Rat Terrier

Breed History

Rat Terrier headshot

Rat Terrier is a stocky built, fast, and strong for their size. You will see them with a docked tail and straight ears on a short frame. Multi use dog that can conduct many activities that assist dog owners.

Farm dog that was in use for places who were suffering from too many rats. Ratting work is common for any Terrier and this dog is no exception. New age Feist dog was a mix of a hound or terrier dog for most kennel clubs.

Their name comes from what they do hunt rats and they are Terriers. One of the few dogs that are known to come from America while the breed standard was done in the country as well.

Battling rat infestation, vermin, and other small rodents made them excellent hunting dogs. Bigger hunters were slower and better for bigger animals, but smaller hunting dogs can help with smaller animals.

Another purpose for this dog was a guard dog. Alert behavior help with the detection of intruders for property owners. Different jobs and the ability to learn quickly makes this dog different from many other breeds.

Giving assistance when going after squirrels and other small animals due to their fast speed and agility. Ability to get into smaller places made them ideal for owners looking for smaller food to hunt.

Commercial farm sites and the streamline processes of the 1950’s made them less useful for their job because they were not in need of their services anymore. They now enjoy being pets while doing little to no hunting or ratting activities.


Rat Terrier is a very popular Terrier dog and is known all over the world. Major Kennel Clubs all show recognition, but the timing of soon is recent in history.  Ranks in the top 80 in America and showing more popularity over the years.

A newer AKC breed they show breed recognition in 2013. They had a lot of breed standardization done and it took a while before they got all the features they needed in the breed.

Here are the Kennel Clubs that recognize the Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier Size

Male Height: 13-18 inches

Female Height: 13-18 inches

Male Weight: 10-25 pounds

Female Weight: 10-25 pounds

Miniature sizes are smaller around 10-13 inches

Boys aren’t significantly bigger than girls, but it can be noticeable depending on the male and female in question. They are somewhat bigger.

Litter Size

5 puppies are the average size of the Rat Terrier litter. Smaller dogs will have a smaller litter on average. Mother dogs can have some issues pushing dogs through the pelvis. This complication can cause the dog to go into an emergency c-section. Breeders should consult with their local vet and find out if their dog can have a normal birth or if they should plan the c-section.


Black – with white, tan, sable in any combination

White – with apricot, black, blue, blue fawn, chocolate, fawn, lemon, red, silver, tan in any combination

There are a lot of color that are acceptable in this breed. When buying a puppy or adopting an adult dog make sure the dog features acceptable colors and markings.


$1,000-$3,500 is the average price you will pay for this breed. Prices vary depending on country, currency exchange, bloodline, and other factors.

Dogs with papers will cost much more than puppies without papers. Papers will show you the kennel clubs and bloodline of the ancestors of the puppy. Both parents need registration to receive papers. If one dog has them and the other doesn’t you will not be able to obtain papers.

Without papers you can expect to pay less than $500. Quality of the puppy may decline with different crossbreeding you may be unaware of at the time of purchase. You get what you pay for at the end of the day.


This dog has a single layer smooth coat. Making them low to no maintenance depending on how active you choose to groom your dog. If you choose to groom your dog, follow the section below.

  1. Brushing
  2. Combing
  3. Bathing
  4. Ears
  5. Nails
  6. Professional Help

Brushing should occur at least once per week to keep the coat in excellent condition. Make sure you find the correct brush for this coat type. Activities like this one will make up the bulk of the brushing or combing of the coat.

There is no reason to comb for two reasons. No danger of tangling or matting will happen if you don’t comb. Dogs with tangle or matting ability will have a painful grooming process and this dog is clear of those issues.

Bathe the dog once a month or whenever dirty. Some owners may want to wash their dog on a schedule and others when the dog is dirty.

Ears should get a weekly cleaning and that will prevent ear infections. Costly vet bills can start to add up for those living on lower wages and don’t have a lot of extra money for preventable vet visits.

Nails can be trim in three ways: during exercise, nail clippers, or with professional groomers. Exercise, which we recommend, is the most natural method and will keep the nails low. Clippers and professional groomers will be the second and third options.

Professional help is not a recommendation for this breed.

Life Span

15-17 years is the lifespan of a Rat Terrier. That is a long time for dogs of any breed size. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than the giant breeds that weigh over 100 pounds.

Proper preparation of the lifespan should be taken into consideration for any current or future dog owner. Adoption can cause the dog to become more adoptable in their older days due to their long lifespan.

Health Issues

Cardiac – their kennel club does recommend getting some type of cardiac examination. Hearts are a big reason for dogs dying earlier than usual and getting them a checkup once a year is a recommendation.

Hips – should get a check once in their lifetimes preferable around 24 months to determine to health of the hips. There may be circumstances where the dog is favoring a leg or doesn’t want to engage in exercise, especially running due to discomfort. Take this dog to the vet right away and get an x-ray. Discontinue exercise until you find out from a professional if the dog has his dysplasia.

Patella Luxation – loose or a dislocation of the kneecap is common with smaller dogs and less common with bigger dogs. Once again if you see your dog favoring a leg get them to a vet right away. No signs of symptoms get this exam at some point in early in their adult life.

Legg-Calve – hind leg degeneration and can be an issue with the low levels of blood reaching the area for dogs with this condition. Finding the dog limping will prompt you to immediately find a local vet and find out if they have this condition in the hindlegs. Cause of the issue is unknown at this time, but credible sources assume it is passed down from their parents.

Eyes – cherry eyes, excessive tearing, glaucoma, and cataracts are all eye problems that can bother any dog. Progression of some of the serious conditions can cause blindness or the inability to see causing a disability.

Breed Group

Proud member of the Terrier Group the Rat Terrier has adopted the name. All of the terrier are small to medium dogs who have the ability and agility to hunt smaller animals.

Terriers have a strong connection with killing rats in the area helping to get rid of rodent infestations especially for farmers. Although those days of hunting and ratting are far behind them it is a strong part of their legacy.

Here are some the dogs that make up the group

Exercise Needs

All dogs have individual exercise needs and owners need to be aware of how to tell when they are getting too little or just enough. Although we think the more exercise the better most owners can never walk a dog twelve hours a day.

Dog behavior is the only indication that tells you to increase or decrease the output. Daily exercise is the best and will give you the best results.

Bad behavior consists of not listening, excessive barking, digging, running away from home (just to exercise), biting, nipping, and other activities you would determine as undesirable. All of these would result in you giving the dog more exercise than you currently are giving them.

Good behavior is an indication that the dog is getting enough exercise and there is no need to increase. Consistent good behavior will result in the owner decreasing the lighten the workload.

Here is a basic guideline

Morning: Hour (run, walk, and treadmill)

Evening: 30 minutes (run, walk, and treadmill)

Younger dogs have the most energy and will be the higher maintenance. Once the dogs reach adulthood around three years old the energy will naturally lower. Senior dogs will need very little exercise, but you will determine that by their behavior.

Understanding this dynamic will lead you into becoming a great owner. Owners that exercise will have a better behaving dog than an owner that never does.


  1. Exercise program
  2. Commands
  3. Socialization
  4. Corrections

Training a dog should begin and end with exercising. Let’s look at a homeless person’s dog for an easy example. There dog is off leash, never walks in front, calm, ears back, and tail relaxed. Only difference between what this homeless person is doing is exercising the dog because they walk everywhere or ride their bike. Dog has no issues at the store with people walking in or not and never barks. Exercise them like the homeless man does. Taking up the bulk of your time will be exercise.

Commands are a great addition to an exercise program. Make the dog sit, lay, or stay at different times of the day. Before they eat, drink, come out the cage, go in a door, come out of a door, put on a leash or any other daily activity. Doing commands for these rewards gets better compliance than treats in my experience.

Socializing should be done after you exercise the dog for the day. Continuous socializing should be done with a dog that is calm and ready to be around their own kind. Whether the dog has another dog in the backyard or going to the dog park exercise should be instrumental in the training program.

Correcting the dog will be a big part in the beginning and become rare when the dog is getting the proper training. When you set the rules, you enforce them and then the dog follows them after the rules are clear.

Additional Resources