As shown in the short simple video below, we raise our dogs to this life, more than we train them.
We believe dogs need four things to become great rat catchers: instinct, genetics, training, and opportunity. You can have the best instincts and genetics in the world, but without the opportunity, that dog will never be a rat catcher. Ideally you would start with a puppy or an adult dog that already shows prey drive. An adult dog that has never shown any interest is unlikely to start all the sudden.
You can not force a dog to hunt, it must choose on its own. We do not want our dogs to be stressed into performance before they are ready. We try very hard to keep them from attempting to kill a rat before they have fully developed adult teeth. The pain of a serious rat bite could cause a young dog to shy away from ever attempting to actually kill a rat, and even the adults dog get bitten as large rats are not easy to kill. We do not expect the dogs to catch and dispatch rodents until they are 9-12 months old, although many start before this. We find female dogs often start hunting younger than males and this is the reason we prefer to hunt with mostly females.
This is a well coordinated effort between handler and dog team for effective rodent control. We are not releasing the hounds and drinking beer while larking about a farm. It requires the handler to be able to harness and focus the dogs abilities for maximum outcome. What you do not see in the video is the contact of the dogs with the livestock and poultry and how this is critical to teaching a puppy what to hunt. Is is essential that the young dogs learn the sight, sounds and scents of the farm and learn to focus through distractions. It is also important to structure rat catching as a fun game that always allows a young dog to win, while avoiding future danger. For example, we encourage a puppy to play with and chase the already dispatched rats, while practicing verbal commands such as “get it,” “shake it” and “drop it.”
The next natural progression in training is to teach a search command, such as “Where is it?” This can be accomplished by hiding dead rats in likely places under pallets and hay or in dirt tunnels and encouraging the puppy to begin searching for rats. The rewards will be a rousing play session with the dead rat. Unfortunately the dead rats do carry lots of fleas and this is a ongoing issue. It is also useful to tie a rat to string and pole and encourage the chase/prey behavior. All of this positive play will ensure that the dogs natural instincts will be fully engaged by the time the dog reaches mental, emotional and physical maturity.
These basic training methods can also be used to evaluate rescue dogs and other breeds and types. It is usually fairly obvious which dogs are interested and which are not.Older dogs and rescues are more difficult to socialize with poultry, livestock and barn cats so this is the reason we do not work only with rescue types. Terrier breeds are also preferred as they were all bred originally to kill vermin and varmits and many retain that instinct. Not many types of dogs were developed to kill the prey they hunt, most were bred just to chase, locate, hold or retrieve. Our adult dog mentors are invaluable teaching the young dogs through example about the rat catching game. We also work hard to teach the dogs to drop rats to avoid the dog eating a rat that might contain poison, and this can be a challenge with young dogs. In a big hunt a dog that is playing with rats and not just killing and moving on, means a lot of other rats are escaping and this does not work well for us.
We have found that leashing young dogs along the pathway that rats are fleeing is a great way to include them in the hunt. They will hear and observe the hunt and are more likely to see the rats. The visual connection can take awhile in some dogs, as the rats are both fast and sneaky and not always easily seen for a visual mental connection. We also like to make sure that the young dogs get training while alone. Though the dogs all develop a natural working style of their own with strengths and weakness we do not want them to be ” ME TOO” dogs. What this means is they should have the gumption and confidence to both locate and dispatch rats on their own, not only working as a pack. Without some alone time training and hunting they can often develop into groupies instead of independent warriors. The result is more than one dog competing for the same rat instead of the pack all working to catch fleeing rats on the farm.
We do also work rigorously with our dogs to train them not to chase cats, chickens or other livestock. This is accomplished by making sure the dog has plenty of calm supervised (leashed) contact with these animals. Our dogs are take regular part in the farm routine of feeding and care of our own livestock–this normalizes being around such critters, it should be “nothing special.” We show our displeasure at anything more than casual interest in these critters and also train with verbal commands such as “Git on,” and “leave it.”
We would like to stress that we are not professional dog trainers. We are just regular people with regular dogs, and we like to spend time on farms. Our dogs love doing what we do, bike rides, walks, fetch and being in the garden. This includes following us on weekly or more rat catching adventures. “This love/hate affair that I (Jreed ) have with Norway Rats is infectious to my dogs. You can not expect your dog to catch rats if you do not make any effort to catch rats yourself and bring your puppy/dog in contact with rats.”
“It is an unspoken agreement that yet clearly exists . If my dogs will show me where rats are located, I will do anything in my power to force the rat from is safety and lair no matter how much work, and in return I expect my dogs to try with 100 percent effort to try and catch and kill every rat that I flush. This is the real secret of the Mongrol Hoard. ”
We have high hope for “Mad Max ” (puppy name) and hope you continue to follow his progression as he lives the dream of all terriers by being a part the Mongrol Hoard of Rascally Rat Wranglers
These videos are also available on the youtube channel or via our Facebook page.