Rat Terrier Dog Breed Information- Characteristics, Living, Feeding and More

If you’ve been thinking of getting a small dog that loves the outdoors, the Rat terrier is your best bet. This American dog breed is the perfect companion for people who enjoy hunting trips. Don’t be fooled by this little dog’s size; the Rat terrier is very quick and agile. As the name clearly suggests, this hunting dog was originally bred to hunt rats and other small animals on farms. Their history dates back almost 100 years ago as they became popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

People began using poison and traps to catch rats and pests as time went on. This led to a significant change in the Rat terrier dog numbers. However, by the 1970s, people began realizing how smart and affectionate the pups could be. Their friendly personality, loyalty, and intelligence make them good pets even to date.

Rat Terrier Dog Breed Pictures


What Does A Rat Terrier Look Like

What are the average Rat terrier size and weight? Thanks to their size, these small-framed pets are often mistaken for Russell terriers. The average Rat terrier weight ranges from 10 to 25 pounds, with the miniature dogs on the lower end. Their heights also vary between 10 and 18 inches, so it’s best to ask about the parents first.

Do Rat terrier puppies have a standard appearance? When it comes to Rat terrier coats, there are a variety of colors to choose from. Although black tan Rat terriers are highly common, you can also find chocolate, lemon, blue, and pearl shades. But what all these dogs have in common is that their coats are short, glossy, and dense. This is usually great news for new pet owners or those who prefer certain hues over others.

Rat terrier ears can either be tipped, erect, or button. Combined with their bright and alert eyes, they often appear curious and intelligent by nature. While some canines are born with short tails, the lengths will vary from one pup to another.


Rat terriers are like most breeds of terrier dogs: small and highly intelligent. These smart terriers are easy to train and can quickly understand how to solve tasks. However, you’ll need to watch out as they can be pretty stubborn too.

To avoid this, it’s best to begin obedience training from a young age. Otherwise, the dogs get so cheeky as their tiny frames allow them to hide away in tight spots.

Since these pups were originally bred as hunting dogs, they are highly active. They enjoy running around and socializing with their human parents or other dogs. They’ll keep you on your toes as they need to be mentally and physically stimulated to burn the excess energy.

Rat terriers like being outdoors, running after small prey. Thus, it’s best to have them on a leash, so they don’t run away. And if you’re wondering do Rat terriers bark a lot, the answer is no. These pups are mostly quiet.

Living Needs

If you’re looking for farm dogs to keep rats and other pests away, Rat terriers are the best! Since they naturally enjoy chasing after small animals, they’ll be happy to run around the farm. Big compounds are ideal for helping them exercise and interacting with other pets and farm animals. However, it’s best to keep a keen eye on them, so they don’t attack chicks, rabbits, etc.

Are Rat terriers good dogs for big families? Yes, indeed! They do well in family settings thanks to their friendly, loyal and playful nature. They also get along with seniors and children, so living in a big family setup should be fun!

At the same time, these terrier pups also make excellent apartment dogs. Both male and female doggies are patient and fond of kids when socialized from a young age. Don’t be surprised if you find them also napping together. You can blame this on the pup’s loyalty and temperament.

However, don’t leave young children alone with these playful small dogs. Doing this will protect them from accidental bites or ear pulling by either party. It’s also good to teach kids not to approach dogs when they’re asleep or eating. Even though Rat terriers are not aggressive, such actions can lead to huge fights.


How to Groom a Rat Terrier

Wondering how to groom a Rat terrier? It’s easy! Luckily, these pups don’t need much grooming. Their short, dense coat will stay healthy and glossy by using a soft brush once every week. Even though it’s best to wash them once a month, your pup’s lifestyle will help you pick the best times.

Rat terriers don’t shed often. A shedding tool like a rubber curry brush is ideal for removing loose hair. It’s best also to trim their nails once a month, check their ears every week, and brush their teeth daily.

How to Train a Rat Terrier

Puppy training a Rat terrier is much easier than most people assume. These pups are easy to train, smart and determined. However, you’ll need to be careful as they can quickly become stubborn. The traits of a terrier enable them to do well in canine sports, including agility and obedience.

Rat terriers make great companions as they are highly sensitive and intuitive to people’s feelings. They love to please their owners and enjoy getting praised in return. These dogs are generally calm and patient with children. You’ll also need to take them out for walks and exercise daily to meet their high energy levels.

How Much Exercise Does a Rat Terrier Need?

So, how much should a Rat terrier exercise? Some are content with indoor play, while others need to be walked daily with some outdoor play. They need to be trained early enough to adequately socialize them once they get bigger. Rat terriers are prone to leading a chase, especially when they meet different breeds of dogs or animals.


The recommended Rat terrier food schedule and amounts vary. You’ll need a quarter to half a cup per day for a pup that’s less than 10 pounds. One weighing 10-15 pounds needs 0.5 to 1 cup, while one between 20-30 pounds requires a maximum of 1.5 cups. Pups weighing 30 to 40 pounds will need 1.5 to 2 cups per day.


How Long Does a Rat Terrier Live

Rat terrier dogs have a short history in the US. However, their varied gene pool has come in handy to help them survive. Their lifespan is about 15 years, and you’ll likely enjoy a happy life free from any chronic health issues.

Rat Terrier Health Issues

These pups are pretty healthy compared to other dog breeds. Some of their health problems include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (also called loose kneecaps), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, cardiac and eye disorders.

Owners living on farms should look out for conditions like Lyme disease and demodectic mange caused by ticks and mites. Terriers are likely to develop environmental allergies causing skin issues and infections.


The first rat-catching dog was seen in Europe about 500 years ago on King Henry’s ship. These pups showed a liking to hunting from the start. This trait became more prominent when they were purposely bred with other rat catchers.

The terrier breed was first seen around the 20th Century when farmers bred fox and bull terriers. The interbreeding continued as the farmers were keen to get rat dogs that were super fast for farm use.

According to America’s Pet Registry, the farmers bred their new terriers with Beagles and Whippets to improve their speed. It also helped that the two breeds generally have the same size and temperament as rat dogs.

In the 1920s, the dogs were famous as a reputable farmer’s right hand. By the mid-20th Century, the dogs began losing their popularity and farm use, thanks to rat traps and poison.

However, the pups became popular again in the 1970s, but this time as family pets. Several breeders made this possible, thus maintaining the pup’s integrity. The breed was then recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2006, so they could participate in their competitions. The AKC later registered Rat terrier dogs in 2013.

Fun Facts About Rat Terrier

  • Rat dogs come in three sizes: mini, standard, and a giant one known as Decker. The AKC identifies the first two sizes but not the last one.
  • In New York City, one of the residents wrote to the editor of the New York Times. In the letter, the person suggested that Rat dog terriers should be used to end the city’s rat menace.
  • Movies such as The Shirley Temple and The Little Colonel were filmed when the breed was gaining popularity.