Monday, October 8, 2012

Barn Hunt Anyone?

Barn Hunts are sort of new...
Until very recently, Barn Hunts have been an informal game at Earthdog events. Now, thanks to the Barn Hunt Association , lots of folks around the country are working to make this a Sanctioned event! Now, those of us with non-earthdogs can play along too!

Gilda and I have been very fortunate in our Dog Sports endeavors. We just happen to live near The Agility Underground , an excellent training facility;  we just happened to get in on some Treibball lessons which are not easy to find; and now, we are just lucky enough to have friends who started the Great Lakes Rat Terriers Club !
This newly formed group recently held their very first event:

{Rat Cookies for the Dogs!}

The Great Lakes Rat Terrier Club

Join us on Saturday, October 6, 2012 for the
Intro Clinic and Fun Test
From 10am to 4pm

Any dog, of any breed may 
participate in Barn Hunt Trials.
Help us get Barn Hunt off to a good start 
by participating in a fun test. 
We want your input and opinions as we work toward 
making Barn Hunt a titling sport in 2013!
This event will allow you to introduce your 
dog to the fun of barn hunt and let the dog
use its natural instincts to identify prey. 
Come help us make Barn Hunt a success!
[Note: I was unable to capture the brochure as a photo file... trust me, it was much nicer than the above!]

I was excited to sign up with Gilda even though I knew very little about what a Barn Hunt entailed or even whether or not Gilda would be good at it.  The GLRTC was offering 2 events:  an Instinct Test (RATI) and a Novice Course (RATN). Here are their descriptions of each:

Rat Instinct Class (RATI): The Instinct course will be a 
simple, straight chute with one tunneling and one climbing 
element.  There will be one PVC tube with a rat. The dog 
has one minute to find the rat. This class is judged 

Novice Barn Hunt: (RATN): The Novice test is a future 
titling event. The course will be designed by the judge and 
will have both climbing and tunneling elements. There will 
be three PVC tubes on the course, one “dry,” one with litter 
but no rat, and one with a rat. The dog has two minutes 
from time of release to complete the tunnel effort and 
climbing effort and find the correct PVC tube.

I signed Gilda up for the Instinct Test and one run of the Novice course. Many, many other people did just the same! The turnout was incredible and I'm looking forward to hearing the final numbers from the day.

Gilda was the 11th dog to run the Instinct Test in the medium/large dog ring. To successfully pass the Instinct test, the dog had to perform one tunnel element, one climbing element, and mark the tube containing the rat! 
Despite handling the environment very well for the first 2 hours of the day,  Gilda was very skittish about entering the ring. I did my best to remain neutral as if we were just walking somewhere new. I removed her slip lead and told her "Tunnel!" and off she went through the hay bale tunnel. Next, I told her "Over!" and there she went right over the hay bale. There were 3 perforated PVC tubes with hay scattered over them. One tube was empty, one tube contained some 'previously used' rat litter, and one tube held the rat itself. I told Gilda to "Find it!" (even though that has little meaning to her). She dutifully followed my pointing finger and sniffed each tube. When she got to the third tube, she was visibly more interested with much more sniffing. She started quivering all over which I assumed was her 'mark'. I did exactly what the Judge told us not to do and blurted out, "I think that's it". [The handler is to raise a hand and say, "Mark it" to stop the clock].
Somehow, with no training whatsoever, Gilda managed to pass her Instinct Test with flying colors!


It was so exciting just watching her find the rat using her natural abilities. I don't know about Gilda but I was so ready to try the Novice Course!

The Novice Course was set up similar to the Instinct test but the three tubes could be hidden anywhere on the course. The dogs were grouped in sets of 5. After each group, the tube containing the rat was moved to a new location. After 3 groups had run, a new rat was brought out to decrease the stress to the rats.

Gilda was the first dog to run in the 3rd medium-dog group. We took our seats in the blind (a tent that prevented handlers (and dogs!) from seeing the rat's location.) When we were called by the gate steward, Gilda was once again a little nervous entering the ring. As soon as her lead was off though, she was ready to roll again!

Through the tunnel she went, sniffing along the way, and then right over the hay bale!  I'm not sure I even gave her any instruction up to this point. Once over the hay bale, she zeroed in on a tube and started quivering. This time, I raised my hand and loudly proclaimed, "Mark it!" (just like in Agility, it just takes me a few reminders!)

The judge suggested that maybe I should have spent some time having her find and inspect the other tubes. However, I was pretty sure that her mark was clear. Some dogs mark by raising a lip (as if disgusted by the smell of the stinky critter), some dogs raise a paw, and others attempt to get at the rat. A challenge to the handler is correctly reading their dog. A big thanks to Gilda for making this easy on me!  I heard a rumor later that she may well have placed 4th for all the medium dogs! I will update this post when I have the hard facts! She did in fact earn a ribbon for completing the required obstacles and finding the rat during her Novice run!

{First ribbon ever for the Gildz!}

{A Gilda's-Eye view}

It really was a great day with tons and tons of dogs and dog people! Please be sure and visit GLRTC on their website and on Facebook !

I am so excited to have found something that Gilda loves and can hopefully participate in more! Thanks a million to Mary, Sue, and Linda for all of the work they put into this fantastic event and to all of the volunteers, judges and Rat Wranglers without whom so much fun could not have been had by dogs and handlers alike! 


Jon said...

This is so interesting, I've never heard of barn hunts before! Now, to find a barn hunt somewhere near NYC....Small apartment hunt? Park hunt?

Dawn said...

This is so exciting! My mixes would love this. I hope it's an activity that comes to my area soon.