Dog Gopher Hunters: Top Breeds for Rodent Control

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Gophers can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, digging tunnels, destroying lawns, and wreaking havoc in gardens.

If you’re tired of dealing with these pesky creatures and are seeking a natural, effective solution, look no further than man’s best friend – your trusty canine companion.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of gopher-hunting dogs, helping you transform your canine friend into a skilled gopher deterrent and exploring the best breeds for the job.

But first, let’s tackle the burning question: Can dogs really keep gophers away?

black and white rat terrier dog standing in grass field

Can Dogs Keep Gophers Away?

The short answer is yes – dogs can help keep gophers away. Their keen sense of smell and natural hunting instincts can make them effective in detecting and capturing gophers.

However, not all dogs possess the same level of skill or enthusiasm for gopher hunting. The success of using your dog as a gopher deterrent depends on factors such as breed, training, and individual temperament.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into training techniques, top dog breeds for gopher hunting, and helpful tips to make the most of your dog’s gopher control abilities.

Training Your Dog to Catch Gophers

Training your dog to catch gophers can be a rewarding and effective way to control these pesky rodents. Let’s dive into the steps you need to follow for successful gopher-hunting sessions.

Develop Basic Obedience Skills

Before diving into gopher hunting training, ensure your dog has a strong foundation in basic obedience.

Commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” are essential for effective and safe gopher hunting. This foundation will help you maintain control and prevent any potential harm to your dog while they engage in hunting activities.

Introduce Your Dog to Gopher Scent

To develop your dog’s ability to detect gophers, start by familiarizing them with the scent. You can use gopher fur, droppings, or a gopher carcass to help your dog associate the smell with their prey.

Begin by allowing your dog to sniff the scent and reward them with praise or treats when they show interest.

Practice Tracking and Digging

Once your dog is familiar with the gopher scent, encourage them to practice tracking and digging. Start by hiding the gopher scent in your yard, gradually increasing the difficulty of the hiding spots. When your dog successfully locates the scent, praise and reward them.

Additionally, allow your dog to practice digging in designated areas to strengthen their digging skills for gopher hunting.

Encourage Alertness and Patience

Gopher hunting requires patience and focus. Train your dog to be alert and watch for gopher movement by observing active gopher holes. When your dog notices a gopher, command them to “wait” or “stay” near the hole. Reward your dog for maintaining their position and attentiveness.

Teach the “Catch and Release” Technique (Optional)

If you prefer your dog to hunt gophers without causing harm, teach them the “catch and release” technique.

This involves your dog capturing the gopher gently in their mouth and releasing it when given a specific command, like “drop it.” Practice this technique using soft toys before attempting it with live gophers.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when training your dog for gopher hunting. It may take some time for your dog to develop the necessary skills, but with dedication and positive reinforcement, you’ll have a helpful gopher deterrent in no time.

Top Dog Breeds for Gopher Hunting

While many dogs have a natural instinct to hunt, certain breeds excel at gopher hunting due to their size, agility, and hunting abilities. Here are some top dog breeds known for their prowess in gopher hunting:


Terriers, such as the Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, and Cairn Terrier, are renowned for their hunting skills and tenacity. These breeds have a strong prey drive and are adept at digging, making them perfect for gopher hunting.


Originally bred for hunting badgers, Dachshunds are skilled at burrowing and tracking small animals. Their long bodies and short legs allow them to navigate tight spaces with ease, making them well-suited for gopher hunting.


Known for their exceptional sense of smell, Beagles are skilled trackers and can quickly pick up on a gopher’s scent. Their size and agility also make them effective hunters in challenging terrains.

Miniature Schnauzers

These energetic and intelligent dogs possess a strong prey drive and are skilled at hunting small game. Their compact size enables them to navigate tight spaces while on the hunt for gophers.

There are numerous dog breeds with potential for gopher hunting, and while some breeds like Siberian Huskies may be only partially suited for hunting tasks, others, such as Blue Heelers, could be a much better option for gopher hunting.

Tips for Using Dogs as a Gopher Control Method

Successfully using your dog as a gopher control method requires a combination of training, safety precautions, and responsible practices. Keep these tips in mind to ensure a successful and safe experience for both you and your canine companion:

  • Supervise your dog. Always keep an eye on your dog while they’re hunting gophers. This will help you maintain control and ensure their safety during the process.
  • Check local regulations. Before embarking on gopher hunting with your dog, be sure to check your local regulations regarding wildlife control and hunting practices. Visit your city or county government’s official website, search for “wildlife control” or “hunting regulations,” on Google, or contact local wildlife management agencies. For example, in the United States, regulations can be found on state fish and wildlife websites.
  • Protect your dog’s health. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and preventatives, as gophers can carry diseases and parasites that could be harmful to your pet.
  • Establish boundaries. Train your dog to understand the limits of your property and refrain from hunting beyond those boundaries. This will prevent potential conflicts with neighbors and help protect local wildlife populations.
  • Consider humane alternatives. If you prefer a non-lethal approach, train your dog to catch and release gophers, or use their presence as a deterrent to keep gophers away from your yard.

By following these tips and ensuring your dog is well-trained, you can effectively use your canine companion as a gopher control method while keeping them safe and happy.

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white and brown jack russell terrier mix on grass

Alternative Ways to Deal With Gophers in Your Yard

While dogs can be effective at gopher control, there are several alternative methods you can use to deal with gophers in your yard:

  1. Traps. Use humane live traps or lethal traps to catch gophers. Make sure to place them in active tunnels and check them regularly to remove any captured gophers. Consider using the Victor Easy Set Gopher Trap, a durable and effective option for capturing gophers in their tunnels.
  2. Repellents. Apply natural repellents, such as castor oil or predator urine, around your yard to deter gophers from making their home in your garden.
  3. Physical barriers. Install underground fencing or create raised garden beds to prevent gophers from burrowing into your yard. The Dig Defence Animal Barrier can be used to create underground fencing.
  4. Ultrasonic devices. Use ultrasonic devices that emit vibrations or sounds to discourage gophers from settling in the area.
  5. Professional help. If gopher infestations become overwhelming, consider hiring a professional wildlife control service to handle the problem safely and effectively.


Are certain dog breeds better at gopher hunting than others?

Terriers, Dachshunds, Beagles, and Miniature Schnauzers are among the dog breeds known to excel at gopher hunting due to their strong prey drive, agility, and innate hunting abilities.

Can I train my dog to hunt gophers without harming them?

Yes, you can train your dog to catch and release gophers by using positive reinforcement techniques and rewarding non-lethal captures, making it a humane alternative to lethal hunting.

How can I keep my dog safe while gopher hunting?

Ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and preventatives, supervise them during the hunt, and establish boundaries to keep them on your property and away from potential hazards.

Are there any legal considerations for gopher hunting with dogs?

Local regulations may vary, so it’s important to check your area’s wildlife control and hunting laws before engaging in gopher hunting with your dog. Visit the official website of your city or county to check for your local wildlife control and hunting laws in the US.

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