Rule Revision suggestions are taken through December 31. Read the specifics and find the link to the form here:

The list of titles by breed has been updated to include all trials through 9/22. Find them under BHA Events, Stats.

Please review the rules, as I have made some important changes I felt could not wait until we do a scheduled rule revision at the end of the year. This update to the rules is specifically to address rat wrangler safety. Though there has been no incident which precipitated this change, it’s my belief that without the safeguards outlined it would just be a matter of time before there was a problem.

The rules have changes in the description of the rat wrangler position, some changes in the Allowed Praise and Reward section, and finally an entirely new section on safely removing the rat tube. They were discussed extensively on the judges list prior to implementation.

To help you all see how the rules have changed, the old text has strikethroughs, and the new text is in RED.

As for the scheduled rule revision, the tentative schedule for that is to open up the rules for comment on December 1 through 31. (probably with a specific commenting form). Suggestions will be reviewed with a committee in January, with the goal of having the new rules rolled out by March 1.

Some notes for competitors, based on information I’ve been hearing from around the country as well as our own trial.

First of all, trials are going fast and furious! Stats are updated through August, I haven’t yet started September processing. As far as I know, no Senior titles yet but we are oh, so close with several dogs around the country with two Senior legs. Who will be the first???

So let’s go over a few things.

First, the briefing. You will usually have a general briefing at the start of the day, then a class briefing at each class. Right now briefings aren’t very brief, because the sport is new. Judges and trial staff are there to help you and answer your questions. However, do please be aware that it is not the job of the judge or trial staff to tell you all of the rules on the day you enter. When you enter, it is your job to read and review the rules prior to getting to the show site (hopefully prior to entering at all!) You can get a lot of information if you read the judge guidelines as well. Please DO ask a question if you are confused about a particular rule, but don’t expect the judge or staff to read you the rulebook. There will, however, be at least one set of rules there at the site so you can review.

Once the briefing is over and it’s your turn in the ring, that’s not the time to ask questions about rules. BUT. If you are NQd and you feel it was not a correct NQ, please speak up right away (very politely!) and ask the judge why the NQ was made (“Can you tell me why I did not Q?”). If you still feel it was not correct, ask the judge to meet with you after the class and show you the place in the rulebook so you can further educate yourself (“Can you show me where that is in the rules after class so I can be sure I understand the rules correctly?”). Again, politely! If the judge decides to rule against you, that is final. And don’t wait until the next day either. Once a class is final and in the books, it is done. No judge or staff badgering allowed. :)

Double handling. I think somehow we think that if we are outside the ring, nobody inside can hear us AT ALL. Unfortunately there is no such thing as some sort of nanoparticle forcefield that allows totally clear views while shutting out all noise. If you are talking about the competitor, judge, rat locations, etc. THEY CAN HEAR YOU. And if you say something, even unintentionally, which can be construed as double handling, you can NQ a team. Please do NOT do this. Also do NOT tell the judge or crew that the team has done the tunnel or climb. ONLY the judge makes that determination. And if the judge does not see it, it did not happen. (We will pretend I am not guilty of whispering outside the ring, okay?)

However, I’m going to also give you an example of a great ringside comment, made about my own dog. He was in Novice, and I called the wrong tube. After I had called the wrong tube and as we were getting ready to leave, a crowd member said, “her dog peed in the tunnel.” Neither the judge nor I had seen it at all. We were both shocked as he has never peed on a course before. Because neither I nor the judge saw it, if he had qualified, the Q would have stood. The crowd member did the exact right thing. She waited until after the dog was done to tell the judge there was pee in the tunnel, so it could be cleaned up.

To go on to a different subject; once a gate order is set, with dogs owned by a single person spread across groups, it is set. Unless it is a true emergency, you cannot switch your dog around in the gate order. Wanting to leave early for a party to get home is not an emergency. You also can’t arbitrarily switch one dog for another in the run order, or tell the gate/secretary that X dog has to run first. Unfortunately you do not get to decide in what order your dogs will run.

Finally, about cheating. Cheating is an ugly word, and I hate having to use it at all. But I am hearing a fair number of rumors about people trying to game the system in various ways. Obviously those people have no concept of what this game is about. Yes, of course Barn Hunt has titles and levels. And we are thrilled when dogs of various breeds get titles for the first time or higher titles. But anyone who tries to cheat in order to get a title faster not only disrespects the judge, the trial committee, the sport, and me, they also disrespect and cheat their own dog. That’s what makes me saddest about some of the rumors I hear; that people are not willing to explore and trust the communication link between themselves and their dog that is forged and strengthened by this sport. Because that is the very core of Barn Hunt Sport; the bond between owner and dog.

If you witness someone cheating or trying to game the system at a show, please inform the judge and the trial chair/secretary/committee. They will follow up. If someone is found cheating, both the dog and handler as well as anyone assisting that dog and handler, regardless of whether they cheated to assist their own dog, will be dismissed from Barn Hunt sport.

I’ll leave you with this. Trust your dog. Watch your dog. Let your dog work. Be calm. Be quiet. Move around the ring. Explore ALL areas, including those up next to the front/fence. Set performance goals rather than outcome/title goals. Every failed run is a priceless learning opportunity. Take advantage of it for only by learning will you become successful.

I did not promise you an easy sport, and it is not easy. I did promise you a fun sport, and I think it’s turning out even better than most of us, even me, thought it would. Thanks for growing with me.

One of the questions I encounter the most often in emails is how to become a Barn Hunt Club.

The first thing to understand is that I do not license clubs. You are not required to be an organized Club, with a Board of Directors, Constitution and bylaws, etc. to hold a Barn Hunt event. There are some fairly significant advantages to becoming an organized club; pooling of resources, less outlay of cost for individuals, and additional protection in case of a problem. But groups of individuals and commercial entities (i.e., dog training facilities) can also hold Barn Hunt events.

For the Barn Hunt Association, LLC, any group that gets together to hold a trial is called a “Club.” Clubs must understand and follow all rules of the BHA, LLC and hold trials in accordance to those rules. So the first thing a club wanting to hold trials should do is read all of the rules and regulations, the judge guidelines, and the secretary handbook. Those documents taken together give a good framework for the basics of what is expected of a club and at a trial.

Join the facebook page and the yahoogroup, and begin soliciting interest from people in your area. You can also search on the AKC website and in JRTCA groups for people in your area who may have rat and rat care experience.

The next thing to do is to get your club together and hold some training events, then at least one formal Fun Match. Fun Matches must be applied for, and must be held according to Barn Hunt rules though some laxity is allowed, for instance, rat familiarization can be done as part of a Fun Match. Fun Matches must also be covered by insurance. Anyone can judge a fun match, but there are a number of pending or even newly licensed judges who may be willing to come help.

It is also strongly recommended that you purchase the Barn Hunt Solution software to use with your fun matches and trials. The software will assist you greatly in holding events and collating results.

After completing a Fun Match you can apply for a licensed trial.

I have an interesting issue with Zipper. He loves rats, he loves hunting rats. He is an able real-world hunter, and he adores Barn Hunt. But I am having trouble with his signaling. He will often very quickly find the rat on the course, but just as quickly leave it, without giving a strong indication (or any real indication at all) that he has found the rat. I will know he is in odor, but he will go up, briefly sniff, then leave. Or he will search an odor area but not get truly near a tube, then leave.

So today I worked him a little with tube indication, building drive. My goal is both a stronger mark and more “stickiness,” sticking with the tube once he has found the rat and working it rather than leaving it. This would also be a good exercise for a dog who is having trouble between litter and rat tubes.

What we did was work with two tubes in the open, one with rat and litter, one litter only. Zipper was on a harness and lead, so I could use restraint to build drive while not giving a neck/collar correction. I would never do this exercise on anything but a flat collar or harness, harness far preferred. I always knew where the rat was. My desired outcome was for him to drive hard to the tubes, quickly decide which was which, then reward him for correct choice by moving the rat tube around and getting him super excited about it, building duration of the mark. If he left the correct tube after choosing it, did not drive hard toward the tubes, or chose the incorrect tube, I simply dragged him away from the tubes with a no-reward-marker (a very cheery and excited “let’s try again!”). At no time should any dog be punished for not choosing the correct tube other than being pulled away from the exercise. This is a game of “find it fast and stick it to get to play with it.”

I did three sets of these, with the tube switching places each time. Zipper was released from about 5 feet away with a “rat!” command. He very quickly caught on and at the end was pulling hard for the tubes, giving a very definite mark of barking and scratching, and sticking with the tube until I pulled him away.

We also did this game with a young enthusiastic GSD who is having trouble deciding between rat and litter. He first chose the litter tube, which was left “dead” with the handler’s hand firmly on top of it until he finally left it for the rat tube. The rat tube then “came alive” and was moved around. This dog was allowed to sniff the litter tube again with no correction other than it stayed dead, but each time he chose the rat tube it was moved so he would get excited and work it harder.

This game is for dogs who really want the rat, but are having trouble sticking with the correct tube and/or having trouble deciding between litter and live tubes. The restraint and pulling away from the tube should make the dog think, “if I don’t choose quickly and stay there, I might not get to play with my rat!” If your dog isn’t yet sure he cares about playing with the rat, this game will be meaningless and could even be counter productive. So be careful who you try the game with, and if the dog is sniffy, not driving, or confused, stop the game immediately, help your dog find the correct tube, reward that correctness, and call that a success.

Just a short note on how to properly list titles on your dogs. Barn Hunt will use the same protocol for titling as most other organizations, in which a higher title supercedes a lower title, because you must have the lower title in order to advance, therefore it is implied by the listing of the upper title. Most titles go behind the dog’s name.

The following go behind the dog’s name:
RATI (Instinct), as a separate, optional title is always listed.
RATN (Novice) is the base title
RATO (Open) supercedes and replaces the RATN title
RATS (Senior) supercedes and replaces the RATO title
RATM (Master) supercedes and replaces the RATS title
The Barn Hunt Championship title (RATCH) goes in FRONT of the dog’s name, and all previous titles other than RATI drop off from behind name.
So when “My Great Dog” gets a RATI and up to RATS, the listing would be:
My Great Dog, RATI RATS

When “My Great Dog” gets a RATCH the listing would be:
RATCH My Great Dog, RATI
If My Great Dog decided to enter Novice right away and not do a RATI, then went on to an Open title, the listing would be
My Great Dog, RATO
I think you get the idea. This is how your titles will be listed in the database and the proper way to list titles for advertising, etc.


As I work through the backlog in trial results, I am finding more than
a few dogs who were entered with incorrect Barn Hunt numbers;
especially from owners with multiple dogs. In some cases this is a
trial secretary issue, in some cases the owner used the wrong number
to enter the dog. In all cases, I have to stop processing, research
the information, and contact the trial secretary and owner. The entire
set of trial results has to be kicked back to the secretary for
review, which means a delay for everyone entered in that trial to get
their certificates.

As of January 1, 2014, entering a dog with an incorrect Barn Hunt
number will not be considered a valid entry. Any legs earned will not
count. If it is a secretary mistake, the owner will not be penalized.

Enter CAREFULLY. Check your number. Make sure you have the right
number assigned to the right dog. Double check. Make sure all is
spelled correctly. Trial Chairs should be sending you confirmations.
Check your confirmation to make sure the number is correct and
assigned correctly to your dog.

I do not want to have to withdraw earned legs, but unfortunately I
also cannot keep bringing everything to a halt while I research
incorrect number issues, nor is it fair to trial secretaries to keep
having to deal with this information. It’s a very easy fix; always,
always make sure you are using the correct number with the correct dog
when you enter. Thanks so much.

I just registered dog number BH-01000. Hard to believe that less than 5 months after I opened registration we already have 1000 dogs, and more and more fun tests and trials all the time. I have four new trials to list tonight as well. I’m still working on processing the June shows, but am making progress; the Golden CO show results are in the database, now I just need to get to the certificates (a bit laborious, but fun).

Also, please note that especially this summer as I push hard for Zipper’s MACH, give judge workshops, etc., I am out of town on a lot of weekends (including this one). I urge you to allow at LEAST two business days for all event and registration business to be addressed.

For prospective judges, I am slowing down a bit on approving new judges as I take stock of where we are. I also want to process my outstanding trials first. So priority is keeping up with registrations, processing trials, then dealing with judge business. I do appreciate everyone’s patience.

I have recently been sent a few videos of introductory training with rats that concern me just a bit, and I wanted to address it with you all.

First of all, let me say that Barn Hunt does not have any jurisdiction or control over how people choose to train their dogs. The BHA LLC sets standards for rat care to be followed at BHA events, including BHA Fun Tests and BHA Licensed Trials. It is not the role of the BHA to tell trainers how to train, nor are we responsible for any accidents or abuse of rats or dogs that happen while training.

That said, I would like to encourage trainers and dog owners to try to keep rat welfare in mind at ALL times, including times when the rat is being introduced to the dog for the first time at non BHA type events. If a training clinic is being held in conjunction with an official BHA event this is especially important, as the lines get blurred (for instance, insurance is probably purchased for the entire day, not just part of the day, participants feel they are coming to a BHA event even though some activities are not official BHA activities).

Specifically, I am concerned with rats being dangled in front of dogs in cages so that the dog may bat, spin, grab and shake the cage. I am also concerned with cages being set down in the middle of a space and dogs being allowed to attack the cage in singles or pairs, grabbing, shaking, rolling, spinning, etc.

Again, I have no real power or even right to dictate how people train. However, preferably, when introducing dogs to rats, the rat in the cage is always held firmly by the trainer, and the dog is on a leash. One of the UKC Premier videos shows an excellent application of this method, with the cage being moved in such a way as to excite prey drive while keeping the rat safe, comfortable, and secure.

Notice how in this method the rat is always allowed to stay upright so she feels in control, and at one point you see the trainer’s hand slip down to the right as she gently pokes the tail (or a toe) back into the cage so the dog can’t get it. It also allows for the trainer to “load” the dog by patting the side of the dog in such a way that it increases arousal and drive for the rat. The rats used at the Premier were always happy to get in the cage and in fact sometimes didn’t want to come out. The disadvantage to this technique is that it is hard on the handler’s knees!

I know people are experimenting with a variety of training methods for this fun new sport, I just want to encourage you all to keep rat welfare in mind at ALL times, not just during trials. Thanks so much.