Would a Rat Terrier become a predator?


11 Years
Jul 21, 2008
Kennard, Nebraska
A neighbor wants us to take his 6 month old Rat Terrier. They have let the dog develop some dominance behaviors. Not understanding that if you don't want a big dog jumping up it also goes for small dogs.(hate those nail marks!)
We are hopeful that we could train her. But I am not making the decision to take her lightly.She would become a forever member of our family and we really need to think about it.
In the past we had a small mixed breed dog (little terrier) that was a sneaky chicken thief. She would sit and look at the birds,ignore them when you were around and then kill them when it suited her. What have been some of your experiences reguarding this breed ? Any responses would be appreciated so I can make a more informed decision.Thanks in advance!
They CAN become predators. However I have seen them be great farm dogs as well in other cases. So you have a mixed bag. Go with your instincts on the individual dog.
I rescued a rat terrier that had been turned out to become feral. He lived with two other dogs by hunting and scavenging for months. We had a pair of banties that were allowed free run in the back yard. I found him early on with his mouth wrapped around Doodle's wing and a guilty lookon his face (the chicken was unharmed)
It took a few weeks and some diligent training for him to be trustworthy, but he made it.
He's gone now and I still miss him every day. Rat Terriers are awesome dogs.
I believe that you stand a good chance of teaching this dog that the chickens are off limits if it is only 6 months old. It is still a puppy.

I had a rat terrier for 11 years up untile a year ago when she passed away and I will tell you that she was the best dog I have ever owned. She was a awesome hearding dog and very obedient(sp). I have since then got another rat terrier and let me tell you she is a brat!! I haven't been able to take up as much time with her as I did the other, and I believe that is playing a big part in her behavior now. As long as I am outside she will not mess with the chickens, but it a chick get's out of the pen then I can kiss it good bye if I am inside. I believe that she is only playing with it because never once I have found 1 half eaten, or even bloody. Sh has killed of my silkie's. She does not mess with my big chickens at all, weither I am outside or not.

I would have to say take her. If you are willing to work with her, and teach her right from wrong, then you will have a awesome little dog! GOODLUCK!!
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I think that any dog of any breed at any age can be trained, depending on how much time and effort you want to put in. However, terriers are known for their tenacity. Especially the ones that have the name of any other animal in their own name, ie rat, fox, pitbull, bull, ect... Just be diligent and dominant and your efforts should pay off. I know several rat terrier breeders and their dogs are awesome for the most part. Want a freaky experience? Find a breeder who breeds the hairless version and give one a rub. lol. Feels weird.
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Mine has a high prey drive....whether it's newborn kittens or chickens. She's been around chickens since she was 6 weeks old and is now 8 years old. She tries to get them every chance she gets. I know when I accidently left the gate open last spring she was the first one in the pen. I finally got her where she doesn't kill kittens, but I'll never trust her around the chickens.
A teenage rat terrier is likely to give you "issues" right away with predation. She's losing her home because no one bothered to train her or establish her obligation to show respect for the rules.

I really like these little dogs, and they are great varminters, but they've got their own agendas. Very likely to include murdering your birds when your back is turned.

Yes, they can be trained by a diligent and consistent owner, but remember that you will likely be fighting nature there, not working with it.

There are few of the small terriers I'd ever trust around free-range poultry, or allow to free-range themselves if the poultry were in anything other than Fort Knox.

Three of my four dogs have high prey drives, and two of them are effective groundhog killers. But they are from breeds/lines selected to work with a person, and three of them are genetically engineered for small farm reliability.

And I still don't (yet) leave both dogs and poultry loose when I am away from home.

(My ultra-high-drive manic GSD is generally kenneled down near the chooks when we're gone. TWICE I have come home to find a guinea "trapped" inside her run, with Sophia completely ignoring it. And as many of you know, a guinea separated from her homies is a hysterical creature, running and hollering and flapping (but forgetting that she can easily fly OUT of the run she flew INTO). No interest from the dog. Guinea is not a tennis ball.)

Be prepared for constant supervision with a young working terrier near poultry.
A Rat Terrier IS a predator- that's their job (as with all terriers). Can they be trained? Possibly- they are extremely intelligent. Possibly not- they are extremely willful. My Dad's RT Minnie Pearl makes it her mission to try to rid the farm of mice, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other dogs. She's not all that successful with the larger animals and has been eaten up twice by a raccoon and a pitbull, but she's not discouraged in the least. My JRT is VERY interested in the chickens and I wouldn't trust him alone with them for a moment- even when he's trying to be really good. I know the minute one of them goes running and flapping his prey drive will kick right in. It's not their fault, just years of breeding. This is not to say that a Rat Terrier can't be a wonderful member of your family- you just have to remember what it's bred for (HUNTING) and manage your menagerie accordingly. Just a note- if you have small children you should keep a close eye too.... terriers are highly confident and they are not really tolerant of abuse (even unintentional). They think they are 150 lb dogs in a 12 lb body.
The part I'm leary of is the possibly not. That is why I am not taking it lightly. We still have not given our neighbor an answer because I want to do what will work for everyone. So far she has not shown interest in my birds. But do I trust her lack of interest? No!
I appreciate everyone's comments. It helps to put things into perspective in regards to where we will need to go with training. I wish she was a little younger, I would have a better chance with her.
I have to give the owner a yes or no by tomorrow. So keep the comments coming to be sure I've looked at all the advantages and disadvantages. Thanks!!

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