If your dog is constantly on the prowl for squirrels, moles and any other critters that appear in your backyard, then they should be a natural for the fun sport of Barn Hunt.
The sport of Barn Hunt is based on the hunting and teamwork skills historically used by “rat catchers,” who traveled the countryside ridding farms of vermin. Dogs and handlers work as a team to locate and mark rats (safe and aerated tubes) hidden in a maze of straw or hay bales. The event is open to all dogs.
“Barn Hunt tests the nose, speed, agility, and surefootedness of dogs that have a history of above-ground vermin hunting,” said Robin Nuttall, founder of the Barn Hunt Association. “We quickly found out that many breeds and mixed breeds enjoy the search and can excel at this sport.”
Barn Hunt events include a pass/fail Instinct class for owners who want to familiarize their dog with the test. The AKC will recognize titles at four testing levels above Instinct: Novice, Open, Senior and Master. Dogs can continue in Master and achieve the Barn Hunt Championship. Courses are made increasingly difficult by adding more obstacles, additional diversions, and more rats to find. The BHA has developed the sport to be fun for all participants, plus easy and inexpensive to hold.
Fascinating fact: Dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours! The sport of Scent Work celebrates the joy of sniffing and asks a dog to sniff to their heart’s content, turning your dog’s favorite activity into a rewarding game. It is a terrific sport for all kinds of dogs and is a wonderful way to build confidence in a shy dog.
In so many dog sports the handler is in control, but this isn’t true in Scent Work. Neither the dog nor handler knows where the target odor is hidden. The handler has to rely on the dog and follow the dog’s nose to success. In Scent Work, it is the canine who is the star of the show.
The sport of Scent Work is based on the work of professional detection dogs (such as drug dogs), employed by humans to detect a wide variety of scents and substances. In AKC Scent Work, dogs search for cotton swabs saturated with the essential oils of Birch, Anise, Clove, and Cypress. The cotton swabs are hidden out of sight in a pre-determined search area, and the dog has to find them. Teamwork is necessary: when the dog finds the scent, he has to communicate the find to the handler, who calls it out to the judge.
AKC tracking events are the competition form of canine search and rescue. These Tracking events provide experience for dogs and their handlers to meet some needs for tracking and finding lost humans or other animals, as well as, demonstrating the extremely high level of scent capability that dogs possess.
We’ve all seen movies with dogs following the trail of an escapee through swamps. The AKC’s Tracking Tests allow dogs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. This vigorous outdoor activity is great for canine athletes. Unlike Agility and Obedience events that require a dog to qualify three times, a dog only needs to complete one track successfully to earn each title.