Bizzy, our SOAR Airedale, has become involved in the relatively new dog sport of Barn Hunt. In a Barn Hunt trial, a rat is placed in a protective and vented tube and hidden in hay, and the dog has to find the rat (or rats depending on what level you’re competing in) within a limited amount of time. Other than the very first level (called Instinct), the dog is also required to go through a tunnel made of hay bales and climb on a hay bale in order to have a qualifying run, or “leg.” Three qualifying runs will get you a title at the initial levels.
It is a team sport in that the dog has to find the rat tube (among other hidden tubes which are either empty or have rat litter in them), and let the handler know that the rat has been found so the handler can call “Rat.” If the handler fails to make the call, or calls on an empty or litter tube when she sees the dog act interested in it, then that is a non-qualifying run. So communication between the dog and the handler is important. The dog’s signal when finding a rat is called the dog’s “indicator.” Some dogs have very subtle indicators that are difficult to notice, and the handler has to learn what to watch for.
Our first exposure to the sport was after seeing something on Facebook about an Introduction and Fun Match being held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one Saturday in July 2014. We took both Bizzy and our Welsh terrier, Geoffrey, to the class. Geoffrey was so excited that he was quivering all over when he got anywhere near the ring. Bizzy, on the other hand, acted quite bored with it all. In her Fun Match run, she ran straight through the tunnel, climbed over a hay bale, ran straight to the rat tube and froze into position with a paw up so I would know it was there. As soon as I praised her for finding the rat, she proceeded to head to the exit gate in the ring where she sat down and gave me the “Can we go now?” look.
Because she didn’t seem to be interested in the sport, I took Geoffrey to the first few events that I could find in our area (which means within driving distances in other states as there are no Barn Hunt clubs yet in Mississippi). After he got his Novice title, I decided to see whether Bizzy might like it after all and took her to her first event in March 2015 in Pensacola, Florida. She got a qualifying score in both her first and second runs in the Novice match! I thought we might actually get her title in that very first weekend, but then we got a couple of NQs (non-qualifying runs).
But it was so fun to see Bizzy light up in the ring. She was very patient when waiting in her crate for her group to come up, and then waiting within the group for her individual run, but once the leash was off in the ring, she went to work! She would sniff out the rat tube and then lunge her nose into the hay and scoot it out to clearly let me know “Here it is!”
On one of our non-qualifying runs, I made the mistake of calling “Rat” because Bizzy went back a couple of times to where I could see a tube in the hay. She did not, however, get as excited as she normally does. After I had made the mistake, Bizzy was allowed to see where the rat was (as a reward for participating so to speak). As soon as we headed to the corner where the actual rat tube was hidden, Bizzy rushed to it and knocked it out from the hay and sent it sliding across the floor. The volunteer scribe for the ring called out, “Now THAT’s an indicator!” If only we’d gotten to that corner of the ring sooner!
At her second event in June 2015 in the New Orleans area, Bizzy did go on to get both her Instinct and her Novice title as well as her first leg towards her Open title. A club member had donated a gigantic ribbon for a rescue dog who won a title on the second day of the trials. Bizzy’s name was in the drawing, and she won! We love this ribbon as much or more than her title ribbons, and I especially love her smile in her pictures with her “Recycled Dog” ribbon shown below.
If you’d like to know more about the sport, go to www.barnhunt.com. There may be a club or upcoming event near you!
At both the Fun Match and the New Orleans trials, Karen McCrory took photos of the dogs and sold them to raise funds for Boxer Rescue. All of these pictures were taken by her and support a wonderful cause.
|"This is the one with the rat in it, Mom!" -- Bizzy
Fun Match in Baton Rouge - July 2014
|Sniffing for rats.
New Orleans Trial - June 2015
|Coming through a tunnel.
New Orleans Trial - June 2015
|Proud to be the winner of the "Recycled Dog - New Title" ribbon!
New Orleans - June 2015
|Showing off her title ribbons.
(New Orleans - June 2015
“This is the one with the rat in it, Mom!” --Bizzy Sniffing for rats….
(Fun Match in Baton Rouge – July 2014) (New Orleans trial – June 2015)
Coming through a tunnel. (New Orleans trial – June 2015)
Proud to be the winner of the “Recycled Dog – New Title” ribbon! (New Orleans – June 2015)
Showing off her title ribbons. (New Orleans – June 2015)