Best Dog Breeds to Kill Rats


You’ve probably heard of cats being used as a form of pest control. Since the middle ages, they’ve been keeping homes and castles free from rodents and disease. But did you know that dogs are just as skilled at eliminating pests?

Certain dogs have been bred for the purpose of hunting, which makes them genetically better at killing pests such as mice and rats. These breeds are usually territorial, loyal, and can be trained to be on the lookout at all times. For those living on farms or ranches, pest control is a necessity. Having a dog that is excellent at keeping rats at bay can lead to a more fruitful crop, resulting in more money.

Terriers are the most famous group of dogs known for their ability as ratters. In fact, they were bred for it. Rat baiting was a popular sport in England through the early 20th century. It involved placing a dog in a pit with numerous rats and taking bets on how many the dog could kill in a short period of time, or how long it would take him to clear the pit entirely.

The dogs still have an instinct to look for rodents, as attested to by many of the owners. In addition to mice, they’ll chase every squirrel and trespassing feline out of your yard.

1. Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier

If the name didn’t already tell you all you need to know, rat terriers are excellent at eliminating pests, especially rodents. They were first introduced in England in the 1820s and used primarily by farmers to protect their crops and livestock.

They were bred over and over again specifically for the purpose of creating a dog breed that can kill farm vermin such as rats, mice, and rabbits. However, once chemical pesticides became widely available in the 1950s, using the breed as a means of pest control fell out of fashion. 

Although they’re not usually favored for their rat-hunting skills nowadays, they’re still excellent at it. This is because they’re genetically designed to be hunters, like most other terrier breeds.

Not only this, but rat terriers are smart, fun, active, and fun-loving dogs that require a lot of care and attention. Despite their small size, they require a lot of daily exercise and need a way of letting off steam.

2. Brussels Griffon Terrier

This breed of terrier was originally bred in Belgium for the purpose of hunting and killing rats and other vermin. They were particularly popular among horse-drawn carriage drivers in the cities, who would use the terrier to keep pests out of their stables. It has come a long way since then, and has evolved into the playful family pet we know today.

In the U.S., there are two types of Brussels Griffons: The rough-coated Griffon and the smooth-coated Griffon called the Petit Brabancon. In the breed’s homeland of Belgium, there are three types: the Petit Brabancon (which is smooth-coated, as in the U.S.), the Brussels Griffon, which has a rough red coat, and the Belgian Griffon, which has a rough coat that can be any color other than red.

3. Jack Russel Terrier

The Jack Russell is the most famous rat-catching breed of terrier, and for good reason: they’ve been a favorite hunting dog since the 19th century and were stars of the trenches in World War One, where each platoon had their own rat-catching dog to fight the hordes of rats that infected the trenches and spread disease.

As Jack Russel’s have a very strong prey drive, if they see a rodent, they’ll take this opportunity to get excited and attempt to hunt and kill it. 

However, due to their love for hunting, it’s best to avoid owning a Jack Russel Terrier if you have any small animals or children in the home. They’re notoriously temperamental and The Jack Russel Terrier Club of America advises that you should never leave them alone with a cat (or any other small pet). This doesn’t mean they can’t be a family pet, though.

They just can’t be left alone with a small child. With responsible owners and safeguarding in place, Jack Russels can be a great addition to the family.

4. Doberman

Doberman

While these aren’t technically “hunting” dogs, many people find Dobermans to be great at exterminating pests. However, they would need to be trained in order to be successful ratters.

If you’re interested in activities such as barn hunting, a Doberman probably won’t be right for you. They’re super energetic and playful and love to chase things. However, they’re easily distracted and don’t have the same sport hunting instincts as other breeds such as terriers. 

If you’re looking for a loyal dog that is up to the task of hunting down rats, mice, and other pests in homes and backyards— then a Doberman may just be the perfect dog for you. They also make the perfect guard dogs as they are extremely observant, determined, alert, fearless, and obedient. So, with the right training and loving owners, Dobermans can be used effectively to kill rats if you have an infestation issue. 

5. Miniature Pinscher

These make great rat hunting dogs as the Miniature Pinscher was originally bred in Germany to hunt and kill vermin, mostly rats, in homes and stables.

Many people believe that Miniature Pinschers came about by consistently breeding Dobermans over and over again to make them smaller. But although they look pretty similar, the Miniature Pinscher is a much older breed, and there are some key differences. 

In Germany, they’re referred to as Zwergpinscher. This quite literally means “midget vermin hunter”. So, one can presume that they’re pretty good at hunting rats. They’re also a breed that’s always full of energy and ready to run around.

They’re highly curious and have a tendency to investigate (and sometimes eat) everything. Due to their sleuth-like nature, they shouldn’t be allowed to roam free off a leash. Miniature Pinschers are great escape artists and can quickly dart out of sight. 

6. Parson Russell Terrier

Parson Russel Terriers have a very high impulse to chase and catch something. This is what makes them so great at keeping a rat infestation under control. However, they need a lot of living space in order to be happy.

Parson Russel Terriers are not suited for an apartment or small home lifestyle but could thrive if you were able to walk them multiple times every single day. So, if your main goal is to own a rat killing machine, Parson Russell Terriers may not be for you. They require a lot of love, attention, and exercise.

However, if you have a cat or other small animals in your home, a Parson Russell Terrier isn’t suitable for you. They’re a little too excitable and have a tendency to hunt smaller animals. But they’re great for first-time dog owners thanks to their easy-going personality and playful manner.

With their strong prey drive, keeping them on a leash during outings is recommended, rather than letting them run loose, where the urge to go off on a chase may be irresistible.

7. West Highland White Terrier

Westies are excellent hunters, and they are energetic and determined. They are one of the many terrier breeds that are known for hunting vermin, usually on rough terrains.

These dogs are very smart and intelligent, although they may not be trained to hunt, they know their family history, and the instinct to hunt is still present in them. It’s very natural for them to go running after a rat or a squirrel if they see one. Due to their nature, they don’t usually get on very well with other pets. It is better to introduce them to cats and other pets as a baby and raise them together.

Westies can pick up scents, but the smell does not activate their prey drive as they’re not scent hounds. They will only chase what they see, especially if it tries to run. As mentioned earlier, white terriers are natural hunters, and little can be done to keep their prey drive under control— but there are still some things you can do to safeguard them and others.

It’s important to teach your Westie to obey several commands. If you’re concerned about them eating rats and potentially catching something, you must train them to bring it to you.

8. Dachshund

Dachshunds, also commonly known as Wiener or Sausage dogs, are great at hunting and killing vermin such as rats. This is because they have been carefully bred and trained over hundreds of years to be this way.

Not only are Dachshunds physically shaped to charge into an animal’s burrow, but the dog also has the kind of tenacity and single-mindedness of her fellow hunters, terriers. In fact, a common nickname for Dachshunds in Germany translates to “badger dog.” 

Dachshunds tend to be spunky and energetic, but they don’t need a huge home or garden to blow off steam. They are easily entertained by playing with toys, humans and going on long walks. As well as being great rodent killing machines, they make for a great lap dog and have a tendency to follow you around the house.

They adapt well to new environments and are described as brave and affectionate companions. They are devoted to their families and are good with older children. They’re also good with other pets when properly socialized.

9. Papillon

Papillons were originally bred as ratters in order to rid homes of pests and harmful infestations. These fluffy canines were too small to kill directly like other ratting breeds, instead, their main strategy was to bait the rat and tease it until it became too exhausted to fight back. Once the rat was near death and unable to put up a fight, the dog could make its final move. 

Although they’re technically classed as a toy breed, you shouldn’t expect them to lounge around on your lap all day. Papillons are notoriously energetic dogs that require a lot of activity to keep them stimulated. They’re highly intelligent dogs so they easily get bored if you don’t play with them and walk them regularly.

They thrive in both hot and cold climates and can adjust to pretty much any lifestyle, making them ideal for both large rural homes and small city apartments.

10. Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, was bred as a ratter, used to kill mice and rats in small places. They may have been used for hunting as well, but evidence of this is pretty scarce).

Terriers specialize in hunting animals (primarily rats and mice) that live in dens or burrows. Animals that are cornered and defending their young will fight ferociously. Any dog that would willingly pursue them must have a great degree of courage; terriers are bred for that quality.

Due to consistent breeding over hundreds of years, Yorkshire Terriers aren’t as big as they used to be back in their hunting days. Despite their bravado, Yorkshire Terriers have a soft side too. They need lots of attention and time with their family. Long hours of being left alone are not for them.

Because of their small size, delicate structure, and terrier personality, Yorkshire Terriers generally aren’t recommended for households with toddlers or small children.

Summary

Every dog breed listed above makes a great loyal companion, with an adorable face. But they’re also fantastic rodent-killing machines, whether you like it or not. Thanks to many years of breeding, they’re genetically better at hunting rats than other dog breeds.

In fact, many ratting dogs are far more successful at eliminating rodents than a professional rat control team. If you’re struggling with a rat problem, any of the above breeds could be useful.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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