.
He just gets to play. What a novel idea.
This is a game anyone can partake and I must say the human competitors were wonderfully ‘earthy’, happy to share the experience with like minded people and not very concerned with ribbons and rosettes- although there is ‘bling’ to be had. It’s relaxed, it’s humbling and it’s hysterical at times. Big dogs moving tunnels, little dogs running about with ‘mom ’or ‘dad’, blissfully ignorant of what they are suppose to be doing and handlers laughing because their dogs are more concerned with saying ‘hi’ to the judge and stewards than finding a rodent. Some dogs are serious rat hunters and find it in mind boggling time. Others are a bit more methodical, checking out every nook and cranny before deciding which one holds the prize.
I was also impressed with the handling of the rats. The rats must have a ‘quiet area’, so as not to be too stressed and they are in for only a small number of runs, then they are done for the day. The dogs are not allowed to worry the tube once the rat is found. There are ‘rat wranglers’- people who remove the rat once it is found- briefed as to how to gently handle them. Now, some don’t think much of rats, but I am not one of those, so I appreciated the Barn Hunt Association’s regulations concerning their welfare.
If you would like to see a Barn Hunt in action, click on the link below to find out where one is in your area. There are tiers of hunts so they have venues for the first time hunters to ‘master’ hunters. If you are craving a new game, I think this might be it and it is built for the beginner, so do check it out. I think you will enjoy it.