Beyond the Bales

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breed Column

Our guest columnist is Jinnie Strickland, breeder-owner-handler of the first Senior-titled Barn Hunt Cardigan and corresponding secretary of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America.

Cardigans are very well suited for the sport of Barn Hunt. Historically an all-purpose farm dog, a Cardigan might have been expected to hunt vermin on a Welsh farm. Being athletic, independent thinkers, Barnhunting is nothing but fun for many Cardigans.

So what is Barn Hunt? It is a timed event to test your dog’s vermin searching (hunting) and marking (finding) ability in a barnlike setting. It is not necessarily in a barn, but courses are built of straw bales. Depending on your level there are different elements involved but there is an expectation of a climb (four paws on a bale of straw) and tunnel that can be a one-bale underpass or a gnarly, twisted, raised tunnel. There will be live rats in protective tubes, as well as empty “distraction tubes.” Course sare built in enclosed areas, and the dogs run “naked”—without collars or harnesses.

The first thing you need to do is visit and get your dog registered with Barn Hunt and get their barn hunt number. Most Cardigans are going to be in the Small dog class. Once you get your number you can enter a trial.

You don’t have to take a class; a lot of what the dog does in novice is instinct. The hard part is recognizing your dog’s indicator of the live rat. Every dog is different, so you have to know your dog’s indicator. If you enter a trial, enter both the Instinct test and the Novice class. Use the Instinct as a warm-up. Even if you pass the Instinct the first time you can still enter it again until you earn your Novice title. Instinct needs one pass, Novice, Open and Senior need three passes, and Master needs five passing legs (it gets harder as you move up the levels).

Here are some additional things to know (I know you read all the rules, but here are some reminders):

• Remember, dogs run “naked.”

• Be on time for the blind—being late to the blind can cause you to be moved to the end of the class or miss your run altogether.

• Don’t bring anything with you into the ring (and nothing electronic into the blind).

• Don’t touch the bales.

• Don’t touch your dog other than loosely to hold for rat removal if needed (no scruffing), but you can praise, point, cheerlead, and coach.

• Find some bales to jump on so your dog isn’t surprised by the feel of them. If your dog has never seen a tunnel, find a way to make something that works as one.

• Exercise your dog when they tell you; any bodily fluid in the ring is a DQ.

• If you think your dog is on the rat, call “rat!” with confidence—don’t ask, tell!

• Don’t curse.

• Volunteer to help—and if you can’t help, then watch the upper-level dogs and handlers.

• Most important, trust your dog!

So now that you know a bit about Barn Hunt, come and join the fun! —J.S.

Thank you, Jinnie! AKC Column Editor Jeff Welch

First published in the AKC Gazette Digital Edition, March 2016.

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