Have you got rats? Then you have a problem! Rats are not only destructive, they eat crops and animal feed, damage buildings with their urine and feces, and gnaw on foundations or structures. Unfortunately, rats have become resistant to a lot of the poisons used to attempt to eradicate them, and many are too canny to be caught in traps. The good news is, there is an ancient secret weapon! Dogs!
Dogs have been used for centuries to hunt vermin including rats. Some dogs, specifically terriers, are super efficient at catching rats. Using a terrier to catch rats is faster than other methods, and safer too. Terriers have several natural tools at their disposal that make them excellent ratters. They tend to be small bodied and long legged, which makes them great at digging and burrowing underground to get rodents, are naturally prey driven and aggressive at hunting rats, and they don't back down from a fight if necessary. They are tenacious and don't give up!
Training a terrier to hunt rats is really just a matter of harnessing their already present natural abilities. Teaching them to focus on and trail rodents, specifically rats, by introducing rat scent and laying trails is a common way to encourage rat hunting.
Practice catching rats by exposing your dog to rats in a controlled situation to hone hunting abilities. You'll also want to encourage digging by planting rat scented bait and reinforcing digging. This will reinforce your dog's burrowing skills. Put all of these skills together and you will have a proficient rat hunting machine.
Whether you have a Border, Cairn, Jack Russell, Rat, Yorkshire, Highland Terriers , or a Schnauzer, introduce your dog to rat hunting and you will really watch him shine! Terriers love to hunt rats and giving them exposure and practice is all that is really required for their instincts to kick in and the rats to check out!
You can use treats to help reinforce digging and scenting behaviour if you like, although many terriers also respond well to reinforcement with toys and play. Most terriers will perform rat hunting behaviors just for the sheer joy of it and only need a little direction to get the hang of it. If you are going to be working in open areas, you can use a GPS tracking collar to help locate your dog, or a ferret collar, which allows you to track a terrier that has burrowed underground. Tame mice and rats in cages can be used to introduce your terrier to rodents. Good recall and obedience is also important whenever you start training a working, hunting dog to allow you to keep him out of danger and keep other critters, like the neighbor's cats safe!