On Friday, Kenai peninsula dog owners and their pets had the opportunity to participate in barn hunting, a new canine sport that tests a dog’s prowess at seeking rodents in a hayloft.
“It simulates a dog’s ability to find vermin,” said Janet Johnson, a member of the Peninsula Dog Obedience Group, which organized Friday’s meet at their training center in Kenai.
Approximately forty dogs and their handlers, divided into three size categories and four experience categories, entered a course constructed from stacked hay bales to complete a challenge. The dogs had to sniff out two rats and performing a “climb” — reaching the top of a hay bale stack — and a “tunnel” — crawling through a passage beneath hay bales — during a timed session.
The rats were housed inside specially constructed PVC tubes.
Michael Barclay, the group’s chief rat-wrangler, said he keeps six rats for use in the Peninsula Dog Obedience Group’s two yearly barn hunts.
According to Barclay, the rats, which normally spend the day sleeping, are not very excited by their role in the sport.
“They’re very laid-back creatures,” Barclay said.
In addition to two tubes containing live rats, the course also includes empty decoy tubes to prevent the handlers from finding the rats independently of their dogs.
The Peninsula Dog Obedience Group is planning another barn hunt in August, which will be attended by Robin Nuttall, who formalized the sport of barn hunting by founding the Barn Hunt Association, LLC. The sport was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2013.