Barn Hunt Chat

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I judged twelve trials now and the new Barn Hunt judge smell is disappearing. I had fun last weekend. I enjoy seeing the different dogs working. Sunday afternoon, the sun came out and it got hot and steamy for about an hour before it clouded up again. The dogs felt it and there were a lot of NQs because they weren't hunting. Dogs not Q'ing makes for a long day, as the excitement of calling "Congratulations!" is replaced by a depressing "Thank you, your time is up." The most exciting time for a judge is when the thumb is on the stopwatch Stop button and waiting for the dog to find the last rat or to do the tunnel. Yes, we're rooting for you! We really want you to Q!

I'm developing a harder shell. I gave a warning to a woman in Master and after I explained the rule, she argued back the rule book is so thick she can't read all the rules. Well, I guess from now on if you don't know the rule, you'll learn it the hard way, just like in Obedience. One of the 'bad' parts of spending so much time in 4H is that I sometimes treat adults the same way I treated the 4H'ers. There were a few times I had to NQ because of breaking the rules. A Novice handler patted her dog after doing the tunnel the way that's allowable in Obedience between exercises.

I could run AJ Friday because there was a backup judge. A CGC evaluator was doing CGCs on Saturday, so I brought AJ to get his CGC. She wasn't able to do CGCAs, so she'll let me know when she's doing them. AJ worked great Friday night and he would have Q'd if I didn't talk him into a bedding. He was showing interest in a leaner, so I told him GET IT, so he did, to my chagrin.

I got my own parking spot last weekend.

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AJ REMX 1st leg 2022 06 17.jpg

AJ and I finished a four day event last weekend. AJ earned four RATCHX legs, 4 Qs and 2 NQs, and needs only one more leg. It’s going to be a long wait for the next event! The streamer on the left side of his HIC rosette is the REMX Q ribbon. If awarded, it must a color other than dark brown. This has an orange REMX Q ribbon on the left with the regular brown Q ribbon on the right.

I was Judge Of Record Saturday and Relief Backup Judge the other three days. I didn’t bring AJ on Saturday because it’s a very long day for him to sit in the car and I don’t have enough free time to give him the attention he needs.

This was my first event under the new 2022 rules effective June 1. I purposely didn’t participate in the commentary period because I didn’t want to get confused in the ring while the 2019 rules applied. I also had many non-Barn Hunt things going on prior to the event, so had to cram study the rules at the last minute.

I had to tweak my Open maps because there’s now the requirement for two high bales in two different places on the course. Tunnel lengths changed for Senior and Master, but my maps were still within the rules.

I judged Line Drive for the first time. My observation is that Line Drive is different from Barn Hunt for the dogs. The course was the checkerboard course (4 rats, 5 bedding) outside in a large area, so was done on lead. Dogs that are crazy good in the Barn Hunt ring didn’t know what to do in Line Drive. If you’re going to participate in Line Drive, I suggest you take a clinic or class in it first or find some other way to show your dog what it’s about. I noticed that experienced BH dogs hit on bedding on the upper level that were above rats on the lower level. I suspect the odor travelled and fooled them because there was a strong wind.

Judging in the ring was the usual frustration of watching handlers ignore their dogs. The worst offender was a handler who turned her back on her dog while it was on an element, walked across the ring to another element not watching her dog, and the dog was pawing the fluff off the rat and whining. The handler never looked back and called the dog to the new element. The dog got de-trained and when searching again, never went back to the rat. I felt very bad for the dog who did his job and was blown off by his handler, who will probably blame the dog for the NQ. Never, never, ever take your eyes off your dog. If you want to look at something, watch your dog out of the corner of your eye.

There was a very funny incident. One rat was extremely lively. When the rats were on the ground waiting for the blind to be loaded, it was rolling the tube across the floor. That rat got placed on a bale next to the top of a leaner. A tiny rat terrier was running and stopped dead in her tracks staring because that rat was rocking its tube back and forth, and the fluff on top of it was waving like a strong wind was blowing it! It was hilarious watching the dog because she was mesmerized and froze for at least ten seconds.

I had a couple great ‘students’ in the ring rat wrangling who wanted to learn and it was almost as much fun as training my dogs. They picked up on the nuances and said how much they learned working inside the ring. One mentioned how handlers don’t pay attention to their dogs and miss rats. She said she will follow her dog in the future instead of leading it.

I always admire the dogs that have the killer instinct and go in the ring loaded for bear. But the downside is their handlers are spectators and not really handling their dogs. I really enjoy working with AJ and we’ve jelled as a team. We had one NQ that made me think. He kept returning to the level above the tunnel. That particular area had a couple bales and I could see there were no tubes there. He was interested, but not aggressively hunting. I called CLEAR, but the last rat was under a leaner propped against the tunnel wall. I learned that when he’s hunting like that, expand the search area. He had similar situations on an element, but didn’t need to expand the search area. I kept him there until he found the rat. AJ was eighteen months when he entered his first trial and he turned four in March. It took us over two and a half years to become a good team.

Good handlers talk to their dogs. Great handlers listen to their dogs.
 
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LifeofRubie

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Congrats to you guys!

We never got super deep into barn hunt but I don't understand why people don't let their dog work! I know sometimes you've got to get them amped up or focused but a dog that is hunting should just be left alone! Do you see people not watching their dogs more in the lower or higher levers? As a novice, I was probably too dumb to think I knew better than my dog :D It would seem as it get's more difficult in the higher levels, handlers would be looking for tubes they can see and have their dog indicate or clear them? Weird...
 

Ravenbird

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I can't imagine taking my eyes off my dog in nosework - it's crucial to watch their behavior! Barn hunt is just another form of nose work it seems.

@obbanner - I'm curious too - are these mostly beginners who don't know better or are they advanced to the point where they think they know more than their dog? LOL. I guess the answer will be both... As a judge to you get to give them kind words of wisdom when they NQ?
 

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Congrats to you guys!

We never got super deep into barn hunt but I don't understand why people don't let their dog work!

I can't imagine taking my eyes off my dog in nosework - it's crucial to watch their behavior! Barn hunt is just another form of nose work it seems.

@obbanner - I'm curious too - are these mostly beginners who don't know better or are they advanced to the point where they think they know more than their dog? LOL. I guess the answer will be both... As a judge to you get to give them kind words of wisdom when they NQ?

It's not natural to not try to do the dogs work. When I was learning herding, my teacher would scream at me, "Feet to the sheep! Feet to the sheep!" because you have to be alert to the first signs of the flock doing something you don't want it to do. I changed that to Feet To The Dog in Barn Hunt. In herding, it took me about a year to do it instinctively and it took a while to do it instinctively in Barn Hunt. I sometimes tell friends they're taking their eyes off the dog and they deny it or say for only a moment, but they are doing it.

I never did nosework. I was told the containers are put on the floor in view of the dog and handler. Barn Hunt rat / bedding tubes are hidden and covered with fluff so they're not visible. Handlers want to search out likely hides. There's rules to keep the handler from doing the dogs work such as NQ'ing if they get on their hands and knees or look into a tube. I use the feet to the sheep rule to focus on the dog while also inspecting the element for hides.

I don't think turning your back on your dog is a class level thing so much as it is the lack of experience of the handler. I see it in all classes. The ones who do it the least are the Greyhairs. I judged one team all four days in Crazy 8s and Master. I noticed that they weren't outstanding, but were consistently very competent. She let her dog work, followed the dog and knew the dogs tells. When she knew she was running out of time, she then started guiding the dog to elements she wanted searched again. She earned her C8 Platinum under me. She was roughly my age (70+). Maybe I was impressed with her because she handles as I try to do.

The rules explicitly forbid me from giving training advice inside or outside the ring as a judge. The rules state I can have a conversation if asked outside the ring. I agree with that, as I know some busybody judges in Obedience. One I know for decades somehow bungled through Utility so had the qualifications to be a judge, and constantly gives unwanted advice. What I do is compliment handlers who do a good job. One in particular last weekend sticks in my memory. The corner of the tunnel element had a protruding flat bale with three leaners, which gave many places to hide (under the leaners, at the base of the leaners, at the tops of the leaners). The dog was on the scent, but not the rat, and gave several false indications. I was waiting for the RAT call. If it's close to the rat, I can ask "Where?" and the handler has to point to the exact location. If the handler doesn't point exactly at the rat, it's an NQ. That handler kept the dog on the location until it was physically on the rat tube, then called RAT. It was beautiful to watch and I told her so.
 

Ravenbird

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I never did nosework. I was told the containers are put on the floor in view of the dog and handler.
Containers is one of several elements, so yes, in Containers the dogs must alert to which container the odor is in. In AKC the elements are Containers, Interiors, Exteriors and Buried. In NACSW its the same except instead of Buried they have Vehicles. Of all the elements the hardest one is Containers for most dogs, including mine, especially boxes or containers that all match. In all the elements except Containers, the hide can be anywhere within stated boundaries with increasing difficulty as you title, including unknown number of hides and blank rooms (no hides) and you must read your dog and declare finish, not knowing if there are zero hides or 4. So yes, serious reading of your dog! Also same with pointing out location of source, like you described, so there are lots of similarities!

Thanks for all the explains - it's great to hear some of these things from a judges point of view.
 

obbanner

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I'm writing something for our club's private Facebook page about watching your dogs. Editorial comments appreciated! Every one I told that they missed a rat because they had their backs to their dogs insists to me that they never take their eyes off their dogs. I tried to make this non-confrontational, but helpful.

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Feet to the sheep, feet to the sheep! Don’t ever take your eyes off the sheep!


I worked as an inside rat wrangler many years before I was approved as a judge. I wrangled in most trials I entered. I see many handlers turning their backs on the dog, then the dog finds a rat, and the handler doesn’t see it.


I saw a dog actually be detrained. It found the rat. It tried to tell the handler who was walking over to another element with her back to the dog while the dog pawed the fluff off the tube and whined. With her back still to the dog, she called the dog while she was staring at the new element. The dog visibly gave up, left the rat and wouldn’t go near the rat again for the rest of the run. I wouldn’t be surprised if the handler left the ring thinking the dog was working poorly with the bare rat tube sitting out in the open.


Here’s a tip – Feet To The Sheep! I do Herding and when I started, my teacher would drum into me, “Feet to the sheep, feet to the sheep” until it became a sing-song chant to me. Always keep your feet pointed towards the sheep because even if you look away, that position will naturally bring your vision back to the sheep and you can still see them out of the corner of your eye.


When I started Barn Hunt, I adapted feet to the sheep to be feet to the dog. It’s a bit different from Herding, as there’s both the dog’s speed in a small area and the elements to traverse as you go around the ring, but I use the same concept. I try very, very hard to never, never take my eyes off my dog. Did I emphasize “never” enough? NEVER!!!


Try feet to the dog and see if it works better for you. When you check out an element, keep the dog in front of you so you can watch him even as you look for places to send your dog. If you want to go to a different area of the ring, try to walk backwards as safely as possible. (Remember the 2022 rules say touching a bale must be intentional.)


I don’t claim to be a great teacher or handler. AJ has been in Barn Hunt for two and a half years and has twenty-four Master Qs. Almost all of his NQs are my handling errors. (I ruefully joke that he’s a title behind in two different dog sports because of my handling.)
 

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