Last summer we had mouse infestation under the wooden decking to the rear of our house. They were burrowing under the decking, into our sheds, chewing through boxes, and generally being a nuisance.
As a dog owner, I thought that my dog would keep mice away. After all, he’s a French Bulldog and they are meant to be ratters. However, either my dog is no good at scaring mice away, or they just didn’t care.
But that won’t always be the case. Whether a dog can keep mice away will often be breed dependent and depend on where the mice are. Here’s the short answer, followed by the details.
Will a dog keep mice away? Dogs can scare away mice, but it’s not foolproof or guaranteed. There are some breeds which will try to catch and keep mice under control and the numbers lower. However, the mere presence of a dog, is not enough to keep mice away.
There are lots of dogs who will chase mice due to their breeds. Certain breeds are territorial and will try to kill mice, which could keep them out of your house. I’ve listed the best breeds that are known as ratters on another blog post in detail or read lower down this page for the list.
Will a dog scare away mice?
Back to the original question, and with things like this I prefer to lean on what science has to say. Whilst some dogs will chase and attack mice which might keep them out of your house, it won’t stop them on your property completely.
In 2017, research was published by a team from the University of Florida. They conducted tests to see whether mice populations reduced in the presence of dogs and cats. Here’s what they discovered:
“The presence of cats and dogs at the same homestead significantly reduced activity of pest rodent species. However, if only cats or dogs alone were present at the homestead there was no observed difference in rodent foraging activity in comparison to homesteads with no cats or dogs.” (view source)
What that means is that, if there is a cat and dog together, mice can be scared away. However, if it’s just one of the pets, e.g., just a dog, mice will not reduce in numbers.
Are mice scared of dogs?
That doesn’t mean mice aren’t scared of dogs. When a mouse senses a dog in the house, they will make themselves scarce. However, the mice tend to venture back out as soon as the dog has moved to another part of the house.
This is due to a couple of different reasons. First, mice are attracted to the scent of dog food. The other reason is that mice might eat a dog’s feces if there is no other food available for them.
This is a reason why you should always address housebreaking issues with dogs right away, and also clean up feces from the yard as soon as possible.
Since mice will possibly return, if your dog has alerted you to the fact that there are mice in the house, it is time for you to take preventative action.
The bottom line is a dog is not going to keep mice away for good. Chasing a mouse out of the house is a temporary measure, and only puts a sticking plaster over your rodent problem.
Which dog breeds can keep mice away?
Historically, certain dogs were bred with the purpose of pest and rodent control. This would often happen on farms, as it was essential to keep mice away from crops and livestock.
This was common during the era of the Black Death. The plague was carried by fleas that resided on rats, and so dogs were put to work as pest hunters. Smaller dogs are better at hunting this type of prey, as they can chase them into tight areas.
Here’s the list of dogs that can scare mice away:
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Lakeland Terriers
- German Pinschers
- Rat Terriers
- Cairn Terriers
Jack Russell and Cairn terriers are among the most common mice and rat hunters. These dogs are small in stature and have high-energy personalities.
They are quick to bolt after a pest and chase it into a small space or down a hole. They maintain their ancestorial instinct of chasing after rats and mice and barking furiously when they find one.
Dachshunds, or Sausage dogs, were also bred to hunt small prey. They are very active and curious, so they will always investigate scratching noises in the walls. They also love to dig, so they will help rid your garden of gophers and voles.
Papillons are also good at hunting mice. These dogs will be obsessive about getting to a mouse in the house as soon as they detect one. Papillons have very large ears, so they can hear quiet squeaking noises.
If you notice your Papillon unexplainably wanting to get behind, inside, or underneath a large piece of furniture, there is a good chance that it contains a mouse nest.
There are also a few myths about dogs keeping mice away…
Will dog fur keep mice away?
I don’t know where this came from, but there is no proof to it. Dog hair does not keep mice away, and neither does dog urine keep mice away.
I’ve heard similar rumours about dog hair scaring foxes away too – and yes, that doesn’t work either, I tested it.
Will the smell of a dog keep mice away?
Similarly, there’s no proof or studies I can find to suggest that mice will leave if they smell a dog. The only thing guaranteed to make a mouse leave is if they see and hear the dog coming towards them – that’s when they will run.
For what it’s worth, the smell of a cat won’t even keep mice away. We used to live in a farming village and had a cat, and the mice would still come in the house all the time.
Training your dog to hunt mice
If you really want to get hold of the mouse problem, perhaps you might be able to train your dog to hunt and chase mice out of the house.
As you realise though, some dogs are better at hunting small prey than others. You can tell that a dog might be good at catching mice if they display some or all of the following body language:
- Perked up ears.
- Sniffing inside at furniture or walls.
- Listening for noises in a seemingly silent house.
- Tilting of the head.
- General alertness when there is no known stimulus around.
These are all signs that it might be worth the effort to train your dog to become a mouse hunter.
The first step to training your dog to catch mice is familiarizing them with the scent. This can be done if you have caught a live mouse in a trap or borrowed a pet mouse.
Put the dog and trapped mouse in a room together but do not let the dog go close to it. The point of this is to let the dog familiarize themselves with the smell from a distance.
After this, let your dog get close to the cage. Once they start showing interest in getting in the cage, calmly praise them. When they paw at the cage, give them pets and treats.
If possible, transport the mouse into a hamster ball (do not ever handle the mouse with your bare hands). Then place the hamster ball outside in the yard. Let your dog out into the yard and chase the mouse around.
If it is a pet mouse, of course, do not let your dog harm them. Reward your dog with treats and give him lots of praise when he has captured the mouse.
Your dog should have the general idea that catching mice will please you and result in treats. Hopefully, he will be equipped to handle real-life mice situations inside the house.
My dog ate a mouse, now what?
Dogs are more likely to kill and play with a mouse than they are to eat them.
However, consumption does occasionally happen, and that will need to be addressed. Normally, a dog eating a mouse would be no cause of concern at all, but it depends on if the mouse was poisoned at the time – some people will also worry about rabies (here’s why).
Assuming the dog found a dead mouse and ate it, this is very concerning. The mouse likely died due to pest poison, which is now in your dog’s body as well. You will need to bring your dog to the vet so that they can induce vomiting or even surgery if necessary.
Handy Hint: Here’s more detail on what to do if your dog happened to eat a dead and poisoned mouse.
If the dog killed the mouse and then ate it, this is less of a concern, but they will still need to undergo an evaluation at the vet.
If it was a puppy that ate a mouse, this is a different scenario as well. Puppies are not fully-grown, and therefore will have difficulty with digesting the mouse. You will need to alert your vet right away, as the puppy may form an obstruction in their bowel.
How to keep mice away if your dog doesn’t’ quite cut it
Having a dog that can catch mice is great, but the best scenario would involve having a mouse-free house in the first place. The following is a list of methods that you can try to prevent or reduce mice in the house:
- Keep all pet food in a sealed, mouse-proof container. Do not leave any excess pet food in the bowl, as this is an easy source of food for mice. Glass containers are best, as mice can chew through plastic ones.
- Similarly, seal all human food as well. This includes things such as cereal, rice, and oatmeal, all of which are beloved by mice.
- Do not keep any standing water in the yard, as this is giving the mice free access. If you keep a bowl of water for dogs outside, empty it and clean it every night.
- Clean all spilled food immediately. Do not leave any food out overnight.
- Repair all the holes and cracks that are leading into your house. These are providing the mice with a direct path into the home.
- If a door is often left open, consider installing a self-closing device. This will prevent the chance of a mouse sneaking inside unnoticed.
Whenever my friends try to convince me to get a cat, they always mention “and they keep the mice away!” I would always nod and smile, but one day I had my rebuttal ready – “well so can my dog!”…
But as you will now know, Claude didn’t quite manage it! Just like he loves to chase squirrels, he never catches them, the same with the mice.
I agree that certain breeds of dogs will be better at hunting mice, but the pests will be scared by any dog in general. However, after mice run away, they do tend to return to houses that are inhabited by dogs.
You might also like…
- When to worry about your dog and mice poop disease
- Here’s why your dog has that terrible smell after a bath
Image of mouse in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/mouse-rodent-cute-mammal-nager-1708353/