Do Dogs Keep Mice Away?

It’s well established that cats are highly specialized in pest control—especially deterring and capturing rodents—but how does that help dog lovers and dog owners? If you think (or know) you have a mouse problem in your home and are more of a dog person than a cat person, the obvious question arises: can my dog(s) save the day? The answer to this is unfortunately not as straightforward as the answer cat lovers receive when asking the same question about a cat’s own pest control abilities. 

Quite honestly, while there are some dog breeds that enjoy and excel at chasing and capturing rodents, the reality is that mice have limited options of safe housing and consistent food; they enter your home in need of food and shelter and will only stay if they can nest safely, typically within the walls, ceilings, and foundation of the building.

This is not exactly the best news for dog owners, since dogs usually have little to no access to these small, enclosed nesting locations; mice are also nocturnal while dogs are not, so a mouse can venture out of the nest at night and scavenge the home for food, all without a dog’s disruption. 

What does the science say?

In 2017, researchers from the University of Florida conducted a study on the relationship between cats, dogs, and rodents in homes in several African villages. What they found was that mouse activity in homes decreased when either dogs or cats were present, but that more mice returned to the home after dogs had been present. In other words, the researchers concluded that since more mice returned after dogs had been present, there is not enough evidence to prove that the presence of dogs alone repel mice.

There is, however, some great news for lovers of both cats AND dogs. The University of Florida researchers also concluded that a combination of both cats and dogs can in fact deter mice, which they attributed to the idea that different types of predators living under the same roof can instill a heightened sense of fear for foraging rodents.

So in short, a dog’s presence alone is likely not sufficient at keeping mice away. However, that being said, the presence of certain breeds in the home combined with the implementation of other mouse repellent strategies can certainly increase your chances of keeping them away.

For example, if you also get a cat, or if you properly and completely remove all open food sources in your home, certain breeds in your home may then help to become of use. In the latter scenario, due to their sudden decrease in readily accessible food, mice will take on more risk to eat. They will often start venturing out of the nest more during the day to look for food, and when they do, a canine can be there to chase and potentially capture them. When this occurs enough, the remaining vermin will tend to deem their nesting location to be too dangerous and vacate the premises.

Will a dog scare away mice?

While canines may not be experts in pest control or permanent pest prevention, they can certainly help scare them away on occasion: dogs on their own are not enough to control your pest problem, but certain breeds will absolutely scare away a risk-taking mouse that ventures out of the nest during the day. Also, since dogs have an excellent sense of smell, if a mouse does come into your home and think about nesting, your dog will likely know and will be ready to chase one in the case one comes into view.

The takeaway is that certain dog breeds can help control your pest problem, but they are by no means a silver bullet nor are they as effective as more traditional and more proven methods, such as strategically placing vermin traps and poison in your home. 

Dogs that will get rid of mice

Now, you may be wondering what these certain dog breeds are that I keep mentioning. Many dog breeds are in fact great rodent hunters, for they are typically territorial, incredibly loyal, and have powerful senses of smell; however, certain dogs have been bred specifically for pest control. For example, during the years of the bubonic plague, people discovered canines to be excellent at keeping rats away from them; even after the plague began to slow down, people tried to design breeds that were rodent specialists. The three most popular and effective dogs breeds for pest and rodent control are Terries, Dachshunds, and Papillons. 

Dog Breed #1: Terriers

Terriers were specifically bred for vermin hunting and there are many Terrier breeds, including the Rat, Cairn, Lakeland, and Jack Russell. Terrier breeding dates back to early 20th-century England when rat-baiting was both a popular sport and spectacle: dogs were placed in a rat-filled pit and people would bet on how many rats the dog could kill in a certain amount of time. Terriers quickly became the “winning breed,” and as terrier breeds diversified, they took on more roles in society, such as helping farmers protect their crops from rodents.

Dog Breed #2: Dachshunds

Dachshunds, also known as wiener dogs, were also bred for hunting vermin. Originally bred in Germany, Dachshunds were specially bred to enter small burrows and tunnels and flush out rodents. They have excellent senses of smell and hearing and are religious diggers: this makes them ideal for homeowners with outdoor land infested with burrowing rodents such as gophers and voles. 

Dog Breed #3: Papillons

The Papillon, also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, is a breed of spaniel. Unlike Terriers and Dachshunds, they don’t exactly like to catch rodents, but rather specialize in chasing them around; they will try to harass them until they are driven away. Papillons are great for people who may not want to deal with the rare occurrence of their dog capturing, killing, and possibly eating a rodent, yet still want a dog that scares away the occasional critter. 

Remember, while Terriers, Dachshunds, and Papillons were once specifically bred for rodent control, that doesn’t mean other dog breeds can’t help keep your home rodent free. Your dog’s body language can tell you how well the dog will fare if a mouse is in the house. Generally speaking, if your dog is fast-moving, a good listener, highly alert, a head tilter, has a very strong sense of smell, and perks the ears up often, chances are a little vermin will be a tasty target. 

How do you keep mice out of pet food?

One thing pet owners need to keep in mind, even owners of Terriers, Dachshunds, and Papillons, is that while your pet can help scare rodents away, pet food might actually attract mice into your house and cause an infestation if the problem is not dealt with properly. Here are some tips on how to rodent-proof your pet food.

  1. Only give your pet enough food to eat in one sitting; if there are leftovers, immediately put them away in an airtight container.
  2. Wash your pet’s food bowl often. Ideally, you should wash it after each meal, but washing it once a day will suffice. 
  3. Make sure you keep all pet food tightly sealed and out of reach at all times. Mice have sharp teeth and will chew and gnaw their way through certain types of food packaging: you might want to reconsider leaving your plastic packages of pet food out in the open.

FAQ

Do dogs attract mice and rats?

A dog’s presence alone does not attract mice and rats, however dog food can if not dealt with properly. Be aware of dog food procedure

Can mice hurt dogs?

Yes, mice can hurt dogs, just as they can hurt humans; rodents—mice especially—can carry many nasty diseases, such as typhus, rabies, and infectious bacteria. One that is diseased can leave traces of its illness in its feces, urine, and hair, and so if he finds his way into your dog’s food or water bowl, he can potentially leave behind bacteria and/or diseases that will make your dog sick. Owners of dogs that were bred specifically for rat-baiting need to be extra careful, for a dog such as a Jack Russell Terrier will not hesitate to eat a mouse once caught, even if its diseased. Furthermore, be careful with pest poison if you have a dog: your dog can get very sick if he gets into the poison or if he kills a vermin that has ingested the poison. 

Can mice make my dog sick after he killed a mouse?

Yes, there is a chance a diseased mouse can make your dog sick if he kills it. If you feel your dog has ingested any part of the mouse, it is recommended you call your vet immediately. Dog’s stomach acid is powerful, but you’ll want to be extra safe.   

Can mice sense dogs?

Yes, mice can sense and are aware of a dog’s presence, just as they are aware of a human’s presence. However, a dog’s presence by itself is not enough to keep them away. 

What other pets keep mice away?

Besides dogs, other types of pets that may help keep mice away include cats, weasels, ferrets, and snakes, although letting a snake loose in your house may cause other issues!

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