The Sport For Vermin Hunting Dogs
Barn Hunt is a new Instinct-based dog sport, growing out of Earth Dog trials and terrier "fun days" The first Barn Hunts were relatively informal affairs, harkening back to the days when people used "ratter" to rid barns, ships, barges, storage areas and city streets of rats, mice, rabbits and other vermin. The old, informal barn hunts had few rules and relatively little structure. Dogs were just encouraged to go afer whatever scurrying things happened to occupy the barn in which they were held.
Modern Barn Hunts are not just for dauchunds and terriers anymore. Any breed, including mixed breeds, may participate. The hunts still involve dogs seeking out rats, but the rats are encased in protective PVC tubes which are 4" in diameter. These schedule 40 PVC devices protect the rats from injury.
The rat tubes have holes so the rats ,may breathe and so the dogs scent them. They are hidden somewhere within a 20' x 20' enclosure which also contains bales of hay or straw stacked around the enclosure. Sometimes the tubes are hidden in a bale, but they may be other places as well: in a pile of straw in the corner of the enclosure, in there time constraints. For the Rat Instinct test, the dog has one minute to identify which of three tubes lying side by side contains the live rat. At the novice level, the dog has two minutes to find the live rat in its tube hidden somewhere in the enclosure, go through the tunnel and climb onto a bale of hay. At the Open level, there are five tubes: one empty, two decoys and two "live" and there are two minutes and thirty seconds to find the correct tubes in addition to the climb and a slightly more challenging tunnel. At the Senior level there are four live rats and an even more complicated tunnel. At the Master level, there are five decoy tubes and from one to five rat tubes. The handler doesn't know the number of live tubes, so he or she must watch the dog carefully and declare when he/she thinks the dog has found them all.
When I started out in Barn Hunt, I had no idea what to expect. My dog, Zuzu has done agility , tracking, Nose Work and Herding, but he wasn't notably enthusiastic about any of these dog sports.
He LOVES Barn Hunt. When he found his first rat tube at a trial, he actually screamed and began digging a the area beneath it. He went from being mild mannered and reserved to a highly motivated hunter. He is now working at the Master level and I have become a Barn Hunt Judge. He has shown no diminution in his enthusiasm for the sport and, in fact, gets all excited if I even say the phrase 'Barn Hunt" in his presence.
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