Slow Down Cat Lady! Dogs Can Hunt Mice Too

mouse on branch
Mouse on branch – Dogs make good mouse hunters.

Dogs are natural predators.  Most dogs will sniff around, seeking out whatever catches their nose or their eye.  That’s their instinct shining through.  A trained dog may have a preference for their prey but is not oblivious to the sights and scents around them.  Even if they cannot catch their prey, most dogs love the challenge of hunting down a potential meal.  Mice may be small and sneaky, but they are no exception to what can become prey.  Can dogs hunt mice?

Yes, dogs can hunt mice.  They have been hunting mice for centuries, whether it be for food or as a protector.  Loyal dogs, trained to keep their master’s yard clear of disease-ridden pests.  With good training and some patience, any dog can be a good mouse hunter.  But you still might not want to turn your pup into a mouse hound. 

Mice are very common, being found in almost every country, living in many different terrains.  There are over 30 known species. They can start reproducing at around two months old and can produce 5-10 litters per year with 5-8+ babies per litter. Mice can carry around 35 different diseases, such as Salmonella and Hantavirus.  Mice will urinate on their feet to create a trail to follow back to where it found a food source, and this is one way that they transmit viruses and diseases. Another way is through their droppings.  Mice are not tidy, spreading their urine and fecal matter wherever they go. 

Mice are great jumpers, and some types are great at swimming as well.  They are great at wiggling into tight spaces, looking for warm places to build nests — Houdini’s of the creature world.  If you think you have a mouse scurrying around at night in your cupboards, you probably have a whole family of them.  They use their sharp teeth to chew through wood and rubber, shredding anything soft and cushy that they think they can use for a nest.  They may be small, but they can be very destructive to your home, vehicles, and buildings.     

At this point, your skin is likely crawling and you are ready to get fido in the mouse hunting business.

Caution – There is a Chance Mice Can Make Your Dog Sick

Even though mice can carry diseases, that does not mean your dog will get sick if they kill one. If your pooch decides to eat one, they may end up with tapeworms. A bigger concern would be if your dog’s “snack” had eaten poison. The exposure could make them extremely sick and could ultimately kill them.  Eating poisoned mice is more of a concern if your dog is small as a large dog likely won’t die by ingesting the amount of poison in a mouse.  But let’s be clear, if your planning on training your dog to kill mice at your house, the use of mouse bait and poison would not be the best idea. 

Mice eat 15 to 20 times a day; this means they are constantly searching for something to eat.  If you don’t make sure to take care of your dog food or any other food source, there is a good chance a mouse will find it and eat it. Mice don’t necessarily only want cheese; they are attracted to stinky things, hence the cheese reference.  Moral of the story, keep food sealed and taken care of to help prevent the rodents from finding a reason to be in your house or buildings.  If your pup is a grazer, who leaves food uneaten in their bowl, it would be best to seal the uneaten food up until you or the pup has eliminated the mouse problem.  You don’t want your dog’s food bowl to become a mouse playground or worse bathroom.

Mice Avoid Preditors

While mice don’t seem to mind new obstacles, they still stay aware of what is going on around them, taking in new scents and sounds while they seek out something to eat. Mice will naturally deter away from the scent of their predators, whether it be cats, snake, rat, or dog. The best natural scent from your dog that you can use is… (drum roll please) … URINE!!!  Now, following your dog around the yard with a bottle for pee probably isn’t something you want to do, but you can dig out a freshly peed on grass patch to move to the area you want to repel them from.  Unfortunately, this method will probably not be a lasting deterrent. 

Dogs vs Mice

So how do we typically get rid of a mouse infestation?  Well, there are traps, poison, terminators, and natural predators.  Most people think of cats when they think of natural predators, but the list goes further than that. Snakes, birds of prey, foxes, and other carnivores that will enjoy a mouse snack too.  Dogs included!  Dogs are known to be better mousers than cats.  Cats will catch and play with their prey if they aren’t hungry anymore. Dogs hunt to kill though, whether they are hungry or not.  With proper training, dogs can be an effective tool to deter and kill mice. 

Dogs were used for hundreds of years to kill and keep out rodents.  Farmers needed them to keep rodents out of their chicken coops and feed bags, along with their crops, cellars, and garden harvest.  In town, they needed to keep them out of cellars, stores, and granaries.  It was so much more easy for rodents to spread diseases and other pests.  Both feral and pet, cats and dogs could catch their meals and be used to keep the population down naturally.  There may not have been a particular breed used centuries ago, but if they served a purpose, they were kept and used.  

Best Mousing Dog Breeds

There are so many different breeds of dogs, and even though most have the predatory gene that sneaks out, there are some breeds that are better known for their mouse hunting abilities.  Breeding for specific traits has helped perfect and make these breeds the great hunters they are known to be.  The following breeds listed below are some of the top rodent hunting group;

  • Rat Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • West Highland Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • Mini Schnauzer
  • German Pinscher
  • Lakeland Terrier

These breeds are fearless and determined, primarily built to go through small places. Terrier means “from the Earth,” which goes hand in hand with rodent hunting, as they pull mice and rats from burrows, holes, and other hiding spaces.  Their small, agile bodies and abundant energy make them quick to chase and dig holes.  Owners left their dogs tails long just in case they needed to pull their dogs out of a hole or burrow.  Most of these high-energy breeds are also easily trainable and great family dogs.  

You don’t necessarily need any of the above breeds to have a good rodent dog. Like I said before, most dogs have a natural predatory instinct that drives them to chase and kill their prey. With good and persistent training, any dog can become a good mouse or rat dog.

The Reason Not to Train Your Hunting Dog to Hunt Mice

If you have a dog trained for hunting any other type of game, be aware of the fact that training them on something as common as a mouse may cause issues when hunting their trained purpose. Mousing can become a confusing distraction in the field/woods if they catch the scent or sight of a sneaky little mouse.  If your bird dog is pointing a mouse while your out on a hunt, that will make for a pretty disappointing time out in the field.  So it is advised not to cross-train the serious hunting dog on mice, and to reinforce and utilize the training they already have continuously.  

Mouse Hunting Training Tips

Training a dog is similar for mice as it is for any other game. Idealistically you should get the dog familiar with its prey at a young age, as it can be harder to train them on mice or rats when they’re older. You can introduce your dog to mice using tame mice in a cage. Watch their behavior and reward any curiosity and aggression they present toward the mouse. If the pup seems afraid, encourage them and help them to feel comfortable being around the mouse.   

As they become more comfortable, take them both outside and in a confined space, let the rodent out and encourage them to seek the mouse out.  As they get older, work on following a scent trail, which can lead to a caged rodent hidden underbrush.  Use the bedding or droppings from the mouse to create a trail and then follow the trail together as a team.  Give a lot of praise when your pooch finds the caged critter.  Eventually, when you feel ready to release the caged mouse and allow the dog to catch it in a controlled environment. Then follow up with tons of praise and belly rubs when he gets it. 

It all will take a lot of patience, practice, and encouragement, but eventually, you can have an efficient mouse-killing machine.  If your wondering what to expect, looking online can offer you many videos of dogs in action.  Dogs stalking, chasing and catching mice and rats.  There isn’t one particular breed used in these videos, proving that any dog can become a good mouser.  It’s productive for you and enjoyable for them. 

Scott Phelan

I came from a non-hunting family, in my teens I got interested in hunting and taught myself to hunt. I got my first hunting dog after college and became obsessed with all things hunting dog and hunting dog training. I have spent the last 10 years training and hunting with dogs. My dogs and I have hunted quail, chukar, huns, pheasants, grouse, woodcock, ducks, and geese all over the USA and Canada. Hunting dogs are my passion.

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