Rat-Hunting Dogs: A Historically Organic Option

JReed Explains Why His Rat-Catching Dogs Avoid Dangerous Issues

rat-hunting-dogs

“Jreed and his Mongrol Hoard & friends. Three hours, 5 people, 5 dogs, 131rats dead on the board” Credit: Jreed/K.Ruby

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.

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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.

rat-hunting-dogs

130 rats caught during this hunt. Photo credit: Jreed/K.Ruby

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.”

rat-hunting-dogs

JReed on a hunt. Photo credit: Jreed/K.Ruby

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.

rat-hunting-dogs

Photo credit: Jreed/K.Ruby

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.

 

Rat-Catching Method Benefits Drawbacks
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
mitigation.
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
a day.
Dogs require patience, training, and veterinary care.
Not all breeds, or even all ages, make good rat-
catching dogs.

 

 

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Comments
  • I think it is great when we get to see dogs doing what they were bred to do, help their owners with a problem. I own two Anatolian Shepherds who protect my little homestead from all sorts of predators. Dogs are happiest when they have a job and these terriers are probably some of the happiest terriers in the country. Thanks for posting the article.

    Reply
  • I’ve had RTs over the years and they are fantastic hunters. Brave, efficient, and way more trainable than JRTs. They are reknown in the Middle East for rat catching and I believe the RT holds a record for 1000 rats in a day from their grain silos.
    I’ve always used the terrier method on farms, and my stockdogs as well. I never have to worry that I’m killing eagles, owls, or hawks, coyotes (which also help with rodent control). The caveat is putting up with huge holes and destroyed irrigation lines while on the hunt. But well worth keeping rodents to a minimum. My favorite cross is the RTxJRT, or JackRat. Hunters extraordinaire. Great article!

    Reply
  • Terriers can also control the rat population around our homes. We had a rat problem because of a nearby communal trash can whose lid was rarely closed. We hired a pest control company to put out high up bait traps (away from any domestic or wild animals with no access for other than rats) for the rats that did not come onto the ground in our property and our female Cairn terrier dispatched any rat foolish enough to venture onto the ground. It was quite spectacular watching her very quick humane kill with a bite and a fast shake of her head.

    Reply
  • I live in rural So California with our goats and Tennessee Walking Horses we have always kept cats for rodent control but our best killer is my daughters little dachshund that we got from the shelter. Like the terriers he is fast and efficient and very proud when he makes a kill. We keep our feed in bins but sometimes a hitchhiker comes with the hay delivery. This little dog is amazing and has a better temperament than the Jack Russell terriers we had before. I recommend this breed for non terrier families.

    Reply
  • Awesome use of the natural, non-poisonous method of rat control. I own and use working stock dogs and am a champion of real working dogs who are trained to utilize their abilities.

    Reply
  • How do you get the dogs to not eat the rodents? I like what your doing cause I dont like putting out poison.

    Reply
    • Once the rat was dead, the dog had little interest in it and would just leave it alone. It was the catching and killing that was fun for the dog. You have to keep your dog properly fed though, or they might be tempted to eat the rats.

      Reply
  • I worked on a duck farm on Long Island (you’ve heard of Long Island duckling in the restaurants?) and the rats would tunnel under the feed hoppers and gnaw their way into them from underneath. Every farmer had a rat-catching dog, not necessarily rat terriers, any breed seemed to work. The skilled dogs would train the other dogs. It was a fun game for them and they picked it up fast. When cleaning pens and getting ready to fill the hoppers, we’d go in with the dogs and sneak up to the hoppers, then tip them back quick to take the rats by surprise. The dogs would dart in there and grab and crunch as many rats as they could. They were always up for a good rat hunt and it was great to watch them work.

    Reply
  • I have Scottish Terriers and they are great ratters and snakers. Two weeks ago my male alerted me to yet another copperhead snake tucked away next to my garden cold frame. Scotties aren’t for everyone, but they have been our best dogs.

    Reply

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