Our Barn Hunt Story
I wanted to share the barn hunt story of Team Tilda as it may encourage others and as a reminder to myself of how far we have come. At some point in the future, I might compete with another dog and this might help me to recall the journey.
I write this with a little bit of hindsight, which is good. We started Barn Hunt in July of 2017 and I created this page in March of 2021. We were unable/unwilling to compete in 2020 due to the pandemic and so I write this with a longing to get back into the sport and excitement for training classes scheduled in April of 2021 and nostalgia for good times.
In July of 2017, my Dad was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive, terminal cancer. I began doing more traveling to help my Dad get treatment at a facility that was a long distance from his home. Tilda was still new to our family and was full of nervous energy and not very well behaved. She also was a lot for Chip to handle and for my Dad in his fragile condition. So, she spent a lot of time at Doggie Day Care at KeyLore and boarding at KeyLore. We would get her some training during that time and of course she got socialization skills we never could have provided.
Sharon, my friend, and the trainer/owner at KeyLore knew that I had a lot on my plate and one evening when I went to pick Tilda up, she asked me if I wanted to take Tilda out to Woof Woods, the private dog park behind KeyLore to try out something fun. She thought it would help me do something fun with my dog. Boy was she right! It turned out to be a group class for brand new to sport. Tilda was introduced to the rat. We were introduced to the sport and we were hooked! We would go on to attend novice training throughout the summer at KeyLore in an outdoor facility and it was great for bonding with Tilda. It was great for Tilda, but it was also great for me. I was going through a lot emotionally and having this outlet of just experiencing something new with my dog was so cathartic.
With the warmth of summer waning, Sharon was pushing pause on the outdoor group classes at her facility. But I was just getting the bug! I learned of an indoor facility with a trainer in Howell from some of the others in my class. And was told that she was planning trials in the fall and winter at her facility. We decided to go for it and do some lessons at Karli’s. We initially did several private lessons and that was just so interesting. Karli had a unique way of seeing Tilda than other trainers who had met her. She saw her as a dog that needed to engage her nose more. I saw things change in Tilda. She would get such a mental workout at Karli’s. We’d book a half hour session and at the end of it, Tilda would just be so exhausted in a way that she never would get physically. We could go on a 3 mile walk at the time and it would be a warmup to Tilda. But spend a half hour working on finding the rats and she would just sleep so peacefully and behave like a completely different dog.
Different Types of Learning
After getting some one-on-one training in, we joined a group class at Karli’s. The one-on-one time was perfect for learning more about how Tilda works and to get some great guidance from Karli on Tilda’s style and body language. But the group classes introduced a lot more to the experience. Dealing with distractions, learning all the parts of the sport that happen outside the ring. Interacting with other competitors and with other dogs. Controlling your dog in the blind. Lots of training for ME in the group classes. Also, interesting to learn from other competitors about what works for them.
Our first trial in October of 2017 was at Karli’s facility and was a wonderful experience. We were timid as a team. We did however see how the preparations of group class really helped us. I knew what to expect and that gave Tilda a tiny bit of confidence. You can read all about our first trial and see some videos. After that we continued with group lessons at Karli’s and attending more trials. We aren’t doing this to travel all about the country and so we took the cold winter months off from training and trialing. Some competitors travel the country in search of Q’s and that’s awesome for those folks. My work schedule and my schedule of helping my Dad would never allow that, but it also wasn’t our goals. Our goals were to build our bond, our teamwork, and HAVE FUN together. We were doing a lot of that!
We started to see lots of those who had started out with us advance to Open and beyond. We were still fumbling along in Novice. However, we weren’t on as rigorous of a training or trialing schedule, and we were still getting to know each other! However, we did eventually earn our 3 legs in Novice and move up to Open. We are still seeking our first leg in Open.
We had some momentum coming out of 2018, but in 2019 my Dad’s condition worsened and it became more challenging to fit classes into our schedule. Barn Hunt did help to make Tilda into a dog that was safe to be around my infirm father and he loved to pet her big old hound head. He had raised Treeing Walker Coonhounds for much of his teens and into his thirties and he is the person who taught me a love of hounds. It was special being able to share her Barn Hunt accomplishments with him. We lost some momentum in 2019 after his death but were planning on returning in spring of 2020. Of course the pandemic put those plans on hold. Barn Hunt as a sport did resume and Karli was able to continue holding some classes and even trials. However, sadly in June of 2020 my mom was diagnosed with cancer and underwent an operation and then chemotherapy. Between the pandemic and her compromised immune system, we just took all of 2020 off from Barn Hunt.
This brings us to 2021! We are booked for 4 weeks of group classes in April and really looking forward to it. Trials have been filling up SUPER FAST so who knows when we’ll get into one of those. But, my girl and I are ready to put some work in and see what we can do. During this past year at home, Tilda has been hunting real mice with my husband. She has found several and has gotten herself really excited. So, we are hoping that will translate to Barn Hunt and that she may be a bit less timid in going into the straw to smell, that has always held her back. If you are thinking about trying Barn Hunt, especially with a hound dog, but with ANY dog, stop thinking about it and just do it! It’s so fun. The people are fun, the sport is dogs versus rats and so the competitors are not against one another. Your dog will have a blast. You will have a blast. It’s the funnest 2 minutes in dog sports. I just love it. My dog is a natural, but I need lots of training and we are hoping for a great year.