In 2013-2014 the new dog sport of Barn Hunt originated and trials began. All Barn Hunt is overseen by the Barn Hunt Association (BHA) that registers dogs to participate, keeps all the records and issues certificates on line.

Barn Hunt is a fun sport where the dogs use their noses to find live rats in a maze of straw bales. The rats are fully protected in heavy PVC tubes made to certain specifications so that the rats have plenty of ventilation and protection. Although many might think this is a prey drive game, it is really a scent work game. The dog must distinguish the odor of a live rat from the odor of rat bedding. They are never chasing a rat.

There are many levels of Barn Hunt, from basic Instinct on up through Masters and beyond. Titles that can be earned are:

  • RATI (Instinct - 1 leg)
  • RATN (Novice - 3 legs)
  • RATO (Open - 3 legs)
  • RATS (Senior - 3 legs)
  • RATM (Masters - 5 legs)
  • RATCH (Championship)
  • RATCHX (Championship Excellent)
  • and after that numbers are placed after the RATCHX1, 2, etc. each time the dog earns another 10 Master legs.

    At all levels except Instinct, the dog must not only find the rat(s) on the course, but also must do a climb (all four feet up on a bale of straw), and go through a tunnel. All dogs must run naked (no collar) for safety.

Differences exist between the levels as to the number of straw bales used, the complexity and height of the course, the length and complexity of the tunnel, the number of rats that must be found, the number of bedding tubes on the course, and the time allotted to complete the course.

Level Rules
INSTINCT one rat tube, one empty tube, one bedding tube laid out in plain view.
All the dog needs to do is indicate the tube that has the rat in and the owner must call RAT within 1 minute.
NOVICE one rat tube, one empty tube, one bedding tube hidden on the straw course, under a layer of straw.
Dog must identify the rat tube and owner call “RAT”, go through the straight tunnel, and do a climb within 2 minutes.
OPEN two rat tubes, one empty tube, two bedding tubes hidden on the straw course.
Again dogs must identify both rat tubes and the owner call RAT for both, go through the tunnel (a one turn, L shaped) and do a climb within 2 ½ minutes.
SENIOR four rat tubes, one empty tube, three bedding tubes hidden on the straw course.
The dogs must find all four rat tubes and owner call RAT for all, go through the tunnel (which must have 2-3 90 degree turns), and do a climb within 3 ½ minutes.
MASTER unknown number of rat tubes hidden on course (between 1 and 5) and enough bedding tubes to make a total of 8 hidden tubes on course.
The dog must find all the rats on course, go through the tunnel (must have 2-5 90 degree turns), and do a climb within 4 ½ minutes.
The owner must also call “CLEAR” when he/she feels the dog has found all the rats on course and be correct to qualify.

Within the last couple of years BHA has also initiated a fun rat game, in which titles can be earned, called CRAZY 8’s. For this 8 rat tubes and 4 bedding tubes are hidden on a Senior size course and the dog is allowed 2 minutes to find as many rats as possible, do a climb and tunnel. 10 points are awarded for each rat, the tunnel and the climb, however, a minus 20 points is taken away if the dog does not climb, does not tunnel, or if the owner calls a rat that isn’t. Dogs accumulate points towards their title. The titles are: CZ8 Bronze = 500 points, CZ8 Silver = 1000 points, CZ8 Gold = 1500 points, and CZ8 Platinum = 2000. After that you can earn the CZ8 Platinum Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc for each additional 500 points.

There are many Barn Hunt trials in California and across the country and it is a super fun sport for dogs and handlers. Everyone should give it a try. Many Samoyeds love the game!!

Shown in the pictures in this article is Bode having fun doing Barn Hunt!