Rat Terrier – Choosing a Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier is a talented and enthusiastic dog, specializing as a hunter, watch dog, and companion. This breed is a member of the AKC's miscellaneous class in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS). The FSS is the AKC's record-keeping system for rare breeds which are not yet fully AKC recognized.

History and Origin

The Rat Terrier originated in England around 1820 as a Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier mix. This breed came to the United States in the 1890s and was popularized by President Theodore Roosevelt. The President began calling these dogs (which had been called Fox Terriers) "Rat Terriers" because of their amazing ability to hunt rats.

The Rat Terrier was modified to become the dog he his today by breeding him with other dogs such as the Beagle, Whippet, Greyhound, Chihuahua, Toy Fox Terrier, and the Toy Manchester Terrier. The Rat Terrier's breeding made him especially talented in hunting and vermin control; thus, he is a popular farm dog. His strength, speed, and keen attentiveness are special assets.

Appearance and Size

Often mistaken for a Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier is strong, sturdy, and compact. The Rat Terrier measures on average about 10 to 19 inches tall at the shoulders, and weighs around 10 to 25 pounds. It is important to note that the Rat Terrier is a very diverse breed, and there are other varieties, both smaller and larger (Decker Rat Terrier), being bred.

His short coat is sleek, shiny, and is naturally well-groomed. The come in a variety of colors and patterns including black, blue, and brown tri-colors, along with red, sable, and other colors.

This breed's face is moderately long with sweet, expressive features. The ears are v-shaped and can be erect to slightly raised (buttoned). The Rat Terrier's tail is typically docked.


The Rat Terrier is extremely energetic, agile, and athletic. He can be quite talkative, making a variety of vocalizations to express his feelings. He is very loyal and responsive to his owner, making him eager to please and easy to train.

Home and Family Relations

The Rat Terrier makes a great family pet, but he should only be considered by someone who is able to provide an adequate outlet for the dog's abundance of energy and zest for life. Opportunities to run and play are crucial to the dog's well-being. A Rat Terrier would be very happy living with someone who is interested in small game hunting, agility or other canine sports, or farming.

The Rat Terrier typically does well around other dogs but may see smaller pets as game.

This breed is very loyal and loving toward his family, both adults and children, but he may be a bit reserved toward strangers.

He makes a great watchdog who is quite protective of his territory and will promptly alert his family to anyone entering his property.


The Rat Terrier's coat is naturally well-groomed and beautiful. Upkeep includes bathing as needed to keep this adventure-seeking dog clean. Also, occasional brushing will keep shedding under control.


Loyal, attentive, intelligent, and eager to please, the Rat Terrier is easy to train. Though easy to do, his training is a must. To manage this bundle of energy, a strong knowledge of obedience commands and a sturdy foundation of proper socialization are extremely helpful.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Especially as puppies, their tiny bodies coupled with their sense of adventure can get them into trouble, leading them to injuries such as broken legs. Their curiosity can also lead to problems such as unwanted ingested items causing toxicities and foreign bodies. Overall, because of their diverse heritage, this breed is typically hardy with few genetic health problems.

Life Span

The Rat Terrier's average lifespan is 14 to 18 years.