Got a rat problem? You can try traps, poisons … or rat-hunting dogs. This organic concept is the reason rat terriers exist today.
Back to His Roots, Back in History
Hunting with dogs is a way of life in South Carolina. In California, not so much.
After he moved west, Jordan Reed worked on farms, happily carrying on his mother’s love of agriculture and gardening. But farms and Northern California’s mild climate form the perfect breeding ground for Norway rats. Jordan tried natural ways to get rid of mice and rats: traps, BB guns, etc.
A love of dogs, farms, and the hunt came together when his first terrier, Holy Molé, snatched up a gopher and shook it to a swift death.
Jreed’s exciting discovery was actually the purpose for which terriers were bred. Back when almost all dogs were working animals, terriers hunted small vermin which plagued European farms. Poisons weren’t options back then, so people learned how to get rid of rats by training rat-hunting dogs.
Jreed encouraged the practice, acquired a few more terriers and created the Mongrol Hoard. With a few dogs and brave friends willing to get dirty, Jordan charges $100-150 plus a case of beer: just enough to pay for gas and reward hard work. His fees are low because this isn’t his job; he has a job. He believes in eliminating poisons and helping his “farming family.”
“Ideally,” he says, “we want to come because there is an infestation, deal with the infestation and the reason for the infestation … so the farmer can manage it from that point.”
Jreed expects farmers to participate in hunts, moving objects and cleaning up problem areas. If they refuse to help or refuse to correct issues which exacerbate rat problems, Jreed won’t work with them.
He understands that infestations often happen because of a change in farm management — family illness or death — and things get out of hand. Jreed doesn’t do dirty, dangerous work for people who won’t help themselves. Neglected farm animals are a deal-breaker. He also won’t deal with other people’s garbage. If they have rats because they won’t take out their own trash, no amount of money will convince him to drive out to their farms.
Hunts take a maximum of three to four hours, which is about all dogs and humans can expend in labor and energy. Fifty rats caught is considered a fantastic day; 100 is better. His most successful day involved three dogs and one pup, a calf barn within a dairy farm, and 224 dead rats counted on the board. The number of rats caught usually reflects the amount of feed available. Dairies rank high in rat populations.
Are Rat-Hunting Dogs Humane?
Though Jreed welcomes questions about his dogs, he takes threats seriously. And he receives them from people who don’t understand how his method is the best option.
Viewer Warning: This video contains actual footage of dogs killing rats. Video credit: Jreed/K.Ruby
Those who complain most about rat-hunting dogs have never seen the damage caused by infestations. “Barns sinking in the ground as the rats undermine the foundations,” Jreed illustrates. “Adult chickens killed and eaten in the night, aborted cow fetuses because of fecal contamination in feed.” Jreed explains that wild rats, which can top a pound in weight and produce 200 offspring a year, are nothing like pet store rodents.
His website illustrates the inhumanity of poisons, to both rats and wildlife. “The death itself is several days of pain and suffering.” Any animal preying upon weak, wounded rats also consumes poison. Dogs kill with a bite and a shake, and Jreed’s team does a swift “dead check” to ensure rats are swiftly dispatched.
As for the dogs? He’s only lost one, and that was a freak accident caused by a puncture wound. Accidents can happen anywhere. Sir Grumps A Lot’s memory is honored on Jreed’s blog.
But because people can be so critical, he avoids speaking in public about his dogs and only answers serious inquiries. “I’ve filed police reports over direct threats,” he explains. “I take this very seriously.”
Want Rat-Hunting Dogs? Do Your Homework.
Rat terriers are pets in the States, but prey drive is so strong that Jreed advises owners to know what they’re getting into.
“Terriers are not for everyone and require experience and an exceptional amount of owner attention and supervision.”
Jreed explains that the best farm dogs love to be involved in what you are doing and need to be kept busy. He says, “My dogs kill rats because I like to spend time on farms catching and killing rats.” Don’t expect dogs killing rats unless you’re out moving boards and guiding the animals. That’s why he won’t breed or sell dogs.
“The shelters are stock full of terrier-type dogs,” he says. “Dogs that, if they had the needed love, supervision, exercise and stimulation, would be wonderful dogs for you.”
His website contains information about training rat-catching dogs. He welcomes questions about the hunt or animals. But he won’t train dogs for you. Jreed has a few converts, though. That farm where he caught 224 rats now has three of their own terriers; they even help Jordan with other hunts. He’s no longer needed on that farm because he helped them learn the cause and solution for their rat problems.
Are Rat-Hunting Dogs an Option for You?
Learning from Jreed’s experiences can help you decide if you want rat-hunting dogs or should focus on traps instead. He illustrates the backlash, hard work, trials and triumphs on his website. YouTube videos show what’s involved. And though the “Training” portion of his site gives steps and tips, he states that you cannot force a dog to hunt and that not all dogs will be trustworthy around livestock. Adult dogs that have never shown interest in hunting are unlikely to be good hunters.
“We believe dogs need four things to become great rat catchers: instinct, genetics, training, and opportunity.”
What do you think about rat-hunting dogs versus poisons? Let us know in the comments below.
|No Intervention||You don’t have to get dirty?||If there is enough food, a couple rats soon becomes an infestation, which carries disease that can hurt
humans and livestock. Rats kill and eat small
animals such as chickens.
|Catch and Release||No rats die in the mitigation
of rats on your property.
|They become someone else’s problem.
Rats are introduced to new territory, where
they don’t know where to find food. Live
release of vermin may be illegal in your area.
|Traps||Most traps are inexpensive
and can be used many times
before they break.
|Traps only kill one rat at a time. An infestation can
breed and multiply faster than traps can catch and
kill them. Traps may also be dangerous to small
children and small livestock.
|Poisons||Rats drag it into their dens,
where other rats can share it.
|Anticoagulants take several days to work, during
which time the rat is in pain and cannot find relief.
If any other animal eats a poisoned rat, that poison
moves into the predator’s body and can harm/kill
it as well.
|Cats||Cats are great companions
in addition to great mouse
|Rats are often too large for standard cats to kill.
Also, cats kill one mouse at a time, then play
with their food before eating it.
This doesn’t allow quick extermination.
|Terriers||A dog catches and kills
quickly, allowing it to kill
up to a hundred within
|Dogs require patience, training, and veterinary care.
Not all breeds, or even all ages, make good rat-