Rat Terrier Traits & Facts

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Last Updated on September 20, 2023

Quick Summary: The Rat Terrier (fondly called Rattie) is the result of mixing different breeds of dogs, such as Fox Terrier, Bull Terrier, Manchester Terrier, and many others. They have a lengthy and complex story that even canine historians cannot agree on. In the 1910s and 20s, farmers across America began mixing the traditional Rat Terrier with other breeds to improve their hunting abilities. The breed has two sizes – standard and miniature. They are smart dogs and easy to train as long as you convince them to obey you (positive reinforcement using treats, praises, and games is most effective). In spite of being generally healthy dogs, they are prone to certain health problems such as hip dysplasia, eye conditions (e.g. cataracts, glaucoma), cardiac issues, etc. With a 12 to 18 years lifespan, Rat Terriers are one of the most long-lived creatures in the canine world.

A Rat Terrier can be described as a tiny dog that is full of all the dog-like charm and excitement you can imagine! Despite their beautiful appearance and size, this dog is a bit cheeky (read, extremely naughty), and they constantly believe they’re right. They’re also extremely curious and frequently find themselves in trouble. If you are able to accept their sly and twisted personality, you are bound to meet a friend in this adorable pup.

Make sure you study the breed prior to inviting one to your home. As you may have already suspected, they’re not the dog people always want. However, if you’ve ever experienced having a Rat Terrier at some point in your life, chances are you will never be without one ever again!

Rat Terrier

Breed History and Background

American-bred and born, the Rat Terrier is the result of mixing different breeds of dogs, such as the Fox Terrier, Bull Terrier, Manchester Terrier, and many others. As with various breeds of dogs, the Rat Terrier has a lengthy and complex story that canine historians cannot agree on. This dog doesn’t avoid his job as a rat killer and is among the top rat catchers available!

In the 1910s and 20s, farmers from across America began mixing the traditional Rat Terrier with other breeds to improve their hunting abilities. The Midwest farmers crossed them with Whippets to boost their speed when capturing Jackrabbits. Farmers from Southern as well as Central America bred them with Beagles to improve their pack mentality and scenting abilities.

Some historians believe that former president Teddy Roosevelt named the Rat Terrier breed; however, this isn’t entirely accurate. It was the short-legged breed. In the 1990s, the short-legged breed was acknowledged as an individual breed of its own and was appropriately called “the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.” However, many people confuse the two breeds today.

The breed has two sizes for Rat Terriers, standard and miniature, which we’ll discuss in more in-depth in a minute. The miniature breed is thought to be the result of an introduction by Toy Fox Terriers into the breed. Both sizes are considered to be rare species in America. They are listed in the American Kennel Club (AKC) as the 86th most adored dog of the 200 breeds.

Appearance and Size

The Rattie is a small-sized pet. This breed is typically between 10 and 13 inches from shoulder to paw. The standard breed is between 18 and 13 inches in height. Both varieties weigh between 10 and 25 pounds.

Despite being tiny dogs, they are strong in their appearance. They were made to perform due to their strong yet compact frame. They are proportionate in their size, and their sleek coat adds a touch of class and elegance as well.

Some dogs are born with natural bobtails, and those with long tails are usually docked to work. Their bat-like, erect ears are the main feature of their jolly appearance.

The dog must conform to the Rat Terrier breed standard if you intend to take on competitors on the show rings. Certain characteristics aren’t allowed within the show rings, like blue eyes, brindle or merle coats, a lack of fur, or being too tall. If you’re only seeking an animal to keep as a pet, then deviations from this are not a problem. But you may want to verify the lineage since these variations could suggest they aren’t an original breed.

Coat and Colors

Coats are generally straight in appearance, although some may exhibit a slight wave on the backline. Certain Rat coats can be a bit rough on the skin, while certain coats have a smooth, fine coat. The fact that a dog is born with “no coat” results from an inherited defect. The pups were used to develop the American Hairless Terrier breed.

The most well-known and popular color is white, black, and the color tan. The other colors are red, fawn, sable silver, lemon, chocolate, and blue. The coats come in a variety of patterns, such as patches of several colors mixed with white. It is important to note that if you plan to show your dog in the show arena, you must follow specific color rules. They are outlined within the standard for breeds.

Temperament and Personality Traits

The breed may be small however, he’s full of terrier personality and wit. They are extremely energetic and require an energetic family. The AKC describes the dog in three words: charming, affectionate, and curious. If you’re seeking a funny pet that will bring you joy, you can count on him. If you’re looking for an easy-going and relaxed dog, the Rattie isn’t the dog for you.

This pet is a great way to entertain children, and due to its tiny dimensions, they are no danger of accidental bumps or falling over. Their unstoppable energy and enthusiasm to live are contagious and adorable.

With his prey-driven nature and his aloofness to strangers, this dog is a happy little dog. They are fantastic watchdogs that will keep you informed of everything. 

Although they are aloof around strangers, they’re incredibly loved by their families. After a day of playing with pets and taking long walks, they would rather do nothing more than curl in your lap for a few cuddles in the evening. They can also mirror your mood and offer additional cuddles when you’re feeling down. While they can be stubborn, they are devoted to pleasing their masters and are rewarded with the highest praise.

Living Requirements

A Rat Terrier will be more than content living in tiny homes, provided that you exercise them regularly. However, they can be content living in larger homes as well. Their slim frame makes them extremely adaptable to all kinds of living areas. But it also allows them to easily escape as well.

Their size is small, which means they are able to live with smaller children. However, you must ensure that you teach your children to behave respectfully and in a manner that is appropriate for dogs. They don’t want to be pampered when it’s not on their own terms. Children who are young and excited may consider the Rat as a cute toy, and that’s the reason why many families decide to welcome this dog to their home as the kids get slightly older.

If socialized properly, this breed is content living alongside other dog breeds. But, they tend to prefer dogs that are similar in size or bigger than them. A slow and cautious introduction is required, particularly when they’re yappy and fierce dogs. This dog is not ideal for families with other pets like rabbits, cats, or mice. The puppy you are getting might view them as their next hunt adventure, and it won’t be a great idea!

Exercise Requirements

Rat Terriers require a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise each day. A miniature version can do the job with just a bit less. They also require mental stimulants throughout their time in order to keep their active minds engaged. You can be certain that they’ll be up to some shady things if they don’t! It could be digging in your neighbor’s garden or gnawing on your sofa. Brain games that stimulate the brain, challenging puzzle toys, as well as interactive games with squeaky toys and balls will do the trick.

This dog should not be left out without a leash in an area that isn’t secured since there’s a good likelihood that it will not return. They’ll go off into rabbit holes quicker than you can even call their name! A top-quality, well-fitting harness for escape will stop them from fleeing, so make sure to purchase one. It also helps protect their necks from injury.

Training and Socialization

The Rat Terrier is a fairly smart dog. This means they’re simple to train, isn’t it? But, no. While they are quick to learn tricks and love to delight their owners, they’re extremely stubborn and headstrong dogs. If they’re not eager to take on new challenges or follow your instructions, then you can bet that they will not. They’re best suited for owners with previous dog training experience or who don’t want a dog to be a docile puppy.

The importance of consistency plays a crucial role in their training. Be sure everyone in the family is aware of and adheres to these rules. If dad is slyly letting Fido sit on the couch while mom is away, you’ll have zero chance of having an obedience-oriented dog.

Positive reinforcement training is the most effective dog training method you can use. If there’s nothing in the way for your dog, then your dog will not give you most of the time. They are, however, motivated with treats, toys, and even a bit of praise. Keep training sessions short and enjoyable to keep them engaged.

Socialization is essential. It not only creates an obedient dog that can be social with other dogs and humans. It also goes far in preventing the dreaded small dog syndrome, which is the need to be too protective. The crucial time to socialize your puppy is between 3 and 12 weeks. It’s essential to start immediately. Making sure they are in secure doggy parks and puppy training classes is an excellent method to get them socialized.

Grooming Requirements

The Rat Terrier is a small dog with an elongated and sleek coat that sheds moderately during seasonal changes but not as much throughout the year. Because they are tiny, the amount of hair shed is much smaller than, for instance, larger dogs such as Dobermans.

The dog should be regularly brushed using a hound brush throughout the year. This helps remove dirt and other debris from their coats and help keep their coat looking shiny. It is also recommended to make use of a soft bristle brush or a shed tool in the warmer months to get rid of dead hair. Based on the lifestyle of your dog and the amount of dirt they accumulate, regular bathing every month or so will suffice to keep them smelly and looking their most comfortable.

Rats have small and compact mouths, which means that they are susceptible to developing periodontal disease. It is recommended to clean their teeth at least 3 times per week using toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Cut their nails at least once a month to make them shorter. If they’re not cut, they’ll cause pain for your dog.

Introducing your dog to grooming routines at an early age can make life easier later on. If your dog doesn’t enjoy brushing, it will be difficult to keep him! Create an enjoyable time and keep the dogs entertained by licking mats that are smothered with doggy-friendly peanut butter or playing with toys inside the bathtub.

Nutritional Guide

The typical Rat Terrier can eat approximately 1/2 and 1 and one-half cups of food per day according to their size, age, and level of activity. It is important to divide the food into at least two separate meals. Of course, miniature dogs will consume less food than standard-sized dogs.

A high-quality diet can be a big help in keeping your dog healthy and happy, so make sure you choose the highest quality food your budget will allow. Giving your dog appropriate kibble for their age is essential, particularly during the puppy phase, since they require different nutrition at various stages. Give them puppy kibble at the age of one, while senior food is typically given after the age of eight. 

Health Issues

With a lifespan of between 12 and 18 year old, the breed is some of the most long-lasting lives in the world of canines! However, you must ensure that your dog is healthy in order to live a long time together. It is essential to give them with the highest quality food and to keep their bodies and minds fit by exercising regularly. Also, keep them current with vaccinations and health check-ups.

The national breed club suggests that breeders test their dogs for the health issues below because these are among the most prevalent conditions. If you are you work with breeders, ensure that you have the appropriate health certificates.

Hip Dysplasia

It is a very common problem in a variety of breeds of dogs which, includes this one. Parents may pass on hip dysplasia to their children due to it being an inheritable condition. Inquiring about your breeder’s parents’ hip scores is crucial and always seek good or higher scores. The signs of hip dysplasia are difficulty standing, sitting, climbing stairs, and walking with a sluggish gait and general mobility problems.

Patella Luxation

Patella Luxation is another skeletal issue that can affect the knee joint. The knee cap gets loose, and in the end, it becomes dislocated. It is a painful problem and requires veterinary care to fix. Check for signs such as an unusual gait, kick out of the leg affected, and not wanting to move.

Cardiac Concerns

Certain cardiac diseases are present in the bloodline of this Terrier; however, dilated cardiomyopathy is the most frequent. Dogs with this condition suffer from a weakened heart because of smaller valves and walls, which means the heart isn’t functioning effectively. If it is not treated, the condition can cause heart failure, insomnia, fatigue, coughing, as well as fast breathing and fainting are signs to be on the lookout for.

Eye Conditions

Eye problems are another frequent issue for dogs. The most frequent eye-related problem that can be found within this breed of dog is called distichiasis. It occurs when the eyelashes expand inside the eyelids, causing irritation and causing damage to the eye. Other issues like the progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) cataracts, and glaucoma can also be found in this breed. The signs include light sensitivity and bumping into objects.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

It happens in the case that the head of the femur suddenly starts to shrink, and it is most often seen within smaller animals. The femur’s head is the main component of the hip joint, this is the reason it is often misinterpreted as hip dysplasia. This could lead to tiny breaks and joint arthritis. The symptoms include general pain and numbness in one leg. Dogs with arthritis require medical treatment as well as pain management.

Rat Terriers as Family Pets

A few aspects that are notable about Rat Terriers include:

  • They are small-sized dogs that can be housed in all kinds of homes.
  • The Rat Terrier is a very active breed with more energy than the typical small dog.
  • They need a family with a busy schedule who can keep them active as well as keep their minds active at home. They’ll become deviant and even naughty if they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation.
  • They’re family-oriented and enjoy snuggling at night.
  • Ratties are vocal as well as curious and indifferent to strangers, which makes them amazing watchdogs.
  • They’re very intelligent but extremely stubborn creatures. Training can be a challenge.
  • They are known to have a strong prey drive, they’ll ensure that rodents are kept out of your yard and home. However, this means that they are not able to be around cats and other furry animals.

Reputable Breeders and Puppy Prices

It is believed that the Rat Terrier is a very rare breed of dog in America, which means you may need to travel for an ethical breeder. However, the travel is worthwhile when you get an incredibly healthy and happy dog!

The starting price for the breed ranges between $700 to $900. Before you hand over cash to breeders, it is important that you meet with them personally first. You should get a feel for them and their company, and If you’re at ease, you may make a deposit for the future pup. When the puppies are born, make sure you visit them personally prior to making the final payment.

Unfortunately, some irresponsible breeders out there will breed unhealthy dogs and deprive them of their fundamental needs to make more money. This is why it’s crucial to investigate the breeder you decide to partner with. If you discover a breeder at less than the prices mentioned above, take this as a sign that something isn’t right.

It is also necessary to purchase all the things puppies require, including cages, collars, toys, puppy training, and more. Additionally, you need to consider the cost of medical care and insurance. While they may be tiny puppies, having a pet is an expensive cost over the course of their lives.

Adopting From Rescue Centers and Shelters

Keep in mind the fact that Rat Terriers tend to be much more uncommon in comparison to Pitties and Labs. Therefore, you may have to wait a little longer until one shows up.

There are two choices in this case. The first is to go to the local shelter for rescue. Make sure you speak with the staff since they may be aware of a new dog or one at the nearby shelter you aren’t aware of. The Rat Terrier Club of America provides a list of breed-specific shelters as well as other information about adoption for this dog breed.


It is believed that the Rat Terrier is a relatively rare breed of dog. You will likely have the only one in your area. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve a spot in the family home, not at all! They’re certainly not for everyone’s taste, but they’re fun, active, lively, adorable, and loving pets!

If you’re prepared for the storm, which is known as the Rat Terrier, and you can see past their stubborn and reckless behavior, you could be on the right track. They require more exercise than most people think, and they will chase any furry animals who enter their backyard.

These Terriers aren’t easy to train; however, once they’ve mastered it, they’ll become your most trusted companion for the rest of your life.

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