Originally published in the AKC GAZETTE – May 2018
Welsh Wag - August 2018

Several years ago a new competitive sport entered the group of activities that we can enjoy doing with our dogs. It has its origins in the outdoor trails that required dogs to find a tunnel, go into it, and bark at the rat in the cage at the end of the tunnel. These trials were, by necessity, outdoor events, requiring a large and secure enough area for the manmade tunnel while preventing the dog from escaping, as terriers are wont to do.

Today’s barn hunt trials are indoor events in a secure environment and allow all purebreds and mixed breed dogs to participate. Rats are placed in metal tubes with air holes, and the tubes are placed in a hay-covered area, underneath some hay. The dogs are encouraged to find the rat by using his sense of smell, and bark, dig, or in some other way indicate the presence of a rat.

The Barn Hunt Association website has more information on what titles can be earned by your dog. Before the dog can earn an official title he has to be registered with the Barn Hunt Association, which can be done online. The CH. MACH 6 PACH Snowtaires Enchanted Lady RN MXG2 MJB3 MXPB MJP5 MJPS PAX XF T2B2 T2TP RATM. Owner: Esther Snowden Welsh Wag Barn Hunt Association titles are not AKC titles. However The AKC will permit the listing of the barn hunt titles as part of the dog’s name in pedigrees and entries in AKC events.

I had the opportunity to go to a training session, called a “rat and go” recently. Dogs of all breeds and mix breeds were participating, divided into three categories according to the dogs’ height at the withers. Since my dogs had no ratting experience, we did a rat introduction where each dog was allowed to smell and look at the caged rats and were encouraged to bark and try to dig at the cages housing the rats. They were not allowed to injure the rats in any way.

Once the dog responded to the rat in an appropriate manner, we took the dogs into the training area where they encountered a rat secure in its metal tube and hidden in the hay. When the dog found the rat, I praised the dog and held on to the dog while the judge removed the tubed rat, then I encouraged the dog to go through a hay tunnel and climb on a bale of hay. Both dogs responded to the rats in a way that indicated they were aware of them and wanted to get to the rat. The indication is referred to as a “tell.”

One dog picked up the scent immediately, found the rat, and started barking and screaming loudly. Those were very readable tells. The other one took a little longer to pick up the scent, then whined, wagging her tail (also a readable tell), then she too started barking at the rat. She was not as enthusiastic about f inding the rat, but with a little encouragement I think her tells will improve. Since it was a “fun match,” no titles could be earned, but hopefully both will pass the Instinct Test and Novice run after just a little more work. I have a daughter of the first bitch and am anxious to find out if she will be as enthusiastic as her dam.

The actual barn hunt trials are made up of four classes: Novice, Open, Senior, and Master. Competitors are required to start at the Novice level and proceed in order. In each level, dogs are divided into sizes: small (under 13 inches), medium (13.1 to 18 inches), and large (over 18 inches).

When you register the dog, you will indicate which size category the dog is. Almost all Welsh Terriers will be in the 13- to 18-inch category. It is best to wait until the dog has stopped growing if as a 6-month-old he is slightly under 13 inches or almost 18 inches.

To pass the test the dog must find the rat and indicate the “tell.” He must also go through a tunnel made of hay bales and navigate a ramp. The more complicated and advanced courses have more than one rat to find and several tunnels or climbs.

Dogs who urinate or defecate in the ring are disqualified, so be sure that the dog has done so outside of the building before doing his run-through. If your dogs are like mine, they are accustomed to using an exercise pen, so be sure to bring one to training sessions and trials. Remember to always clean up after your dogs.

As conformation exhibitors, we often get so involved in the work of grooming and showing dogs in the breed ring that we forget about the dog. The breed ring offers limited ways to enhance the dog’s brain By itself it does not provide for the whole dog. By adding other activities to the dog’s life, we enhance his cognitive skills.

If, like me, you place many of your retired dogs in pet homes, in providing the new owners with animals who are happy and willing to learn, we are promoting the breed. Because of the lower number of registrations, we must work hard to maintain a large enough population of Welsh to prevent the breed from becoming extinct.

The breed ring is not the ideal place to promote Welsh as pets and housedogs. Obedience trials, barn hunts, and other similar activities will expose the general public to the breed and show them how trainable and charming Welsh Terriers are.

Placing our retired dogs with great families after we have done some training and encouraging the new owners to continue training is also a great way to celebrate our little black and tan charmers.

Diane Orange

Welsh Terrier Club of America

AKC Gazette – May 2018
Welsh Terrier Column
Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette