Canine Breed Menu

Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier
Breed Organization
National Rat Terrier Association
Native Country
United States of America
Other Names
Feist, Decker Giant, American Rat Terrier, Rattling Terrier, Rattie
Life Expectancy
Approximately 15-18 Years
Litter Size
Average 5-7 Puppies
Breed Group
Breed Appearance
The Rat Terrier comes in a variety of coat colors and sizes The classic coloring is black tanpoint with piebald spotting (known as black tricolor), but chocolate, tan (varying in shade from pale gold to dark mahogany), blue, isabella (pearl), lemon and apricot are all fairly common. They may be tricolor or bicolor, always with some amount of white present. Sable may overlay any of these colors. Creeping tan (often "Calico"), is also acceptable. Ticking is usually visible in the white parts of the coat, or in the underlying skin. Brindle, currently disallowed by the main breed standards, is considered by some to be a traditional Rat Terrier pattern, and there is a growing movement to have this pattern accepted into the breed. However, merle is widely considered to be the result of recent outcrosses and, because of associated health problems, is rejected by most Rat Terrier breeders.

Ear carriage is erect, but can also be tipped, or button, all of which contribute to an intelligent, alert expression. The tail has been traditionally docked to about 2–3 inches, but the bobtail gene is very common in Rat Terriers and can result in a variety of tail lengths. Today, some breeders prefer a natural, undocked tail, which is accepted in the breed standards.

The Rat Terrier ranges from about 10 to 25 pounds and stands 13 to 18 inches at the shoulder. The miniature size (13 inches and under as defined by the UKC) is becoming increasingly popular as a house pet and companion dog. A larger strain, often in excess of 25 pounds, has been developed. These Deckers or Rat Terriers were named after breeder Milton Decker who created a larger hunting companion and are recognized by the National Rat Terrier Association (NRTA). The NRTA recognizes a Toy Variety weighing 10 pounds or less. Both the NRTA and the UKCI continue to classify the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier as the Type B Rat Terrier. In the 1970s, a hairless mutation appeared in a single Rat Terrier and was propagated into a strain of the Rat Terrier. After a period of development this line resulted in the American Hairless Terrier, recognized as a separate breed by several registries.

Breed Description
Head: The head resembles a smooth, blunt wedge from a front or profile view. When seen from the front, the head widens gradually towards the base of the ears in an unbroken line and is well filled up under the eyes. The expression is intelligent, alert and full of interest.
Ears: The eyes are not large. They are obliquely set wide apart and are oval in shape. Eye color varies with coat color from darkest brown to hazel. Eye rim pigmentation corresponds with nose color and facial markings.
Eyes: Set on the top outer edge of the skull, V-shaped, with the length in proportion to the head moderately pointed at the tip. When viewed from the side, the base of the ear is on line with the outer corner of the eye. Ears should match in shape and carriage when alert.
Skull: When viewed from the front the skull is moderate in width, relatively flat on top, and rounded at crown and the sides as it widens smoothly from the corner of the eyes to the base of the ears. The occiput is not prominent. The cheeks are flat and well-muscled, but never bulging. The stop is moderate but distinct. The muzzle is strong, just slightly shorter in length than the skull and tapers smoothly along the sides to the nose. The nose color corresponds with the body color and is entirely pigmented. The lips are clean and tight, and correspond in color with the nose leather or may be pink. The lower jaw and teeth are strong and well developed with no sign of being snipey or weak.
Body: Length of neck is in proportion to the head. Strong, arched along the crest and dry, the neck blends smoothly into the flat shoulder blades. Topline is smooth and blending from the back through the loin and set of the tail. The body is compact, strong and flexible with well sprung ribs. The brisket extends to the elbow. When viewed from the front, the ribs appear to be oval. The Rat Terrier, while muscled and fit, has flat muscles that blend into the body. The chest is moderately wide and well filled with a discernible forechest. The underline ascends gradually with the ribs extending well back to a moderate tuck-up. The back is level and firm from the withers to the loin. The shortloin has a slight muscular arch blending into the gently rounded croup. The shoulder blades are well laid back with flat muscles providing enough space between the shoulder blades to allow for free movement. The shoulder blades and the upper arms are nearly equal in length and well set back so that the elbows fall directly under the highest point of the shoulder blade. The depth of the body at the elbow is the same distance as from the elbow to the ground. The forelegs stand straight and parallel with elbows turning neither in nor out. The pasterns are slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The feet are oval in shape. The toes turn neither in nor out, are compact, moderately arched, with thick pads and strong nails.
Tail: The tail set is a continuation of the spine. Tails are customarily docked between the second and third joint, or can be a natural bobtail or left naturally long and tapering to the hock joint. The carriage is variable depending on attitude, carried from slightly below horizontal to almost erect, but not over the back or a ring tail.
The hindquarters are muscular but smooth and in balance with the forequarters. Stifles are well-bent with short hocks that are parallel and perpendicular to the ground. The hind feet although slightly smaller are similar to the front feet. Hair: Comparatively large patches of one or more colors in combination with white.
Coat: Short, close lying, smooth and shiny coat.

The Rat Terrier is an all American breed that was developed when the early immigrants cross breed the Fox Terrier with the Old English White Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and other European terriers common during that time. The dog that resulted is most prized for its agile movements that made it an excellent hunter of small game. Aside from being hunters, these dogs were developed to be farm and ranch guard dogs. During that time, the Rat Terrier is a pretty ordinary dog but because of the Jack Rabbits’ pestilence, the farmers thought of solving their problem by creating a dog that will be able to eradicate the rabbits and other vermin. The Rat Terrier that is already known for its agility and speed was cross breed with Whippets, Italian Greyhound and other breeds also known for their speed and agility for the purpose of enhancing the speed and versatility of the Rat Terrier. Some Rat Terrier owners bred the dog with the Beagle which is known for its strong prey drive. The result is the present day Rat Terrier, a shrewd and excellent hunter with an energetic and happy disposition.

From 1910 to the 1940s, the dog became so popular. It was even featured in several movies. The poison control for vermin and the mechanized farming contributed to the decline of the breed. In 1950s one a handful of Rat Terriers exists. Fortunately, interest for the breed was revived in the late 70s. The Rat Terrier has gained recognition not only as a ratter but also as an excellent and loyal companion.

Although often mistaken for a Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier has a different profile and a very different temperament. Rat Terriers are sleeker in musculature, finer of bone, and have a more refined head. They always have a short single coat, i.e., they are never wire coated.

Rat Terriers tend to be less aggressive than Jack Russells; while they have a definite terrier personality they also have an "off switch" and love lounging on the sofa in a lap as much as tearing about the yard. Rat Terriers are normally cheerful dogs, and they tend to be calmer and more sensitive than Jack Russells to changes in their environment, owner's moods, or to unexpected noises, people, and activities. The "social sensitivity" of Rat Terriers makes them very trainable and easier to live with for the average pet owner, but it also means that extensive socialization from an early age is critical. Proper socialization of a Rat Terrier puppy includes exposing the animal to a wide variety of people and places, particularly during the first three months of life. Like most active and intelligent breeds, Rat Terriers tend to be happier when they receive a great deal of mental stimulation and exercise.

Rat Terriers are one of the healthiest and hardiest dogs there is. Few problems plague the Rat Terrier due to the fact that it has only recently been accepted into most registeries as a recognized breed so therefore it has not been inbred and linebreed to an unhealthy state. As with any breed of dog there will be health problems both medically and genetically that are more common and those that are rare. Listing the more common health problems that are associated with the Rat Terrier Breed:

Luxating Patellas
Demodectic Mange

Rat Terriers are short haired dogs that shed a lot. The dog sheds heavily in spring and fall and also during the heat cycle. After whelping the dog shed a lot too. During these times the coat must be frequently brushed with a rubber curry mitt or a soft brush to remove dead hair. Some owners vacuum the hair for about 15 seconds. This removes dead hair more effectively.

The dog may be bathed occasionally but ensure that it is thoroughly rinsed. Nails would need to be trimmed regularly. Be careful of using dog cologne for this breed. Rat Terriers are known to have allergies. Bluing the fur or conditioning often results to rashes and itchiness.

Hunting Dog, Pet

Horse Herd