What’s In A Title – Barn Hunt

| January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Barn Hunt Competition

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This article is a part of a series explaining various types of competition and how to obtain various titles in conformation, hunt, obedience, agility, tracking, etc. Check out the Related Articles section for other titles. The Barn Hunt Association and the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced February 2013 that AKC will recognize titles in the new sport of Barn Hunt and Barn Hunt titles can appear on a dog’s AKC pedigree. For more information on the Barn Hunt Title Recognition Program, please visit the American Kennel Club (AKC) web site.

We are pleased to introduce Deb Hamele who not only shares with us what this title is all about, but also her experience and enthusiasm for the sport.

Barn Hunts, a Fun New Sport for Any Dog

Barn Hunt, the rat-hunting game for any breed of dog, is a new and fast growing dog sport.  The purpose of Barn Hunt is to demonstrate a dog’s vermin hunting ability in finding and marking rats hidden in tubes in a “barn-like” setting, using straw and hay bales to introduce climbing and tunneling obstacles in the dog’s path. Barn Hunt is based on the skills historically used by itinerant “rat catchers” traveling the countryside, ridding farms of vermin, thus helping conserve and preserve food grains and cutting down on disease.

Barn Hunt is a sporting event, with different levels of difficulty, titles, and championships that can be attained.  It is a timed event with 3 different height divisions. While it can be used as an instinct test, there is also a handler component in that the handler must signal when the dog has reached the desired target (PVC  tube that contains a rat); thus, the handler must have a partnership with their dog and be able to recognize when the dog indicates that it has found a rat.  Just like in tracking or nose-work, a dog may indicate their find in many different ways – wagging tail, barking, digging, sniffing, or in the case of some sporting breeds, trying to pick up the tube containing the rat.

Although terriers are know for their ratting abilities many other breeds are excelling at Barn Hunts.  I have seen Boston Terriers, Chinese Crested, Bozoi, German Shepherds, Tollers, Pointers, Porties, Beagles, and Cattle Dogs at these tests and my French Bulldog has passed his Rat Instinct Class (RATI) as well as has a novice pass.  Two of my Labs, Jazz (Dunn’s Marsh All That Jazz JH CD GN RAE5 OA NAJ OF RATI RATN)  and Summer (GCH Honorbright Summer Blonde Ale JH RA OA OAJ NF RATI RATN) finished their Novice titles (RATN) in December which I believe makes them the 9th and 10th Labs with Novice titles.  One Labrador Retriever is listed on the Barn Hunt web site as having an open title now – Lutra, owned by Beth Case of North Carolina.

At all times, the safety of the dogs, handlers, and rats is of paramount importance. The rats (pets) must be humanely handled and safely confined in aerated PVC tubes; Barn Hunt is not intended to harm or kill rats. The tubes are large enough for rats to be able to turn around, and they are kept on litter so they are comfortable. They often spend their time grooming or even sleeping in the tubes.

Levels of Competition

The beginning level is the Rat Instinct Class (RATI). One passing leg is required. There are three PVC tubes placed in plain sight on the course, one dry, one with litter no rats, one with both litter and a rat.  This is an optional class for dogs without an Instinct pass, and for dogs without a Novice title to use as a warm up. Time allowed is one minute and before time is called handler must have declared which tube has the rat based on the dog’s indication.  There is a tunnel on the course but the dog is not required to go through it or climb on the hay bales at this level.  I prefer to have my dogs do these obstacles right from the beginning though as I have seen dogs fail at the upper levels for refusing to go through the tunnel (even those that have agility titles) even after finding 2 or 3 rats successfully..

To earn the Novice Barn Hunt title (RATN),  three qualifying legs are required. Three PVC tubes are hidden on the course, one tube is empty, one with litter no rats, one with both litter and a rat. In this level there is a start box and the dog must leave the box ahead of the handler. Time starts when the dog exits the start box.  They have two minutes to find the tube with the rat.  Tubes are buried between hay bales or under hay.  The dog MUST execute the tunnel and climb on at least one hay bale with all four feet to qualify besides indicating the rat and handler calling the indication correctly. Time stops when those three things have been accomplished.

The advanced titles are Open, Senior and Master.  For Open three qualifying legs are required. There are five PVC tubes placed on the course, one empty, two with litter, two with rats and litter. Time allowed for the dog to indicate both rats is 2.5 minutes. Senior level has eight PVC tubes, four with rats and litter, three with litter, one empty. Time allowed is 3.5 minutes and Master level requires five qualifying legs under at least two judges. There are 10 PVC tubes. All tubes will have litter. Any from one to five tubes will have rats, and that number will change at random.  Handler has to indicate when their dog has found all rats. At this level the dog has 4.5 minutes.

Get Ready

Barn Hunts are also a great sport for older dogs (my Jazz is 11) that may be retired from other competition.  Ramps are available to help dogs who are smaller but they also can help older dogs get up onto the hay bales. I think you will be hearing a lot more about Barn Hunts over the next year as their popularity continues to increase. The tests held in Wisconsin this fall have all filled for example and people have come from as far away as Colorado for those tests. There are some clubs now offering training opportunities, Barn Hunt Fun Tests and Barn Hunt workshops. Some are listed on the Barn Hunt web site under “events”.  For more information about Barn Hunts go to www.barnhunt.com  or drop me an e-mail at dmarshlabs@msn.com  I hope to see more Labradors trying this fun new sport in 2014!

Category : What's In A Title

Deb Hamele

About the Author ()

Deb Hamele has been a Labrador Retriever owner and breeder for over 25 years. She currently has 6 Labs and competes in a variety of areas with them -- conformation, obedience, rally, agility, hunt tests, tracking and now barn hunts. She is also active in Labrador Rescue and is the co-founder and on the board of LABMED.

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