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Ready! Do I Smell A Rat?

Posted by Christina Potter on

Make way, terriers, barn hunt is a sport for all breeds. Yes, if your dog can fit through an eighteen-inch opening between two bales of hay, then he’s eligible to participate in a barn hunt trial. Dogs with disabilities are welcome to compete, as are older dogs. Contrary to what the name states, you do not actually hunt for barns. No, that would be too easy. Actually, the trial need not take place in a barn at all, just in a fenced in secure area. The area will be made to look like the inside of a barn. Some dogs will take to barn hunt instinctively, while others will need more training and encouragement, but they will all benefit from training and working with their handlers.

Barn hunt is a timed event in which your dog must find a rat ensconced in a rat tube and hidden in a barn-like setting. I know, it doesn’t sound like much fun for the rat, but rest assured, it is in the tube for its protection. Furthermore, the tube is see through and, of course, aerated to keep little Mickey from needing an oxygen mask. There is practically no risk that the dog will injure the rat as neither the dog nor the handler will come into contact with it. There are lots of rules governing the safety of the rats used, and it is everyone’s desire that the critters are kept comfortable. As a matter of fact, there are people at all barn hunt trials whose sole job is to keep said vermin happy and unharmed. These people are called Rat Wranglers…it sounds like an interesting addition to any resume. Am I right?

There are three dog height divisions in barn hunt trials. There are also multiple levels of competition and difficulty; instinct, novice, open, senior, master and crazy8s. Each level tests the dog’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand, its sure-footedness over different surfaces, and its drive. At the higher levels, the teamwork between the dog and handler are also challenged with different heights of hay bales, multiple tubes with or without rats, and tunnels with two to five turns.

If you are interested in learning more about this fun, yet relatively inexpensive sport, check out the Barn Hunt Association’s website. There, you will find information on everything, from getting started, to participating in trials. For people who prefer not to compete, but still want to offer their dog the excitement and mental stimulation of the hunting experience, the Barn Hunt Association also offers Fun Tests. The website also has a list of clubs that can guide you on training and everything else you’d like to know. These clubs are located nationwide, so there is likely to be one within driving distance for you.


If you enjoy Christina's writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and "Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.