Yesterday, I tried something new with Ruten. I couldn’t go to the frisbee cup in Montreal as I needed to save for a trip in NS at the end of the month, so I set my eyes on a clinic that was happening in my region: barn hunt.
Three tubes are placed under obstacles (most often, hay bales) with enough surface poking out from the obstacle so the handlers can spot them. 1 tube is empty, the second tube has rat litter and the rat is placed in the third tube. These tubes are the safest there is for a rat, as they are made of PVC, with a grid like end, while the opening on the other end is completely sealed. The dog should learn to discriminate between the empty, the litter and the rat tube. For this activity, you do not know where the rat is. You can point the tubes to the dog while asking him (once in the first 30sec) where the rat is. When you are convinced that your dog is showing you where the rat is, you raise your hand and call ‘rat!’.
Ruten didn’t know what to do with himself the first time we put him in the arena. He knew what ‘look for’ means but he didn’t know what he was supposed to look for. We lowered the stress and took a transparent cage with a rat inside to associate the rat with an image/scent.
Oh boy, he was set!
He checked the cage, bumped it a bit, then went and whined in front of the tube with the rat inside. Association! It was a party for Ruten after that initiation.
I didn’t want to burn him from the getgo so we relaxed and repeated the experience later on. Ruten checked all three tubes by himself before jumping on the hay bale over the tube with the rat inside. I was a bit perplexed because he used his paw before but whatever!
We repeated barn hunt three times and three times, he jumped on the hay bale over the tube with the rat. It was brilliant.
It is frightening how intelligent and bright he is. We have never done that before, he didn’t know what rats were, what they smelled like but in 1 hour, he was effectively searching for the rat.
We had a mock trial and that boy finished third behind blood hounds. I’m not going to complain!