I kept hearing about Barn Hunt and I was intrigued. I spoke with a few friends who had "interesting" experiences I decided I wanted to start with a workshop. I love workshops, can you tell? In my quest I found Straw Bale Productions and I signed us up for a clinic.
We had a great time. Bruce and Scott were friendly and very helpful. Bruce is the nosework guy and Scott is the rat guy. The morning started by a quick review of the sport and the rules. They had copies of the Barn Hunt Association rule book for us to review.
They mentioned some dogs get it immediately and others need some instruction; actually the humans need the most instruction. It is very similar to nosework, in which the handler needs to recognize the signs that the dog has found the rat and be confident when calling the rat (basically indicating where the rat is located). This is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to finding the rat the dog needs to go through a straw tunnel and climb a bale of straw.
They had three stations stet up for practice. The first was just a bale of straw and a rat in a clear tube. The second was a novice set-up, and the third was an advanced set-up. Each station was staffed by a volunteer.
I started at the first station with the rat and the one bale of straw. Marley went right up to the tube and tried to get the rat out. The second time she just looked around and tried to go into the other stations. I walked her around and asked her "Where is the RAT?" I think the most difficult part was trying not to use "find it" which we use for nosework.
The second station with the novice set-up was interesting. Marley was just excited to be off leash near straw. It took a while to get her to focus on looking for the rat. It took us a while to sync into a team. She received a lot of praise and I decided to try the first station again before progressing to the more advanced station.
The second time at the first station I made it a bit more difficult for her by standing further away from the station and asking her "Where is the RAT?" Once she was really excited and had some easy success we moved on to the more advanced station.
The advanced station was larger, more complex and we were timed. This was not a blind search, I knew where the rats were located and could provide "help" if needed. I have to say the most difficult part of this station was keeping track of my dog. She was just zooming around the straw and I kept losing her.
Once everybody has cycled through all the stations they ran us through a mock novice trial. We had to call the finds and the dog had go through a tunnel and climb a bale of straw. We didn't know where the rats were hidden.
Marley completed the course in a minute and forty nine seconds. She just ran by the empty tube and found the rats right away. It took us longer to go through the tunnel because she kept looking for rats. She was fantastic!
Bruce gave me great advice on adding another scent for her to find and how to help Marley distinguish nosework from barn hunt. He also provided information on how scents move through straw.
If you want to try Barn Hunt I highly recommend starting with a workshop or clinic to introduce your dog to the concept. I liked how quickly Marley picked up the concept and is excited about hunting rats.
The rats were well taken care of and they were rotated at least once with fresh rats. The rat in the clear tube spent the entire time grooming and sleeping.
We had a great time and I look forward to entering a trial soon.
After the workshop Marley and I went hiking at Point Isabel. We do not go very often but every time we get close, Marley gets really excited.
Finally, we have exciting stuff happening in the next couple of months. This means I'll have more to share.