Barn Hunt

Barn Hunt is a new activity which is attracting growing numbers of Whippet owners, and which is open to all Whippets.  One of the breed's original functions was to help keep the rodent population down, and Whippets can now display they've lost none of their ancestral instincts to hunt rodents with this fun and cruelty-free new titling sport. The following information on Barn Hunt was contributed by AWC Member, Donna Miner, who has a great deal of experience doing Barn Hunt with her dogs already.

Barn Hunt With Whippets

The sport of Barn Hunt is intended to test the dog’s ability to find and alert on rats in a “barn-like” setting.  Straw/hay bales are used create climb and tunnel obstacles in the ring.   Any dog breed (or mix) that enjoys the hunt and who can fit through an 18” wide gap between two hay bales may participate in this timed test of drive, keenness, and partnership with its handler.  The role of the handler is critical because the handler must interpret the dog's signals accurately and report finding the rat(s) to the judge.  Handlers may direct their dog's search in the ring with verbal encouragement and general hand gestures toward an area to be examined, but may not deliberately touch or pat hay bales with their hands.

--Axis Imaging Photo

One of the advantages that Barn Hunt offers the exhibitor is that dogs that are deaf or vision-impaired (but not blind) may compete, as may dogs who disabled due to injury, so long as they can navigate the course without showing signs of pain.  This makes it an ideal hobby for a dog that is elderly or in recovery from an injury that restricts it from a more demanding sport.  In addition, bitches in season may compete (in britches).  One of the greatest attributes of this sport is that it's a low impact, slow-paced sport that offers a high margin of safety to both the dog and the handler.

Barn Hunt offers increasing levels of difficulty to the aspiring competitor which range from Instinct to Novice, Open, Senior, Master, and Champion.  Location of the required number of rats and completion of required climb and tunnel elements on the course within the specified amount of time determines success in the test.  In order to earn the Instinct title (RATI), your whippet must past the Instinct test once.  Higher level titles (RATN, RATO, RATS, RATM, and RATCh) require three passing scores for each test.  Both AKC and UKC will recognize and record titles earned at the RATN level and higher on the dog's pedigree, upon request and receipt of a recording fee.

Barn Hunts are held indoors or outdoors, in a barn-like setting or on any piece of level ground that can be enclosed securely, so expect to see a variety of environments and weather conditions.  Dogs must run without collars or coats which can be daunting for whippets in cold or wet weather.  Be sure to bring weather-appropriate clothing for dogs and handler as there can be long waits between your dogs' runs.

Participants in Barn Hunt are expected behave with good sportsmanship, avoid punitive/corrective training of their dogs, and to treat fellow exhibitors as family.  Cursing during the test will result in instant disqualification as will having the dogs eliminate on the course.  The safety of the dogs, handlers, and rats is paramount.  Rats are humanely handled and safely confined in this sport as dogs are encouraged to find the rats, but to do no harm to them.

Further information about Barn Hunt can be found HERE.  This site offers a searchable calendar of events, the Rule Book, and on-line BHA registration and results.   Register your dog prior to entering a competition event and read the Rule Book to prepare yourself.  To ensure the best possible experience at your first competition event, volunteer to work as a Gate Steward or Rat Wrangler during classes in which you are not entered.  The work is not difficult and it's fascinating to have a ring-side seat for all the action!


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