Rat Terrier – Full Breed Profile

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Do you want a small size dog with great energy? If so, you should check the famous Rat Terrier. From breed's history to breed's personality, this guide provides everything that you need to know about Rat Terrier.
Dog Breed Group:
Terrier Dogs
13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder
Life Span:
13 to 18 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Rat Terrier is an American original. This small size dog is compact and smooth-coated.

Great for exterminations, this dog comes in two sizes: miniature being between 10 to 13 inches, and standard being up to 18 inches. Their coat is their unique trait because it’s smooth and shiny.

Overall, their body is lean and well-built, constructed for the efficient movement that can support a long day’s work. Rat Terriers are adorable, friendly, energetic, and lively.

In a way they are true terriers – they will be stubborn and never not eager to please.

Still, they will have moments of humor that will make you laugh all day long.

They are small in size, but they are a huge help on the farm. Did you know that this breed was responsible for eradicating the rat infestation at the White House?

Ever since they have been one of the most favorite dogs across the States, especially in areas with farms.

The Rat Terrier is a true American tradition.

Overall, this is a healthy breed, although some health issues may appear in life, including patellar luxation and hip dysplasia which is common in dogs of any size and breed.

They will be happiest on the farm having a job to do, although they can handle city life as long as you provide enough exercise and outdoor time.

Rat Terriers will follow you around no matter where you might be bases, city or rural area, and they will always try to get rid of rats and other pests that could potentially bother you.

Quick Facts

Real name: Rat Terrier
Other names: American Rat Terrier, Ratting Terrier, Decker Giant
Common Nickname: RT, Rat, Rattie
Origin: States
Breed type: Terrier Dogs
Weight: 9-11 kg (22 to 24 pounds)
Height: 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder
Lifespan: 13 to 18 years
Litter Size: 5 puppies
Color: From darkest brown to haze
Coat: Short and smooth with dense, shiny fur

Rat Terrier History

Were Rat Terriers used to kill rats? Yes, they were. Hence the name of this breed.

Rat terrier was used on old farms to help with the everyday task of finding and killing rats.

Wherever there was a rodent infestation there would be at least one Rat Terrier.

Farmers wanted a small, fast, and affectionate dog who will be effective at his work. However, in no time it was obvious that this breed can do much more. Therefore, the Rat Terriers ended up being all-purpose dogs.

Their daily obligations included watching duties, hunting responsibilities, and being childhood playmates.

First records on this breed date back to the 1500s.

At this period a rat-catching dog ‘Hatch’ was used at the time of Herny VIII to help and control the rat population. These dogs were much appreciated for their size and speed.

Once they were brought to the States sometime in the 1800s they were mixed with other breeds to perfect them further.

Breeds used for Rat Terrier creation as we know today, include:

  • Beagle
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Manchester Terrier

Rat Terriers became loyal hunting companions who were much appreciated for their intelligence and effectiveness.

Today, there are mostly family pets, while some may be working on farms.

Some police forces use them as part of the search and rescue teams – they are especially active in the search of cars due to their size.

Rat Terrier Physical Appearance

Rat Terriers are small size dogs.

They are commonly 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder and should have between 10 and 2 pounds. Their compact size makes them perfect companions and city dogs.

Rat Terriers are small enough to search for vermits inside their hideouts and small enough to scroll down the busiest city streets.

The breed standard says that they are ‘small to medium’, with Toy variety weight only 10 pounds or less. They come in a variety of coat colors.

The classic and most common color is black ton with piebald spotting. Some of the other colors include blue, isabella, tan, chocolate, and even lemon and apricot.

Some may be bicolor or tricolor. By the main breed’s standards, brindle isn’t allowed. Their ears are always erect and their eyes are brown. The bobtail gene is common in this breed.

Rat Terrier Personality

Rat Terriers are, just like all terriers, small and energy-packed dogs. They are trainable, but will usually listen only to experienced dog owners.

Rat Terriers are brilliant and they will show it. Training is something that they will enjoy as long as sessions are well-organized and fun. They are fast to pick up on tricks but will be the first to try to lead.

These dogs are active and energetic. Don’t let their size trick you into believing that you are getting a couch potato.

This breed will push you to go outside frequently and continually try new games.

A rainy day isn’t a problem for them usually. They thrive on activities, both those with their family members, or other dogs.

Rat Terriers are outgoing dogs, who aren’t afraid to approach dogs of any size, and unknown people.

Socializing them at an early age is important and obedience training is a must.

Rat Terrier With Chidlren And Other Pets

These active dogs are huge children’s lovers. They are always willing to play and they can do great both with younger and older children. However, tools tend to see dogs as moving toys, so their interaction would always be supervised.

Plus, children should know how to safely interact with dogs, and not to pull their ears, tails, and so on.

Dogs should never be disturbed when they are eating, sleeping, resting, or playing with their toys inside their crates.

Rat Terriers are small size dogs which means that indoor interaction and games are a must.

Learn best indoor games, to keep your terrier active and busy. Don’t forget that a tired dog is a happy dog.

The Rat Terrier prefers to be the only house pet. Still, they should do fine with other dogs as well, as long as they have grown up with them.

As for the smaller animals, it’s better to keep them separate.

Rat Terriers have strong hunting instincts toward smaller animals and will most like try to catch them.

Rat Terrier Training

Rat Terriers are heavy people-pleasers.

These dogs are people-oriented and highly eager to please. They are intelligent and overall easy to train.

As energetic dogs, they will need challenges to help them burn off that energy.

As puppies, they are extremely easy to train. They are a bit independent and easily bored, so keep training sessions consistent, fun, and very short.

Always reward him with a nice treat. Dogs love positive training methods and a lot of rewards.

Be careful with treats, because too many treats can easily add weight gain.

Rat Terriers also do well in structured training space and puppy obedience classes are a must if you feel like you need support. Plus, puppy classes are a great way to bond more with your Rat Terrier.

Rat Terrier Exercise

Rat Terriers are active dogs. To keep them both mentally and physically satisfied you should provide a good amount of daily exercise.

Daily long walks or jogging are mandatory.

Provide them at least 30 minutes long, although at least 40 minutes a day would keep your dog happy. They need plenty of mental stimulation as well. To achieve that use smart dog toys, such as puzzles.

If you have enough time, and you love training your dog, think about dog agility – Rat Terriers are continually among the best agility champions.

Rat Terrier Grooming

Grooming is a big part of a dog’s health. Brushing your dog regularly isn’t enough to have a well-groomed dog.

Grooming routine should include:

  • Weekly brushing with adequate brushing tool
  • Nail trimming or grinding
  • Bathing only when needed
  • Cleaning ears
  • Checking eyes and gums weekly

Dental care should be one of the biggest priorities as a dog owner.

Dog’s teeth and their health is a major factor of dog’s health. Provide food that promotes healthy teeth and if the veterinarian recommends it brush his teeth.

When it comes to teeth brushing and bathing you should use only products that are are specially designed for dogs. That being said, do your research on the best dog shampoo and toothpaste products.

Rat Terrier Health

Rat Terrier’s owners describe them as healthy dogs. Still, like many other breeds, they are susceptible to certain health conditions.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that your Rat Terrier will develop any of the following conditions.

It just means that you should be well-aware of these conditions and provide regular veterinarian check-ups to prevent every one of the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Demodectic mange
  • Malocclusion
  • Patellar luxation

Smaller to medium size dogs are usually at higher risk of gaining extra pounds.

This means that you are directly responsible for the dog’s weight once you bring him home.

Obesity on dogs is on the rise across the States and can lead to health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

To keep your Rat Terrier healthy and happily provide enough exercise – this is a must if you want your terrier to be fit.

Exercise will keep the extra weight away and keep the dog’s joints strong.

Is Rat Terrier For You?

The Rat Terrier is a breed that needs a purpose. These energetic dogs are small in size, and huge when it comes to joy. They are nimble hunters and great when it comes to dog agility competitions.

As a passionate runner, the Rat Terrier isn’t for owners who prefer resting indoors to spending hours outdoors.

They are quick, sharp when it comes to thinking, and big people please. This isn’t the breed for you if you don’t want to deal daily with strong terrier min, digging holes, and heavy barking.

On the other hand, this is the breed for you, if you want a dog who is:

  • Smaller in size
  • Easy to groom
  • Have great watching skills
  • Have a long life expectancy
  • Is highly playful

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