best dogs for rats

Best Dogs for Rats: A Guide to Pest Control Breeds

best dogs for rats

Rats are a common pest, posing health risks and property damage. Humans have used dogs for centuries to control rats. Certain breeds excel in rat hunting due to their agility, intelligence, tenacity, and keen sense of smell.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the qualities and characteristics that make certain dog breeds particularly adept at rat hunting. Whether you’re a small farm owner looking to safeguard your produce, an urban dweller trying to keep your home free of vermin, or a pest control enthusiast intrigued by the age-old partnership between humans and dogs. This article is tailored to provide you with the knowledge you need to select and train the best dogs for rat hunting.

Characteristics of Rat-Hunting Dogs

German Shorthaired Pointer

To understand why certain breeds excel at rat hunting, it’s critical to recognize the traits that are essential for this specific task:

  • Agility: Rats are incredibly agile and can escape to all sorts of crevices. A dog must be nimble enough to pursue these pests into tight spaces.
  • Prey Drive: The innate desire to chase and capture potential prey is a fundamental quality of a rat hunter.
  • Endurance: Hunting can be a protracted activity, requiring dogs to maintain a high level of energy over extended periods.
  • Intelligence: Rats are smart and resourceful creatures, often adapting their behavior to avoid predators. Hunting dogs need to be equally quick-witted to anticipate their moves.
  • Sense of Smell: The canine olfactory sense plays a significant role in tracking and locating rats, especially in hiding or intricate environments.

Top Dog Breeds for Rat Hunting

Several breeds have carved a niche for themselves as rat hunters. Here are some of the best dogs for rats:

Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier

The name says it all. Rat Terriers are a quintessential pest control breed. Originally bred for farm work, they are tenacious, agile, and highly energetic.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier

Bred in England for fox hunting, the Jack Russell’s small size and keen sense of smell have been redirected toward rat hunting, where their renowned energy and fearless nature are significant advantages.


dachshund rat hunting dog

Primarily associated with their talents in hunting badgers, Dachshunds (or “sausage dogs”) excel in rat hunting due to their ability to fit into small spaces and their determination—even stubbornness—once they’ve locked onto a scent trail.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier rat hunter

Made famous by the “Wizard of Oz,” Cairn Terriers are natural diggers and have an incessant curiosity that makes them excellent at finding and dispatching rats.

Miniature Pinscher

Miniature Pinscher for rats

Despite their diminutive size, Miniature Pinschers are robust, athletic, and possess a high prey drive, ideal for flushing out and taking down rats.

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier dog for rats

Known more for their companionship, the Yorkie’s ratting history is often overlooked. Bred to control the rat populations in the clothing mills of Yorkshire, these little dogs are fearless and will hunt with a ferocity that belies their small stature.

Each of these breeds has its own unique set of skills and personalities that, with the right training and environment, can turn them into formidable rat hunters, called as best dogs for rats.

Why These Breeds Excel at Rat Hunting

Understanding what makes each breed excel at rat hunting is crucial to harnessing their skills effectively:

  • Rat Terrier: Their name is a testament to their prowess. They possess a good temperament for families but are relentless ratters when on the job.
  • Jack Russell Terrier: Famed for their hunting prowess, Jack Russells are inherently alert, intelligent, and fearless; they seldom back down from a challenge.
  • Dachshund: Their low-slung bodies and strong front paws make them excellent for burrowing into rat holes and dens. They are also resilient and can work in adverse conditions.
  • Cairn Terrier: Their small size and natural persistence allow them to squeeze into tight spots to hunt rats.
  • Miniature Pinscher: Though small, these dogs have the heart and the speed of a much larger breed. They are also known for their confident and alert nature, making them excellent rat hunters.
  • Yorkshire Terrier: With a heritage steeped in working, Yorkies are known for their determined, brave, and enthusiastic hunting prowess.

Tips for Training Rat-Hunting Dogs

Best Dogs for Walking

Training a dog for rat hunting requires patience, consistency, and the right approach:

  • Start Young: Puppy training can help instill good habits and shape their natural instincts early.
  • Socialization: Ensure your dog is comfortable around people and can distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable targets.
  • Basic Commands: Solid “come,” “stay,” and “leave it” commands are non-negotiable for a successful hunting dog.
  • Introduce Scents: Get your dog accustomed to the smell of rats and reward them for showing interest without relying on sight.
  • Play and Praise: Training should be a positive experience for your dog. Incorporating play and praise makes the activity enjoyable and enhances your bond.

Considerations for Selecting a Rat-Hunting Dog

Finnish Spitz

While certain breeds are known for rat hunting, individual dogs can vary. It’s important to consider:

  • Living Environment: Be realistic about whether the breed’s traits can be accommodated in your home, yard, or working environment.
  • Temperament: Some ratting breeds may have higher prey drives than others. Ensure the breed’s temperament aligns with your lifestyle and needs.
  • Health: Rat hunting can be physically demanding. A healthy dog is crucial for the long-term success of your pest control efforts.


The partnership between humans and dogs in the realm of rat hunting stretches back as long as recorded history. For modern-day issues with pest control, selecting and training a dog from one of the breeds renowned for rat hunting can provide a natural, effective, and environmentally friendly solution. Responsible ownership, understanding the nature of the pests and the dogs employed, and employing sound training techniques will ensure a successful rat hunting program with your canine companion. If you’re considering adding a rat-hunting dog to your life, weigh the options carefully and enjoy the benefits of a dedicated pest control assistant that wags its tail.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Training for rat-hunting can begin as early as 8 weeks of age. This is an optimal time to start basic obedience and gradually introduce scent work as they grow.

While some breeds have innate qualities making them more suited for rat hunting, with the right training and socialization, many dogs can learn to hunt rats. However, breeds with a strong prey drive typically excel in this task.

The duration of training varies depending on the dog’s breed, age, temperament, and the consistency of the training regimen. Basic training can take a few months, but honing their skills for effective rat hunting can take up to a year or more.

While rat hunting can be safe under controlled conditions, there are risks, such as injury or disease. It’s essential to ensure the hunting area is free from hazardous materials and the rats are not poison-baited.

Properly managed, rat hunting should not negatively impact your dog’s behavior. Training should include commands to start and disengage from hunting, ensuring they understand when it is appropriate to exhibit their hunting behavior.

Many rat-hunting breeds are also excellent family pets. They are often energetic, loyal, and protective. However, their need for regular exercise and mental stimulation should be considered to ensure they fit well into a family lifestyle.

Adopting from breed-specific rescues or purchasing from reputable breeders specializing in rat-hunting breeds are good starting points. It’s crucial to research and select a dog whose energy, size, and temperament fit your living situation and hunting needs.

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