Most are dual or tri-coloured with white as the base colour. This may include several colours of brown, tan, yellow and black
14-18 inches (36-46 cm)
15-25 pounds (7-11 kg)
10-15 inches (25-38 cm)
8 -16 pounds (3.6-7.3 kg)
While they do like a great deal of activity, rat terriers can be adapted to apartment living as long as they get plenty of walks, attention and quite a few toys to play inside with.
They are, however, best suited to farm life and they love having a large yard or barnyard to lord over. Rat terriers are happiest when they have a job, and if you don't have one to give them, they'll improvise. Keeping them well distracted will keep them from becoming problem barkers.
This little farm dog is now an American breed that's been assisting with keeping vermin down to a reasonable level for over 150 years, though they have yet to be recognized as an actual show breed by the largest kennel club in their home country.
Today, rat terriers are used to herd and guard flocks of chickens, ducks or geese in some areas. In fact, they can be trained to protect just about any type of livestock, making them the smallest herding dog, though obviously their size gives them a disadvantage with larger animals.
With an alert demeanour and keen senses, the rat terrier also makes a fine guard dog. They are now kept largely in apartment or urban settings, given their size and generally agreeable nature. They make especially good companions for children over five.
Rat terriers are perhaps best known for being playful as well as useful. Since they've been inbred for such a short period of time, with several purebred parents, they are rather sturdy and not prone to the neurotic behaviours that so many other small dogs display.
Given how playful they are, they're a favorite among children. With a tenacious and precocious nature throughout their lives, rat terriers make fine companions, following your child all over the neighborhood and playing with their friends while keeping everyone safe.
The breed is long-lived-some rat terriers have lived as long as 20 years! Rat terriers also have few congenital disorders, so they don't often have large vet bills. They're a small dog that isn't so small that they can be injured by a falling toddler.
They have upright ears, as a testament to their beginnings as farm mongrels, which are very sensitive. The rat terrier also has very keen eyesight that is very well matched to their primary role as the scourge of rats. The eyes are alert.
Though very rare today, there are many enthusiasts that have kept the breed alive in the latter half of the 20th century. They are very good at obedience and Earth dog trials when allowed to compete.
The coat is dense and close, like a beagle. Rat terriers may have very sensitive skin and they sometimes develop patches of red scaly skin where the hair falls out, though this is rare. They do shed, unlike many terriers, but have a very trouble-free grooming schedule as a result.
There is also a single gene mutation that formed a line of hairless rat terriers that have been recognized as a separate breed by the AKC in 2004.
Rat terriers are a uniquely modern mongrel of a terrier that coalesced into a breed of its own in the early 20th century. As farms began popping up across the Midwestern United States in the early to mid- 19th century, the right combination of terrier to deal with the seeming endless rats arose from these unsupervised conditions as a champion ratter. Soon, this type of dog that became very aptly known as the Rat Terrier was common on American farms, chasing and killing rats in hay piles.
They were even exported to England and used in the late days of rat baiting. In this sport the dog would be put in a pit of rats, and scorekeepers would record how many they killed in a given time period while bets were placed on the outcome. The practice was not outlawed until the early 20th century when this last type of baiting was abandoned for dog showing
Some sort of rat terrier was very commonly found on family farms in the United States during the first half of the century. However, since there are few such farms around anymore, there is little reason for these little dogs to actually work for a living
They may be adapted to companion animal use and make very loyal and spirited pets. Nonetheless, Rat Terriers are now considered an endangered breed and are currently in the process of developing a breeding line with the American Kennel Club (AKC).
First and foremost, Rat Terriers are spunky dogs that love people and play. Being bred to kill rats in great quantities, they are quick to chase anything running around on the ground unless they've been brought up with them. However, they are smart dogs and if they understand another animal is not to be harassed, they will be protective of them.
Indeed, rat terriers can be trained to herd and protect a great many different animals, sometimes being used to tend small livestock such as birds. They are usually good around other animals, including other dogs, though this trait is accentuated when your puppy is socialized with dogs and other animals while very young.
They tend to be very good around children, though there is clearly a preference for the children in his or her "pack." The way a rat terrier responds to strangers has everything to do with how well socialized they were when puppies. At best, they will be friendly with others when you indicate they are not invaders.
They are very protective of their people and home, and as such, make rather good watchdogs. They hear or see everything, so you may find that dogs that spend a lot of time indoors will alert you whenever anyone walks down the street in what they consider to be a threatening manner.
While it is somewhat rare for a rat terrier to get the idea that you, as the master or mistress, are to be growled at when your dog feels like it, is a major problem that needs to be stamped out immediately by reminding the dog that such behaviour will not ever be tolerated.
When the dogs (and bitches) are left unaltered, they often begin marking territory, especially if there are other dogs in the house. It is usually recommended you have your dog sterilized if you don't intend to breed them.
Rat terriers are extremely long-lived dogs, with few Health Problems. They are also prone to Chemical sensitivity, and you should be very careful when using any scented shampoos or flea and tick treatments, including collars and dips. You should probably check with your vet first before using sub-dermal insecticides. Unscented baby or puppy shampoos should be used.
Mange susceptibility: There is a single gene defect that has appeared in some rat terriers that causes a susceptibility to the parasite that causes the mange. There are treatments available to keep the condition at bay, but it cannot be eliminated, and such dogs should not be bred.
Their coats do shed a bit, but not excessively. The fur is thick and close, so they don't require much grooming except to remove cast off and dead hairs before they land wherever they might. This will keep the hair from building up on your clothes, carpets and furniture so quickly.
Most people give their rat terriers a brushing every few days with a rubber comb or a brush to keep the shedding to a minimum. When they range outdoors a lot you might want to make it a daily exercise if your dog then expects to share the bed with you. If they stay outside, a weekly brushing is plenty.
Rat terriers very often have their tails bobbed when they're 2-3 days old, however, many actually have a mutation that shortens the tail to be about half or less in length, and this is actually allowed according to the breed standard, though no show dogs have full-length tails. The unaltered tail is generally not a problem unless you plan on taking your dog to a country where competitive animal fighting is legal. Otherwise, it is cosmetic.
Their dewclaws are very often removed, too. If you haven't had your dog altered in this way, you'll need to cut them yourself to keep them from painfully growing around and into their legs. A trim every few weeks is often sufficient and you should train your rat terrier to accept you touching his or her paws at a very early age, so they're less likely to fight back.
Though they are small dogs, rat terriers are very active dogs by nature. If they don't have an indoor play regimen, they'll need rather long walks and time to run in an off leash area. The have great stamina and are bred for sprinting.
They are especially fond of having a large yard to run around in. Though they're not usually escape artists, you should still make a point to double check the integrity of your fence, since they can slip through small holes.
Exercise is very important to keep rat terriers from barking too much. This is also very important if you or your family members need to spend several hours away from your dog every day. They don't like being separated from their "pack", and will suffer separation anxiety if not otherwise distracted.
Rat terriers do get bored and need constant stimulus. They are very fond of their toys and are happy to play indoors, though they are known to horde their toys and jealously guard them. They can meet much of their exercise needs indoors if there's someone to play with them.
The rat terrier is a very intelligent dog that is relatively easy to train as long as they've been properly exercised and you're consistent in your training. This breed is very closely associated with their "pack" and is very eager to please, if for no other reason than to get back to playing. Arranging your dog's training session into fun, play-like exercises, will yield good results quickly.
Unlike many terriers, rat terriers are relatively easy to housebreak. Many people recommend crate training when very young. Unless they're used to having an open crate that's comfortable when young, they may come to see it as a type of puppy jail. You want it to be a place where your dog enjoys hanging out in when they need their own "office" for a minute or two. That said, they are very keen to be with the pack at all times, and will feel punished if you banish them into "solitary confinement" too often.
When accomplishing the housebreaking without a crate, it is best to confine your dog to rooms where you can easily see him or her at all times, so there's no chance for error or sneaking one behind the couch. Keep a close eye on your rat terrier and be sure to get him or her outside at the first vague sign of wanting to go. It will drive you mad for a few weeks, but it must be done if you want to do this job right. However your dog is trained, it can't ever fully be undone later. Be sure and wait with them outside during the training process, or they'll just follow you back into the house without doing their "business."
Like all dogs, rat terriers respond best to reward training and are very sensitive to your displeasure. There should never be any need to shout at a rat terrier. If they really do something you don't like, temporary banishment (even for a few minutes) will be very effective as long as it's done immediately after the deed is done-they won't remember what they've done even a few moments after doing it, so don't bother and just redouble your efforts to be more vigilant.
Socialization is a very important part of rat terrier training, and it is said that pups should meet at least 100 people before they're four months old. This will allow them to get used to other people so they aren't so aloof with strangers, as is their custom. You should also introduce them to the other animals they will be living with as soon as possible.