A month or so ago, I found an event that I’d been hoping to see for a while. See, Tooey doesn’t love competition Obedience and she’s so-so about Rally, which are the sports I do with Cooper, so I’ve been looking for another sport to do with her.
She loves chasing critters, but not being an earth dog like Dachshunds and the various types of Terriers, she’s not eligible to compete in official AKC Earthdog events. I also thought about Lure Coursing, where a dog chases a plastic bag around a course. That sport is mainly for sight hounds, like Afghans and Greyhounds, but there is a Coursing Ability Test open to all breeds. However, almost every bird hunter I know has warned me against that sport, saying that I don’t want to teach Tooey it’s OK to chase game rather than flush it up.
So, what to do?
Then I came across a new-ish sport called Barn Hunt. It’s not an AKC sport, but the AKC does recognize titles awarded by the Barn Hunt Association. And it involves going after critters, namely rats.
Now, I am not fond of rats. At all. The mere thought of rats running around gives me the creeps. But these rats are safely enclosed in thick plastic rat tubes. The tubes provide the rats plenty of air, plenty of space, and safe from dog teeth and claws. And the tubes keep the people safe from the rats, too.
Here’s how the Barn Hunt Association describes it:
In Barn Hunt, dogs locate rats (safely enclosed in aerated tubes) hidden in a straw/hay bale maze [to introduce tunneling and climbing obstacles in the dog’s path]. It’s a timed event with 3 different dog height divisions.
So, when I found a Barn Hunt workshop (put on by Valley Dog Sports in Dayton, OR), I signed up for it almost immediately. But just before I actually signed up, I did a double-take at the date, and then asked Russ, “Honey, would you like to spend our anniversary at a Barn Hunt workshop?”
Lucky me, he said yes. So I signed us up, and this morning, we all piled into the car and headed south.
The first part of the practice was just going through a hay tunnel, jumping over a hay bale, and then finding a rat in a tube out in the open. Cooper was fast — he found the rat in 16 seconds. Tooey was a little slower, but she found her rat, too, but, disappointingly to me, didn’t act all that thrilled with the idea. But then we went over to another space where the rat tubes were hidden in the hay, and that having to hunt and find really fired Tooey up. She hunted and hunted in, around, and between the hay bales, and when she found the rat, dived into the hay nose first. If this had been a real competition, I’d have been able to call “Rat!” without any hesitation.
Tooey and I did that a couple of times, and each time, she got more excited. At the end of our turn, I had to drag her out of there by the leash.
I think I may have found a new sport for Tooey. We’ll give a try for real when my recently-operated-on knee heals up and we get back from this year’s Irish Water Spaniel Club of America National Specialty. (A velcro-like IWS show coat does not mix well with hay…)