Living with Rats! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 08:46 AM Thread Starter
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Living with Rats!

I live in a happy little condo in suburbia with my big black one-eyed gsd, Kane. Recently I adopted two baby rats from the science department at the school I work for- they're sweet little girls names Bret and Jermaine.

My condo has two full bedrooms, one of which I converted into a library, and this is where the rats live. They have a lovely critter-nation cage with lots of enrichment and I handle them every day, and have found that they're wonderfully low-maintainance pets.

However, Kane would very much like to eat them, seeing as he is a GSD with a prey drive like something with a huge prey drive. He will whimper at the door and I keep it locked when not at home. If allowed in the room, he does his best to eat the ratties, although for safety I use a prong collar on him.

Worst case- the rats live in the library and I split time between the animals when I can, the way things are now, which is fine.

Middling case- the door to the library can be open and Kane can watch them without freaking out in an effort to Nom Da Terrible Rats. I can hold them and walk around the condo.

Best case- I can cuddle up on the couch with a happy dog on one side and a rat on my shoulder while one burrows in my pockets.

Does anyone have tips for cohabitation, besides very slowly acclimating Kane to the sight and smell of them? So far I've been keeping him out of the room, reinforcing downs and commands.

Being around Other Animals He Wants to Eat makes him really drivy, but this means he ends up listening really well, if tensely. For instance, if he sees some deer he will go into a down or a sit the second I tell him, but will be ready to spring into action and become a Wild Predator at the first sign of a release command, haha.

I'd like to use this as an opportunity for enrichment and training, but only in a way that is safe for all the animals. Please let me know of any tips you have in these regards.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 09:09 AM
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I have two indoor rabbits that live in bunny condos. My small critters are separated from the GSD. The little critters live down stairs. The dog lives everywhere else. The door between is shut most of the time. If I am going out - the door is shut. If the rabbits are out of their cages the door is shut. The dog can be downstairs ONLY when the rabbits are in their cages. The "leave it" command has kept her from the cages. (Well that and a nasty bunny.)

I know you would love to be able to interact with your dog and rats at the same time. To me, it is too big of a risk. Things happen much too quickly. The little animals will always lose. As a child, my friend had a GSD and a rabbit. The dog never bothered the rabbit, until one day....the dog decapitated the rabbit. Rabbit was being cleaned. Door was ajar.
Unfortunate accident. Is it a chance you are willing to take? I am not.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 09:13 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I have no illusions about how this will likely pan out. I am not interested in taking any risks either. However, I think part of not taking risks is doing the utmost to train in case of an accident.

For instance, Kane was not socialized early on to small children. It is way too much of a risk to try to do so now, and not one I'm willing to take, but I still take the opportunity to let kids I've properly vetted at the dog park pet him and interact with him, on the off-chance that he gets in a situation around a small child.

In this case, again, I'd like to do my best to make it so that rather than complete separation, we can at least work towards a place where everyone can be around each other if need be.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 09:33 AM
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We had the same issue with my daughter's guinea pig.....if allowed access to the room with the pig, Timber would dart for the cage.

How we worked it out:

Started by using the "look" command, every time Timber would look at the pig calmly he was rewarded. We started off in the doorway of the room then slowly moved closer and closer to the pig. Then standing right next to the cage clicking and treating the "look" with calm quiet behavior.
Then I moved on to rewarding quiet behavior when he walked by and ignored the pig.

Where we ended up is with him and the pig living happily in the home, with the pig in it's cage. If the pig was out, the door to the room was shut. Although Timber was calm around the pig in it's cage, I would never trust that the pig was safe out with him in the room.

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 10:09 AM
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We have 11 rats here at the moment. Rio can only be near them if they are in their cage. A nip on the nose from one buck thought her to keep her face away from the bars but they were here first and she was a very young puppy when it happened. I agree with valreegrl, the look command worked very well with us as rio got older and bolder. Do not have a rat on your person if the dog is around, rats panic and tend to leap off your shoulder when they smell another animal. When socialising baby rats we put them in a bag that you wear around your neck so they are against your chest. Even though they are tucked away nicely and too young to jump out, I still wouldnt risk them out with the dog around. Just work on calmness around the cage for safety.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 10:10 AM
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Stray, I totally agree with you - regarding children. It is awesome that you are finding opportunities to provide Kane a chance to meet children. Older, dog savvy children work wonders.

The rat situation is more manageable. While not offering Kane too much temptation, I do think it is quite possible to at least desensitize him. He can become much more tolerant of and even accepting of living with the rats. It is our job to not become complacent and let our guards down.

How long have you had the rats? It seems the longer the small animals are in the home, the less attention the dog pays to them. Valreegrl's advice was very good.

Best of luck,
Jan
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 10:14 AM
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catz....You have so much rat knowledge. I know rats are smart and make great pets. I just cannot imagine having a pet rat. Maybe because I grew up in Baltimore City - where rats are anything but pets. LOL!

To each his own - but it is great that so many people here can offer advice on so many topics.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 04:30 PM
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Haha not many people choose rats as pets, my family think I'm crazy I love how cuddly they are and all the tricks they can learn. They are very easy pets to keep but very expencive when it comes to caging and feeding. Ours are on a Shunamite diet with different levels of protein for each age. We have 6 foot tall, 4 foot wide furet cages for our groups with cardboard and shredded paper with hammocks for bedding. All a must for rat owners! Rat nuggets and sawdust cause cancer and respititory problems. They are great pets but you need the right information to keep them safe and happy. Sorry too go on about them, my other passion lol
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 04:40 PM
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They are trainable...


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Odie, Joy-Joy
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Ramona the Pest, Kojak -- who loves you baby?
Tiny Tinnie, Susie's Uzzi, Kaiah -- The Baby Monster.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-01-2011, 04:50 PM
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Aww very smart little Berkshire doe! Mine are too lazy for agility lol..
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