In for a small, compact, loving, and energetic furry friend? The Rat Terrier might be the best pal for you. Its intelligence and eager-to-please attitude make this breed an awesome companion.

Just keep in mind that these puppies can also be stubborn and wary of strangers. Also, they need an active owner.

To find out if they’re the perfect match for you, check the essential information on this dog below. You’ll learn more about:

Rat Terrier — The American Farm & Hunter Dog 

The Rat Terrier has American origins, and it was popular with farmers in the 1920s because of its great power — exterminating vermin. Later, other options for dealing with rats appeared on the market (pesticides), so the breed’s popularity decreased. Still, Rat Terriers became companion pals and affectionate family pets, so they gloriously made their way back into the canine scene in the 1970s. 

What Is a Rat Terrier?

It’s a mix of various dog breeds, most commonly these four Terrier breeds: 

  • Bull Terrier
  • English White Terrier
  • Fox Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier

But they could also have Beagle, Italian Greyhound, and even Chihuahua genes.

Rat Terriers are also great for mixing with other dog breeds. Some of the most popular types of Terrier mixes include the Chihuahua Rat Terrier, Beagle Rat Terrier, and Jack Russell Terrier.  

Their Expertise Is Hunting Rats

When the cat’s away, the mice will play! Well, not with a Rat Terrier around. Due to their small body, excellent speed, and love of digging, RTs are experts in the rat hunting department. 

Aside from rat control on farms, they were largely used in rat pit contests. The official record for a Rat Terrier is 2,501 killed rats in seven hours.

Theodore Roosevelt Might Have Named Them

Although this isn’t a verified fact, you’ll often see it mentioned in the Rat Terrier history. 

US president Theodor Roosevelt might have named the breed. Supposedly, his dog saved the White House from a huge rat problem, and he called it a Rat Terrier. 

Many reports suggest that’s true, but it’s hard to confirm whether the dog president Roosevelt owned was the same Rat Terrier we know today. 

Interestingly, the AKC recognizes these dogs as two separate breeds — the American Rat Terrier and the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier. 

They Were Officially Recognized as a Breed in 2013.

These dogs have been around since the 1920s, but Rat Terrier facts show they were officially recognized in 2013. Before that, they were seen as a strain rather than a breed. 

The first Kennel Club to recognize Rat Terriers was the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1999. While the American Kennel Club (AKC) did that in 2013, the club gave permission for Rat Terriers to compete in some events in 2006.

Appearance of a Rat Terrier 

You’ll recognize this breed by its small upturned ears, dark eyes, and compact and muscular body. Also, its short coat is smooth and shiny.

But what else makes them unique?

They Are Incredibly Fast 

Rat Terriers might not be the fastest dogs in the world, but they’re still pretty fast. They can achieve a speed up to 28 mph, which isn’t surprising, considering they were bred to be hunting and working dogs. 

So, if you want one of these puppies, you should always have your RT on a leash during walks. You might also want to consider investing in a GPS tracker. Their high prey drive is stronger than your commands, so they can easily get lost. That’s when tracking your dog with a GPS comes in handy.

Last but not least, the Rat Terrier mix dog can easily jump over a 5–6 feet high fence, so consider your yard before allowing your dog to roam free in it.

They Have Strong Jaws 

Another trademark of these dogs is their really strong jaws with a scissor-like bite. If you don’t have the time to help them burn their energy, don’t be surprised to find chewed slippers at home. When not active, either physically or mentally, Rat Terriers become destructive.

Rat Terrier Size Differences

These dogs come in three sizes: miniature, standard, and large (usually called Decker Terrier). The AKC recognizes only the first two.

The standard size is between 10 and 18 inches, weighing 10–25 pounds. In contrast, Miniature Rat Terriers are 10–13 inches tall and weigh 5–10 pounds. The Deckers are 18–23 inches tall and weigh between 25 and 38 pounds.

Short Coat In Various Colors

Since they’re a mix of dog breeds, these dogs come in various colors. The most common Rat Terrier colors are: 

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Tan
  • Gray
  • Brown
  • Chocolate

But you might also find them in fawn, apricot, or red.

Their short coat also comes in different patterns. It’s usually bi or tricolor, with white mostly present as a preset. Brindle and merle are also popular patterns with these Terriers. 

rat terrier running towards the camera

It’s a Tradition to Have Their Tails Docked

Although many animal associations and some vets disapprove of this procedure, it’s always been a tradition for their tails to be docked. 

In the past, it was believed that this prevented RTs from possible injury while hunting down vermin. But today, the breed standard accepts both. It’s up to you to decide what type of Rat Tail Terrier you’ll have.

What’s the Rat Terrier Temperament Like? 

These dogs are true hunters, so they’re always out there looking for a good catch. That also stimulates their curiosity, so they love roaming, inspecting, playing, and running

That awesome curious nature sometimes causes headaches to their owners. Here’s what we mean by that:

The Terrier’s Trademark — Stubbornness

Their size may be small, but their stubbornness isn’t. These adorable, funny, and energetic pals have minds of their own. That’s just the Rat Terrier temperament. 

They might be eager to please and will carefully listen, learn, and obey during a training session, but once distracted by small animals, they’ll be on the go. No command can make them stop a chase.

Training these puppies from a young age is crucial. The key is consistency and positive reinforcement.

Love to Dig

Since their expertise is hunting down rats, this is no surprise. So, if you have a yard, be prepared to see dig spots. 

With proper and early training, you might teach your RT to dig in a designated area, saving the rest of the yard. Even if you have a high-fenced yard a dog cannot jump over, this Rat dog can still dig a hole beneath it. Consider this to ensure these escape masters stay in. 

If you’re considering having an RT in an apartment, provide enough activities to burn its energy down daily. Toys can also stimulate their mind and keep them out of trouble. 

Super Intelligent

Are Rat Terriers smart? They’re brilliant. Their IQ might not be as high as a Border Collie’s or enough to rank them among the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds, but they’re still highly intelligent pooches. Some estimates point out that they can score 3 out of 5 in intelligence assessments.

RTs learn tricks easily and fast. They can remember orders without practice and know how to trick you into getting your attention.

Takes Them Time to Get Comfortable Around Strangers 

Their character is outgoing and lively, but they still need time to adjust to strangers. But are Rat Terriers aggressive? No, they’re not if you socialize them early.

The breed’s feisty and fearless personality makes it wary of strangers, but once you socialize them properly, you won’t have any issues with that. Introduce them to as many people and animals as possible.

Little Balls of Energy

You must provide enough space for these dogs and dedicate your time to helping them burn their energy down. Otherwise, you’ll meet their destructive side. And trust me,  that’s not something you want to witness.

Rat Terriers need 40 minutes of exercise per day, indoor or outdoor. That could be retrieving games, running, or swimming. Plan your schedule accordingly, and don’t forget mental stimulation. 

Tendency to Chase

This is the number one among many Rat Terrier traits. If you already have a small animal at home, like a hamster or a bird, think twice before bringing in one of these dogs. 

Always have your RT on a leash outdoors. Its prey drive is high, and you never know where it might lead. 

Are Rat Terriers Healthy Dogs?

Rat Terriers are generally healthy dogs. But like with any other breed, they can still experience some health issues.

The Rat Terrier Lifespan

The Rat Terrier life expectancy is between 12 and 18 years. So, you’ll have a furry friend in your life for a long time.

If you want to prolong their longevity, keep these pals active and take proper care of their health. Don’t skip regular vet check-ups, and always ask for professional advice if you notice something out of the ordinary with your dog.

Common Health Issues

Even healthy pooches can have some health issues, so you should know what signs to look for in advance. This way, you’ll be prepared to act on time and help your Rat dog.

Generally, these dogs can experience common health problems like: 

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
  • Cardiac & Eye Disorders
  • Environmental Allergies

Always check in with your vet if you notice any symptoms. Don’t act on your own if something seems suspicious and out of the ordinary.

How to Feed a Rat Terrier

Since these dogs are full of energy and love to run, you should opt for well-balanced and high-quality food. An American Rat Terrier should eat food rich in protein, fiber, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. 

The recommended dosage for these pooches is ¼ to one cup of food per day, depending on the weight and size of your RT. But you should also consider your dog’s lifestyle and activities.

If you’re unsure what to feed your RT, the best option is to ask your vet. Still, many owners find air-dried food for dogs to be an excellent fit for these energetic pooches.

Rat Terriers Are Incredibly Easy to Groom 

There are many reasons why dog owners love Rat Terriers, and one of them is that they’re low maintenance.

But what does this mean? And do Rat Terriers shed? 

Yes, they shed, but only seasonally. During those periods, increase the brushing to 2–3 times per week. Otherwise, you can do that once per week to keep their short coat smooth and shiny. You should also bathe them occasionally. Since they’re bred for hunting and digging, their coat is soil-resistant.

Don’t forget to trim their nails. Also, take care of their ears, eyes, and oral health. 

Buying a Rat Terrier

Now that you know everything about RTs and are ready to buy one, you can look for a reputable breeder. The average Rat Terrier price is $900–$1,600, depending on the dog’s bloodline and the breeder’s reputation.

If that price is too high for your budget, you can look into adoption centers or shelters. That’s where you can get one of these dogs for around $500


So, is the Rat Terrier the right breed for you? Well, who wouldn’t love this intelligent, loving, playful, and energetic pooch? They’ll make sure to fill your days with laughter, joy, and love.

Still, if you don’t have the time to socialize and train this dog, or you’re more of a laid-back person, you should look for another breed that’s more suitable to your lifestyle.

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