Breed Type: Terrier
Country of Origin: United States
Size: Small
Also known as: Rattie, Rat, American Rat Terrier
Standard:   Height: 35.5-58.5 cm Weight: 5.5-16 kg
Mid-sized:  Height: 20-35.5 cm Weight: 3-3.5 kg
Toy-Height: 20 cm Weight: 2-3 kg

Exercise Requirements: Medium
Care Requirements: Low
Lifespan: 15-18 Years
Best Suited as: Ratters / Family Pets

If you are looking for the right pet to rid you of your rat problem and you are more of a dog lover than cat lover, the Rat Terrier might be just the dog for you. Known for extinguishing a serious rat infestation in the matter of hours, the Rat Terrier also makes a great family dog.

While not all clubs recognize the toy or giant varieties of the Rat Terrier, the standard size is recognized worldwide. All rat terriers have wide expressive eyes and tall, triangular pointed ears (some are tipped) giving them an intelligent and playful look. They are muscular little guys but have small, fragile legs.  While the classic Rat Terrier has a short, black tanpoint coat with black tricolor spotting, they also come in pearl, brown, tan, apricot, and lemon coat colors. Some may be bicolored or tricolored, most often with a mix of black, sable, white, and tans. Rat Terriers also come in a variety of eye colors, with grey and amber being the most popular.

The Rat Terries tail has been traditionally docked but with the decline of acceptance of tail docking in dog communities, the Rat Terriers tail can also be left long.

The Rat Terrier comes from a large mix of dog breeds. While American born, two of the first dogs used to develop the Rat Terrier breed came from Great Britain.  These were the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Manchester Terrier, who were said to have been brought to the United States in the late 1890’s. Eventually the Fox Terrier was also crossbred with the Whippet, Beagle and Bull Terrier. The Beagle helped to give the dog more girth and hunting prowess, and the Whippet, more speed and agility.

The overall mix of these breeds united to make one excellent hunting breed.  They were invaluable to farmers during the early 20th century. Not yet named, the Rat Terrier received its name from former American president, Teddy Roosevelt who was a proud owner of one. When his pet Rat Terrier singlehandedly rid the White House of their rat population, he dubbed the breed “Rat Terriers”. Named after him, a shorter legged, stockier type of rat terrier is called a “Teddy Roosevelt Rat Terrier” today.

In the 1930’s, modernized farming and new chemicals means to destroy rat infestations led to a decline in the Rat Terriers popularity. UKCI (Universal Kennel Club International) was the first registry in 1936 to recognize the Rat Terrier as a purebred. The Rat Terrier has also been recognized by the United Kennel Club.

Today there are many disagreements over the course of action to be taken for the promotion and preservation of the breed. The UKC officially recognized the breed on January 1, 1999. The AKC recognized the Rat Terrier as a breed on July 1, 2010. The Rat Terrier is rarely found in Australia.

The Rat Terrier has a loyal, loving and energetic personality. He is inquisitive, intelligent and affectionate. Like many feisty terriers, they make excellent watchdogs, are wary around strangers and are excellent hunters. While easily excited, they are not considered “yappy” dogs.

Rat Terriers are easy to train and work hard to please their owners. For this reason, many Rat Terriers do very well in agility contests and can easily follow complex directions in the show ring. While they love getting exercise, including swimming, they do have a tendency to slow down as they age.

Like any puppy, they should be taken to an obedience class and socialized with other people and dogs as soon as they are adopted . Due to their intelligence, Rat Terriers can become quickly bored so keep your play routine (and your training) challenging for this breed. While lots of activity will make your pet happy, just being near you is enough to make them content.

Care and Grooming
The Rat Terriers short coat makes them easy to groom. A periodic brushing is all that is needed to keep your dog looking neat and to remove excess hair. The Rat Terrier breed does shed, particularly in the spring and fall.  Some people chose to have their pet professionally groomed while others are able to handle it themselves.

They will also need an occasional bath but we careful of the products you use, some Rat Terriers are known to be sensitive to soap products, shampoos, and flea medicines.

Rat Terriers are generally healthy dogs with only a few known health problems. Because their legs tend to somewhat fragile, it is best not to play too roughly with your dog or they may end up with broken bones. Some, but not many Rat Terriers also have had problems with luxating pattels (dislocation of their kneecaps).  Allergies (hives, swelling, etc.) are also a fairly common complaint of Rat Terrier owners as well as incorrect bites.

Suitability as a Pet
Rat Terriers tend to make great pets for just about anyone. Due to their fragile legs, parents of young children should teach them how to properly play with them.  Once a Rat Terrier understands her place in the pack of the family, they can be excellent with children of all ages.

Rat Terriers love living on farms and in homes with large yards for them to burn off excess energy. They can also be fine apartment dwellers if they are given at least a twenty minute walk every day. Be careful – your rat terrier loves to dig and if left alone in a yard for too long, you might wonder if you have a mole problem. To keep them from misbehaving, make sure your Rat Terrier gets lots of attention and stimulating playtime.

Your Rat Terrier (like most terriers) will be initially shy around strangers, so allow them some time to warm up to newcomers. Rat Terriers do well with other dogs, so much so, that they are often the first to greet other dogs on the street and at the dog park.  While some other dog owners may be enthusiastic about your pets friendly approach, others may ask that you restrain your Rat Terrier because their dog does not share the same temperament. If you have other pets in the home, the Rat Terrier should do well with their “siblings” unless they are the very small and fuzzy kind and then a chase may ensue. Most sibling rivalry exists over toys – your Rat Terrier loves his chew toys and is not fond of sharing.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.