Rat Terrier – Full Dog Breed Information

rat terrier

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Dogs of the Rat Terrier breed are adorable escape artists, they are true terriers. Rat terrier is little, feisty, energetic, lively, funny. They enjoy chasing vermin and it’s difficult to have a boring moment with these dogs around.

They can be stubborn sometimes but they are very lovable and great to have around the house. Rat Terriers are often mistaken for a Jack Russell or for a smooth-coated Fox Terrier, however, breeders and owners know all the different wonderful traits that make a Rat Terrier unique.

History of the Rat Terrier

Rat Terriers is an American breed that resulted from the working with the Manchester Terrier, Bull Terrier, Fox Terrier and the Old English White Terrier to name of few.

Being farm dogs and hunters, their strong drive to catch prey and pests made breeders start adding new strains to the breed in the 1910s and the 1920s. A Rat Terrier featured alongside Shirley Temple in the 1930s movie titled “The Little Colonel”.

In the Midwest, RTs were bred to Italian and Wippets Greyhounds to produce an adaptable and quick-footed dog who would help control their jackrabbit infestation. The new Rat Terrier was capable of keeping up with the fast rodent and the Rat Terrier proved his worth.

In the Central and Southern American regions, the RT was bred to the Beagle to develop a pack oriented dog, this was where the Rat Terrier developed its sense of smell; his speed was gotten from the Whippet.

Their quick movements and strong jaws are irreplaceable to farmers in the elimination of rats and other small vermin in the farm.

In 1930, toy Fox Terriers were too big for their breeding program hence they were introduced to the Rat Terrier’s breeding program. With this new addition, Rat Terriers began to produce their own toy-sized offspring.

President Theodore Roosevelt is believed to have given the breed its name, he named them after his own terrier that exterminated all the rats at the time of a rat infestation at the White House, but not everyone accepts that.

There is still an ongoing debate as to whether the dog that President Theodore Roosevelt owned was the same Rat Terrier that we see today, the short-legged dog that Roosevelt had become the accepted breed stands for the Terrier named after him.

The T. Roosevelt Terrier is also known as the short-legged Rat Terrier.

Between the 1910s and the 1940s, dogs of this breed were a common sight on farms but they started to decline when farmers began using poison to curtail rodent populations, by 1950, the breed was no longer widespread, however, breeders assisted the breed until the breed re-emerged in late 1970.

The Decker Rat Terrier is a type of breed that is quickly gaining popularity, this began with a dog owned by Milton Decker, a hunter, who thought his dog, Henry, had some amazing qualities which he wanted to maintain in his breeding program.

He was victorious is producing a Rat Terrier with a fixed ear set that excelled at hunting and could retrieve from water. In 1972, the first hairless Ray Terrier was born.

Appearance and size

Rat Terriers are born with their ears up and their eyes closed, around the time that their eyes begin to open, their ears begin to drop.

The ears of some dogs may stay dropped while the ears of some dogs pop back up after a few weeks or months. The coat of this breed is short and smooth with shiny dense fur.

Their coats come in a combination of colors including Black with Tan or rust, white and Black or tan, blue, red, lemon, orange and chocolate.

Intermittent spots and dark colors can also be seen, all Rat terriers have white markings.

They are 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 10 to 18 pounds.


Rat Terriers are low maintenance dogs, brush their coat weekly with a rubber curry mitt or a soft brush to eliminate loose hair.

They shed heavily in the spring and fall and also in heat cycles. Bathe him only when necessary. Brush your Terrier’s teeth 2 to 3 times a week get rid of bacteria and tartar, you can brush their teeth daily to prevent bad breath and gum disease. Trim his nails once or twice a month.

Check his ears weekly for redness and odor which are signs of an infection. While you check your dog’s ears, clean their ears with a cotton ball and a gentle pH-balanced ear cleaner to aid in the prevention of infection, clean only the outer ear, do not insert anything into the ear canal. 

Check your pup often for rashes, sores, tenderness, redness, inflammation on the nose, mouth, eyes and skin. Their eyes should be clear with no discharge or redness.

Make grooming an experience your pup looks forward to by filling it with rewards and praises by so doing, you make it easy for them to have veterinary exams as well.


Rat Terriers are excellent watchdogs, they are the ultimate farm dog. His strong jaws and quick movements. Being a bred from the Terriers, it is expected for a Rat Terrier to be stubborn.

They love digging and if allowed, they will spend a lot of time digging away in your garden or yard, their digging mixed with where high prey drive makes Rat Terriers leap over fences or dig under them.

Rat Terriers are very intelligent. They have a shrill yip that is peculiar to this breed, if you love in a neighborhood or an apartment that has rules on barking then the Rat Terrier is not the breed for you.

Rat Terriers are very dedicated to their family but will take time to warm up to strangers.


Health conditions that affect Rat Terriers include;

Patellar Luxation: This is a common problem for small dogs, the patella is the kneecap, luxationmeans the dislocation of an anatomical part such as a bone at a joint. Therefore, Patellar luxationis when the kneecap, most likely of a hind leg, slides in and out of place which is painful. This condition can be crippling but it is very possible for dogs with this condition to live relatively normal lives. It is also known as Slipped Stifles.

Allergies: Allergies in dogs are a very common ailment. There are 3 main types of allergies which include contact allergies, this is caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as flea powder, dog shampoo, bedding and other chemicals; food allergies, food allergies are treated by removing certain foods from the dog’s diet; inhalant allergies, these are caused by airborne allergens such as mildew, pollen and dust. Treatment of allergies varies according to the cause and it may include dietary restrictions, environmental changes and medications.

Incorrect Bites: This a condition in which the jaw structure is deformed and caused the jaw to be misaligned. There are three types of incorrect bites that are peculiar to Rat Terriers. An overshot bite( this is caused when the upper jaw is extended past the lower jaw which leads to difficulty in grasping and in some severe cases leads to the lower teeth biting into the roof of the mouth.

An Undershot bite; is when the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw. It may be corrected surgically. Lastly, the Wry mouth; this is the twisting of the mouth caused by one side of the jaw growing faster than the other and causes difficulties eating and grasping.

Sometimes, incorrect bites are self-correcting while the poppy is still growing, however, if it hasn’t self-corrected by 10 months, your pup will require surgery. Surgeries that include crown height reduction, tooth extraction or the use of spacers. It is also called Malocclusion.

Dogs of this breed have a life span of 13 to 18 years. The recommended daily amount of food for your rat Terrier is:
¼ to ½ cups daily for dogs that weigh less than 10 pounds
½ to 1 cup daily for dogs that weigh 10-15 pounds
¾ to 1.5 cups daily for dog that weigh 20-30 pounds
1.5 to 2 cups daily for dogs that weigh 30-40 pounds

Training and exercise

A great amount of patience and forgiveness is needed when training a Rat Terrier as they can be incredibly stubborn even though they are highly intelligent.

Many different training techniques can be employed when training a Rat Terrier as there isn’t a particular training method that is guaranteed to work, if one method doesn’t work you can always try another.

They need an experienced and firm hand during training otherwise they will overwhelm their owner. Rat Terriers enjoy digging very much due to their Terrier origin, it’s not a bad idea to allocate one area in the yard for them to dig to their heart’s content and he’ll be at his happiest, you just have to help him learn that that area is his.

Rat Terriers enjoy their freedom but it’s a good idea to be them in the yard, due to their will to chase, it’s not a good idea for them to be off-leash, even the most Rat Terriers can forget their training during their chase of prey.

He should also always wear a dog collar or be microchipped because they can be quite fast and jump really high, a 5 to 6-foot secure fence is best to keep them within the yard. Being fast runners, they need as much space as they can to exercise that drive.

This breed has lots of energy and will require a medium to exert their energy, they will require a daily exercise of at least 40 minutes and they will need lots of mental stimulation as well, they will become destructive and resort to chewing and barking as a means to release their energy.

They can get plenty of exercise playing indoors, playing fetch and walking around.

Early socialization is a must to ensure your pup knows how to interact with other dogs and animals, is exposed to different situations. It also ensures that your pup grows into a well rounded Terrier.

Why you should get a Rat Terrier

Rat Terriers are lovable, energetic and lively dogs..They enjoy chasing vermin, you can be sure that with this dog around, your vermin and rodent problem is sure to be resolved.

They enjoy entertaining their owners, they are excellent watchdogs and are very intelligent. Dogs of this breed are happy go, lucky companions.

Where to get a Rat Terrier and price

Rat terriers are purebred dogs but they may be found in the care of rescue groups or shelters. It’s never a good idea to buy your puppy from an irresponsible pet store, puppy mill, or breeder.

Get your puppy from a reputable breeder of puppy store that can give you health clearances to assure you that the parents of the puppy are free of health conditions and genetic diseases that the puppies may inherit and ensure that they have sound temperaments.

You should expect to see health clearances from;
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia with a score of fair or better, hypothyroidism, Von Willebrand’s disease, elbow dysplasia 
Auburn University for thrombophilia
Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) to certify that the eyes are normal

You can also confirm health clearances given to you by the breeder but checking the OFA website (offa.org). They cost between $300 -$800.

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