In Animal Farm, why do the dogs try to kill the rats?

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During Old Major's speech, four large rats creep out of their hole in an effort to listen to him speak. The three dogs immediately pounce towards the rats and attempt to kill them. Old Major then holds a vote regarding the status of wild animals like rats and rabbits. The overwhelming majority of animals vote in favor of the wild animals being considered their comrades, except for the three dogs and a cat. On the literal level, a dog's natural instinct is to attack small, wild animals like rats, which explains why they wanted to kill them. However, Orwell uses this scene to foreshadow how the dogs will treat the other animals once they are under Napoleon's control. Napoleon uses the dogs as his personal bodyguards and they strike fear into the other animals as they intimidate and publicly execute political dissidents. The fact that the dogs try to kill the rats and do not vote in the favor of wild animals being their comrades highlights their adversarial nature on the farm. As the story progresses, the dogs become Napoleon's enforcers and are extremely violent towards the other animals.

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The rats are first considered outsiders and enemies since they are wild instead of domesticated. But then the farm animals put it to a vote whether the wild animals are to be considered comrades or not. The vote falls in favour of wild animals, which are also to be considered comrades since they go upon four feet. (At this point the chickens protest until they are told that their wings are appendages of propulsion and therefore are under the category of 'feet.')

The role of the dogs here is a foreshadowing of their later repressive role under the tyrannical dictatorship of Napoleon, accompanied by political purges and executions.

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