Rat Terrier Puppy Facts

Did you just bring home a new Rat Terrier puppy and want to learn more about the breed?

Maybe you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed of dog for you and your family?

No matter what your situation may be, you will find the answers to your questions right here!



Breed History

While some feel it originated in England in the first half of the 19th century and later introduced into the United States, the breed, also known as the American Rat Terrier and Ratting Terrier, originated in the United States. It was developed from a mixture of terriers brought over by working class English immigrants.

Some of the breeds that played a role in the development of the modern breed include the Fox Terrier, the now-extinct English White Terrier, Bull Terrier, and the Manchester Terrier. Later, other breeds such as the Beagle, the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound were added to the mixture.

Why were terriers crossed with hounds?

In addition to being a farm dog, the Rat Terrier was also a hunter. It was used to hunt rats and other rodents below and above ground. The breed inherited speed and agility from the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet while the Beagle made it a better pack-oriented dog.


A Rat Terrier Chihuahua mix, not one of the more traditional crosses, is known as Rat-Cha!

There is a Decker Rat Terrier strain of the breed named after Milton Decker. Milton felt his own dog, Henry, possessed qualities that he wanted to preserve and pass on to future generations. He produced a large Rat Terrier that could be used to hunt large game such as deer, wild pig and even bear.

Another strain was developed in early 1970s after the first hairless female was born. That strain became known as the American Hairless Terrier.

The legend has it that President Theodore Roosevelt named the breed after his own dog who had solved the White House rat problem. Even if the story is true, it's not known if that dog was in fact the same Rat Terrier as appears today.

Physical Characteristics of Rat Terrier Puppies

It's not easy to describe this breed because different registries have their own standards.

For example, the National Rat Terrier Association recognizes 3 sizes -- toy, miniature and standard, while the Rat Terrier Club of America recognizes standards and miniatures and treats hairless as a distinct breed -- American Hairless Terrier. To make things even more convoluted, the UKC recognizes miniatures, standards, and hairless Rat Terriers.

In general, this is a small to medium-size dog with a compact, well-muscled body that is slightly longer than it is tall, deep chest and strong neck. The head is wedge-shaped with v-shaped tipped or erect ears. Eye and nose color vary with coat but any blue pigmentation in the eyes is discouraged.

The tail can be naturally short or full length, or it can be docked. The front legs are straight and the back legs are muscular and in balance with the front legs.

The coat is short, smooth and shiny. Its colors range from solid white to bicolor or tricolor, with white and black, blue, blue fawn, chocolate, lemon, tan, or apricot.

    Height Weight
  Male under 10 inches (toy) under 10 pounds
    10 - 13 inches (miniature) 10 - 18 pounds
    13+ inches (standard) 18+ pounds
  Female under 10 inches (toy) under 10 pounds
    10 - 13 inches (miniature) 10 - 18 pounds
    13+ inches (standard) 18+ pounds


The Rat Terrier is an intelligent, inquisitive, and energetic dog. It's very affectionate to its family and good with children, but can be reserved with strangers. It's eager to please and loves praise.

Like all terriers, they are fearless and feisty. Despite what I've heard from some "experts", they are not afraid of water and are good swimmers.

They learn quickly and are easy to train and housebreak. They excel at dog agility and obedience trials but like all dogs, they will benefit greatly from socialization training.

Very social, Rat Terriers enjoy company of people and other dogs (most of the time). Though they are not generally very vocal, they can be demanding, especially when ignored by their owners.

Best Owner / Living Conditions

Despite being fairly active indoors, with sufficient exercise, the Rat Terrier can adjust to an apartment lifestyle. Still, it will do best if it has access to a fenced yard.

Full of energy, they love to play and spend time with their owner. If you are a couch potato, this breed is probably not for you.

Some Rat Terrier breeders may interview prospective owners to make sure this is the right breed for them.

Activity and Exercise

The Rat Terrier is a fairly active breed and needs daily exercise to stay physically and mentally sharp.

It can get plenty of exercise by running and playing off leash. If you are into jogging or bicycle riding, you can take your pet along. But never let your pet off leash unless it's in a protected area such as a fenced yard.

Running off leash is good, but it's not a substitute for daily walks. At a minimum, take your pet for several long walks every day, always on leash.


Grooming a Rat Terrier is not difficult and will not take up a lot of your time.

Brush occasionally with a firm bristle brush to remove dead hair. Bathe once every five to six months.

Health Concerns

Like all dog breeds, Rat Terriers are susceptible to complications caused by internal and external parasites such as ticks, fleas, and worms.

Other than that, this is a healthy breed with very few genetic problems. The most common problem associated with this breed involves allergies. Some smaller dogs are also known to have knee problems.

For more information about dog diseases and health, visit dog health problems.

Buy only from reputable Rat Terrier breeders to reduce the risk of the above and many other health problems (visit dog breeders to learn how to identify responsible dog breeders).

No matter how small the risk of health problems is, any puppy may get sick or injured. Many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, but there are many others that will not, and you may handle them on your own.

To save time and money, learn how to diagnose and treat dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for Rat Terrier puppies is 13 to 18 years.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Rat Terrier rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? Then check this Rat Terrier Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.

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