Barn Hunt puts dogs through their paces

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COLUMBIA – Dogs are putting their hunting skills to the test at a nationwide event in Columbia this weekend.

The Barn Hunt trial is a sport that measures a dog's speed and accuracy.

The main objective is who can find the correct number of rats the fastest. 

Live rats are placed in tubes and hidden inside hay. The dog is then released and has to alert the owner each time they find a rat. Some tubes are empty, some are filled with cushions, so, just because the dog found a tube doesn't mean it's the correct one.

The Barn Hunt was founded in Columbia by Robin Nuttall. She said the practice is still relevant today because rats infest farms. 

Nuttal said the sport involves a lot of human and pet communication.

 “It really enhances the human-canine bond because you have to be able to read your dog well enough to know what your dog is trying to tell you on the course," she said.

The courses are categorized by skill level. There is novice, open, senior and master. 

Barn Hunt enthusiasts travel to events all across the country.

Saint Louis resident Becky Wright takes her dog to many competitions. She said there isn't an activity like Barn Hunting in her area, and it keeps her dog stimulated.

“It’s an opportunity for her to really be a dog and use her nose and her brain to solve a puzzle," she said. 

Nuttall said she created the sport to give hunting dogs the opportunity to enhance their skills that they were bred to do. 

She said any dog can do it. 

“Doesn’t necessarily take a lot of training to do it and it’s a lot of fun. It’s sort of like hide and seek for dogs," she said.

Wright said her dog "really loves it.

It’s a fun way for us to spend time together,” she said.

The Barn Hunt concludes Sunday afternoon at the Columbia Canine Sports Center.

 

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