|Barked: Wed Feb 13, '13 1:20pm PST |
|Just came back from a two day Barn Hunt event. Day 1 is Clinics, where dogs were introduced to rats in a cage, then rats in a tube and ended with quick runs of Instinct test.
This was the first time my two Shibas ever saw a rat.
Koji caught on right away and realized the rats were prey. He nailed the instinct tests in the 3 runs we did. We went from a little bit over 30 seconds in our first run to 8 seconds of our 3rd run. I think he located the rat very fast all three times, but it took me a while to learn how to read and trust his nose to call a definite "alert" or "mark".
Maluko was curious about the rats, but cautious. She was not too keen on a rat in a tube, so I decided to pull her out of the fun test on Day 2 and added more runs for Koji instead. I am sure I can train her to do Barn Hunt, but I will need access to the rats for training purposes.
Day 2 are fun tests - they offered Instincts Test, Novice and Open level runs. Since Koji did so well in Instincts Test on Day 1, I decided to start him in Novice and if he passed Novice, we would try Open.
Koji passed Novice with ease. Not only did he got 1st place in Novice medium dogs, he also got the Fastest Novice Dog ribbon across all 3 sizes (small, medium and large). We had 2 open runs - he passed the first run with a 2nd placement among medium dogs. For the 2nd open run, I messed him up and called an false alert on the second rat while he was investigating, but he did find rat #2 later in the search.
Here are some of my observations and thoughts to share with others who are interested in Barn Hunt.
1. Try to figure it out early on if your dog is excited about the live rat, just the rat smell (there is a tube with rat beddings) or the empty tube (some dogs think the tube is a toy and get mouthy and excited by it). Note the differences in their reactions to all three types will help you better read your dog beyond Instincts test.
2. It takes some learning on the human's part to read their dogs when they locate the rats. I saw several handler not trusting their dogs' noses and insisted that the dogs check out other tubes even when the dog was indicating very strongly on a tube. (beyond instincts tests, the tubes were spread out and usually hidden from plain sights). It confused the dog to be called away from the live rat and some just lost interests after that.
3. In addition to locating all live rats (# of live rats depend on the levels), the dog also needs to do a climb (all 4 paws on a bale) and go through a tunnel. Many handlers try to get the dogs to complete the climb and the tunnel in the beginning or while the dog is still busy searching for the rats. It is confusing for the dog and not very effective for the rat search. I would suggest getting the dogs focused on finding the live rats first and if in the search process, the dog completes the climb or tunnel, then all is fine. If not, just direct the dog to do those tasks after the find.
4. Many handlers kept talking to their dogs while the dogs were actively searching. It can be distracting to the dog to focus on the task at hand. I was quiet after I released Koji from the start box and focused on watching him search, his changes in behaviors and made a mental note of where he had covered. I only talked to him if he seemed stuck and wanted to instruct him to check out some other areas. If you constantly talked while your dog was searching, not only you would distract the dog from the search, you may also not pick up some subtle changes in their behaviors.
It's great to have done Nosework with my two Shibas, so I am more experienced in working with them in a search and my ability to read my dogs. With Nosework, when Koji finds a hide, he would try to put his nose on the odor and then look up at me for the reward. I notice that with Barn Hunt, the rewards for him is the rats, so he does not look up. He is dead set on getting the rats.
If you can find a Barn Hunt fun tests or trials in your area, I would strongly suggest you check it out. It is fun for the Shibas and no rats are hurt in the process.
More info on barn hunt can be found here, http://barnhunt.com/
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