Saturday, February 4, 2017

Barn Hunt, Take 2

Group photo from the NYE workshop
How did you spend New Year’s Eve? Me? I drove 90 minutes to Deland to take a Barn Hunt workshop with Jedi. AND IT WAS AWESOME!

We had taken a workshop before a couple years ago. At the time, K-9 Obedience Club here in Jacksonville was considering offering Barn Hunt. That fizzled out and we never pursued it.

So how did we end up here? Well, back in October I was at a nosework trial. One of the other competitors told me about a training facility in Deland that she really liked. She said it was new and different and lots of fun. I saw they had a workshop coming up and thought "Why not?" Jedi had so much fun at the workshop that I signed him up for another one two weeks later. THEN we signed up for a trial the following day. ("In for a penny, in for a pound," right?)

Jedi totally bombed the first run. He spent the entire three minutes obsessed with a spot on a particular bale. Rules say you can't touch the dog and I couldn't get him to focus on anything else. When time ran out the judge showed us where the rat was hidden. I showed Jedi the rat and praised him with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. Truthfully, I was flustered and spent too much time calculating how much money I just wasted.

Our first leg!
Before I knew it we were called up for our second -- and final -- run. We entered the ring and I removed Jedi's collar (rules say dog must "run naked.") I cheerfully told Jedi to "Find the rat." Instead, he went back to the same bale and started licking it. (I'm thinking that a female in heat must have touched it. Damn testicles make him stupid.) In frustration I blew in his face, clapped my hands above his head and used the mommy voice: "Jedi, leave it! Find the rat!" And guess what? He did! I coaxed him to climb on a bale. Then, to my surprise, he crawled through the 18" by 22" tunnel all by himself. We completed the exercise and earned our first leg. Even more surprising, Jedi earned a 3rd place ribbon for his time. How about that?! I'm hooked now and counting the days until we can run again in March.

So, what is Barn Hunt? In a nutshell, it's a new hunting sport where dogs search for rats hidden safely among bales of hay. Dogs are expected to climb and tunnel as well as search. Handlers must be able to read and guide their dogs without touching them. The competition is timed and the difficulty level goes up with each title. (Don't worry, no rats are harmed in this competition. In fact, there are Rat Wranglers in place to make sure rats don't get injured or stressed. Rats are rotated regularly, much like sheep in herding trials.) Want to know more? Check out the official Barn Hunt Association page.

The sport was originally designed for small terriers, but any dog may compete as long as it can fit through an 18 inch by 22 inch tunnel. The tunnel size does not change regardless of the size of the dog. What I like about Dare2Train is that the owners and trainers all have GSDs (as well as the rat wranglers and many of the members). They are able to address some of the challenges and concerns I have (i.e. big dog in a small tunnel). And they all want to have fun with their dogs. Yep, my kind of people! -- K