Rat Terriers are small to medium sized dogs with smooth, short coats that come in many variations of pied patterning. Acceptable colors include black, red, chocolate, blue, apricot, lemon, tan, and fawn. These colors are always in combination with white. The breed's oval-shaped eyes are dark brown to hazel and the ears are V-shaped. Rat Terriers come in two sizes: Miniatures measure 10 to 13 inches tall at the shoulder, and Standards measure 13 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder. These dogs generally weigh 10 to 25 pounds.
Smart, cheerful, and outgoing, Rat Terriers need to be around people and quickly become bored and lonely when left alone for long periods
Active, playful, and loyal, Rat Terriers make superb family companions. The breed tends to be friendly and affectionate with loved ones, while remaining reserved with unfamiliar people. These dogs are intelligent and highly trainable. They crave a lot of attention and affection and may not be a good choice for a very busy family without free time to devote to play and training.
Rat Terriers are one of the few breeds made in the USA. These dogs were originally bred to function as all-purpose farm dogs, and they spent most of their time killing vermin and hunting small game.
Rat Terriers are friendly, devoted, and energetic dogs that make great companions for active families with older children. They generally get along with other dogs and pets, and they like being involved in all family activities, whether that involves time on the couch or a hike through the woods. Although Rat Terriers are calmer than some other terrier breeds, they still have terrier personalities.
Smart, cheerful, and outgoing, Rat Terriers need to be around people and quickly become bored and lonely when left alone for long periods. If these dogs cannot be provided with near-constant activity and companionship, puzzle toys and other pets will offer much-needed stimulation. Neglecting or ignoring these dogs will result in destructive behaviors. Rat Terriers need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Although they aren't known as barkers, Rat Terriers like to "talk" a lot to their human family members. These vocalizations come as grumbles, mumbles, and other sounds, and the breed also uses its paws to get and direct attention.
Rat Terriers are healthy dogs, but they do suffer from a few health conditions that can negatively affect length or quality of life. Purchasing or adopting one of these dogs from a reputable source is the best way to ensure health.
Like other small dogs, Rat Terriers are prone to luxating patellas, a condition in which one or both knees dislocate. Additionally, these dogs are at increased risk of developing demodectic mange. Deafness and allergies are also seen in the breed.
Routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, proper nutrition, and regular exercise help ensure Rat Terriers live a full and active life of 12 to 18 years.
Eager to please and easy to train, Rat Terriers respond very well to positive reinforcement techniques, such as play, praise, and food rewards. Treats are especially effective. It's also important to keep training sessions fun and interesting; these dogs bore quickly.
Rat Terriers need a dog-proofed home and should not be left to roam the home alone before their second birthday. Because they will quickly chew their way out of a locked bedroom, they should be placed in a large dog crate or confined behind a tall baby gate. If not properly confined, these dogs can destroy a house within an hour, pulling down curtains, ripping apart furniture, and chewing up doorframes and linoleum flooring.
This breed is prone to separation anxiety. Lots of early socialization and crate training can help. Additionally, Rat Terriers need structure and a consistent routine. When faced with a lot of sudden change, these dogs may act out. Rat Terriers also tend to bond with certain toys and other items; care should be taken not to lose or discard these possessions.
Rat Terriers don't require much grooming, but they do need regular brushing with a rubber curry mitt or soft bristle brush. Brushing a couple times each week will keep the coat and skin healthy, although more frequent brushing is usually needed during spring and fall shedding seasons to keep loose hair under control. These dogs depend on their whiskers as a tactile aid; they should not be trimmed.
The occasional bath is enough to keep the coat clean and manageable. If the Rat Terrier gets muddy or decides to roll around in something sticky or stinky, a thorough washing with a pH-balanced shampoo will clean the coat. It's always important to rinse thoroughly to prevent skin irritation.
The nails should be clipped every week or two to prevent painful snags and breaks, and the ears need weekly examinations and cleanings to remove excess ear wax and any accumulated dirt or other debris. Signs of infection, such as redness, discharge, or odor, should be reported to a veterinarian right away. Daily brushing of the teeth will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease while keeping the breath smelling fresh.
Rat Terriers are multipurpose companion animals that were created by immigrants in order to work as ratting dogs in rural areas. The American breed (one of the few) was developed by crossing Fox Terriers, Old English White Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Manchester Terriers, with Beagles, Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, Toy Fox Terriers, and other dogs later being added to the mix.
The breed is highly capable of hunting rats and other vermin above and below ground, and for many years, these dogs functioned primarily to keep barns free of rodents. They were also good at coursing small game.
From the early 1900s through the Dust Bowl era, Rat Terriers were one of the most popular dogs seen on farms. As increasing numbers of people moved out of rural areas and into cities, the breed's popularity decreased. President Theodore Roosevelt was a huge fan of the breed and introduced them to the White House.
Rat Terriers belong to the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous Class. This is the final step before AKC recognition.