The Barn Hunt Association has created a sanctioned sport honoring the traditional role of dogs in ridding barns, homes, and properties of vermin. Barn Hunt is open to any dog, of any size, type, breed or mix. Titles and placements can be earned at levels from Instinct through Master, Championships, and beyond.
How Do You Play Barn Hunt?
1. The Course
There is a course set up for your dog to hunt in. It consists of bales of straw that are placed in stacks, along the edge of the ring, on their side, leaning up against one another, and configured so there is a tunnel. The stacks must be between 2 bales and 3 bales high. Safety is importnat so the stacks are placed so they are not easly knocked over.
2. The Rats
Live rats, which are our pets, are placed in secure, ventilated PVC tubes along with some of their bedding.
Note: The safety of our rats is taken very seriously. Our rats actually enjoy the sport and willingly climb into the tubes. No rats are injured in this sport.
3. The Hide
The tubes are then hidden on the course of straw. They can be hidden anywhere. Up on the top of the bales, under the bales, between them, or just on the floor beside them. They are then covered up with loose straw so they cannot be seen. The sneaky judge also places lots of piles of straw around the course that have nothing under them! There are also empty tubes placed throughout the course.
4. The Hunt
You and your dog go into the ring and it's your dogs job to find the rats. Using his keen sense of smell, your dog finds the hidden rats. During training, you and your dog work out a way for him to tell you he has found one. All dogs have their own style of letting you know they have found a rat. Most will paw at the tube, but a few dogs will freeze and tilt their head to the side, indicating that they hear the rat. Some will lay down next to it. Some will bark. Others will sniff a few times and then move on. Part of the sport is learning your dogs indication of when he has found a rat so you can notify the judge that a rat has been found.
5. Climb and Tunnel
In order for your dog to earn titles in this sport, he must climb up on at least one bale of straw and complete the tunnel. As dogs progress through the levels in this sport, the tunnels become more complex and can be raised to a second level and they have more twists and turns. The courses also get bigger and higher with a larger number of straw bales being used.
(The course in the photo is higher and has steeper drops than what is now allowed).
No, Batman, that isn't a rat.
6. Titles and Awards
You and your dog can earn titles in the sport of Barn Hunt that are AKC recognized. In order to qualify, your dog must find the appropiate number of rats on the course, climb at least one bale of straw, and go through the tunnel. All within a set amount of time.
As dogs move up to higher levels, there are more rats on the course, the tunnels are longer, and the courses get bigger.
No money is won during Barn Hunt. It's a fun sport and a fun way to spend time with your canine companion and to meet some nice dog people along the way.