What Do Rat Terriers Look Like?

Originating from England, The Rat Terrier was used as rodents and small game hunters. They were also adored as loyal, loving pets. Their excellent killing and hunting skills were discovered and rewarded on farms and at home; they were made pit dogs. Gamblers could not resist the lure of these incredible, fierce, tiny dogs in pits.

These dogs were not fighting against each other but were sent to the pits to catch and kill rats! The story goes that in Suffolk, England, a Rat Terrier named Billy was famous for killing 2501 rats living in a barn infested with rats within just seven hours! This remarkable feat made the Rat Terrier very useful amid a vermin epidemic.

The “original” mix for the Rat Terrier is believed to come from the English White Terrier (now extinct) and the smooth Fox Terrier, Whippet, and Manchester Terrier. So basically, a Heinz 57 mix of these breeds or some hybrid from the English White Terrier and the other breeds mentioned above. That’s quite the dog breed; it’s easy to see that most of this mix has terrier qualities.

Added to this mixed breed during 1890, British migrants brought their pets into their new home in the U.S. was a small Beagle with a hint of Italian Greyhound, a drop of Chihuahua, and the occasional pinch of Miniature Pinscher. These are the true “Heinz 57.”

Rat Terrier Jack Russell Mix

Rat Terrier Jack Russell Mix

Often the Rat Terrier is mistaken for The Jack Russell Terrier; the Rat Terrier is an entirely different look and different character altogether. They have the “off” button, which most Jackies don’t have! They’re generally calmer, less barking, more friendly, and susceptible to their owner’s moods.

The Rat is known for its fantastic speed! They need plenty of exercise and stimulation for their minds. Make sure you walk and exercise your Rat for 30-60 minutes daily. Rats find water to be a challenge to resist! Swimming is a great and enjoyable way to work their muscles! However, the most enjoyable aspect is that when you’re at a point where you’re ready to quit, you can bring them to return home and relax with you.

Now that you know how energetic they are, my next suggestion will help the most. They should have a fenced yard or area where they can run and play. Using all that energy makes the rat terrier much more enjoyable within the home, and they will even sit on the couch or curl up in your lap when well exercised. The reason they have won so many hearts and turned into fantastic pets is that they can transform from a fierce, tenacious small game hunter who is fearless and turn into cozy lap dog within the blink of an eye!

Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier Breeds

You can ask Rat Terrier owners to tell you about their pets. You’ll hear about loyal and fun, active, warm, cheerful, fantastic guard dog, feisty with confidence, alert, cute, fantastic with children, excellent with other pets, intelligent, a pleasure to be around, loving, and well-behaved. It sounds like the perfect pet, but please remember that not all Rat Terriers will be this enjoyable. Training is critical when it comes to this dog breed. 

Adult Rat Terriers are also known for their ease of adjusting to new families and homes. This makes them a perfect option if you’re looking to find an older dog at a shelter or rescue. In addition, they are highly trainable dogs.  They are bright and can be easy to teach for fly-ball, fetch, frisbee, agility, dock diving, and cool tricks. Positive reinforcement and a non-punishment approach to training are a great way to go for these nifty people-pleasers.

Introduce your new puppy to the world as quickly as you can. The first 20 weeks are crucial. After that, take them out on the streets. Let learning to be fun, and there’s nothing you cannot teach them. They are the perfect size to take with your family and ride in cars.

Rat Terrier Long Hair

These muscular dogs come in 3 sizes. The Standard size is likely to grow between 14-23 inches and weigh between 12 and 35 pounds. The Mid-Size is typically between 8-14 inches and weighs between 6 and 8 pounds. So the Toy could be as tall as 8 inches and weigh up to 4 and 6 pounds.

Many a vet will confirm they’d go broke if they relied on Rat Terriers for their main clients. Although rat Terriers are renowned for being well-behaved, the most prevalent health problems include allergies and hip dysplasia. But, overall, they are a tough breed with fewer health issues than the average dog.

Their lifespan is between 15 and 18 years. They usually adapt to any circumstance. They are great pets for families with children or the elderly. They can be found in condominiums and apartments, given daily running and walking. They thrive on attention and love and will repay it ten times over. The only issue with the Rat is that they’re diggers. So don’t be tempted to throw them out in the backyard without supervision for prolonged periods.

Rat Terrier Mix Chihuahua

Rat Terrier Mix Chihuahua

Bottom line: Do your homework! Do your research on this adorable breed. Speak to Rat Terrier owners before purchasing or adopting one. Avoid with caution the following: flea markets and backyard breeders, ads for classified ads, as well as pet shops. They will only prolong the terrible puppy mills which inundate the market with low-quality animals. You can spend a few more dollars. Instead, find a trustworthy, responsible breeder who is confident in the quality of their dogs. Play with the puppy and see the parents face to face.

Look for shelters or rescues. Since Rat Terriers are the favorite of people over 60, many are taken to shelters or rescues because of unlucky life events. So perhaps the new friend you’ve been looking for could be waiting in the wings, waiting for you to come and rescue them.


Rat Terrier Intelligence

The small dogs are curious, bright, and alert. They master tricks and commands quickly and without a lot of reinforcement. They naturally want to please, so simply responding positively may be sufficient. While they may exhibit a stubborn streak, they’re constantly seeking ways to earn your attention.


Rat Terrier Temperament

While they are known as “terriers,” this breed is full of characteristics other than what you envision when you think of terriers. They are active, but they also love cuddling time. They are excellent watchdogs, but they’re not very tame. They are easily taught to only bark at certain sounds if you’re consistently consistent with your training techniques. My son understood the instruction, “No Bark,” and would stop barking mid-way. They are very close to their family members and are devoted to them. They tend to be well-mannered and easy to interact with.


Rat Terrier Health Issues

This breed has a few well-known health problems. They do not suffer from knee, elbow, or hip dysplasias. They can also stay clear of eye issues for most of their lives. They can live between 12 and 18, so this is excellent news. It is essential to take proper dental care since dentition is a sign of health issues for this small dog. They are susceptible to allergies (contact with inhalants and food items); therefore, be aware of what they come in contact with. My friend had issues with his annual shots and had to undergo Benadryl injections before getting the shots. Because of the small proportion of fat in their bodies, they might be allergic to certain anesthesias. Ensure that your veterinarian is experienced with this breed before any procedure.


Rat Terrier Energy level

I’m sure what people are thinking of when they think of terriers. People usually think of a tiny, fast, yappy dog that runs around in circles, barking endlessly and jumping around and down. They aren’t exactly like that. They require a certain amount of activity every day, but an hour of a long walk should suffice. They’re just as content to be with you as watching TV when they play. Because they’re so bright, boredom and the negative behavior that comes with it is risky. Therefore, ensure to provide your dog with plenty of stimulation- both visually and tactile as they are in scent and sight. If they aren’t stimulated, they can develop “separation anxiety” if left in a secluded area all day.


How to Care for the Rat Terrier

They require little except simple maintenance. They don’t shed as much, and since their coats are slim and sleek, they can remain clean for longer than other dogs. They don’t also have a “doggy” smell to them. My Rattie loved to take an occasional bath and enter the tub at command. The dogs are fond of swimming and are highly confident swimmers. Most of the attention they require is to be groomed, and their nails are often cut. It’s good to introduce your dog to dental hygiene as a puppy to avoid any dental problems it could be susceptible to.

This breed of dog is affectionate, loyal, easy to take care of, easy to train, and a beautiful companion. They were initially farmers and therefore possess the characteristic of caring for “their” family. There’s one restriction to this breed, but. The little beasts can move at such a speed and distance that you can’t stop them unless they are desperate to be captured. This is why you need to be careful when closing and opening doors that open to the outside. Beyond that, there’s no reason not to be cautious of this lovely breed.

The following registries recognize the Rat Terrier dog breed but providing you do your research, see the parents, and purchase from a respectable breeder; you don’t need papers.

      • NKC = National Kennel Club
      • NRTR = National Rat Terrier Registry
      • RTBA = Rat Terrier Breeders Association
      • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
      • ACR = American Canine Registry
      • AKC = American Kennel Club
      • APRI = America’s Pet Registry, Inc.
      • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
      • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
      • RTCI = Rat Terrier Club International
      • UKC = United Kennel Club
      • UKCI = Universal Kennel Club International