Ratting With Terriers
I don't really know what i expected the 1st ever time i went ratting. Prior to this the only rats we had caught were ones which had ventured to far away from their sets in fields. My youngest terrier was starting to become a real pain in the bum, fighting with the older dogs, refusing to return, preferring to mooch about on her own, several people advised to get her onto rats. A friend i spoke with on the net said he knew someone who had a lot of access to rats and he would ask if he would take me. I knew the bloke was less than impressed with the idea of taking a `girl` ratting but never-the-less we agreed to meet up.
I definitely had not realised to amount of physical work it would take to get the rats, moving large bales by the dozens, shifting huge piles of 6` by 6" planks of wood. And the preparation involved!!! Looking to see where the rat runs were, where they led to, blocking these runs, blocking set entrances. Making walls with the bales so when the rats run they have less chance of escaping the dogs. The benefits of having your dogs trained and steady, dogs running loose scaring the rats back into the sets are a nightmare, they are never in the right place at the right time and cause more rats to be lost than caught or make the job much more difficult, a rat would prefer to stay in the set knowing a dog is waiting on the outside than take a chance bolting for freedom, requiring you to dig them out. The bloke who took me had an amazing knowledge of the farm and its scaly inhabitants, he knew exactly where they would be, and where i would need to be for my dogs to get them.
I spent most of that cold day moving bales, and doing as i was told, standing here, standing there, put the dogs here, put them there, for some reason (i cannot remember now) the youngest terrier couldn't make that 1st trip, it was perhaps better she couldn't, it gave me more of a chance to suss things out without having to worry about what the Tasmanian devil would be up to, we worked hard for about 5 hrs and ended up with 5 rats. I came home cold, tired but absolutely buzzing....the dogs slept from the moment we got into the car.
Dogs will get bitten whilst ratting, ive seen some faces swollen as bad as any fox bite. Treat these wounds as you would any other, bathe them thoroughly and if the wound is causing any problems with breathing, or eye injuries etc get them to the vets. Ive found though, after the 1st one or two bites they stop swelling, in fact you have to look very closely when you get home to find them.
Also i think its also worth mentioning hygiene, id advise anyone to look up the symptoms of leptospirosis (Weils disease) for both humans and dogs, so you know exactly what you are dealing with, and maintain good hygiene when you are ratting. I always carry a packet of antiseptic wipes in my car, to get as much from my hands as possible before touching the steering wheeels etc, and dont allow children near your dogs after they have been ratting.
Im now a regular at that farm, and others, we have learned A LOT in the 18mths we have been `properly` ratting and the red devil as well as calming down is now the best ratter in my pack as well as being the most steady......if she marks there is definitely a rat home, if she comes away there isn't, she will follow the correct tunnels so we don't end up digging all of them. My black n tan who i originally though would be the best, has always been a steady dog, trained very well and listens, acts each time we go ratting as if its her 1st, totally strung out and just digs at anything with the remotest smell of rat. The dumb blonde is a funny (unusual, not ha-ha) terrier she doesn't go mad as the others do, she will hang back and watch and listen....this believe it or not is brilliant , whilst all the other terriers are at the business end furiously digging etc she will catch the rat who has made a bid for freedom from places we did not realise they would come from.
We have caught no rats on some trips, then over 60 on others. Through the day, lamping them at night. Sometimes only 2 terriers sometimes up to 6. Sometimes with a smoker, sometimes with ferrets. The lurchers have also occasionally helped.
Im never failed to be amazed by the intelligence of dogs, and how they learn and remember.
But best of all, the knowledge passed onto me by the guy who `was less than impressed taking a `girl` ratting`, the memories gained, and the friendship we have forged is something which will remain with me till the day i die.
Before i end lets not forget the humble rat, an animal who is despised by man for good reasons, but has to be one of natures most admirable animals for the way it will survive ANYWHERE.