Dog Barn Hunt: New Sport Introduction

by Melissa R. on January 14, 2015

Barn HuntMy pup and I recently attended a “Barn Hunt” seminar in the area. Barn Hunt is a newer dog sport that has only been officially sanctioned since 2013.

What is it exactly? There is a “barn environment” set up (think a big garage with multiple hay or straw bales set around and in piles maze-like). There are three aerated-tubes hidden in the bales: one is empty, one has rat litter/droppings in it, and one contains a rat (safely enclosed). The event is timed and there are awards and titles for quickest. It’s quite fun for the dogs and owners!

Now you may wonder what do the rats think of this? I researched the rules involved with the rats thoroughly before I attended, because I was concerned for the rats. It didn’t seem like much fun to me. But, as I discovered, the rats seem to enjoy it! Rats are friendly, sociable and outgoing animals and from what I saw, they all appeared excited and happy to get in their tube. The rats are always treated with great respect and carried carefully at all times when in their tubes. Dogs are not allowed to paw or bite at the tubes. Once I felt comfortable with this, it was time to see how my pup would react.

We entered our barn area, and the trainer brought over a little metal cage that had a rat happily munching on some treats in it. We allowed Emme to sniff it to see her reaction. Once the rat started moving, she started to get more interested. Getting her more excited was easy after that with some excited urging and talking. We then moved to a clear aerated tube with a rat in it. This was so she could associate the scent of the rat and still see it in the tube. After some urging, she got excited about this as well. Last, we got out the normal tubes, which are not see-through but aerated with holes only. After a bit of urging with this, she was getting the idea.

Next was to hide a tube with a rat in some hay and “get happy” when she sniffed it. This was easy! We did this some more; slowly laying off the praise until she was more obviously giving us an indication she knew there was a rat in the tube. We did this a few more times and boy was her tail WAGGING and she was starting to vocalize when she found a tube with a rat in it.

When the seminar was finished, we had “Fun Test” which is like a real Barn Hunt trial, but just for fun. Perfect for us newbies! I’m happy to say Emme found her rat both times and was really catching on.

Overall, I love the idea of Barn Hunt. It is open to just about ANY dog – even dogs that are deaf, or have only three legs! Plus, size or shape doesn’t matter. As long as they have a little prey drive, or interest in “finding it.” There was everything from a Newfoundland to a tiny deaf half-blind Dachshund at the Barn Hunt. The most lasting impression it made on me was when I saw a rescue Vizsla that had been brought by his owner – the dog had little confidence and I wondered what he would think. His owner said he likely had been abused in his former home and she was hoping to find an activity for him he could do (he was a bit older as well). Well you wouldn’t BELIEVE the change in that dog when he started to catch on about the rats! BIG TAIL WAGS, head up, prancing around so happy. It was wonderful to see.

I encourage anybody to look into Barn Hunt to see if they have one in their area! Learn more at

About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

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