Barn Hunt - The Latest Craze

The dog performance event “Barn Hunt” is sweeping the nation.  Barn hunts are a lot of fun for both our furry friends as well as ourselves.  The purpose of Barn Hunt is to demonstrate a dog’s vermin hunting ability in finding and marking rats in a “barn-like” setting, using straw/hay bales to introduce climbing and tunneling obstacles in the dog’s path. Barn Hunt is based on the skills historically used by itinerant “rat catchers” in traveling the countryside, ridding farms of vermin, thus helping conserve and preserve food grains and cutting down on disease.

Barn hunt competitions today are open to all dogs, all sizes and shape.  If you have a dog that shows a hunting ability, then this might be the sport for you.

Here are some basic barn hunt rules from Barn Hunt Association:

Any breed or mix of dog 6 months of age or older who can fit through an 18" wide by bale-height tall (approximately 20"-22") tunnel constructed of straw/hay bales is eligible to enter a Barn Hunt trial. 

 Fun Test. A Fun Test is an official, licensed, practice event for Barn Hunt. Fun Tests are a way to introduce new competitors to the sport and a way for new clubs to work to become licensed to hold official Barn Hunt Trials.  Fun tests must be run like a Licensed Barn Hunt trial in all ways, except that an official Barn Hunt judge is suggested but not required, and placement ribbons are optional.

 Licensed Trial. A Licensed Barn Hunt Trial is a collection of classes at various levels of difficulty from Instinct through Master, licensed by the BHA LLC, where competitor/dog teams have an opportunity to earn qualifying scores/legs toward Barn Hunt titles. Trials must be applied for through the Barn Hunt Association (

A fee of $25 per trial applies. A per-run fee of $1.50 applies. This $1.50 fee per-run fee is for all runs (a “run” is each time a dog is scheduled to step foot in the ring) entered in the trial, including absences and excusals. If an entry fee is refunded in full to the competitor, the per-run fee does not apply.

 Barn Hunt Trials and Fun Tests may be held in a modestly sized space. Trial grounds are required to be handicap accessible. Rings must be situated on a flat, or nearly flat, surface/ground. Rings must be securely enclosed, with the enclosure not larger than the maximum ring size for the class level being held.

Course Requirements:

1) A blinded area/enclosure must be available for each Barn Hunt ring to stage the next 5 competitors getting ready to show. The blind must be no less than 20 feet from the ring. The minimum size for the blind is 10' x 10' or 100 square feet. Chairs are desired but not required. No more than 5 dogs are allowed in each 10' x 10'/100 sq ft blinded area. Contiguous 10’ x 10’/100 sq ft blind areas may be set up. There must be at least one blinded area per ring.

 2) Other than dogs in the blind and dogs entering the ring, working, and exiting the ring, no dog may be within 20 feet of any fenced/gated side of any ring. Dogs may not be within 10 feet of any walled side of any ring.

3) Barn Hunt is a spectator sport, and spectators (other than those in the blind) should be able to view the dogs working in the ring and are not required to be a specific minimum distance away. Clubs may specify the distance spectators can be from the ring depending on conditions, but never so far away that spectators cannot view dogs working.

 4) The secure enclosure must consist of any combination of wall(s) and/or fencing/gating      materials. Fencing/gating must be not less than four feet or more than five feet in height,            secured in such a way that a dog cannot readily escape from the bottom or top. The secure enclosure must provide some visual as well as physical deterrent for the dog.

 Event officials.

 In addition to at least one judge every Barn Hunt Fun Test and Trial shall have the following event officials.

 1)  Event Committee: Four to five people who will serve as overall facilitators, and also adjudicate over any incidents such as dog aggression, misconduct, poor sportsmanship, etc. At least three event committee members must be present on the trial grounds at all times during trial hours. Event committee members can serve simultaneously in other positions but cannot be a Judge of Record for that trial or event.

 2)  Trial (or Test) Chair: Arranges location, obtains Judges of Record and Back Up Judges (if      any), oversees the event and is the chief official in charge of the trial. Applies for the Trial/Test with the BHA, LLC in accordance to the rules. A Trial/Test Chair may also serve as a Trial/Test Secretary at the same trial/event. A Trial/Test Chair who is also a Licensed Judge cannot serve as a Judge of Record at any Fun Test or Trial in which they are also serving as Trial/Test Chair and/or Secretary. A Trial/Test Chair who is also a Licensed Judge may act as a Back Up Judge at a Fun Test or Trial in which they are also serving as Trial Chair and/or Secretary.

3)  Trial (or Test) Secretary: Creates and publishes a Premium, accepts entries, sends out confirmations, gives out armband numbers and sets run orders. Records all runs and records passing and failing efforts. Provides information on qualifiers and placements to the Award Chair for ribbons and awards. Submits Secretary Show Summary Report and all other required paperwork to the BHA, LLC within five business days of the trial. Submits proper payment to the BHA, LLC for all runs within five business days of the trial. A Trial/Test Secretary may also serve as a Trial/Test Chair at the same trial/event. A Trial/Test Secretary who is also a Licensed Judge cannot serve as a judge of record at any Fun Test or Trial in which they are also serving as Trial/Test Secretary and/or Chair. A Trial/Test Secretary who is also a Licensed Judge may act as a Back Up Judge at a Fun Test or Trial in which they are also responsible for serving as Trial Secretary and/or Chair.

4)  Gate Steward: responsible for getting dogs to the ring in a timely fashion. May assist the Trial Secretary in setting the run order. The Gate Steward and Staging Steward position can be combined. The Gate Steward can also be a leash Runner.

 5)  Staging Steward: Assists Gate Steward by getting competitors to the blinded staging area and from the blinded staging area to the gate. The Gate Steward and Staging Steward positions can be combined.

6)  Course Builder(s): Responsible for building and maintaining the course to the design specified by the judge. Course builders also make sure the ring is secure and safe for competitors and dogs. A minimum of three Course Builders should be available for each ring.

7)  Rat Wrangler(s): Responsible for rats and PVC tubes and able to ensure humane treatment and placement and removal of same. There is a Chief Rat Wrangler who coordinates all other Rat Wranglers through the trial. There is a minimum of one and a maximum of two Inside Rat Wranglers and a minimum of one Outside Rat Wrangler. There can be as many Outside Rat Wranglers as the club deems necessary. The number of inside Rat Wranglers must be consistent through a class level (i.e., either one or two inside RW for all Novice dogs, but not one RW for a portion of Novice and two RW for another portion of Novice). Chief and Inside Rat Wranglers must be able to make knowledgeable decisions on when rats should be rested and traded out, consulting with the judge and/or the rat owner as necessary. 

8)  Leash Runner: Makes sure gate is secure, accepts leash and collar from handler or inside Rat Wrangler and places it near the exit. May also assist as sheet runner or Outside Rat Wrangler. The leash runner is stationed outside the ring.

9)  Scribe: Checks to make sure the correct dog is matched with the correct score sheet as dogs enter the ring.  Informs judge when last dog of each blind enters the ring. Records information on the score sheet as the judge calls/signals the completion of individual elements by the team, checking off Tunnel, Climb, Rat (1, 2, etc.).

The scribe only marks what the judge calls and never makes marks on the sheet of his/her own volition (i.e., if the scribe sees a dog tunnel but the judge does not call/signal tunnel, the scribe does not record that the tunnel element is complete.) May record time as shown by the judge’s stopwatch. The judge circles pass or fail on the sheet.

Height Divisions.

Height divisions are to equalize efforts for dogs of the same general size.


  •  Small: Dogs 13” and under
  •  Medium: Dogs 13.1 to 18”
  •  Large: Dogs over 18”

Run Times for all levels:

Barn Hunt Instinct (RATI) Course time allowed: One minute.
Novice Barn Hunt: (RATN) Course time allowed: Two minutes.
Open Barn Hunt: (RATO) Course time allowed: Two minutes 30 seconds.
Senior Barn Hunt (RATS) Course time allowed: Three minutes 30 seconds.
Master Barn Hunt (RATM)  Course time allowed: Four minutes 30 seconds.

Watch for barn hunt competitions in your area and go check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

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