All About the RAT: The World of Barn Hunt

By Liz Carter, Barn Hunt Association Judge

Barn Hunt Cairn

With over 20,000 dogs registered and competing through the United States and Canada, Barn Hunt is one of the fastest growing competitive dog sports in the country. The sport finds its roots in the traditional working roles of farm dogs and terriers alike in controlling small pests and other vermin on rural farms and urban environments alike. In Barn Hunt, dogs test their ability to find rats safely enclosed in specialized PVC tubes hidden on increasingly challenging courses comprised of straw bales. Unlike the rat catcher’s job of old, the rats are never harmed and in fact are very well loved (and highly trained!) companions.

Although working sports such as earthdog predominantly rely on independent work by the dog, the sport of barn hunt utilizes teamwork between human and canine very similar to the popular sport of Nosework. Teams navigate a three dimensional scent puzzle where dogs must locate and indicate the location of a live tube in such a way that the handler can communicate the find to the judge by saying, “Rat!”

Barn Hunt

The challenge is that there are more than just live tubes containing rats on the course. There are empty tubes and even tubes filled with used litter hidden in the course. Tubes are nestled in the straw and not readily visible nor do the tubes move. This means that dogs use their incredible noses to follow scent to the rats. But finding rats isn’t the only task a team has. Dogs must execute an 18” wide tunnel made of straw bales as well as make a four footed climb onto a bale at least once during the run. Tunnels and courses increase in complexity and size as dogs progress through the levels.

The organized sport of barn hunt is governed by the Barn Hunt Association, LLC (BHA) which offers a titling program and sanctions competitions throughout North America. Rules and the official competition calendar for the Barn Hunt Association, LLC may be found at BHA offers four levels of regular competition as well as an optional instinct test.

Barn Hunt competitions are fun and family friendly events where dog lovers come together to celebrate the traditional working relationship between human and canines. Want to learn more? Visit and find an event or clinic in your area and may the rats be ever in your favor!!

Written by Liz Carter. Liz Carter is a licensed Barn Hunt Association, LLC judge, trainer and event organizer who competes with her Parson Russell Terriers throughout the US and Canada.

Copyright 2016. All rights Reserved. This article may be shared in its entirety with credit given to the author and Northern Nevada Canine (