Rat Terrier is an American breed developed in the 1800s from the old Fox Terriers, English White Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Manchester Terriers. Later, Smooth Fox Terriers and Toy Fox Terriers were used, and some experts say even Beagles and Whippets were a part of the mix. Primarily farm dogs and bred for working ability rather than looks, the Rat Terrier was—as his name implies—a vermin hunter. Because of their varied ancestry, Rat Terriers are not cookie-cutter dogs all fitting into the same mold.
The Miniature Rat Terrier is between 10 and 13 inches tall and the Standard Rat Terrier is between 13 and 19 inches tall at the shoulder. Both sizes are sturdy, with a wedge-shaped head, rounded dark eyes, and an alert expression. The ears are upright and large but also may be semi-pricked or slightly folded. The tail is docked or is a natural bobtail. The coat is short and smooth and may be a variety of colors but is predominantly hound colors—white with patches of color, from apricot, tan, and blue fawn through black. Grooming the Rat Terrier is easy. The short coat can be brushed with a soft bristle brush or curry comb twice weekly.
The Rat Terrier is an active dog breed that needs vigorous daily exercise. A brisk walk morning and evening plus a game of catch in the backyard will keep most Rat Terriers happy. Rat Terriers tend to be wary and cautious of strangers, so early socialization is very important. Early training can teach the Rat Terrier household rules and social manners. Although they are bright and inquisitive, these dogs can also be stubborn and tenacious, so training needs to be firm yet fun, with games and toys included so that the dog’s motivation level stays high.
Rat Terriers are loyal and devoted to their owners and can easily become one-person dogs. They can be good with older children but will not tolerate rough handling. Rat Terriers are usually good with other dogs, although play with larger dogs should be supervised so that the smaller dog is not injured. Interactions with other small pets should be closely monitored; remember, these are hunting dogs. Health concerns include knee problems, hip and elbow dysplasia, and allergies.