I have always known that Tooey loves critters — moles, voles, rabbits, squirrels, mice — any critter she can chase. She’s an Earthdog wannabe.
So this morning, too early and not nearly bright enough, I drove up to the Columbia Country fairgrounds to exhibit both Cooper and Tooey in two of this weekend’s River Ratters Barn Hunt tests.
The experience was a lot like a hunt test — checking in, watching other dogs, chatting with other exhibitors, “airing” your dogs, and waiting, waiting, and waiting for your turn. And not knowing exactly when your turn is going to be because the running order gets adjusted from time to time.
While I was waiting, I took a couple of pictures from two sides of the first Novice course*. It’s constructed of hay bales stacked in various configurations inside an enclosed ring. There has to be one tunnel made of hay bales (which you can kind of see in the middle of the top photo), and there have to be hay bales that can be climbed onto. Two of the requirements are that the dog has to go through a tunnel and has to put all four feet on top of at least one hay bale.
There are also piles of hay around, next to, on top of, and stuck beneath various hay bales, and that’s where the rats (enclosed in sturdy aerated tubes) are hidden. (A Novice Barn Hunt course has three tubes hidden in the hay — an empty one, one with rat litter in it, and a third with a rat in it.)
Both Cooper and Tooey NQ’d the first test. I put that down to inexperience on all our parts. Cooper wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Tooey knew what she was looking for (she’d previously dragged me over to the area where the waiting rats were resting), but I was unable to interpret her body language. I thought she’d found a rat, and called “Rat”, when she had only found a tube with rat litter in it.
The second trial went better. Cooper had a better understanding of what he was looking for, but I again misinterpreted his body language. I thought he’d found a rat, and called “Rat”, but what he’d found was the place where the rat had been for the previous dog. Oh well.
On Tooey’s second trial, she made it easy. She scooted through the tunnel without my asking her too, happily jumped up on a hay bale, hunted around a bit, and then dove head-first into a hay-filled corner. I called “Rat”, and this time I was right. And she’d done it well within the two-minute time limit.
So, with this nice performance, Tooey earned the first leg of her RATN title. The judge complimented her on being a “good little hunter.” And on top of that, she placed 2nd in her division (Novice – Large) for her time of 1 minute, 2.13 seconds. And that time put her 5th overall in Novice, out of 26 competitors.
The trial photographer took a couple of pictures of Tooey hunting for rats during her second trial:
Like many other dog sports, in Barn Hunt, a dog needs to qualify at three tests to get the title at that level, so Tooey is 1/3 on her way.
*Those of you who know about Barn Hunt already may notice the three tubes laid out side by side in the foreground of the top course photo. Those tubes had been placed there for the Instinct test, in which the three tubes are placed out in the open. In the photo, the hay bales had been mostly rearranged from the Instinct test configuration to the Novice test configuration, but the tubes had not yet been hidden in the hay.