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Do Dogs Smell Rats?

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Tuesday 5 July 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Do Dogs Smell Rats?
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While rats and mice may be cute, having them in your home uninvited can make life difficult. If you also happen to have a man’s best friend in your home, you may wonder, do dogs smell rats? With their combination of super-smell and acute hearing, dogs can act as excellent rat detectors.

In the same vein, you may also ask, do dogs smell mice? The good news is that your pooch can detect both rats and mice similarly. Even the smallest of sounds may be detectable by your canine companion. To find out more about this topic, read on with us today!

Can Dogs Smell Rats?

The short answer to whether dogs can smell rats or not is overwhelming: yes!

Dogs have a better sense of smell than we do. Research suggests that a dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 times more acute than our own. This is because dogs have millions more sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavities, and the part of their brain that analyzes odors is 40 times larger than our own.

As well as this, your dog can hear sounds between 40 Hz and 60,000 Hz – a range much higher than our own, which ends at around 20,000 Hz. This is important to note because rats communicate with sounds from 22,000 Hz all the way up to 100,000 Hz or more. As such, your dog may be able to hear the ultrasonic conversations that rats have behind your walls.

Signs That Your Dog Can Sense Rats

Even when you are unaware of intruders in your home, your dog may be able to hear and smell rats and mice inside your walls. A dog’s hearing is so sensitive that they are able to hear the small scratching sounds and squeaks as rats and mice move around. In response, your dog might do several things.


In an attempt to get to the rats, your dog might dig and scratch at a specific wall in your home. Even when you try to stop them, your dog may insist on continuing the behavior. Note that excessive digging, especially indoors, is not always a sign of pests in your home.

Dogs require a lot of mental stimulation, otherwise, they will find other ways to amuse themselves. Your dog may start using the carpet as a toy, digging into it to relieve boredom.


Because your pup’s sense of smell is so acute, they can probably smell rats and mice through the walls. As such, they may sniff around the area, press their nose to the wall, and seem fixated on searching with their nose nearby.

Not all cases of wall-sniffing indicate rats, though. This behavior can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder or boredom. Behavior like this may also be the result of a neurological problem, such as seizures or liver failure.

Gets Upset Easily

With rats in your home, your dog might be more agitated or easily upset than normal. This is because they will be on high alert, listening for movements in the walls or under the floorboards. However, note that this behavior can also be indicative of pain or distress in your dog. Be sure to monitor them for signs of illness if this behavior occurs often.

Sitting and Staring

A dog who can sense rats in the home may display odd behaviors like sitting and staring at specific spots in the house. However, behaviors like this can also be indicative of some medical conditions. If your dog is older, consider the possibility of canine dementia.

Barking or Whining

Frequent barking or whining directed at a specific area of your home could suggest that pests are nearby. However, this isn’t always the case. Repetitive barking can be a sign of some health or behavioral problems. Your dog may bark excessively due to boredom, anxiety, fear, or feeling a lack of attention.

Running Around the Same Place

With rats in your home, your dog may pace around the same area, following walls attentively. As rats and mice scurry through the wall, your dog might hear them and attempt to follow them. However, dogs will pace for other reasons as well. These include boredom, anxiety, and stereotypical behaviors developing from stress.

Training Your Dog to Smell Rats Safely

When keeping pet rats and dogs in your home, it’s important to introduce them gradually. Pet rats and pet dogs are different creatures, though they share some similarities. Your pet rat is likely very small and cautious, while dogs are much larger and more curious with predatory instincts.

Depending on your dog’s breed, introducing them to rats may not be advisable – breeds developed to hunt rats specifically are some of the least suitable for cohabitation.

Make sure that you allow your dog and rats to smell each other safely. Allow them to smell each other through the cage bars first; but exercise caution, as rats are territorial and may not take kindly to a predator in their home. Always supervise your dog and your rats closely and end the introduction if aggressive behaviors develop.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe From Rats

First and foremost, make sure that your dog is up to date on their vaccinations. Depending on where you live, your pooch may be at risk of Leptospirosis, spread through rat urine. Secondly, keep your dog on a leash in affected areas.

Your dog may become infected through direct contact with rat droppings, rat bites, or eating dead rats. Thirdly, know the early signs of illness. Leptospirosis is an infection that can lead to kidney failure and liver disease. Look for fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing.

In your home, you will need to take different measures. Remember not to leave food outside, including your pet’s food. Rats can chew through and eat almost anything. Be sure to secure rubbish in bins with tight-fitting lids.

Don’t leave your pet’s food out overnight if possible. As well as this, change your dog’s water regularly and clean the bowl often. If you find rat droppings, be sure to clean them up as soon as possible to avoid having your pooch eat them.

So, do dogs smell rats? In short, not only can they smell them, they can hear them with ease, too. If your pooch starts showing strange behaviors close to specific walls in your home, consider if rats or mice are the culprits.

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