Sunday, August 21, 2016

Molly tries Barn Hunt

Today Molly got her turn to try Barn Hunt.   We tried a different practice location than the place where I took Perri - since I found somewhere closer to home.   I ended up really liking the instructor here a whole lot, I enjoyed the approach that she used with introducing Molly to the game.

I expected Molly to be off her rocker, but I wanted to give her a chance to try this game.   I thought for sure she would enjoy it!   And she did!  When we entered the ring there was a "start box" on the ground and our instructor explained that to us.   We need to wait there until the judge would instruct us to begin searching - that reminded me of Obedience or Rally when the judge tells you "Are you ready?" or "Go when ready." - cool!  Our instructor also explained something very important - dogs run naked!  And when you remove the collar and leash you need to hand it to a volunteer, not just lay it on the ground.   If you lay it down, you will be disqualified.   Good to know!

And then we got to it.  In contrast to my experience with Perri, this time we just approached a tube with a rat inside, hidden under the straw.   I was a little concerned at first, because Molly couldn't know what we were up to!   Oh, but she did.   She was sort of Molly-ing around and then she caught the rat scent and was like, "What?!"  She was sniffing all over it and very interested in it, so the instructor opened the tube up.   Now don't worry!   This instructor has really cool tubes with a plexiglass barrier inside the tube - so there is a little tiny compartment where treats can be hidden and the dog can see the rat!   So as soon as Molly showed interest in the tube and the rat scent, we rewarded her from the tube with string cheese.   Nice!  We did a little bit more of the same and Molly was becoming totally happy and excited.   We also worked on getting Molly to jump onto the straw bales and run through the "tunnel" - a short and straight opening in the straw bales that the dogs need to run through at Novice level.  No issues there!

It is important in Barn Hunt for the dog to have a strong "indication" when they find the rat tube.  This is how they tell the handler where the tube is - and then the handler calls "Rat!" to the judge.  Our instructor asked if Molly digs on command or claws and I thought that she might...she does at the beach.  When she found the tube I sort of verbally revved her up and told her to "get it, get it!" and she offered a clawing on the tube like she has been doing this forever!   We rewarded right away.   The next hide we waited for her to claw and sure enough, she did.   Getting Molly to consistently paw at the tubes will be very important when we begin trialing.

These are clips from Molly's second turn working.  I just love in the beginning at :23s when she hops off the straw bale and begins turning to the right and then catches the scent.   Totally getting the game!  

One thing I was really impressed with from Molly was how much self control she had today.  She wasn't crazy, screaming, biting or humping.  She was interested in the game, keeping her head and she caught on quickly!   She likes the rat scent a whole lot but it's not driving her crazy - she wants to find it and she is getting paid to do so.  I could really see her actively thinking while she was sniffing, she wasn't just berserking around - high on the moment.

We had three total practice rounds.   On her third round, she found her first rat in 20 seconds - I'm told that is pretty good!   And through the third round, the instructor wanted to make Molly wait a little extra each time when she found the tube - to get her to indicate stronger.   And it worked!  When we withheld praise or treats for even just a second Molly got more insistent with her clawing! "It's here!"  

We talked after finishing about trialing.   I explained that when I initially heard of Barn Hunt, I figured I would just enter a trial and instinct would take care of the rest.  But my thought process has changed so much about that.   I much preferred bringing Molly to somebody who knows the game, and who could teach me to be a good Barn Hunt handler and could teach Molly how to be a Barn Hunt dog.  She deserves to know her job, she deserves to see that that job gets payment - and she deserves me to know what I am doing.   I'm sure there are many dogs with very intense instinct who would be just fine without any training, but I really wanted to know the ins and outs of the game.   And to be honest, both practices we have been to have taught me a lot about the sport...and away from the excitement of a trial atmosphere.   I told our instructor that I am interested in a trial in October, and she cautioned me that she would like Molly to see at least one more practice, if not two, before a trial.  She wants Molly to experience empty tubes and bedding tubes, and learn that those do not pay.  She laughed a little bit and told me that she sees Molly could be a dog who would false indicate on the excitement of finding any tube, but she feels that Molly would learn quickly what does not pay.  I agree!   (In fact, I always say that when, if ever, I do start nosework with Molly, she will have an issue with false alerts - not out of being naughty...but just out of excitement.)  

I am looking forwards to our next practice!   I bought Molly a Barn Hunt Association registration number and will look forwards to entering her in Novice.  This is another nice break from agility for Molly and I.  It makes me laugh and she enjoys it.

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