Barn Hunt vs. Real Hunt

We get asked a lot about this Barn Hunt, what is this and with such good hunting dogs, why aren’t we doing it?  So here is a quick stab at our thoughts.

As an activity for dogs barn hunt is a wonderful fun game. There are many people who cannot or will not ever visit a farm with a dog, or are physically incapable of the manual labor that rat catching entails.  Barn hunt could also be a wonderful and appropriate learning experience for a puppy, who you wouldn’t want to expose to the realities of real farm hunting situations.


We do not want to criticize the people who put on Barn Hunt and certainly not those who participate.  However we do have some concerns.

We are personally against dogs as a business model or plan, as are most reputable breeders. We are not in this for money and do not sell dogs for this reason. Barn Hunt is clearly a low cost infrastructure model that makes someone in an office somewhere a very handsome profit.While there is nothing wrong with making a profit, I do not like people making a profit off dogs. Dogs are my passion they are not my ATM machines.

Secondly, despite the name Barn Hunt resembles actual hunting or rat hunting in no shape or form. Barn Hunt is targeted scent training in a sterile fenced straw bale environment with domestic or crossbred rats. A clean domestic rat smells nothing like a wild Norway rat and unlike the wild Norway rat which is  incredibly aggressive and even cannibalistic these rats are mild and tame. Real hunting on a farm requires the dogs to locate wild, intelligent and aggressive rats in barns and coops. The rats are often inside walls, under 18 inches of manure, around cows, goats, chickens, parrots, emu, horses and more, with working machinery and farms in motion.

We also have the concern that Barn hunt actively stimulates the dogs prey drive and instinctual arousal level without the outlet ever allowing that instinct to be fullfilled. Rat catching dogs can become frustrated and destructive in this situation. A dog that awakens its instinct but is never allowed to experience it, this is the ultimate blue balls syndrome.

Finally we are concerned about “show dog and conformational dog breeders” who have no intention of ever catching rats with terrier breed, using this game format and ribbons to sell dogs as “WORKING STOCK.” A dog that can find a tame caged rat in sterile small fenced environment is a far cry from a real real rat catcher, and they should not ever be represented as such.  The value of a dog is not based on its ribbons or flash, it is found in its ability to do a job. Since when did traditional methods pest control and killing rats with dogs to keep poison off farms turn into ribbons and NO RATS HARMED for profit?

In summation,  Barn Hunt is a fun activity for people who can’t rat hunt but it is not hunting in any real shape or form


  1. Anja Heibloem Stroud March 27, 2016

    Haha. Good reply! Kind of like herding tests and trials. Nowhere close to the real thing.

  2. Christine Yake July 15, 2016

    Very valid concern about stimulating prey drive in barn hunt without the allowing the instinct to be fulfilled. This happens when dogs chase laser pointers that they never catch. Soon they become obsessed over every light. It causes changes in their brains and it becomes a pathological problem where they remain in hunt mode. I knew a Springer Spaniel that was euthanized because it could only rest in pitch black.

    I love what you do, and keeping poison off farms is a life saver.

  3. Toby Jones October 26, 2016

    can’t kill the rats or some of these city type folks might get offended. Love the blue balls quip!

  4. Jreed November 14, 2016

    I never thought of the point with the laser pointers, excellent thoughts. THanks for sharing your experience

  5. August 17, 2017

    Missouri dog-owner Robin Nuttall was inspired to create Barn Hunt by her own dogs, a Doberman named Calla and two miniature pinschers, Zipper and Prada, who occasionally catch and kill voles.

  6. Jreed August 19, 2017

    as I well know , she did not create barn hunt. She trademarked and copy righted a name of a activity that was already widely in use and being practiced widely to be truthful

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