Rat Terrier

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6-35 lbs
10-18"
United States
Teddy’s Terrier, Rattie

When 19th century American farmers needed a small rodent hunter, they crossbred multiple Terrier breeds with Whippets, Greyhounds, and Beagles to create the lovable Rat Terrier. This dog was quick and adept at hunting rodents and other vermin above and below the ground. Also an excellent watchdog and companion, the Rat Terrier became a staple on farms throughout the nation. Today, this small or miniature dog can be seen playing with his family in the country or city. With little grooming needs and boundless energy, the Rat Terrier excels at dog sports, is ever vigilant of his loved ones, and is a lively addition to any household.

Purpose
Vermin Hunting
Date of Origin
1800s
Ancestry
Terrier, Whippet, Greyhound, Beagle

Rat Terrier Health

Average Size
Height: 10-18 inches Weight: 6-35 lbs
Height: 10-18 inches Weight: 6-35 lbs
Major Concerns
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Hip Dysplasia
Minor Concerns
  • Demodectic Mange
  • Epilepsy
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
  • Color Dilution Alopecia
  • Teeth Issues
Occasional Tests
  • Hip
  • Elbow
  • X-Rays
  • Dental Examination
  • Physical Examination
  • Skin Evaluation

Rat Terrier Breed History

The Rat Terrier is truly an American made dog. It was bred in the 1800s in the States by crossing various fox and European Terriers common at the time, such as Bull Terriers, English White Terriers, and Manchester Terriers. Later, these dogs were bred with Whippets, Beagles, Greyhounds, and yet more Terriers until a small dog gifted with speed, versatility, a spectacular nose, and a great disposition was created. The Rat Terrier was a multi-purpose farm dog who could hunt rodents and other vermin both above and below ground, and could course small game. By the early 20th century, this breed was one of the most common working dogs seen on a farm. Demand for the breed grew due to their intelligence and cheerful disposition. Theodore Roosevelt was quite fond of them, and brought them to the White House during his presidency, which gained them the nickname of “Teddy’s Terriers.” As people began to move away from the farms and into the cities, the Rat Terrier began to dwindle in popularity as farm ratting dogs were no longer as needed. The breed was not forgotten, however, and the United Kennel Club recognized it as a distinct breed in 1999. In the media, Shirley MacLaine wrote about her Rat Terrier, “Terry,” in her book, “Out on a Leash.” In 2013, the Rat Terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Rat Terrier Breed Appearance

The small Rat Terrier comes in two sizes, a miniature that ranges from 10 to 13 inches in height, and a standard that ranges from 13 to 18 inches in height. Both types are sturdy, compact dogs that are muscular and athletic. Slightly longer than tall, this well-balanced terrier boasts a strong, arched neck that blends into flat shoulder blades. A wide chest and a level back are supported by muscular legs that allow for an efficient and speedy gait. Paws are oval, compact, and moderately arched, with strong nails and thick pads. The dewclaws on the front paws are sometimes removed. Tails can be naturally bobbed or long, and may be docked. The head resembles a smooth and blunt wedge with a moderately wide skull that is flat on top. The muzzle is shorter and tapers along the sides to a pigmented nose. Jaws are strong with a scissors bite. An intelligent and alert expression beams from the face. Oval eyes are set wide apart, and can come in shades of brown, hazel, gray, and blue. V-shaped ears are either bent at the tips or stand upright. The coat consists of short, smooth, and shiny hair in a variation of pied patterning. Pied refers to large patches of one or multiple color combinations mixed with white. Colors outside the pied patterning can include black, browns to tans, red, white, sable, brindle, lemon, or fawn. 

Rat Terrier Breed Maintenance

The Rat Terrier needs minimal grooming. Brush his coat weekly with a brush or curry mitt. You may need to brush him more often in the spring and fall when he tends to shed. An occasional bath when needed can keep the Rattie looking his best. Do not bathe too often, however, as it can irritate his skin. Rat Terriers can have dental issues, so be sure to regularly brush their teeth, at least one to three times weekly. They can have fast growing nails which should be trimmed regularly to prevent splitting and cracking. Ears should be checked and cleaned routinely. This breed of Terrier is an active and athletic dog, and thrives with daily exercise. The Rat Terrier is happy on the farm, or in the city, so long as he gets daily walks and play sessions. Obedience and agility events, and dog sports are other ways to keep this dog stimulated. While they can be crate trained, they shouldn’t be kenneled, tied up, or left outside often, as they need to be around people. 

Rat Terrier Temperament

These friendly, confident, and lively dogs make great family companions that thrive with plenty of attention. They are inquisitive and fearless, so give them plenty to do or else they can dig their way to adventure. With their family, they can be courageous watchdogs, and are often wary of strangers. They are playful companions to children when raised with them. The Rat Terrier tends to get along with other dogs. On a farm, they may live peacefully with livestock too. But in any environment, small, quick moving animals like squirrels or rodents may get chased. This breed is sensitive, calm, and eager to please, making them easy to train with consistent and positive reinforcement. They can excel at dog sports, such as agility, coursing, and flyball. Their boundless energy needs exercise, which can include long walks, running, and playing with their family. At the end of the day, these lovable and devoted dogs will be happy to cuddle up with a special someone.

Rat Terrier Owner Experiences

Bull
15 Years
2 People
House
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
He loved to run and just lay out in the sun.
My dog is 15 years old and experiencing a lot of health issues. He was so loving and smart growing up. I just hate to see him go through this.
1 month, 3 weeks ago
Bull
15 Years
2 People
House
Health
Grooming
Friendliness
Energy
Trainability
Pastimes
He loved to run and just lay out in the sun.
My dog is 15 years old and experiencing a lot of health issues. He was so loving and smart growing up. I just hate to see him go through this.
1 month, 3 weeks ago
Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!