City needs good dogs to handle rat epidemic The Chicago Way

Chicago is said to be the rat capital of America. The city is expected to break last year’s record for the number of rat complaints.

“Walking to the subway after work, I looked down and there was a rat walking alongside me,” said a trained journalist not given to exaggeration. “It was gigantic, like a small dog or a fat squirrel. It just walked along without fear.”

But don’t worry, Chicago. I’ve got a guy. And I hope Mayor Rahm Emanuel is listening.

Jordan Reed, the legendary American rat catcher, is known far and wide in the rat-hunting community for the pack of terrier dogs he calls his “mongrol hoard.”

He’s on an upcoming episode of “The Chicago Way” podcast on WGN Radio that I co-host with Jeff Carlin. And he’s talking rat dogs.

“It kind of sounds to me like you guys should start a club — or someone should start a club — a rat-catching club, to share information and to see if your dog has what it takes,” Reed said.

Reed then listed the best rat-hunting breeds and described how to train a rat dog.

What’s ironic is that in the neighborhoods overwhelmed by rats, there are perhaps thousands of pet terriers that never are allowed to reach their true dog potential.

“If you never allow a terrier to have some risk, it probably has never once gotten to be a terrier, and that’s sad,” Reed said. “When you have a dog that was bred to work in pitch blackness, underground, you’re basically dealing with a fearless animal. And really tough ones. Ones that can take a lot of punishment without quitting.”

Rats are everywhere in Chicago, and though the Emanuel administration spent $10 million to stop rats last year — double what it spent the year before — the rats keep coming.

Neighbors complain. Feral cats don’t kill enough rats. Sorry, crazy cat ladies, but they don’t. The feral-cats-kill-rats lie is just more pro-cat propaganda stuck into rat news stories.

And rat poison is bad for the environment, and some rats have become immune. Now rats are crawling all over neighborhoods where children play. This must end.

A Rat Hunting Club means people getting together, in friendship, killing rats, working their dogs that are too often bored because they don’t have a job.

And all of this to help the city they love. Listening, mayor?

A community of rat hunters, a club of rat hunters, people sharing knowledge and training techniques?

Oh, and don’t forget the drinking.

“That’s on my agenda too,” said Reed, who prefers a good craft beer after a hunt.

Reed makes his living shearing sheep and killing rats on farms, at granaries, during grape harvests in the wine country, at egg farms, loading docks, wherever you find rats. He kills hundreds a day.

“My personal record with three adult dogs and one puppy is 224 rats,” he said, without a hint of immodesty. The task was done in just three hours, he added.

No cat can approach that number. No cat.

The best rat-killing breeds, he said, include the standard rat terrier, the Parson Russell terrier and the English Patterdale terrier, though Reed does not recommend this breed as a pet because if owners don’t give them enough work, they go crazy.

“They’re like a Jack Russell on steroids. They really need to have a good outlet to work,” Reed said. “If they don’t, they’ll just destroy things.”

And oddly, the whippet, a sighthound with a strong prey drive that can run down rats in open space. Also, German shepherds and mixed breeds, beagles with terriers, terriers with dachshunds, also do fine.

The main thing is instinct and training. If you really want to get into this with your dog, then listen to the podcast, or go online to Reed’s website, or contact local working terrier clubs and the American Working Terrier Association to ask for more information.

What you don’t want to do is join in some “barn hunt” game, where you pay money just so cute little Toto can chase around a few bales of hay to find a rat in a cage.

That’s not rat hunting. That’s playing at rat hunting. Mayor Emanuel and the people of Chicago need dog warriors in the alleys killing rats, not posers.


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