Barn hunt is one of the fastest growing dog sports in America, believe it or not.
This is a fast-paced event that tests your dog’s instinct and ability to search and signal for rats.
This sport is based on the long history of certain dog breeds being used to rid houses, farms, and other places of destructive vermin.
In this article we’ll cover what barn hunt is, which dog breeds can compete, what to bring to a barn hunt, and more.
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What Is a Barn Hunt for Dogs?
Barn hunt is a fun, new way to train your dog. It involves your dog finding and signaling rats.
Yep – we get it…creepy.
But this is an AKC supported dog sport.
But dogs are, after all, dogs.
As such, they have basic instincts innate to dogs, particularly breed specific instincts.
And many dogs are prone to chase and catch rats. (Keep reading; they don’t hurt the rats.)
The barn hunt game can be played in any environment and makes use of treats as a positive reward for finding the rat.
There are three parts to barn hunt:
- Basic handling (getting on scent)
- Searching (hunting)
- Signaling (alerting)
The sport of barn hunt is a bit like an obstacle course for dogs. The objective is to teach your dog how to search out rats hiding in various locations.
(Okay, I sort of get it now because Blanco’s favorite dog training course was field training and I still send him on “scent finds” for humans, toys, or treats.)
With barn hunting, the dog and handler are timed as they negotiate running jumps, weaving through poles and hay bale tunnels, opening gates, and jumping over barrels to get their find.
Unlike other sports such as agility or obedience trials that focus more on the aesthetics of a given performance, barn hunt focuses on speed and accuracy over form.
What Breeds Can Do Barn Hunt?
Barn hunt is a fast-paced sport for any dog that can fit through an 18-inch hay bale-height sized tunnel. Not only is barn hunt enjoyed by working dogs but also by show and pet dogs alike!
Barn hunt allows dogs of all breeds (including mixed breeds), sizes, and ages to compete for titles. In fact, competition is encouraged with barn hunt!
Barn hunt has been used successfully with many different breeds and ages of dogs, even those that have not had much prior training experience at all.
It is a great sport for older dogs and handlers. Disabled dogs are also welcome to compete.
What Is the Barn Hunt Instinct Test?
Don’t worry; only dogs that want to barn hunt will do so. When it comes to barn hunt, a dog will either have the instinct or not to participate in a barn hunt.
The first type of event that a dog and handler can enter is called an instinct class.
This is a pass/fail class that allows owners to familiarize their dogs with the sport and see if they have the instinct for it.
It’s not a test of intelligence or training, but rather a test of instinct.
After successfully completing this class, you can then compete in increasingly difficult courses that add obstacles, diversions, and more rats to find.
What Should I Bring to a Barn Hunt?
You’re probably wondering what in the world to bring to your first barn hunt.
At a barn hunt trial, you should bring water for your dog, a crate, a chair for yourself and coolers for the rats (in case of emergencies).
It’s also advised to bringing:
- A toy or item that has been outfitted with an orange safety flag (available at any pet supply store) so that everyone on the field knows where the item is supposed to be located. This prevents them from interfering with your search process when they’re running through the course themselves.
- A camera capable of filming in low light situations (e.g., night vision). You’ll want one that shoots high quality videos because judges look at this footage when making their decisions.
- Enough people are available during competition hours who can hold flashlights while following along behind each team — this helps prevent tripping hazards during search times!
Barn Hunt Levels
Dogs earn titles as they rise through increasingly difficult levels in barn hunt. There are also championships that test the “best of the best” barn hunters.
The barn hunt levels include:
- Instinct class (There’s a video below demonstrating the instinct level during a barn hunt.)
- Novice class (A novice barn hunt can also be seen in the video at the end of this post.)
- Open class
- Senior class
- Master class
Barn Hunt Rules
The Barn Hunt Association has a comprehensive rulebook on their website that covers everything from what to wear to accommodations for older handlers.
If you’re considering trying this sport with your dog, take a look at the barn hunt rulebook to get familiar with this sport.
Is Barn Hunt Good for Dogs?
Barn hunts seem good for dogs, given their hunting instinct.
And barn hunt is reportedly an excellent way to bond with your dog and improve their training.
It can be especially fun for breeds who were bred to hunt vermin, such as the rat terrier, as you can see their natural instincts come out during the game.
Barn hunt is an agility sport that weighs speed and accuracy over aesthetic form, so it is ideal for all dog breeds and is a great way to get your dog outside and active.
The sport of barn hunt is intended to be a fun way for you and your dog to enjoy physical activity together while also strengthening the bond between the two of you.
Trevor Smith from Doggie Dojo explains that you should let your dog lead the way while you sit back and enjoy the barn hunt.
But let’s don’t forget about the rats needed for a barn hunt.
We sure wouldn’t want this intended fun for dogs to come from something that might be unkind to rats so we don’t feel we can endorse or condemn the barn hunt sport simply because we don’t have enough knowledge about what scares rats never having owned rats.
(Dogs we know, rats we don’t, I’m afraid…I think?)
If you have a dog that likes to hunt and demonstrates an interest in participating, then barn hunt might be the perfect sport for you assuming you’re comfortable with this unique canine adventure.
More barn hunt facilities are opening as this sport grows in popularity, so there may now be one in your area to test your dog’s interest.
People Also Ask
Is Barn Hunt Cruel to Rats?
Barn hunt does not allow rats to be harmed at any point during the event.
Reportedly, the rats used are often beloved family pets who enjoy getting out of their cages and interacting with the dogs.
(Of course, we cannot confirm this, but it seems rat owners would know.)
The barn hunt rules state that rats must be placed into aerated tubes before the handler sends the dog in to search.
The dog must find the rat and retrieve the tube to get a point. If your dog finds the rat first, he will signal you by either pawing at you or barking his alert.
Dog Barn Hunt Event
Check out the video below where this precious Terrior participates in her first barn hunt.