Best Dog for Killing Rats: Ultimate Ratters Guide

Image showing a miniature-schnauzer in a forest
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Rats are an unfortunately common problem in many areas. They not only have the tendency to damage stored goods, but they also have the capacity to spread dangerous diseases. People used to turn to poison to kill these uninvited guests, but recently, many have started to realize that employing the best dog for killing rats is a much safer and more effective method.

Rats are becoming more and more poison-resistant with time. Rats are also very smart, so laying out conventional traps for them will not be an adequate long-term solution. To confront all these rat-related issues, you should employ the help of dogs specially bred to become excellent rat hunters. Their keen sense of smell allows them to sniff all the rats hiding under your roof out all at once. This is the best way to rid your house of those pesky rats as not only is it effective, it is also environmentally-friendly.

Image showing little Border Terrier Dog playing in the grass

To guide you in finding the most aggressive rat catchers, here we have enlisted the best ratting dogs as well as their specific features and qualities. We hope all the information shared here would help you in picking the right savior to get rid of those nasty pests roaming around.

Why are Dogs Perfect for Killing Rats?

We have all grown up with the idea of employing cats to chase mice. But that is not what we observe in real life. Cats happen to be moodier and lazier. They don’t always react to the sight of a mouse/rat.

Contrary to that, dogs are naturally aggressive and can’t accept the presence of some other animal in their domain. As a pet owner, you must have seen them running after things like insects, flies, and other pests simply after sensing minor movements in their surroundings.

Image showing a Miniature Schnauzer Puppie looking at the camera

Employing a dog’s help to hunt down rats is nothing new. This concept is centuries old. Rats have always been considered as destructive to the fields and storage of food items. To handle this situation, over time people learned to breed a few tenacious species of dogs. These rat hunters have a few special characteristics that make them the perfect choice for chasing down rats:

  • They have a keen sense of smell so they can easily sniff out where the rats are hiding.
  • They have a strong jaw capable of dragging the vermin out of their hiding places.
  • They run fast so they can chase those agile rats down.
  • They usually have a small body so they can crawl into tight spaces where rats like to hide and beat them in their own game.
  • Despite their small size, they are usually rather muscular. Their front legs are especially strong, which allows them to dig holes in the ground to chase after rodents.

To put it simply, every dog species is a hunter in and of itself, but there are some that are known to be more suited for rat-hunting than others.

Image showing a dog hunting during daytime

In the next section, we will discuss the dog species you should take into consideration if you plan to assign the task of hunting rats to them.

Best Rat-Killing Dogs

There are a number of dog breeds that can purge your house of rats faster, safer, and more effectively than by poisoning them. Some of the best ratter dogs are:

No. 1. Border Terriers

Originating from the vast hilly lands stretched between Scotland and England, border terriers have a long history of assisting horseback hunters during fox hunts. They also perform extraordinarily as vermin catchers.

Image presenting three Aardehond Border Terriers

What distinguishes them from the other terrier breeds is the unique shape of their head (their head looks like an otter’s head) and their comparatively longer legs (suitable for digging). They are about 11 to 16 inches tall.

They come with two layers of coat—a short inner coat and a wiry outer coat. Their double-coat keeps them safe during rainy weather. It is also known as a waterproof coat. Reputed to be hardworking dogs, they can also be loveable household pets if trained properly.

No. 2. Carin Terriers

The oldest of terrier breeds (dating back to the 1500s), Carin terriers look cute and cuddly. But contrary to their appearance, they are stubborn and aggressive in nature, especially while chasing their prey.

Image showing a little Cairn Terrier running in the park

With a height of about 9 to 13 inches, these dogs have a thick, hypoallergenic and rough-looking coat on them. It requires grooming every now and then, so they do best in households where there are family members that are willing to put some time into grooming them. Their coat comes in many color varieties—such as black, grey, cream, and red.

If you plan to keep them as a family pet, it is essential to arrange proper physical training and exercise for them, or else they may direct their instinct for hunting rats towards furniture destruction or other small animals like squirrels and birds.

No. 3. Jack Russel Terriers

Jack Russel terrier’s history can be traced back to 200 years ago. This particular terrier breed is the origination of the dogs bred by the famed John Russel in early 19th century. Jack Russell terrier dogs started off as fox hunters. Smaller in height (10 to 15-inches tall), they are quite clever and will actively go after targets hiding in difficult terrains or a distant location. Therefore, they are considered best for hunting down vermin hiding underground.

Image showing a Jack Russel Terrier Dog

Often confused with other small sized white terriers, their build is rather strong and broad. They have a rough white coat with black or tan markings around their eyes and tail. Easy to train, the world recognizes them for their loyalty and affection towards their owners. Their aggressive and energetic nature makes them suitable for outdoor (fields and barn) activities.

No. 4. Rat Terrier

Often mistaken as Jack Russell terrier (because of their similar color and markings), rat terriers are often considered the finest companion for hunting. An American dog originally, this breed was named by President Theodore Roosevelt himself. According to some, this was the very terrier breed that kept the White House safe from rat infestations.

Image showing a Rat Terrier dog looking at a persons

This breed’s small size (about 13 inches) helps them dig deep underground to chase after vermin and rats. Rat terriers are smart so they also make amazing household pets. But make sure your house has a garden or a yard at the very least, as rat terriers love to dig holes in the ground and they may become stressed out if they are surrounded by concrete.

No. 5. Dachshunds

These short-legged and long-bodied dogs are one of the best family dogs today. Not many people know that they actually started out as one of the best hunting dogs. Dachshunds have a body that is naturally designed to unearth rodents. Their front paws are paddle-shaped and relatively large in size—which allows them to dig deep in the ground.

Image presenting two dachshunds dogs

Their broad chest aids them in breathing properly while they are burrowing out their prey. The loose skin on their body ensures they would receive no scratches or injury while chasing the vermin in the tunnels. Classified as a hound, dachshunds have a longer snout than most dogs. It adds to their sniffing sense, so they can swiftly spot the location of tunneling animals like badgers.

Unlike other species of ratter dogs, dachshunds are less-aggressive. But still, their love of digging holes makes them a great vermin-chaser—as well as one of the messiest dogs around. Make sure you’re prepared to clean up after them rather often if you plan to keep them.

No. 6. Miniature Schnauzer

A German ratter, miniature schnauzer was bred in the 19th century. One particular feature that makes them unique is the beard under their beady eyes. One of the smallest of terriers, this breed ranges from 10 to 15 inches in length. Their small size and wiry double-coat make them look like some kind of squishy toy. But under that messy fur, this breed usually has a robust body.

Image showing a Miniature Schnauzer dog laying down

Unlike other terriers, this one lacks aggressiveness, but as the sole purpose of their breeding was to kill rats, they have got an unusual sense of hearing that helps them in locating those pesky rats’ hideouts. They are also great as herding dogs.

No. 7. Yorkshire Terrier

Belying their cute, hairy, and doll-like look, Yorkshire terriers are quite daring and active as ratters. Their history of killing rats goes back to the era of the industrial revolution (the 1800s) in England. During that period, mines and mills were infested with rats. Yorkies were given the task of killing them, and they fulfilled that task successfully.

Image showing a Yorkshire Terrier running outside

Many underestimate them because of their small size, but it is that very size that makes it possible for them to chase the rats and go deep in their burrowing spots.  They are also known to have the capacity of hunting down other bigger creatures like foxes and badgers.

No. 8. West Highland White Terrier

The westies’ journey as a dog breed started back in the 1500s in Northwestern Scotland. Westies were bred solely for rat-hunting purposes in farms, mines, and barns. These dogs are known for their utmost loyalty towards their master.

Image showing a West highland white terrier looking at the camera

The overall body structure of a westie helps them a great deal while unearthing rats and rodents. With bullet-shaped bodies and heart-shaped thoraxes, it becomes convenient for westies to wriggle through tight underground burrows while chasing their prey.

Westies are small in size. Their length ranges from 9 to 11 inches. They have a double coat to keep them safe and warm. The inner coat is short and soft while the outer layer consists of white wiry hair. As their name suggests, westies come in no other color but white.

No. 9. Lakeland Terrier

As the name suggests, this small-sized ratter dog started out in the Lake District in Northwest England. This breed dates back to the 1700s. Utilized as vermin and rat eradicator, this little breed is great at digging holes.

Image showing two Lakeland Terrier dogs sitting next to a water

Though it is a small-sized (14½ inches long) breed, its aggressive nature makes it a great hunter. Like many of the terriers, Lakeland terrier comes with a double coat. There’s the short and soft inner layer as well as the rough and wiry outer coat. Their paws are round and forward-pointing with wide and thick pads. The tails are located a bit higher than with most terriers and held upright most of the time.

The history of Lakeland terriers is filled with numerous stories narrating their valor and bravery while chasing rodents. Some are said to have been rescued after spending several days underground. Their high energy and great stamina make them perfect as a rat hunter. As a pet, you would find them to be cute and playful.

No. 10. German Pinscher

Dating back to the 18th century, German pinscher is a medium-sized dog renowned for being a great guard dog and rat chaser. This breed has a short and glossy coat that ranges in a variety of colors such as black, brown, red, and tan.

Image showing a German Pinscher laying down and looking at the camera

German pinschers are muscular of build. Their great senses allow them to locate vermin like rats and mice from a distance. Once they’ve caught a glimpse of a rat, they would not let go of it easily. Be prepared for some noise if you choose this breed, though. Their guard dog instincts keep them barking for most of the time, especially whenever there’s a visitor.

Wrap Up

You may have noticed that most of the dogs on this list belong to the terrier family. Terrier dogs are often called the ‘masters of ratting’. Recognized as the best country dogs, terriers are skilled at tunneling the ground to root out rats and rodents.

Seeing their short body, one might get dubious about their ability as hunters, but these terriers have been guarding farms and fields for a long time, and they have been very successful. No one can question their loyalty. If you are worried about a rat (or any other vermin) infestation in your place, getting one of the above-mentioned dogs can really help. So, what are you waiting for?

Two little dachshunds looking at someone

Do you plan to adopt any of the aforementioned breeds to help with the rat problem in your house? Besides all the rat-catcher dogs discussed here, if you know about some other dog breeds with good ratting skills, we would really like to hear from you. Share your story in the comment section below.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.