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Ratter Dogs: Rodent-Wrecking Dog Breeds

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Breeds By Kate Brunotts 11 min read November 19, 2021 4 Comments

Ratter Dogs

Is your pooch constantly on patrol for pests? He might just be a ratter dog.

Ratter dogs are simply breeds that were developed to (in whole or in part) kill rats and other rodents. Some owners continue to task their pooch with rodent-killing duties, but most modern two-footers simply keep these dynamic doggos as canine companions. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand your dog’s history and how it may affect his behavior.

We’ll identify a few of the most notable ratter dogs below, but we’ll start by explaining a few of the things that make them tick and what you should think about before bringing a varmint-vanquishing four-footer home!  

Ratter Dogs: Key Takeaways

  • Ratter dogs are canines who were initially developed to catch and kill rodents. Some may have been tasked with other jobs too, but rat eradication was one of their primary duties.
  • Most ratter dogs are small, tenacious, and extraordinarily determined. They’re also quite brave, as it takes a courageous canine to crawl into a tunnel and battle an angry rodent.
  • Many ratter dogs make great pets in the modern world. However, they often have traits like high prey drives, which owners must be willing to manage.

Characteristics of Ratter Dogs

ratter dog characteristics

So what can you expect from a rambunctious ratter dog? Every pooch has his own quirks, but here are a few general characteristics you may see from some of these furry friends. 

  • They are typically small. The small size may fool you, but these compact canines are designed to seek out vermin, who naturally end up in hard to reach places. A ratter dog’s small stature makes him all the more skilled when it comes to hunting. 
  • These dogs are determined. You’ll find that your ratter pooch has an unbreakable spirit. If your dog doesn’t catch a pest on the first try, he’s sure to try again. 
  • Most ratters are terriers. Most terriers were originally bred to catch vermin, so it stands to reason that they dominate the ratter dog category. 
  • These best buddies are brave. Don’t let the small size fool you! Ratter dogs have confidence through the roof and are happy to do just about anything to get the job done. 
  • Ratter dogs have plenty of energy. Though compact, most ratter dogs are fairly active. These pups will need plenty of playtime and exercise to keep their tiny tails wagging. 
  • They can be somewhat independent. While many of these pups look like a loving lapdog, terriers are natural workers. Most ratter dogs won’t mind hanging out with you after a long day of play, but they aren’t always the most cuddly characters out there. 
  • Ratter dogs can be big barkers. These pups are typically pretty vocal since these historical hunters would sometimes work underground. Your ratter pooch is sure to let you know how he feels on a regular basis. 

Things to Think About When Getting a Ratter Dog

Ratter dogs make great furry friends for the right owners, but they’re not an ideal fit for every home. Before getting one of these canine cuties, here are a couple of factors you’ll want to consider:

  • They have strong prey drives. Even if your ratter dog doesn’t get the chance to chase vermin on the regular, that doesn’t take his instinct away, as these dogs have very strong prey drives. These dogs are fairly high-energy and appreciate having a job or lots of engaging playtime to keep them entertained. 
  • They’re often hard on toys. Not surprisingly, these pups can be super destructive chewers and have well-developed “kill bites.” Your ratter dog may be more likely to destroy toys and bring them to you as a proud offering. They might also enjoy flirt poles and similar toys that bring out their chase instincts. 
  • They tend to make excellent watchdogs. Ratter dogs are naturally alert and can help you feel secure, especially if you live on your own. These sweet pups can also be quite vocal, and will let you know when the mailman is approaching your driveway. 
  • They’re pawsitively packed with personality. Ratter dogs are tons of fun and while they can be stubborn at times, are incredibly loyal to the ones they love. These zealous, determined dogs are sure to add plenty of spice to your life. 
Always Meet the Parents Before Bringing a New Pooch Home!

Every dog has his own personality and characteristics, so there’s no guarantee that your ratter dog will align with his breed’s more generalized personality.

It’s always a good idea to meet your potential puppy’s parents before committing to a canine. This will give you a window into your future dog’s personality so that you can determine whether he’s a good fit for your family.

11 Ratter Dog Breeds: Rodent-Ridding Rovers!

Without further ado, here are 11 ratter dog breeds to have on your radar. Keep in mind that other dogs may also enjoy catching rats, but these breeds have the activity built into their history. 

1. Yorkshire Terrier 

Yorkshire terrier

Long before Yorkipoos became beloved fan-favorite lapdogs, Yorkshire Terriers were skilled ratters in working mills and mines. Like most terriers, these dogs are courageous, feisty, and packed with personality all within their portable 7-pound frames. 

With a compact size and “hypoallergenic” coat, these pups are well-loved by many. These pups can make amazing canine companions, but they’ll need patient owners, as these tiny terriers can have strong-willed personalities. Yorkies and Yorkie mixes may also might not be the best fit for homes with small children due to their ultra-small size. 

2. Jack Russell Terrier

Best Dog Parks in NYC

These canine cuties also known as the Parson Russell terrier were originally used to hunt foxes which plays into their modern tendency to feverishly dig whenever they get the chance. While they may look like adorable plush puppies, Jack Russell terriers have incredible amounts of energy. In fact, while they may not look the part, this dog breed makes for an excellent running companion

Jack Russell terriers and Jack Russel mixes thrive around families though they do best around older kids who can understand their boundaries and respect their strong-willed personalities. These confident canines are always ready for the next game of fetch and thrive in home environments where someone is usually around to keep them company. 

3. Dachshund

dachshunds

Dachshund means “badger dog” in German, which speaks to this dog breed’s hunting history. These loveable long dogs were originally bred to dig deep and hunt tunneling animals like badgers, rabbits, and foxes. You might not guess it, but these pups are incredibly courageous and need a patient owner who understands that training these spunky pups can take some time. 

Thankfully, these iconic pups are sure to reward the ones they love most with plenty of affection. Dachshunds (as well as Dachshund mixes) can be somewhat wary of strangers, so you’ll want to make sure these pups get plenty of socialization early on to set them on the right path. 

4. Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

These pint-sized working dogs were originally bred as ratters in the early 20th century. The Norfolk terrier is a highly energetic, and fun-loving pooch that’s always up for the next adventure. You’ll find that these canine cuties bond closely with their family members and are happy to play with anyone who will give them a chance. 

Norfolk terriers love to chase and enjoy lots of time outside along with prolonged play sessions. But due to their strong prey drives, you’ll want to make sure these courageous canines are properly leashed before heading outside, lest they run off in pursuit of prey. Nevertheless, with a little training and lots of play, these pups make excellent family companions. 

5. West Highland White Terrier

West Highland white terriers are British

The Westie originated from Scotland as a ratter and hunting dog, fearlessly chasing after badgers, otters, and rats alike. Today, these charming little white dogs are strong and spunky watchdogs. These pups are fairly self-reliant, but they’re happy to show you some love after a long day of chasing squirrels. 

Like many terriers, the West Highland white terrier can be somewhat mischievous, so he will need plenty of patient, positive training to get into his groove.

Fortunately, these pups love a treat or two, so as long as you have time and plenty of training treats, you’ll have no trouble guiding these spirited and loyal furry friends. 

6. Miniature Schnauzer

miniature schnauzer

These low-shedding companions are well-loved for their dashing good looks and charming personalities packed into small frames.

The miniature schnauzer was originally developed in Germany to serve as a ratter on farms (so you should definitely consider a German-inspired doggo name for them!). “Schnauzer” actually means “growler”, which as you might expect speaks to the breed’s tendency to serve as a vocal watchdog for his family. 

Miniature schnauzers and schnauzer mixes love to get in on the action and enjoy intense play. These sporty sweethearts get along well with other animals and kids, making them excellent family companions. That being said, they can be somewhat aloof around strangers, so early socialization is paramount to the success of these furry friends. 

7. Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers

Cairn terriers were developed to hunt vermin along the rocky countryside of Scotland, so it’s no surprise that these working dogs are intelligent, alert, and incredibly courageous. These happy-go-lucky puppers love playtime and spending time with the whole family — they will do best in lively homes, where someone is around to quench their innate curiosity. 

Cairn terriers can also be somewhat sensitive. These dogs need an owner who can understand their unique training needs and patiently provide positive reinforcement while these compact canines learn their bearings. As long as they get plenty of playtime, these loyal yet independent-minded pups make amazing best buddies. 

8. Toy Fox Terrier

toy fox terrier

As their name suggests, the toy fox terrier was bred to dispatch denning foxes. Today, these dogs continue to have a strong prey drive, and are happy to chase anything and everything in their path. While these pups are quite rambunctious, they can also make loving lap dogs in their off-hours, when they’re happy to offer up endless affection. 

Luckily, these dogs are incredibly smart which translates to high trainability — as long as you have treats and patients, these terriers are ready to learn trick upon trick. Toy fox terriers can be somewhat protective of their family members, so you’ll want to make sure that these cute canines get lots of socialization early on in life. 

9. Lakeland Terrier

Lakeland Terrier

These pack-oriented pooches were once used to deter foxes from harassing flocks of sheep. Lakies have plenty of energy and are always ready to play with their family members. These best buddies can be pretty bold, so they’ll need an owner who can provide them with positive and firm training so that they can learn their mutt manners. 

You’ll find that the Lakeland terrier has swagger to spare. These dogs are intelligent, courageous, and they know it. You can expect to laugh around these formidable furry friends, just make sure they get plenty of training to help harness some of that spunky attitude. 

10. German Pinscher

German Pinscher

These watchdogs are superb working pooches with a long history as ratters. In fact, “pinscher” roughly translates to “to nip,” which speaks to the breed’s ability to quickly kill any vermin that crosses his path. The German pinscher is a devoted, courageous canine who needs a strong willed owner to help these bold buddies build healthy boundaries.

German pinscher dogs can be somewhat mischievous, and they are bound to make their own fun if not given enough playtime and exercise. But when given a proper amount of exercise, these canine cuties make amazing family companions that are sure to add a little spice to your daily life. 

11. Rat Terrier

rat-terrier

The name says it all — these pups were bred exclusively to kill rats and other vermin on the farm, though today, these terriers make amazing canine companions. The rat terrier is endlessly devoted to his family and is sure to reward you with plenty of cuddles after long play sessions.

With that in mind, these dogs can be somewhat aloof around strangers, so they’ll need plenty of socialization. These playful, portable dogs are relentlessly curious about the world around them, so they’re happy to be wherever you are. With a strong prey drive and tendency to chase anything that moves, these small sweethearts are true to their terrier nature. 

Wait a Second! Are Dogs Actually Better than Cats at Catching Rats? 

cat catching rats

Cats obviously have a reputation for their rat-ridding ways, which begs the question: Can dogs keep up in the pest-removal arena? 

In some cases, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

In fact, generally speaking, ratter dogs may have some advantages over cats when it comes to catching rats. Ratter dogs have the benefit of digging skills, making them especially effective when catching rats outside. A lot is dependent on the prey drive of the individual dog or cat, but most ratter dogs are able to chase down vermin off of instinct alone. 

Should You Let Your Dog Catch Rats? 

should dogs catch rats

It is ultimately your call whether or not you allow your pooch to catch or kill rats. But there are some key risks that are important to take into consideration

It’s worth noting that rats can be effective disease carriers, so it’s possible that your pooch could contract a disease from catching rats. For that matter, rats will fight back, which can lead to surprisingly serious wounds inflicted by their teeth and claws. 

Frequent rat-catching may also lead your dog to overgeneralize and prey on other small animals, so it might not be the best course of action if you have other pets at home. 

In any case, your dog should be up to date on all vaccinations since rats can carry parasites, toxoplasmosis, and rabies. You’ll want to make sure your pooch performs regular check-ups at the veterinarian, especially if he’s catching vermin. 

***

Today, ratter dogs make energetic, playful family companions that bond closely with their humans. While these spunky pups aren’t the ideal fit for every family, ratter dog enthusiasts and beyond are charmed by these zealous best buddies. 

Do you have a ratter dog? Which ratter dog breed is your favorite? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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Leslie Ayers

I have Westies and they are good hunters of mice & rats. Be aware though, if a rodent has eaten a dose of rat/mouse posion, it can kill the dog. When I lived in England, my attached neighbors had rats in their attic area. One of their rats accidentally got in my 1/2 of the house when the boiler inspector went into my 1/2 of the attic & did not seal the entrance shut properly. My Westie, named Rory, who was the love & joy of my life fell sick & despite 2 trips to vet, died within 2 days! The posion was in the rat that Rory had killed! Be very aware!

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Ben Team

That’s a great point, Leslie. We’re sorry about your pooch, but we appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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Chris L

Enjoyed the article. But – – – should point out that the Picture for Number 8 ‘Toy Fox Terrier’ is not a Toy Fox Terrier but instead that of a Basenji, a Tri-color Basenji. Wonderful, wonderful dogs and loaded with energy. Great escape artists.

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Ben Team

Hey, Chris.

Not sure I agree. Looks like a toy fox terrier to me, and the photographer who took the photo labelled it as a toy fox terrier too.
But just to be on the safe side, I’ve swapped it out for another photo.

No matter who was right, we appreciate you keeping us on our toes!

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