Barn Hunt sounded like such a good and fun idea, but for me, it was not my thing at all. For starters, it is a naked sport, meaning no collars or leashes. Right there I could sense trouble as I am a respectable hound!
What does Barn Hunt entail?
I did get lucky in the whole scheme of things as Bailie had to go one more day than I did, and she had to do one more search too. If you are new to the sport, Barn Hunt is all about finding a rat in a tube buried in bales of hay. There are all kinds of rules and levels. Titles except for Instinct are also AKC recognized. Bailie and I tried for our Instinct and Novice Titles over the weekend.
Introduction to Barn Hunt
If you are going to try the sport, I highly recommend you go to an intro session like Mom and Bailie did. Bailie got to meet a rate in a metal cage, and then in the tube. They learned about the basic rules, and what to expect in a trial too. The three tubes on the board are the same ones used for the instinct testing, one is empty, one has only litter, and one has a rat. Bailie said rats are pretty cool and she would like to catch one.
The Instinct Test
The above photo is an instinct test course. Instinct courses are always the same. They include a short, straight tunnel, hay bales arranged in the same way, and in the space on the right the board with the three tubes is placed for the test. The only requirement from the dog is to point out the rat.
Unfortunately, I’d never met a rat before. I love to hunt, but I always know what I’m hunting for, so imagine my shock when I rounded the hay bale in my instinct test and smelled a rat! Yep, I was scared out of my fur. I did not like the situation at all! My mom has lost her marbles thinking I’m going to to any closer to those things on the board! I definitely smell a rat in this game!
That was it for me with Barn Hunt. I refused to go near the tubes and subsequently failed my instinct test. I don’t know why anyone would want to get involved with these creepy critters in tubes! The only positive point were the hay bales I could use to shield myself from that evil rat!
What about the rats?
If you are a lover of rats, there is no need to worry. Seriously, Barn Hunt takes better care of the rats than the dogs it seems. There are very strict rules about rat treatment. The rats being used are actual house pets and have been used for the sport before. It is almost like a rat union as they can only be out so long, bedding has to be fresh, dogs have to stay a minimum of ten feet from where their cages are, all kinds of stuff. No rats are harmed at all! There is even a specific person assigned to tend to the rats for the entire trial.
The Novice Test
The Novice Test includes a bit more than just finding the rat within the two minute time limit. The three tubes are hidden on the course, and the dog must find the tube with the rat, they must pass through the tunnel, and they must get all four paws on a hay bale. There are other rules as well about not touching your dog, humans not touching the straw, lots of rules, too many to get into. But, the first thing is to get naked as soon as the gate is closed. So there I was, front and center…naked…and a creepy rat was hiding somewhere…not a good situation in my opinion!
I did not run the course, I slowly and methodically carried myself between the bales of hay, stopping to sniff on occasion. I refused to crawl into the tunnel, I refused to put my precious paws on the hay, and I refused to smell any tubes because there might be a rat in one! It was a very long two minutes for both Mom and me. I failed, but Mom says at least I tried. I returned again the second day and had to do this terrible procedure two more times, and I only got worse according to Mom. Barn Hunt is not my sport. I can’t wait to get back to Nose Work!
Bailie didn’t pass her tests on the first day either. I was hoping we could just call it done at that point, but no, we had to return the second day when it was 97, yes 97 degrees out, dew point in the 70’s, and big wind. Dirt was blowing everywhere. Bailie wasn’t bothered by the, in my opinion, deplorable conditions. She raced out first thing and passed her Instinct Test to get her RATI Title. I’m thinking I prefer not having the word RAT in my title at all! She messed up her first novice run and Mom learned when the judge says “climb”, it sounds like “time”. Mom thought the run was done, but she still had time left as the word was climb, so no pass there. The second novice run Bailie did pass with second place in her class, so she has one of the three legs for a title.
At the end of the day…
After those three days of Barn Hunt, Mom has decided I’m done, Bailie will continue. She enjoys playing around on the hay and she likes rats. Before they try for their other two legs, Mom wants to do some work with Bailie and rats. The problem Bailie has is she somehow doesn’t connect the rat with the rat in the tube and that needs to happen for her to have success. In September they plan to work on that as the next trial is in October. When Bailie realizes the rat is in the tube, she goes wild and makes such loud hunting calls everyone comes a running. I get embarrassed! Congrats to my little rat of a sister, and I wish her luck in the future while I stay home and patrol the yard for wabbits!
Just in case you don’t believe any of this, I’m posting the miserable results. Such an embarrassment!