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Are Rat Terriers Aggressive? [Typical Temperament Of This Breed]

Rat Terriers may not be the biggest dogs, but they are certainly an energetic and confident breed. But what about aggression? Are they prone to displaying aggressive behavior and is there anything, in particular, an owner would need to be aware of regarding this? Let’s find out.

So, are Rat Terriers aggressive? Rat Terriers are not generally aggressive around their families and owners, although they can be towards strangers and other dogs. Further, this breed may display acts of aggression if they feel threatened, have been mistreated, or have not been sufficiently socialized and trained from a young age.

Rat Terriers are an all-American canine that comes in two sizes – miniature and standard. Either way, this is not by any means, a big dog.

Still, they do have big hearts and a number of great qualities.

Their bloodline includes whippets, beagles, and fox terriers, so they have inherited speed, hunting ability, and intelligence.

Rat Terriers are known for being exceptionally playful, and they love the company of their owners.

A Rat Terriers’ temperament can be hard to judge as a puppy, but with the right upbringing, you can encourage the best qualities to come through.

Otherwise, you can always adopt an adult dog from a rescue shelter.

By doing this, you can get to know their personality first hand, and with the feedback from the shelter, before bringing them home.

Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look and deep dive into the average Rat Terrier temperament.

We will then look at some of the potential triggers that can cause aggression in this breed.

Lastly, we will be covering the best proactive approach to preventing this behavior. So be sure to keep on reading!

Rat Terrier Temperament

Rat Terriers are known for being lively, inquisitive, and alert. They fit the mold of your typical terrier and possess a number of qualities often seen across these breeds.

But, they can be stubborn; this trait is inherent to a lot of terriers.

Equally, they are sensitive, smart, polite, and attentive. If your dog acknowledges you as his leader, they will pay attention to you if you have something to say.

Rat Terriers are curious and love to explore; so they must be monitored and kept within the boundaries of your home.

They have acquired the title, escape artists, for their abilities to leave and go wander.

These dogs are excellent at solving problems, so games that encourage mental stimulation are ideal.

Ratties are athletic and love to play.

When owning one, you will notice how they crave your attention; they love all the attention they can get!

They are generally well-behaved around other dogs and other pets that they have become accustomed to and live in the home.

However, they do have a high prey drive.

The quick reflexes of this breed allow them to catch small creatures with little effort.

In fact, it is believed that Rat Terriers acquired their name for their ability to control rodent populations – in the White House by Teddy Roosevelt!

Ultimately, Rat Terriers make a good family pet. They are perceptive and are able to accurately understand and respond to their family’s moods.

Beyond this, they want to please their owners, and will even follow them around the home to be in their company.

Are Rat Terriers Protective?

Rat Terriers are known for being protective of their owners. Due to their size, they may not make ideal guard dogs, but they are wary of strangers and are likely to bark.

If a Rat Terrier perceives potential danger from an unfamiliar person, they will alert their owners. Therefore, being more of a watchdog is a more fitting title.

But, their suspicion of strangers makes them slow to accept newcomers – even if they are your friends, family members or neighbors.

Therefore, socialization from an early age is the key to preventing them from becoming aggressive with new people.

Rat Terriers are not protective of children, they are not very patient with them.

Instead, Ratties can be harsh and territorial with children.

While you can raise a Rat Terrier to get used to children as long as they are puppies, but even still, they are not ideal for keeping around babies and toddlers.

What Can Make Rat Terriers Aggressive?

Rat Terriers are generally an affectionate and loving dog; with a keen desire to stay in the good books of their owners.

However, there are certain situations and scenarios where aggression can be more likely. These are known as triggers and we will discuss the main ones of this breed below:


Rat Terriers are very possessive of their things and what they perceive as their territory. If you have young children or babies, Rat Terriers have no concept of their age.

If you or your child takes a toy belonging to your dog, they are likely to growl or possibly snap to defend their property.

If your Rat Terrier gets a hold of something they shouldn’t like the TV remote, they won’t take kindly to you trying to take it from them.


Rat Terriers can also become very jealous. For example, if you have a new baby in the house, they will not take kindly to them – especially as they will be getting most of your attention.

Equally, this could be attention driven to a friend, neighbor, or even a dog that comes to visit.

Either way, Rat Terriers can be divas and do not want anyone else taking their spotlight.


Anxiety can often be the source of aggression. If certain situations or people make your dog anxious, it can cause them to lash out.

There are several reports of this breed acting aggressively towards their vet.

Other Aggressive Dogs

Most Rats would rather play with other dogs, but if they react with aggression then your dog is likely do so too.

Once an aggressive dog begins to fight, Rat Terriers are only going to respond the same way. Unfortunately, they will still be up for the fight regardless of the other dogs size!

With all of that said, a lack of early socialization is what makes this breed aggressive.

These dogs are smart and learn quickly that certain behaviors do not prosper, but you must be consistent and show them from day one what you expect from them.

How To Prevent Aggression In Rat Terriers

Preventing aggression in Rat Terriers requires a proactive approach; one in which you plan ahead and do all you can to train your dog to behave in a way that is more conducive to a friendly, happy environment.

Understanding their dynamic temperament helps, as does avoiding any situations that you know can set them off.

Let us now take a closer look at a thorough approach to preventing aggression in this breed:


Early socialization and training are imperative with the Rat Terrier breed.

This means exposing your dog to as many people, other dogs, places, sounds, and contexts as you can. It is best to do this from a young age, preferably as a puppy.

In doing so, you can reduce any natural fear response to these situations and get them more confident and comfortable in such settings.

Understand Your Dogs Aggression

Preventing aggression with this dog, is also all about understanding what it is and how it develops and unfolds.

Aggression often begins with a threat, such as growling, barking, snapping, snarling, lunging, and body stiffening.

These threats negotiate social interactions and can even help to keep the peace.

Sometimes dog owners do not recognize any of the warning signs before they bite, and dogs like Rat Terriers are often mislabeled aggressive.

You must pay attention to these signs when they occur so that you can evaluate the situation with better clarity and take steps to help your Rat Terrier overcome aggression.

You need to ask:

  • Who or what was the focus of your dogs aggression?
  • When and where did the aggressive behavior take place?
  • What was going on at the time?
  • What was going on with your dog?
  • What stopped their aggression?

Doing so will help you identify the trigger, and then be able to identify the most appropriate solution. Both in the moment and for the future.

Hire A Trainer/Behavioral Specialist

It’s a good idea to work with a professional to help you correct your Rat Terriers’ aggressive tendencies; if experienced or identified.

Most aggressive behaviors can be rectified with behavior modification and an expert trainer.

An experienced trainer can determine the kind of aggression your dog displays before planning an appropriate response.

You should consult your local vet to rule out any potential health concerns. If your Rat Terrier is sick, that can make them lash out.

Below, we outline the most common types of aggression:

  1. Fear-based aggression
  2. Social aggression/ rivalry
  3. Territorial aggression
  4. Possessive aggression
  5. Pain-elicited aggression
  6. Protective aggression
  7. Frustration aggression

Once your trainer can pinpoint what’s causing your Rat Terriers aggression, a behavior modification program can be introduced.

It is advised not to conduct this plan yourself. A professional can look at things such as:

  • The severity of your dog’s aggression
  • How long your dog has been aggressive
  • The root of your dog’s aggressive behavior
  • The age your dog began exhibiting aggressive behavior.

Let’s discuss what canine behavior modification is and how it can help your dog.

Canine Modification

Canine modification can be implemented to treat low-level aggression to high-level aggression; you don’t need to take your dog to a particular location; this can be done at home.

For canine behavior modification to be successful, you must decide on an alternative behavior to replace the unwanted behavior.

If your Rat Terrier jumps on guests and you would prefer he sat instead, so the action to take is not to stop the jumping per see but to replace it with the action of sitting.

In the case of canine aggression, if your canine companion barks at other dogs and lunges at them, teach them to look at you instead of lashing out at other dogs.

Once you have set your mind to show them an alternative to their current behavior, teach them in a relaxed setting that is unlike the environment that triggers anxiety or excites them.

If you would prefer your Rat Terrier sat rather than jump on visitors, teach them when there are no visitors.

Teach them to sit in every room in your house and outside your house.

Teach your dog to sit in the park when other dogs and children are present. Once they have mastered sitting in settings far from home, gradually move them closer.

When your dog sits rather than jumps give them a treat. Experts say that dogs associate treats with behavior in just 1.3 seconds, so praise your dog within that time and offer the treat.

When teaching your dog an alternative to their current behavior, you must not allow them to practice the unwanted behavior.

Make sure your dog is in another room before guests arrive.

When you decide to permit your dog to meet your guests, keep them on a leash, to begin with. Command your dog to sit, if they do, you can allow your guests to pet him.

If they ignore your command and don’t sit down, they do not get any attention. Keep practicing until your dog begins to obey and sit.


Thankfully, Rat Terriers are easy dogs to train because they are an intelligent breed.

But they can also be stubborn, so it may require some consistency.

This dog breed is known for being territorial and possessive, so they are not ideal to have around young children and babies.

Instead, Rat Terriers are at their best in a household with older children.

This breed also needs to get used to many people and strangers from puppyhood; they have a natural dislike of unfamiliar people.

Without doing so, it can make meeting friends or go to the park difficult!

As a pet, they can be loyal and affectionate towards their owners, and they love playtime, particularly chasing balls.

They are generally a fun-loving breed.

Most people find this dog manageable due to its small to medium size. They also have coats that are easy to maintain.

A Rat Terrier can make an excellent companion with you and anyone at home, including other pets, like other dogs and cats. Y

ou just need to socialize them and train them to do so.

If you want to ensure that you own a Rat Terrier, less likely to display acts of aggression, then you have two main options.

For one, you can get a Rat Terrier from a reputable rescue shelter. This way you can get to know their temperament, and discuss their life history with the shelter staff.

Otherwise, if you want to get this dog as a puppy, you should make sure you source out a reputable and recommended breeder.

This way, you can ensure they are being bred from a bloodline of good dogs; and your breeder will be able to advise and support you on how to effectively raise them.

You may need to get a dog trainer or behavioral expert with this breed, but early socialization and training that you can do yourself can go a long way in correcting behavioral issues.

Then, educating yourself on your dog’s own potential triggers and avoiding putting them in those uncomfortable situations, will make aggressive displays far less likely.

Want to learn more about the Rat Terrier breed? Then my following guides may be of interest: