Rat Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Rat Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
Both sturdy and elegant, athletic and agile, and often described as having a dual personality, the Rat Terrier is a tenacious hunter in the field, yet a sensible companion at home. He LOVES to play and has a special passion for ball chasing.
The Rat Terrier must always be kept in a fenced yard or on-leash, for he is an impulsive explorer who will take off after anything that runs. He is also curious and clever, so be sure your fences are high and secure!
Rat Terriers crave companionship, often using their paws to wrap around your neck or to demand attention.
Generally good with other dogs and cats in his own family, the Rat Terrier does have a high prey drive and quick reflexes and will dispatch squeaky creatures with little effort.
Though he has a stubborn streak, this attentive, sensitive, head-cocking breed responds to discipline and to obedience training that utilizes food and praise.
Being respectable terriers, Rat Terriers do love to tunnel and dig.
Most Rat Terriers are somewhat vocal, "talking" and grumbling, especially when ignored.
If you want a dog who...
- Comes in a range of smallish/middle sizes
- Has a sleek, easy-to-groom coat
- Is energetic and playful
- Makes a keen watchdog
- Is generally good with other dogs and cats in his own family
- Is hardy and healthy and lives a long time
A Rat Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
- Providing enough exercise and activities to keep them busy
- Potential aggression toward other animals -- strong chasing instincts
- Digging holes
A Rat Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Rat Terrier
If I was considering a Rat Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense. However, Rat Terriers are very individualistic in that some individuals fit that description to a tee, while other individuals are MUCH more easygoing and calm and make wonderful pets.
- Providing regular exercise and mental stimulation. Rat Terriers must have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise you will end up with a frustrated, bored Rat Terrier, and that's when you'll see a lot of barking, digging, and destructive chewing.
- Animal aggression. Though Rat Terriers tend to be more sociable with other dogs and cats than many other terriers, some individuals are still quite dominant toward other dogs of the same sex, and some are cat chasers.
- Fence security. Rat Terriers are smart, athletic, and exploratory, which makes them ideal candidates for finding their way over or under your fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their moderate size.
- Barking. Rat Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them.
- Mind of their own. Though much more amenable to training than other terriers, Rat Terriers must still be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
- Finding a healthy one. Allergies and skin disorders are the most common health problems in Rat Terriers, but epilepsy and heart disease are becoming concerns, as well.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Rat Terrier puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether a Rat Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Rat Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need. Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
I do NOT recommend Rat Terriers if you have small children. Terriers can be great fun for older kids, but many individuals will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
To learn more about training Rat Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Rat Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Rat Terrier...
When you're acquiring a Rat Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Rat Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2015 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be copied, displayed on another website,
or distributed in any way without the express permission of the author.
Bicolor Rat Terrier: © Lisa Turay
Tricolor Rat Terrier: Ruby, © Liza Lee Miller