A farm-loving dog, the Rat Terrier (lovingly referred to as a Rattie) is often mistaken for a close relative of the Jack Russell Terrier. But in fact, the Rat Terrier has a very different disposition from the JRT. The Rat Terrier shares a closer ancestry with a dog commonly called a “feist” (or Fyce in England).
Intelligent and active, the Rat Terrier is most known for its incredible hunting skills, from which its name finds its origin. Rat Terriers were bred to scare up rats, and the Rattie’s speed proves its skill. A Rat Terrier holds the record for killing the most rats in an infested barn — 2,501.
The breed most likely came about through the cross breeding of several dogs, including the English White Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, and Whippet. After being introduced to the United States in the 1890s, other breeds were thrown into the mix like the Italian Greyhound, Miniature Pinscher, and Chihuahua.
Rat Terrier Personality
Though they harbor a strong terrier personality, Rat Terriers aren’t overly aggressive.
Ratties love to lazily lounge about just as much as they love scurrying after small wildlife.
Rat Terriers are sweet, happy dogs, but are sensitive creatures when it comes to changes in their environment.
Affectionate, inquisitive and lively.
Loyal, active, and extremely playful.
Rat Terrier Size & Appearance
Actually somewhat like the JRT, the Rat Terrier, though compact, is a well-muscled dog with a deep chest, strong shoulders, solid neck, and powerful legs.
Rat Terriers’ ears are a remarkable trademark of the Rattie and can be erect, tipped, or button. The ears give them an appearance of intelligent alertness (and intelligent and alert they are!).
Some Rat Terriers carry the bobtail gene, while many have their tails traditionally docked to 2-3 inches, still others prefer the tails natural.
Rat Terriers weigh between 10-25 pounds.
Rat Terriers’ height can be between 10-19 inches at the whithers (they come in miniature and standard sizes).
Rat Terrier Family & Home
Rat Terriers are wonderful family companions that do well with children, especially if they are raised with the children from a very young age.
Rat Terriers can survive in apartments with sufficient daily exercise, but prefer a nice yard to romp around in.
Be cautious when allowing your Rattie to roam the yard. They are diggers and can get out from under an unsecured fence quickly. Astute pet parents might also want to give their Rat Terrier a designated digging area and spare the begonias!
Rat Terriers are extremely dog friendly and really enjoy playing with other dogs (of course, always use caution). If you have smaller pets like hamsters, cats, or rabbits, you must bear caution since the Rat Terrier is bred specifically to hunt and capture small wildlife, and your pets may be the perfect practice “toy”!
Rat Terrier Bark
Rat Terriers make good watchdogs, but though they may resemble the Chihuahua, they are not yappers!
Rat Terrier Training
Rat Terriers are well rounded and good natured. For this reason, they are very easily trained.
Rat Terriers, like many other dogs, are very eager to please their owner by learning behaviors.
Rat Terriers must be well socialized from a very early age.
Like the JRT, the Rat Terrier’s muscle, skill and precision make it an excellent dog to train in agility and other dog sports.
Rat Terrier Coat
Rat Terriers have short-haired, single coats. Rat Terriers never have wire-haired coats.
The Rat Terrier coat is predominantly black tanpoint with piebald spotting that can come with other colors such as red, orange/apricot, tan, chocolate, lemon, and blue.
Merle and brindle colored coats in Rat Terriers are not recognized by most kennel club standards.
Rat Terriers do shed, most especially in the spring and fall, and require brushing to remove dead hair and reduce shedding.
Rat Terrier Care
Rat Terriers require a decent amount of exercise to expend that Rattie energy. It should have at least 20-30 minutes of exercise daily, but a Rat Terrier will never object to more exercise and play time!
Rat Terriers need lots of mental stimulation with fun dog toys that work their mental abilities.
Rat Terrier Health
Rat Terriers are hearty and healthy, but on rare occasion can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasias as well as eye problems.
Rat Terriers can suffer from contact, inhalant, or food allergies.
Rat Terriers can also suffer from chemical sensitivity/allergies — quite possibly because they have very little body fat.
Rat Terriers can also sometimes suffer from Demodex Mange.
Rat Terrier Lifespan
Rat Terriers can live anywhere from 12-18 years of age.
Rat Terrier Fun Facts
The American Hairless Terrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 2004. This hairless breed was bred from a Rat Terrier that was born without hair and then cross bred to create this new breed.
Rat Terriers are only currently recognized in the Standard and Miniature sizes by the UKC and AKC, but a larger version (over 25 lbs.) has been developed. They are called “Deckers” or Decker Giants, named after breeder Milton Decker.
A version of the Rat Terrier with stockier legs is referred to as the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, or as the “Type B” Rat Terrier.
Rat Terrier Fame
Two of i Love Dogs’ favorite Rat Terriers, Rickie Roo and Gigi of the PM2 Dog Agility Team, write a blog about their many agility exploits for the website WWW.TJ.LA.
Some of the most famous Rat Terriers belonged to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Rat Terrier Rescue
To bring home a cheerful, skilled hunter like the Rat Terrier, visit www.ratbonerescues.com, a national Rat Terrier Rescue.
PHOTO: Rickie Roo by Paw Prince Studios