Your dog might not be up to snuff for the International Kennel Club of Chicago’s dog show, but is he up for a sniff?
Some 200 dogs — mutts welcome — will be nosing around bales of straw this weekend in search of live rats hidden in PVC tubes.
“It’s very new and it’s popping up all over the country,” said show chair Susan Olsen of the “Barn Hunt” event. “It’s something that all breeds can do.”
It’s the first time the event has been featured at a Midwest dog show, said Olsen, who clearly expects it to be a crowd pleaser.
“It gets really exciting because as the dogs get close to where the rat may be, the people are quietly and silently saying, ‘Yes, yes, get it!’ But they can’t say anything because they can’t help,” Olsen said.
The barn hunt is so popular that all of the spots are filled for this year’s dog show.
The event is timed and involves competitors navigating a maze of bales in search of anywhere from one to five hidden rats in five levels of competition — from “instinct” to “master.”
But how does the rat react when it sees a great slobbering mouth an inch from its eyeball?
“I thought at first that this is really bad,” said Olsen, whose own dogs compete in the sport. But “it really doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. … They seem to go into the tubes and go to sleep. They ignore the dogs.”
The rats, which are all pets, perk up when the tube opens and the sweet odor of a rat cookie wafts their way.
“They come out of the tube after working and they kind of turn around and look at you and say, ‘Where’s my treat?’” Olsen said.
The dog show runs Feb. 21-23, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McCormick Place-Lakeside. The barn hunt events are Saturday and Sunday.