There's a new sport called Barn Hunt gaining popularity around here. It's meant to mimic the work that a ratting dog in a barn would do, as there are bales of straw stacked up and rats hidden among them. The rats are safely ensconced in thick PVC with air holes drilled in. The dog is required to find all of the hidden rats (without alerting on decoy tubes containing rat bedding), as well as go through a tunnel made of straw bales, and climb onto at least one bale with all four feet.
My friend Sarah is trialing two of her dogs in Barn Hunt, and I decided to give it a try since Cai goes nuts over Sherry's pet rats. Sarah put out two PVC tubes with rat bedding inside, and one with an actual rat. Cai sniffed that tube all over, wagging his tail, and we praised and petted him for showing interest. I led him away, and Sarah switched the positions of the tubes. Cai found the one with the rat again, we fussed over him again, and the game was on! With his background in nose work and agility, Cai quickly realized that he could find the rats via scent and had no hesitation about climbing all over the straw bales.
We didn't use any treats since Cai wasn't settled enough to take them, but our support and his natural drive for hunting down tiny critters was enough to build his enthusiasm more with each try. I scheduled another lesson with Sarah in a couple of weeks.