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A rat terrier dog

Introduction to the Rat Terrier Dog Breed

The Rat Terrier is an American dog breed known for its versatility and spirited personality. Originally bred for hunting and farm work, this breed is particularly adept at catching rodents and vermin, hence its name. Rat Terriers are small to medium-sized dogs, recognized for their intelligence, loyalty, and energy, making them an excellent choice for both work and companionship.

Rat terrier dog breedRat Terrier Breed Facts

  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Breed Group: Terrier
  • Height: 10-18 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 10-25 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-18 years
  • Average Price: $700 – $1,000
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Shedding: Moderate
  • Good with Kids: Yes, particularly with proper training and socialization

Breed History

The Rat Terrier was developed in the early 20th century in America, although its ancestors came from Europe. The breed was created by crossing various breeds such as the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Manchester Terrier, and later incorporating Whippets, Greyhounds, and even Beagles. This mix was intended to enhance the breed’s hunting capabilities, speed, and agility. Rat Terriers were cherished as efficient pest controllers and loyal farm guards, contributing significantly to American farm life.

Rat Terrier Personality

Rat Terriers are known for their alertness, intelligence, and vivacity. They possess a friendly and affectionate nature, making them excellent family pets. They are typically wary of strangers but are never shy or aggressive. Their high intelligence makes them highly trainable, but their independent streak can sometimes pose a challenge. Socialization from an early age is crucial to develop a well-rounded temperament.


Rat Terriers have a compact, muscular build that showcases their agility and strength. Their coat is short and smooth, with coloring that varies widely, including black and white, red, chocolate, and variants with tan markings or patches. Their ears can be erect or tipped and are one of their most expressive features.

Rat Terrier Health Concerns

Rat Terriers are generally healthy, but they are prone to certain genetic conditions.

  • Patellar Luxation: A common issue in smaller breeds where the kneecap slips out of place.
  • Dental Problems: Due to their small jaws, they can experience overcrowding of teeth, leading to dental disease.
  • Allergies: They can suffer from various allergies, ranging from food to environmental allergens.
  • Heart Issues: Some are prone to congenital heart defects, which should be monitored.

Exercise Needs

Rat Terriers are energetic and require regular physical activity to stay healthy and happy. Daily walks, coupled with play sessions and mental stimulation, are vital. They excel in dog sports like agility and flyball, which also help to keep them mentally sharp.

Rat Terrier Training and Behavior

Training a Rat Terrier requires consistency and patience due to their somewhat stubborn nature. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praises. Early socialization and obedience training are essential to curb any tendency towards excessive barking or digging.

Rat Terrier Grooming Needs

Their short coat makes grooming relatively straightforward. Weekly brushing is generally sufficient to remove loose hair and maintain skin health. They should also have regular nail trimmings and dental care to prevent common health issues.

Care Needs

The Rat Terrier does well in a variety of living situations but does best where they have room to explore and play. They adapt well to active family life and can also thrive in a single-person household provided they receive enough attention and exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rat Terriers

  1. Are Rat Terriers good with children?
    • Yes, they are great with children, especially when raised with them from puppyhood.
  2. How much exercise does a Rat Terrier need?
    • They require moderate to high levels of exercise, including daily walks and playtime.
  3. Do Rat Terriers bark a lot?
    • They can be vocal, especially if not properly trained or left alone for long periods.
  4. Can Rat Terriers live in apartments?
    • Yes, they can adapt to apartment living if they receive sufficient exercise.
  5. What is the lifespan of a Rat Terrier?
    • They generally live between 12 to 18 years.

Is the Rat Terrier the Right Breed for You?

If you are looking for a lively and affectionate companion who is also a vigilant watchdog, the Rat Terrier could be the ideal breed for you. They fit well into various households and are loyal and protective of their families. However, prospective owners should be prepared to meet their exercise and mental stimulation needs.

Further Reading

Thank you for your interest in our Rat Terrier breed profile. Be sure to check out the many additional breed profiles listed on our Small Dog Breeds A to Z home page.


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