Hosted by the Nova West Kennel Club at Beacon United Church, the event was well attended.
ARS president Jackie McGowan St. Croix and Trevor Morse from Halifax brought dog-savvy pet rats with them. Dog owners received first dibs on the introductions. Then came the dogs.
Club spokesperson Mary Margaret Pitt describes a typical competition.
“A “barn” is set up with ex pens used as fencing, with about 12 stacked bales of hay inside. Time allowing, the event consists of five components, each is a lone exercise for your dog.”
In the beginning, each dog is brought in and allowed to sniff the environment just to “get a feel.” Empty tubes and others filled with hay or rat feces are placed at ground level.
Each dog is introduced individually to “Elton,” the live rat in a cage, then in a tube that is bungee strapped on a piece of wood.
The rat in the tube is put behind the bales and each dog is walked around to see the rat.
“The object of this behaviour is to distance the dog from the owner so that it finds the rat on its own,” said Pitt.
Tubes are then inserted between the bottom bales of hay so the dog can sniff them out. The dog then has to “find the rat”.
St. Croix raises her rats in her home as family pets and they are also registered. They are raised with Parson Russell Terriers, a Miniature Poodle and a crossbreed.
The June 11 event was run under the umbrella of Rats Canada, following its rules and regulations. Rats Canada is a fairly new organization and has gained popularity in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and now Nova Scotia. Dogs can actually earn ratting titles.
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St. Croix commended the club through social media in the days following, for a well-run event and the enthusiasm of participants.
“The dogs participating were wonderful. Some of them did so well, they would have earned their instinct title in Brush Hunt had it been a sanctioned trial,” she said.
“There were definitely some highlights. The Standard Poodle who was so keen, he had to be practically dragged out of the ring, while never taking his eyes off of where the rat was. The Frenchie who did amazing and sang his joy of rat sports for all to hear. The Dachshunds who were fantastic and gorgeous, the older Lab that was just so good and so sweet, the Pyr-cross who was a little nervous of the rat, Ew! and loved his Poppa so much, The Chinese Cresteds who showed they are not just a pretty face and so many more,” she said.
4 things about barn ratting
1. Atlantic Rat Sports is the Atlantic division of RATS! Canada. They have a Facebook Page
2. The Rats! Canada organization was founded in July 2015,
3. Rat sports are based on hunting and teamwork skills. Historically, rat catchers with their dogs offered their services to farmers to control vermin thus helping to conserve and preserve their cereals and consequently protect the inhabitants from disease.
4, The purpose of Barn Hunt and the Brush Hunt events are to demonstrate teamwork between the handler and his dog.