It’s very much a team sport, as it requires the handler to identify when the dog finds the hide (hidden well beneath the hay, out of sight, but the rats are safely contained and cannot be hurt).
Larisa went to her first Barn Hunt Trial in 2017. She had heard of it prior to this, but given that there wasn’t anything local to her, she wasn’t able to participate. In the summer of 2017, there was a trial about an hour from her home, in the US. With no show committments that weekend, she thought that she’d jump right in and go to the trial – not having gone to even one practice session! Yes – entered 4 trials on that 2 day weekend … with THREE of her dogs. No practice. Just entered the trial and hoped for the best! Talk about jumping right into the deep end!
IT WAS FUN! A learning experience, for sure. But, FUN! And, successful.
Part of the thinking was … “how hard could this be – with our hard core terriers, how could I NOT identify when the dog finds the rat????”. “Well …. what I learned is that, it is a learned skill for the team – team which includes both the dog and the handler. For those 3 Welsh Terriers, 2 of them Champions and Best in Show Winners. We had ‘learning’, for sure, but we also had success and we had FUN! That first weekend, it was clear that this team sport has many supportive and encouraging people participating – people are happy when others do well. That lesson was apparent for me, because I also learned that while the dogs know how to find the rats, it isn’t as easy as it looks for us to identify when they do. I learned to smile with humility (which isn’t a hard skill – there is more losing than winning in the conformation world overall … I just wasn’t expecting that here in Barn Hunt!). I persevered, and that year I put Barn Hunt titles on a couple of my dogs (Instinct and Novice Titles).”
Larisa did get some qualifying runs that first weekend on her dogs. It was exhilerating! It was clear that this is a team sport, and that some of the teams that are doing this, are pretty awe-inspiring to watch. Definitely if you watch a Masters-Level Run!
That was Larisa’s introduction to the sport in 2017 … jumping right into the deep end, not doing great the first day, but coming home with a smile, and knowing that the dogs had had a fun day playing in the hay.
Since then, the club in Bellingham Washington has closed (volunteer sports are very hard and people get burned out), and a new club has formed, on the Canadian side of the border, in Agassiz – Fraser Valley Ratters Barn Hunt Club.
For those that are interested in Barn Hunt, suggest you check out NOSE WORK or SCENT DETECTION training. This is also a team sport that the dogs LOVE and there are many more opportunities to get training for this, and it’s easy to practice at home. Check out my page on Nose Work for more details.
Susan Gottselig (WT’s Indie and Nacho); Peggy McCallum (WT Rowan); Laurie Harding (WT Filly, photos by E. Kesler); Lisa Patton (WT Chanté); Larisa Hotchin (various Welsh Terriers)
A bit more ...
Watching a Barn Hunt ‘Masters Level Team’ play this game is mesmerizing. At the lower levels, we know how many ‘rats’ are hidden (all safe in terrier resistant tubes of course, so no one gets hurt), and you have a couple of things to do to qualify – go through an easy tunnel, and jump on at least one bale of hay. At the Masters level, they have no idea how many rats are hidden. They don’t know how many they are looking for – there could be none, or as many as 5! In addition, the Masters level tunnel is much trickier. It’s just wonderful to watch these teams in action – both the dogs and owners are very talented.
This is truly a team sport. While the dogs are looking for the hidden rat(s), not being distracted by the decoy tubes filled with fresh rat litter, the handlers job is to figure out when they have found it. One would think that it would be obvious when the dog found it. In my personal experience, unless the dog is trained, you need to learn how to read your dogs ‘tell’, which is when they have discovered it. The know it’s there, but you need to know that they know and call it properly.
It’s a good, fun, safe sport. The dogs use their keen sense of smell, and we get to develop our partnership with them, strengthening our bond. It is also great exercise for them – both physical and mental. Plus all dogs can do it!
Some Useful Links:
- Barn Hunt Association Link – Rules, events, clubs, calendar, titles
- CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) recognizes titles from The Barn Hunt Association. Click here for more details.
- AKC (American Kennel Club) about Barn Hunt.Click here for details.
Thoughts from Darwyn Welsh Terrier owners on their BH Experience:
It was quite the introduction to the teamwork aspect of dog sports. My first foray into this world was very welcoming and supportive. Just loved how it was so natural to the dog and very calming.
Lisa Patton, S. California, USA, Welsh Terrier “Chanté” (American CH Darwyn’s Enchanté; CGC, RATN, Trick Dog Excellent/Performer – TKP, CHIC // Titles as at 2019)
It’s hard for a terrier to have more fun than a Barn Hunt Day.
Peggy McCallum, Canada, 2016; Welsh Terrier – ‘Rowan’;
Filly gained so much confidence jumping from hay bale to hay bale. She can’t wait to run and bounce her way through the barn again.
We played a bit with barn hunt when Rowan was learning about *rats*. I love watching when the little instinct fire lights up in them and they get to do what they are bred to do! It satisfies something in their DNA! We’re concentrating on Earthdog for a while, since the behaviours for barn hunt are so different for Earthdog, and we find that dogs who do both don’t do as well in either. Ro is rocking the dens right now, and we’ll save Barn Hunt for later.
Barn Hunt is very welcoming and supportive – and can be done by all dogs, not just terriers. At my first attempt, a number of people approached me and asked me if I would like some tips. They proceeded to give me very specific and excellent advice, even though we eventually were competing for placements against each other, not just qualifying runs. This is something that I have observed at every event that I have attended since. For the dogs, they clearly find it interesting and engaging. They excel at the sport. However, it is a team sport as I was surprised that when the dogs find the prize (the hidden rat buried in the straw that we cannot see), they typically don’t go crazy. You need to learn to read your dog. This is good for us too. I have since not followed up with much Barn Hunt recently, only because I have focused more of my time outside of conformation shows and raising puppies, on Nose Work. For me, showing in conformation shows (actively in 2 different countries) is a huge committment, so are raising puppies well. So, I have limited time. I have also been trying other sports in the last couple of years – Chase Ability, FastCAT, Sprinter. There are only just so many weekends available. I am very glad that I did this Barn Hunt sport and put titles on a couple of dogs. I will do Barn Hunt again, but need a weekend when I have time.
Overall, Barn Hunt is a great sport for those that can get to a trial or practice site. I highly recommend it. It can be done by conformation champions, or companion pets. It can be done by young dogs and older ones. It’s really wonderful to do more with your dog – the dogs love it!