Dog breeds I should consider?

We are moving back to acreage. Near Santa Cruz, California (so you have some idea of the weather profile). I’m thinking I need a good ratter. I will be keeping chicken, and where I am now, feeding chickens mean the rats will come. I’m also going to have some geese, same potential problem.

I’m allergic to haired animals, so it’s a NO on cats. I might be able to manage a non-poodle dog in the house if it’s small and sequestered, or maybe it would be an outdoor dog (good weather year round and I’d be spending a # of hours each day outside myself).

Anyway, considering it. I currently have a schnauzer cross, but he hasn’t shown me any great ratting instincts at my current home (which does not have a lot of land for him to practice on). My big poodle is aged, and so he’s not part of this equation. Might be nice for the schnauzer to have a buddy when the big dog moves across the rainbow bridge.

Any comments on finding/training? a good ratter?

We will have coyotes in the area, so that’s a thing to consider.

My parents have a Scottie who has caught and killed rats in their backyard (and they live in a nicer neighborhood without a lot of rats to speak of). Wire haired, so not a lot of shed or dander–though both Scotties they’ve owned have had some manageable allergy issues.

Feisty little things, especially the current one, but also sweet and playful.

She’d probably try to befriend a coyote, so not sure on that part as they’re fairly small.

See if AKC has any Earthdog trials in your area (would be listed under Performance Sports). to start.

If there are Earthdog trials close to you, I’d go and see what breeds are working and maybe talk to some of the competitors and see what they like or don’t about their breed and if they know of any good, strong vermin drive dogs/breeders.

I have two Border Terriers (terriers are vermin hunters) and they are good at barking at rats but not so good at following through to get rid of the dang things (although roof rats aren’t tunnelers, they’re climbers and runners).



There’s also the barn hunt guys:

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Duhhh on the barn hunt although that is a bit tougher to tell real prey drive because the dogs never see the rats, they’re in well protected tubes (unlike earthdog where the rats, as I understand it, are in cages).

Some feel Barn Hunt may be testing only scent discrimination and not true prey drive. My one terrier was terrified of the spectators (he’s blossomed with AKC scentwork) and the other got annoyed that he didn’t get paid to point out the rats so he’d zoom around the ring cataloging them and then just went visiting the rat wrangler and judge. He also did better with scentwork (either AKC or NACSW) because he got paid for the alert :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

The lady that pointed me to my Welsh Terrier has a 13 y/o Welshie (retired top show dog) that still hunts and kills vermin, including opossums. He is missing some teeth and has cataracts but he is still hell on wheels when it comes to hunting.

My Welshie was fanatical about chasing squirrels when we first got her, but she’s figured out it is too much work and she will get fed anyway, so now she just watches them from the deck. LOL.


I’d get feral cats and a dog not interested in chasing because terriers aren’t the mousers feral cats are and terriers can kill chickens.


Check out Decker terriers. Pound pups are hit and miss, although my 27lb mutt is a vicious ratter. She throws self preservation to the wind in the hunt for rodents.

Jack Russell? In many barns they have JRT to keep rat population under control. They’re not very hairy and they are rustic enough to live outdoor


We have coyote-wolf crosses around here, so I keep my terriers in a fenced yard (about an acre). They are Cairn Terriers. Basically don’t shed if you strip their rough coats twice a year. Despite being within the fence, mine have presented me with their trophies: a squirrel, a chipmunk, a rabbit, a groundhog and a snake. They and my previous one hunt and kill. I saw my old dog get voles. He’d be on them in a flash, give them a hard shake that would break their necks and then drop them and walk away. (I’d have to get them before the lab swallowed them whole!). The barn cats handle the vermin at the barn though.

PS: we still find hair from the lab in unexpected places years after his demise. Love the breed though.

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It might be hard to find a rat killing dog willing to leave the chickens alone? I second the outside cats. I have several ‘barn’ cats. They live in the barn, have the square bales to sleep in as well as several warm winter beds I made for them. I do put out food for them but they control the mice, weasels, etc quite nicely.

You are tempting me with cats. I adore cats and it’s dreadful being so allergic to them.

We had barn cats at my other property. But I do remember “going thru” a lot of cats before we landed on a pair wiley enough to avoid the coyotes. That’s a tough hunt.

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If you do want cats, highly recommend finding an adult or pair of adults that have lived outside in your area. TNRs from a feral colony, or a trapped stray. Kittens are fun and cute, but attrition is just so high. Locking them up at night will also go a VERY long way to keeping them alive.

You may already know this, but Jack Russell terriers kinda split into two varieties, the taller Parson’s terrier version and the short-legged Russell terrier. We’ve got a Russell. He gets so excited about killing that the appearance of the fly swatter makes him swoon with joy. He very much wants to participate in any killing that goes on around here. Our chickens are tempting, but he was sternly warned away from them when he was a baby and he gives them a wide berth. The rooster at the time helped enforce this.

Ours, along with a barn cat, keeps the barn area rodent free, as well as the yard surrounding the house. Fewer rodents means fewer snakes by the house, which is only a good thing.

The thing with our terrier, and the rat terriers I’ve known, is that they are very people oriented. I’m not sure how happy they’d be as an outdoor-only dog. Our dog wants to be right next to us, part of the action, or non-action, as much as possible. He hardly sheds. Maybe check into them?

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What type of living arrangement do you expect (house, apt?) and access to space (yard/no yard)? Those are important factors to consider. Terriers and poodles generally shed the least and are friendly for humans with allergies. At the same time, a lot of them have energy and access to yard, dog park/beach, etc. is important to consider.

Boy, I’d stay away from terriers if you are going to have chickens, unless you intend to keep them in a coop. They may go after your geese, too.

Herding breeds can be good ratters and normally will not bother your chickens. However, they shed like crazy in the spring and fall. Many herding breeds are happy to live outside within reason. My dad’s heeler dogs preferred to be outside guarding and were extremely good ratters.

I had a mini Schnauzer that used to get under the deck and come out with anything that moved under there, mice, moles, snakes, a rabbit, a small possum. She’d snap its neck and bring it to my feet. No shedding to speak of at all and she was light grey so would have seen hair. She was an awesome little dog that didn’t realize she was little, very friendly with everyone she met, but only listened for me. Still one of my favorite dogs.

My parents have had two JRTs. One was a fab ratter. The other less so, but still decent. Neither were interested in bothering the chickens. Both have severe issues with house training and separation anxiety.

A friend has a Scottie that makes good effort to be a ratter, but falls short in the sheer athleticism department. Too slow.

Every Corgi I have known will run rats. Ditto for Mals. With the latter having a higher kill rate. Both shed fiercely and probably aren’t suited as yard dogs.

I vote outdoor cats.

A pair of wise feral cats who are given safe housing and supplemental feed seems like a kinder option if the animal is mostly being seen as a farm tool rather than a pet rather than keeping a terrier outdoors or sequestered.


I agree with this sentiment. Being allergic to everything has its costs – one of them being I am not a cuddly pet owner. My existing schnauzer does not get anywhere near the attention he craves.