For the most part, many rat owners have additional pets in the home other than their rats. Once rats become accustomed to roaming the house the owner may find that they are trapping their other pets behind closed doors to ensure the rat’s safety. This may cause a bit of trouble in the home among the other pets, leading rat owners to wonder whether or not their different pet species are compatible playmates.
Risks: Will My Dog Hurt, Kill, Bite, or Play Too Roughly with My Rat?
Before allowing a dog around a rat, it is important to know the risks. Any dog could harm, injure, or kill a pet rat, even accidentally. However, most dog owners know how their dogs react to small animals. Some are hunting animals, some are trained to be gentle with small pets, and others are simply maternal dogs who seek to care for and protect the small pets. You also have dogs who just want to play, but might play way too rough, characteristic of puppies. Most dogs can be trained to be gentle with rats, with the exception of hunting dogs who have an instinct to kill or those who have had a taste for blood in the past.
My Dog Is Gentle with Other Animals: Will He/She Be Okay with My Rats?
If you know that your dog is gentle and highly unlikely to harm the rat, it is okay to begin introductions. Be sure that the rat is in a cage, and neither animal can reach each other for sniffs. Afterwards, get the rat into your hands and allow a controlled face to face introduction. This should occur every day for a week, or until the animals are comfortable with one another. The dog should be on a leash and restrained, so that he or she cannot chase the rat should that situation occur. The animals should NEVER be left alone with each other either; they should be monitored the entire time that they are out together.
My Dog and Rat Are Scared of Each Other; What Do I Do?
If your animals aren’t seeming to come around to one another, try allowing the dog and the rat to get used to each other through cage bars every day for weeks. Two fearful animals could hurt one another severely, making it important to NEVER force the animals to get along. The dog could suffer severe bites and lacerations while the rat could be killed.
What Dogs Are Most Dangerous to Rats?
Hunting dogs tend to be the most dangerous dogs when it comes to rats. This includes tracking dogs, as well. Herding dogs could be quite rough on the rats, but they are not driven to kill animals; instead, they like to play with them and herd them. If your dog is not a purebred dog, it could have collected any variety of instincts, temperaments, and abilities from its dam and sire. Herd dogs include:
- Border Collies
- Australian Shepherds
- German Shepherds
- Shetland Sheepdogs
- Rough & Smooth Collies
- Red Heelers
- Blue Heelers
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Pembroke Welsh Corgies
- Bearded Collies
- Belgian Malinois
- Cardigan Welsh Corgis
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Polish Lowland Sheepdogs
- Swedish Vallhunds
- Canaan Dogs
Now, we will move on to the hunting dogs that might be more challenging to train with rats. If a dog that belongs to this group has previously been involved in hunting, whether it be for food or sport, it may not make a good companion animal with your rat. Every dog is different, but these dogs are in the highest risk category:
- American Water, Brittany, Clumber, Cocker, English Cocker, Springer, Field, Irish Water, Sussex, Welsh Springer, & Boykin Spaniels
- Lagotto Romagnolos
- Wirehaired Vizslas
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
- Curly Coated Retrievers
- English Setters
- German Shorthaired & Wirehaired Pointers
- Golden Retrievers
- Irish Red and White Setters
- Irish Setters
- Gordon Setters
- Labrador Retrievers (However, this is a very docile dog)
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
- Spinone Italianos
No matter what breed of dog we own, there can be issues that arise. On top of this, the most aggressive hunting dog could be the most loving, protective godparent to your rats. It all depends on the individual dog, its training, and how much time you spend acquainting the animals. We all love our rats, and we all love our dogs; but, will yours mesh well together?