Perri and I did our practice session at "Instinct" level. The Barn Hunt instinct test is that the dog is presented with three tubes: one empty, one with rat bedding inside, and one with a rat inside. Your dog needs to indicate which tube contains the rat, and you tell the judge, "Rat!".
We didn't really get to any of that! All of us "instinct" level dogs were gathered in a group. A very nice lady whose name I have forgotten (oops!), I will refer to her as "Rat Lady" (RL), took a wire cage containing a rat around to all of our dogs for their inspection. Perri was Very Interested in the rat but I did notice that she was also worried about the rat. She was conflicted!
When RL took the cage away from Perri for the other dogs to sniff, Perri had a melt down! I only see her this way when Molly is running after her ball and Perri wants badly to chase her, but I won't let her go. It was good to see her that driven and excited! I took a short video clip of her behavior.
After the dogs were all shown the cage by RL, we moved on to a clear tube. Perri reacted the same way, Very Interested but worried at the same time. I'm used to Perri by now, this did not surprise me one little bit.
We did two rounds of practice inside the actual "ring". There were straw bales everywhere, and two tunnels formed underneath the bales as well as a small ramp that the dog could use to crawl on top of the bales. Perri crawled up the ramp and hopped on the bales. We spent some time introducing Perri to a tube with only holes in (like the one in the back of the photo above of Perri sniffing a tube.). One tube contained rat bedding, and one tube contained a real rat.
Perri worked. She sniffed all over and was actively locating the rat. If she would come to a bedding tube, she dismissed it. If she came to a rat tube, she became shy and pulled away. It was so strange considering her hysterical reaction outside of the ring, when the cage and tube were pulled away from her! Perri needed more time to smell the rat, understand the smell. Perri always needs more time than regular dogs. She becomes overwhelmed by sensory input of any kind and needs to work through it on her own terms.
RL said that Perri's indication at this point will be to back away, and that she will be very subtle. RL pointed out that Perri clearly knows which tube contains the rat (her reaction to a bedding tube vs. a rat tube was crystal clear.) Her suggestion was to work at home on getting Perri to search and indicate on something, like food or some other object. Put it on a cue, and then the next time she comes to a practice, we can use that cue to help her understand that I want her to indicate on the rat. We finished off with working her through one of the straw tunnels, and she ran through no problem. (considering her fear for agility tunnels in her foundation training, I was very happy with that!)
So, for Perri that may be the end of Barn Hunt for a little while! I don't have anywhere close enough to practice to work Perri through her weird issue with rat scent. I do feel that Perri could be very good at the game, she just needs a fair bit of work to get there. That's Perri's way, and it is not different in Barn Hunt than in any other sport! I definitely would like to take Molly to a practice sometime, that would be interesting!