I recently had the opportunity to try something new with my dogs-Barn Hunt (www.barnhunt.com)-and we loved it! In barn hunt, your dog without any physical assistance from you has to seek out hidden rats in a hidden course. Depending on the level, they have to find anywhere from one rat to multiple rats. And during the course they need to climb on objects and go through tunnels. But don't worry the rats are very well cared for and protected! My dogs are not the classic breeds for hunting out rats, but that didn't stop them. I had never been to a trial or seen a trial in person, but a local club was having a trial. And Salza, my youngest Tervuren, needed something to boost her confidence that was low key. She was loosing her confidence in agility, and I wanted to try some new things with her to get her back to working happily.
So I looked at the rule book, registered my dogs with the association, and signed them up for the trial. We got there and must have looked very lost. But everyone, judge included, was incredibly nice and helpful! They didn't mind answering questions and showing me the lay of the land. I had entered all three dogs-Cayenne, Salza, and Moon-because I did not know who would show any talent for finding the rats. We started with the instinct test. In this, three rat tubes are place on the ground, unhidden. One tube empty, one with litter, and one with a rat. The dog has to alert to which tube has a rat. Salza, my youngest Belgian Tervuren went first and while I didn't have a clue what I was doing, she knew exactly what to do. She quickly alerted the rat-she just had to convince me she knew where the rat was. So she qualified and moved onto Novice. In her novice class, I was able to recognize her signs of alerting better. She easily found the one rat and did everything else required-her first novice leg! In other trials since, she has quickly finished her novice title and has moved into open. The best part-she loves it and leave the ring happy and ready to show off to everyone watching.
Moon, the Rottie, was next. At this point I had only had Moon a few months, so she and I are still figuring each other out. And Moon gets nervous around new people. But once in the ring, she went to work and quickly alerted to the rat, earning her instinct title. So she moved on to novice...while slower then Salza, she also worked out where the rat was and picked up a qualifying leg. In our next trial, I missed her signs alerting to the rat. I need to work on reading her body language better, but we will figure it out.
Last of the day for me was Cayenne, my oldest Belgian Tervuren. Cayenne is also known as Miss Perfect, and she has strong opinions about what is in it for her sometimes! Cayenne decided this was a really stupid exercise. Where were her sheep? So discovered barn hunt is not for her, but that's ok, we have some sheep for her to herd!
Barn Hunt was a lot more fun then I expected. And thankfully for me you don't have to handle the rats!
If you are looking for something fun and low key to try with your dog, look into Barn Hunt. There are local trials you can go watch, classes you can try, or visit the website for more information. You'll be surprised how much you will enjoy it! And your dog too!
Boo Donoho, DVM