Canada Barn Hunt — Rat Instinct Test

A dog's sense of smell is about one thousand times more sensitive than that of a human's and is how dogs gather information about their surroundings and environment. People utilize this attribute in many ways; most notably for search and rescue and detecting narcotics, bed bugs, mold or diseases. Every dog possesses this amazing scenting ability and they love performing tasks where they can use this skill.

The purpose of Barn Hunt is to sharpen and develop a dog's natural hunting ability through nosework in finding and marking rats in a setting similar to what you would find in a barn.

How It Works
Image - 3 tubes are introducted

Dogs are introduced to rats through a Rat Instinct Test. In the preliminary introduction to vermin during their Rat Instint Test, this phase is performed in an open area with no straw, distractions or obstacles. Here, dogs will experience rats, in many cases for the first time.

In the first step, dogs are guided to the rat tube and marked with a clicker or positive action when the dog shows interest or interacts with the rat tube, either by sniffing, pawing or nosing it.

Following the initial introduction, a second tube is added, this time with bedding from the rat cage, but no live vermin. The tubes are set about 3 feet apart from each other and the dog is walked up, on leash, to inspect. Dogs are guided from one tube to the next; at that point, you generally see dogs will want to check out each of the tubes again to find the one with the vermin. Once the dog "marks" the appropriate tube, the dog is rewarded.

Right: Dog can identify tube with Vermin

In the next session, three tubes are introduced — one with live vermin, one with bedding and one that is empty. Once again, dogs are walked up on leash to the tubes to scent each tube. As above, dogs typically will want to check out all the tubes on their own to find the tube with the live animal.

Once the dog has experienced the first phase and can properly identify the tube containing the live vermin, they are moved into a "barn setting" consisting of straw bales, obstacles and tunnels.

Image - 3 tubes are introducted
Moving On — Barn Setting

This phase is also down in steps. In step one, a tube containing live vermin is hidden within the course. The dog and handler are brought to the course once it is ready and the dog is released to find the tube; this is a timed event.

Once the dog finds the tube, a second tube of bedding is added, followed by an empty tube. The course is also adjusted to increase difficulty; the dog must enter the course and search for the tube containing the actual live vermin.

The Instinct Test

This event has 3 tubes, one empty, one with nesting / bedding and one with live vermin.

Dogs are timed and provided they complete the task in the allotted time, they are either assigned a PASS or FAIL on the Instinct Test.


Dog is being taught down to alert