Why Did My Dog Bring In A Dead Mouse?

Dogs Have Strong Hunting Instincts

Dogs are descended from wolves which are hunters by nature (https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/behavior-appearance/prey-drive-in-dogs). Many dogs retain this prey drive even though they are domesticated. Herding dogs often still herd, retrievers fetch, etc. Dogster explains that the prey drive involves five different behaviors: searching, stalking, chasing, biting to grab and biting to kill. Among domesticated dogs, the instinct to chase small moving objects remains strong.

Natural Scavenging Behavior

In the wild, dogs would scavenge for food as part of their natural survival instincts (The scavenging instinct of dogs). Wolves and wild dogs need to take advantage of any food source they can find, including hunting prey as well as scavenging carcasses left behind by other animals. This allows them to maximize their caloric intake in harsh environments. Domesticated dogs retain these natural scavenging instincts.

Bringing food back to the den is also an innate behavior for wild canids. After making a fresh kill or finding an abundant food source, wolves will carry back scraps and leftovers to their pups waiting in the den (Why Do Dogs Love To Scavenge?). This helps feed the whole pack. Domestic dogs continue to exhibit this tendency to bring found food to their homes and families.

Showing Off The Hunt

One of the main reasons dogs bring dead animals to their owners is to show off their hunting skills. Dogs have strong predator instincts and many breeds were originally bred for hunting. According to Why Do Our Dogs And Cats Bring Us Dead Animals?, this behavior dates back to when dogs lived in the wild and needed to hunt for survival. An ancestral dog would bring back prey to feed its pack.

This instinct remains strong in modern domesticated dogs. When dogs catch small prey like mice, birds or squirrels, their natural reaction is to bring it to their human “pack leader”. They present the dead animal almost like a gift – here is what I caught for you. Dogs want praise and recognition for their hunting prowess. They expect their owners to be impressed with their skill and ability to provide.

While humans don’t rely on dogs to hunt for food anymore, dogs still take satisfaction in demonstrating their natural skills. Next time your dog proudly brings in a dead rodent or bird, try not to admonish them. Instead, praise them calmly, accept the gift, and then promptly dispose of it.

Gift of Food

Some dogs have strong natural instincts to hunt for food and provide for their family or pack. Bringing home dead mice or other small animals may be an attempt by your dog to share a “gift” of food with you, similar to how female wolves in the wild will hunt and return with food for their pups (AKC). Even though pet dogs are well-fed by their owners, this instinct can still persist in some dogs.

Your dog may see the dead mouse or other small critter as a source of food for both of you, and is generously trying to provide. This gift-giving behavior can be endearing to some owners, but understandably troubling to others if the prey is left as an unpleasant surprise. Gently discouraging the behavior when it happens, while praising your dog for approved toys instead, can help redirect these natural instincts.


Dogs require regular physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Puppies and high-energy breeds especially need ample exercise and play time. When dogs lack sufficient stimulation, they may start hunting small prey such as mice or rats as a way to engage their natural instincts and keep themselves occupied.

According to the AKC, hunting allows dogs to indulge their primal drive to seek, chase down, capture, and kill prey (source). For dogs stuck at home with minimal enrichment, bringing in a dead mouse or other small animal gives them an exciting activity that satisfies their predatory nature. It provides a rewarding outlet for their energy and taps into behaviors passed down from their wolf ancestors.

Make sure your dog gets enough exercise, play, training, and interactive toys. Try food puzzle toys and hide treats around the home to occupy them. Providing adequate stimulation will help curb unwanted hunting and prevent boredom-induced behaviors like excessive barking or chewing.


Some dogs are trained specifically to hunt vermin and retrieve dead animals. Breeds like terriers have a strong prey drive and are commonly used for hunting rodents. Retrievers are trained to find and bring back birds and other small game after they’ve been shot by hunters. According to the American Kennel Club, “An excellent way to train your hunting dogs to retrieve game is to simulate a hunting scenario using decoys. Repeat the training on land and in water.”[1] Even without ongoing training or encouragement from their owner, these hunting and retrieval instincts persist in dogs bred for those purposes.

So if your dog was bred to be a hunting companion but does not actively participate in that activity, it may still exhibit natural behaviors like seeking out rodents and bringing them to you. Their genetics drive them to hunt, kill, and present you with their quarry despite lack of reinforcement for the behavior. It’s simply in their nature.

Health Concerns

There are several health concerns that can arise if a dog consumes a dead animal (UrgentVet.com, 2022). Dead animals often carry parasites, bacteria, or viruses that can be transmitted to the dog when ingested. According to UrgentVet.com (2022), secondary poisoning is also a risk if the dead animal consumed poison, such as rodenticides or pesticides, which could then poison the dog.

Some of the more common health risks from eating dead animals include:

  • Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms
  • Bacterial infections such as salmonella or E. coli
  • Diseases like toxoplasmosis, distemper, or rabies
  • Secondary poisoning from toxins or pesticides

Preventive care is important to protect your dog’s health. According to BayshoreVets.com (2022), dogs should be routinely dewormed to remove any parasites. Additionally, all dead animals or prey should be taken away from the dog as soon as possible to avoid consumption. Monitoring your dog closely when outside can help reduce the risks. With prompt treatment from your veterinarian, most dogs recover fully after eating dead animals. However care should be taken, as parasites, toxins, and disease risks can be substantial.

Preventing the Behavior

There are some ways you can try to prevent your dog from bringing in dead animals:

Provide enrichment – Make sure your dog is getting enough physical and mental stimulation. Dogs that are bored may resort to hunting small animals for entertainment. Provide plenty of walks, play time, puzzle toys, and training sessions to keep them engaged (see URL).

Distract with toys – When you see your dog going after something inappropriate, get their attention and redirect them to a toy. Use high-value treats to reward them for leaving the animal and coming to you instead.

Block access – Cover up potential entry points around your home so prey cannot get in. Supervise your dog in the yard and use a leash when out on walks to avoid the opportunity to hunt (see URL).

With patience and consistency, you can curb this behavior over time. The key is addressing the underlying cause, such as boredom or instinct, through proper enrichment and training.

When to Worry

While catching and killing small mice or rodents is normal hunting behavior for dogs, you may need to intervene if your dog starts targeting larger animals or pets. Killing local wildlife like rabbits, squirrels or birds can be problematic, both ethically and legally. According to Disease Considerations in Hunting Dogs, hunting dogs have an increased risk of infectious diseases from contact with wildlife. So killing and eating wild animals poses a health risk to your pet.

You should also be concerned if your dog seems obsessive about hunting. Constantly tracking and catching prey can signal high anxiety or stress levels in your dog. As noted in What is Wrong With My Hunting Dog, obsessive hunting may relate to other behavioral issues like separation anxiety. It’s best to redirect this obsessive drive with training, mental stimulation and bonding time. If your dog is highly distressed without having prey to hunt, consult your vet or a trainer for help.

What to Do

If your dog has a habit of bringing in dead animals, there are some steps you can take to curb this behavior:

Praise your dog for retrieving toys instead of prey. If you notice your dog going after small animals outside, interrupt that behavior and redirect their energy towards a game of fetch or tug-of-war. Reward them with treats and praise when they bring back a toy rather than a dead animal. This positive reinforcement can help shift their focus.

Provide adequate physical and mental exercise for your dog every day. Dogs that are bored or have pent up energy may turn to hunting small prey as an outlet. Make sure your dog gets enough walks, runs, play time, and training sessions to tire them out.

Work on “drop it” training. Teach your dog this important command using treats and repetition. When you catch them bringing in an animal, tell them “drop it” in an authoritative tone. When they comply, reward them. This helps curb the behavior.

Check the sources below for more tips on stopping this habit:

[Source 1]

[Source 2]

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