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Tag: barn hunt

Wynn finds the gerbil in the 2018 Cowley Barn Hunt

Dogs will test their sniffers at the Cowley Barn Hunt

From Friday to Sunday, the Southern Alberta Working Herding Dog Association is hosting a series of barn hunt trials at the Cowley Community Hall.

Barn hunting tests the senses and physical capabilities of dogs that generally have a history of hunting above-ground vermin.

The rules are fairly straight forward. Gerbils are confined in opaque PVC tubes laid within a maze of straw bales. Dogs are brought into the designated perimeter and judged on their ability to sniff out the vermin. 

The tubes are strategically placed and somewhat covered, with vent holes drilled for the gerbils to breathe and to allow dogs to pick up their scent. Participating dogs must locate the tubes with a live gerbil and ignore tubes with gerbil litter, intended to throw them off. 

Rats are typically used for the trials, but given that rats are banned in Alberta, gerbils are used for the SAWHDA event.

Per the Barn Hunt Association LLC rules, SAWHDA will host two trials per day.

A BHA Licensed Barn Hunt Trial is a collection of classes of varying difficulty, from Instinct through Master, and optionally, the Crazy 8s class, where competitor/dog teams can earn qualifying scores/legs toward Barn Hunt titles. 

The courses and tubes are designed to be increasingly challenging depending on the division and class a dog belongs to.


Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.


Friday’s trials will feature Crazy 8s, a non-regular class that tasks dogs with going through a tunnel two to five times, before climbing atop a stack of hay two bales high. They then must find up to eight gerbils located in tubes, with four litter tubes on the course to throw them off.

Saturday and Sunday’s trials will see a mixture of dogs competing in classes across two divisions. Each trial will start with the instinct class, with subsequent classes following based on difficulty.

Friday’s trials will begin with check-in at 4 p.m., with the first dog expected in the ring by 5, to get the event underway.

Saturday and Sunday events will begin with 7 a.m. check ins and the first dog scheduled to be in the ring by 8.

Day-of-show entries are permitted, provided your dog is registered with the BHA and that the judging limits allow for it. 

The event is open to all breeds and mixed breeds as long as they are at least six months old, so there will certainly be an interesting mix of dogs competing for top honours.

The event is free to attend, so make sure to stop by the Cowley Community Hall this weekend and check out the entertainment.

Any questions regarding the trials should be directed to event secretary Stacy Gheseger, by email at or by cell at 403-896-4456.