Sunday, January 12, 2014

Barn Hunt

While my dogs tried barn hunt a while ago and more or less failed at it, I still think it is a pretty cool sport. I am doing the photography for an upcoming barn hunt trial in a few weeks, so this weekend, I headed to the trial location to shoot a practice. Lighting indoors in barns can be interesting, so I wanted to get a feel for it before the trial.

For those who haven't heard of barn hunt, the basic idea is pretty simple. Dogs are trained to find and indicate where there are live rats inside a given area, with a course made of straw or hay bales. The rats are kept safe from the dogs in sturdy PVC tubes.

The handler here is holding up the tube with the rat to let their dog get a nice good smell.

To make the entire thing more difficult, there are three kinds of tubes that can be on the course- empty tubes, tubes with used rat bedding, and tubes with live rats. You want the dog to only indicate the tubes with the live rats. This is the part that my dogs failed at, since they were equally excited about the tubes with the rats and the tubes with the bedding. It is something you can certainly train to overcome if you have that problem and want to pursue the sport, I just already have so many sports and training plans that I decided not to with my dogs.

Here is one of the tubes, partially buried in loose hay. There is no real way to tell which tubes have what in them just by looking, so the handlers really have to rely on the dog to tell them what is where.
Depending on the level the dog is in, the number of total tubes and total rats in tubes can change to make the course more difficult. In all levels, the dog is also required to climb onto a bale and go through a tunnel made of bales either before, during, or after finding their rats in order to complete their run.

Butt up, nose down after climbing two bales high and then deciding to check out what is buried in the loose straw a bale below her. The rats can be hidden on the ground, between bales, or on top of bales.

Overall, I had a good time. It was chilly, but not freezing cold. The lighting was kind of crazy since the weather was veering wildly between sun-and-clouds all the way to super-dark-rain-clouds-plus-downpour, and all the stages in between. I'm looking forward to shooting the actual trial in two weeks (and hoping for sun that day!).


  1. Barn Hunt sounds so fun, although I imagine it is a bit horrifying for the rat. I have a feeling my dogs would love it!

  2. So far as I can tell, the rats really don't seem to care. Most of them spend the time curled up and sleeping.

  3. Diane at To Dog With Love just posted about this too. We've tried EarthDog which is similar. It was overstimulating for Gretel though and resulted in some unwanted behaviors after. I like that it allows them to use their natural instincts but it's not for us.

  4. That sounds like a very fun and interesting doggie sport :) Milo & Jet

  5. Cinnamon, here. Sounds kinda gross to me! :)