When we talk about pets that kill rats, it’s the cats that will get the maximum number of votes. In fact, the majority of the people still think that cats are the only pets to keep those pesky rodents away.
Today, we’re going to dispel that popular belief one and for all. Dogs are not only a faithful pet, but they can also be a rat killing machine, especially the Westies aka West Highland White Terriers. Let’s get to know more about these little furry friends.
Are Westies Good at Killing Rats?
Westies are excellent hunters, and they are energetic and determined. They are one of the terrier breeds which are known for hunting vermin on rough terrains.
These dogs are very smart and intelligent, although they may not be trained to hunt, they know their family history, and the instinct to hunt is still present in them. It’s very natural for them to go running after a rat or a squirrel if they see one.
There is a reason why they are called ratters. Back in the 1500s, these dogs were bred to keep the rats away from farms, barns and mines. They have a prey drive, which makes them chase and kill smaller animals such as rats.
White terriers are pretty stubborn, persistent, and bossy. If they are not trained at a young age, they may not quickly get along with other pets like a cat. It is better to introduce them to other animals and raise them together.
Your Westie may not be able to differentiate between a wild mouse and a pet mouse or a rabbit. If you have smaller animals as pets, and you own a Westie, you should keep an eye on your canine friend.
After all, they love to hunt, and it’s in their blood. Terriers will catch anything and everything that runs; it’s not a good idea to let them go off-leash when walking them.
Westies can pick up scents, but the smell does not activate their prey drive as they’re not scent hound. They will only chase what they see, especially if it tries to run.
Hunting Background of the West Highland White Terrier
Westies originated from the Highlands of Scotland. People in the past used to train them to hunt rats and other vermin; they would even accompany the hunters when hunting small game like rabbits and foxes.
It is widely believed that Westies white color is a result of a hunting accident which took place in the 19th century. According to the story, Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm of Scotland accidentally shot one of his red-brown terriers mistaking it for a fox.
Following the tragedy, Malcolm decided that he’d only hunt with white dogs, and started to develop pure white terriers. Modern Westies were born as a result of Malcolm’s effort.
Why Do Westies Love to Hunt?
All dogs have a hunting behavior; their tendency to chase after several animals, and even insects or other moving objects is very natural. You may have watched some little pups chasing a butterfly with delight, and this proves that their hunting instincts are already in them although they have never been trained to hunt or kill.
In the case of the white terriers or Westies, their predatory behavior is already ingrained in their psyche. Furthermore, when we look at their history, we know that they were solely bred to use as a measure to control rats and other pests.
To understand their hunting behavior better, let us look further into their past.
Terriers are very energetic, smart and very active. In addition to this, their hunting skills were so good that they were used as ratters-in a sporting sense. In the early 20th century, a blood sport called rat baiting was very popular.
In this sport, the dog was placed in a pit or an enclosed area filled with numerous rats, and the spectators will then bet on which dog will make the most kills. The dog which kills the most rats within a limited time would be crowned the winner.
Does Killing Rats Affect Their Health?
Rats are known for spreading various diseases to other animals, including humans. There’s a good reason why these pests are called ‘vermin.’
Westies are natural hunters, and you probably cannot stop them if their desire to hunt kicks in. Although it is safe to say that there isn’t a lot of risks involved, your dog’s health may be compromised if he/she eats the rat.
In this case, several factors need to be considered.
Although there may not be immediate visible effects if your dog kills a rat, it may have several ill effects on his or her health. This is why it is advised to pay a regular visit to the vet and have them examined by a doctor.
Was the Rat Poisoned?
This is the worst-case scenario, and if your Westie happens to kill a rat that was already weakened by the rat poison; it can be fatal if not taken care of immediately.
Signs That Your Dog Has Consumed Rat Poison
Your canine friend might have killed or consumed a poisoned rat if you see these signs – difficulty in breathing, refusing to eat, swelling skin, vomiting, walking drunken, lethargy and bleeding from the gums. If your dog shows any of these signs, take it to a vet clinic immediately.
Is There a Way to Keep Westies From Hunting?
As mentioned earlier, white terriers are natural hunters, and little can be done to keep their prey drive under control. However, you can do things that will ensure their safety and others around them.
The most important thing you can do is to teach your canine friend to obey several commands. He or she must come when called, and sit still when asked to. If you’re concerned about them eating their catch, you should train them to bring it to you.
It is not so easy to train white terriers, but the effort is definitely worth it. The place and time you choose to take your dog on a walk also matter a lot, especially if you decide to walk your dog without a leash.