Rats are a common pest that can cause major damage if left uncontrolled. If you have a rat problem, a natural solution is using dogs bred specifically for rat catching – the Rat Terrier.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Rat Terriers are energetic small dogs originally bred to hunt and kill rats. Their strong prey drive, speed, agility, small size, and intelligence make them very effective at killing rats.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using Rat Terriers for rat control, including their history, breed traits that make them good ratters, proper training techniques, and tips for handling rats.

Brief History of the Rat Terrier Breed

The Rat Terrier is a small to medium-sized dog breed known for its effectiveness in hunting and killing rats. This breed has a fascinating history that spans several centuries and continents.

Origins in England

The origins of the Rat Terrier can be traced back to England in the 19th century. The breed was developed by crossing several terrier breeds, including the Manchester Terrier, Bull Terrier, and Fox Terrier.

These dogs were highly valued for their skill in controlling rat populations, which were a significant problem in the cities and countryside at the time.

Over time, Rat Terriers became popular not only for their hunting abilities but also for their friendly and loyal nature. They were often kept as family pets, in addition to being used as working dogs.

Development in America

The Rat Terrier breed found its way to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrants brought their beloved Rat Terriers with them, and the breed quickly gained popularity in the United States.

American breeders recognized the potential of the Rat Terrier and began refining the breed to suit the specific needs of American farmers and hunters. They focused on developing dogs with exceptional hunting skills, intelligence, and a strong work ethic.

During this time, Rat Terriers became highly sought after for their ability to rid farms and homes of rats and other vermin. Their compact size, agility, and determination made them ideal for the job.

Decline and Revival of Popularity

Despite their initial popularity, the Rat Terrier breed faced a decline in the mid-20th century. The advent of modern pest control methods and changes in farming practices reduced the demand for rat-hunting dogs.

However, thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts, the Rat Terrier breed saw a revival in the late 20th century. They began to gain recognition for their versatility and adaptability as family pets, as well as their continued usefulness in pest control.

Today, Rat Terriers are cherished companions and continue to excel in various dog sports, such as agility and obedience. Their intelligence, energy, and loyalty make them a fantastic choice for active individuals and families.

For more information on the history of the Rat Terrier breed, you can visit the American Kennel Club website.

Traits That Make Rat Terriers Excellent Ratting Dogs

Rat Terriers are widely recognized as exceptional ratting dogs due to a combination of traits that make them highly effective in this role.

High Prey Drive

One of the key traits that make Rat Terriers excel at ratting is their high prey drive. These dogs have an innate instinct to chase and capture small prey, making them highly motivated when it comes to hunting rats.

Their intense focus and determination make them relentless in their pursuit, ensuring that no rat can escape their attention.

Speed and Agility

Rat Terriers are known for their remarkable speed and agility. Their compact and muscular build allows them to move swiftly and navigate tight spaces with ease. This enables them to quickly chase down rats in various environments, including barns, warehouses, and even residential areas.

Their speed and agility give them a distinct advantage when it comes to catching rats.

Small Size

The small size of Rat Terriers is another advantageous trait for ratting. Their compact stature allows them to enter narrow crevices and tight spaces where rats often hide. This size advantage enables them to flush out rats from their hiding places and corner them more effectively.

Rat Terriers can easily access areas that larger dogs cannot, making them highly valuable in rat control efforts.

Intelligence and Trainability

Rat Terriers are intelligent dogs that possess a keen ability to learn and follow commands. Their intelligence, combined with their eagerness to please their owners, makes them highly trainable for ratting purposes.

With proper training and socialization, Rat Terriers can quickly grasp ratting techniques and work cooperatively with their handlers to eliminate rat populations.

Gameness and Tenacity

Rat Terriers are known for their gameness and tenacity, which are essential traits for successful ratting. They have a strong drive to succeed in their pursuit of rats and will not easily give up. Even when faced with challenging circumstances or elusive prey, Rat Terriers will persistently work to outsmart and capture rats.

Their unwavering determination makes them highly effective in rat eradication efforts.

Proper Training Techniques for Ratting

Socialization from a Young Age

One of the key aspects of training a Rat Terrier for ratting is ensuring proper socialization from a young age. Exposing the dog to various people, animals, and environments helps them develop confidence and adaptability.

Taking your Rat Terrier to puppy classes, dog parks, and other social settings can greatly contribute to their overall development. It is important to remember that early socialization sets the foundation for a well-rounded and obedient dog.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement is a highly effective training technique for Rat Terriers. This involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or playtime, while ignoring or redirecting unwanted behaviors.

By using positive reinforcement, you can create a strong bond between you and your dog while also motivating them to engage in the desired ratting behaviors. It is important to be consistent and patient during the training process to achieve the best results.

Developing a Strong Recall

A strong recall is essential when training a Rat Terrier for ratting. This means teaching your dog to come to you when called, even in distracting environments. Start by using a long leash in a controlled environment and gradually increase the level of distractions.

Reward your dog with treats and praise when they come to you. Consistent practice and positive reinforcement will help your Rat Terrier develop a reliable recall, ensuring their safety and effectiveness during ratting sessions.

Teaching to Hunt Rats

Rat Terriers have a natural instinct to hunt and chase rats. To train them to effectively hunt rats, it is important to introduce them to live rats in a controlled environment. This can be done by using specially designed training tubes or enclosed areas where the rats are safely contained.

Gradually increase the difficulty level by releasing the rats in larger areas or introducing obstacles. Always prioritize the safety of both the dog and the rats during training sessions.

Using Rats for Training

Using live rats for training purposes is a controversial topic. Some trainers argue that it is an effective way to enhance a Rat Terrier’s hunting skills, while others believe it is unnecessary and potentially harmful to the rats.

If you choose to use live rats for training, it is crucial to ensure the rats are treated humanely and that their welfare is a top priority. Alternatively, there are training aids available, such as scented toys or tubes, that can simulate the presence of rats without using live animals.

It is important to note that training a Rat Terrier for ratting should always be done with the utmost care and consideration for the well-being of both the dog and the rats involved. Consult with a professional trainer, do thorough research, and always prioritize the safety and welfare of all animals involved.

Tips for Handling Rats Caught by Your Rat Terrier

Act Quickly Before the Rat is Shaken

When your rat terrier catches a rat, it is important to act quickly before the rat is shaken. This is because rats have a strong instinct to bite and can potentially injure your dog if they feel threatened. By intervening promptly, you can prevent any potential harm to your furry friend.

Have Thick Gloves Handy

Handling a rat can be a dirty and potentially dangerous task. It is recommended to have thick gloves handy to protect your hands from any potential bites or scratches. Rats can carry diseases and bacteria, so it’s important to take precautions to ensure your safety.

Hold the Rat Firmly by the Tail

When picking up a rat, it is best to hold it firmly by the tail. This allows you to have control over the rat’s movements and prevents it from escaping. However, it is important to avoid pulling or twisting the tail too forcefully, as this can cause harm to the rat.

Kill the Rat Quickly and Humanely

Once you have caught the rat, it is important to kill it quickly and humanely. There are several methods you can use, such as using a rat trap or using a swift and accurate blow to the head. It is important to ensure that the rat is dead before disposing of it to prevent any suffering.

Dispose of Rat Remains Safely

After the rat has been killed, it is crucial to dispose of the remains safely. This means wearing gloves and placing the rat in a sealed bag or container to prevent any contact with the outside environment.

It is also important to properly clean and sanitize the area where the rat was caught to minimize any potential health risks.

When to Call in a Professional Exterminator

While using rat terriers can be an effective method for controlling rat populations, there are certain situations where it’s best to call in a professional exterminator. These situations include severe infestations, the presence of disease, inability to find all nests, and risks to pets or humans.

Severe Infestations

If you’re dealing with a severe rat infestation, it’s important to seek professional help. A large number of rats can quickly cause extensive damage to your property and pose a significant health risk.

Professional exterminators have the experience and tools necessary to handle these types of infestations effectively. They can assess the situation, develop a comprehensive plan, and implement the appropriate measures to eliminate the rats.

Presence of Disease

Rats are known carriers of various diseases, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, and salmonellosis. If you suspect that the rats in your property may be carrying any of these diseases, it’s crucial to call a professional exterminator.

They can safely handle the removal of the rats and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of any potential diseases. Protecting your health and the health of your family should always be a top priority.

Inability to Find All Nests

Rats are skilled at finding hiding spots and creating nests in hard-to-reach areas. If you’ve been unsuccessful in locating all the rat nests on your property, it’s time to bring in the professionals. Exterminators have the knowledge and expertise to identify the common hiding spots and access areas that may not be obvious to the untrained eye.

They can thoroughly inspect your property and use appropriate methods to eliminate all rat nests.

Risks to Pets or Humans

If you have pets or small children in your home, it’s important to consider their safety when dealing with a rat infestation. Some rat control methods may pose risks to pets or humans if not used properly.

Professional exterminators are trained to use safe and effective techniques that minimize any potential hazards. They can provide you with guidance on how to protect your pets and family during the extermination process.


In summary, Rat Terriers are an effective natural method of controlling a rat problem, but proper training and handling techniques are key. Their breeding gives them strong instincts to hunt and kill rats. With the right approach, your Rat Terrier can safely eliminate rats on your property.

But for severe infestations or health risks, calling a professional exterminator may still be warranted. We hope this guide gives you a good overview of using Rat Terriers for rat control.

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