How to Train Your Dog to Catch Mice

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Work

Introduction

Dogs are predators, so naturally, we figure they would be pretty motivated to go after small prey, including mice. This may or may not be the case, however. A domesticated dog, without a particularly strong prey drive and no socialization with other dogs exhibiting a prey drive, may not be that interested in catching mice. So if you have pesky little rodents in your house you may have to train your dog to catch mice. 

Some dogs, such as terriers and Dachshunds have been bred to go after small prey and take to mice catching quite handily. Other hunting breeds may also not need much encouragement to hunt mice. However, if your dog is not naturally inclined to hunt mice, you may need to give him some exposure, guidance, and make a fun game out of tracking and earning rewards for locating and catching mice.  Then mice catching can be part of your dog's job, and dogs love to have a job.

Defining Tasks

Hunting mice can be challenging for a dog. They are small and they are fast. They also can hide in very small spaces that your dog may not have access to. While a large dog may have a high prey drive and be motivated to catch mice, smaller dogs may be just as aggressive with rodents and may be more agile and able to wriggle into small spaces, under and behind furniture, to catch mice, so don't count out the mini but mighty mouse dog!  

Dogs have very acute hearing, much more than ours, so your dog will locate mice either by the sound of their activity or by their scent--dogs, of course, have very powerful senses of smell, and love to follow their nose. Engaging your dog's senses, especially his sense of smell, is a great way to get him turned on to catching mice. Young dogs may think catching mice is more of a game, and although they may be interested in catching mice, their ability to do so and what to do with a captured rodent may elude them. Working with a young dog to encourage them to hunt mice and practice catching them will develop the skills they need to catch mice as they mature.

Getting Started

You can purchase pet mice from a pet store, capture wild mice in live traps, or purchase commercially available mouse scent to aid you in training your dog to catch mice. Never punish your dog for not catching a mouse, as this is only confusing to him and will create a negative association with mouse hunting. You may want to take precautions to prevent pet mice from being harmed during the training process, such as using a cage or providing them with escape routes. Using food as a reward and a positive association with mouse scenting is useful to motivate your dog and let him know when he is on the right track to catching a mouse.

The Follow the Scent Method

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Step
1
Create scent trail
Lay a mouse scent trail with available mouse scent. Place a scented object at the end of the trail.
Step
2
Reinforce trail
Let your dog investigate the area with the scent. When he investigates the scent, talk excitedly, reward him with food.
Step
3
Assist tracking
Start encouraging your dog along the trail, continue encouraging and treating as he makes progress following the scent. Move furniture or objects to help your dog find the end of the trail.
Step
4
Reward
When your dog gets to the end of the trail and finds the scented object, encourage play with the object and provide a treat.
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5
Practice
Repeat laying scent trails and hiding scented objects for your dog to retrieve. Eventually, he will start locating wild mouse scent trails and following.
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The Live Mouse Method

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Step
1
Cage a live mouse
Obtain a live trapped wild mouse or a pet mouse from a pet store. Put the mouse in a secure cage so that your dog can see, hear and smell the mouse but not harm it.
Step
2
Investigate
Allow your dog access to the mouse in the cage. When your dog investigates, get excited and reward your dog.
Step
3
Encourage interest
When your dog paws at the cage or becomes excited, trying to reach the mouse, talk excitedly and reward further.
Step
4
Release
Let the mouse out in a contained space, using pet barriers with holes that the mouse cannot get out of or in a small room like a bathroom, or let a wild mouse go outside, with your dog present. A hamster ball for a pet mouse may be useful as the mouse can move around safely and your dog can chase the mouse in the hamster ball.
Step
5
Expose to chase
Let your dog chase the pet mouse in the contained area or hamster ball, or the wild mouse outside. Make sure your dog is engaged and sees the mouse before letting the mouse go. Allow your dog to chase the mouse. If it is a pet mouse, make sure that the mouse can get away or is protected. Catching the mouse is a self rewarding activity, however, after your dog chases the mouse or catches the wild mouse, reward him with a treat and praise so he knows your are pleased with his success.
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The Toy Mouse Method

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Step
1
Play with toy mouse
Cover a toy mouse in mouse scent. Play with your dog and the toy mouse, play fetch or tug of war.
Step
2
Hide toy
Drag the scented toy mouse to create a scent trail and hide it behind a simple object like under a couch or behind a pillow.
Step
3
Find toy
Let your dog loose to discover the scent and follow.
Step
4
Encourage
Encourage your dog by talking excitedly and help him by moving objects that are in his way.
Step
5
Reward with play
When your dog finds the scented mouse toy, reward him with play with the mouse toy and treats. Your dog will start discovering and following wild mouse scent as he gets excited about playing with scented mouse toys.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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