Dog Breeds Online

The Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier

A Rat Terrier


The rat terrier is called correctly American rat terrier, though they were first bred in Britain from the Manchester terrier and the smooth fox terrier. Teddy Roosevelt named them when they were brought to America . The Manchester terrier was bred to eradicate vermin and its prowess in this department is acknowledged the world over.

As a breed the rat terrier makes an excellent farm dog. They do get on well with most animals. It is a close relative of the feist, which is a small hunting dog, bred to hunt squirrels and is often visually taken for a rat terrier, but the ears of a feist are always bent over.


A short small compact dog with deep shoulders, solid necks and upright or pointed ears. The tails may be docked when the dog is a few days old or left to grow naturally.

The looks and colorings were not considered important for the rat terrier, it was there to catch vermin and be a companion.

Consequently like the Border collie, it comes in a wide assortment of colors including red and white, tri-spotted, solid red, black & tan, blue & white and red brindle. In looks it is not unlike the Jack Russell terrier, but in temperament it is very different. The Jack Russell is definitely the Jack the lad of terriers, whilst the rat terrier is a calm dog.


In temperament rat terriers are not unlike the Manchester terrier, they are loyal and faithful companions, truly man's best friend. They display high levels of sensitivity and seem to crave human contact.

The majority of dogs think that they are human but the rat terrier is certain that it is, it follows its owners as if it was shadow, and they hate to be parted. It's a dog that should never be left in kennels. In general they are far more outgoing and social than the rest of the terrier group and when interbred with the whippets they are more even-tempered than a lot of the breeds of terriers.

In general rat terriers get on very well with other dogs but in common with all the terriers they are size blind when it comes down to a scrap and they will take any dog on. In fact they are pure terrier in other ways they have the feisty devil may care take me as I am attitude, that screams "ignore me at your peril!".


An occasional brush is all that is required.


The rat terrier loves exercise and enjoys play even as an adult, there activity levels do tend to slow as they age. To keep them healthy they should have about a half an hours exercise a day. However they would love to have much more. They are capable of exercising themselves in a yard, or garden but reasonable care to see that it is safely enclosed is a good idea as they can dig their way out and escape.


They are extremely intelligent and it is very easy to train them as they have a desire to learn and please that is a trait of many of the terriers. They are agile obedient and quick. It is possible to over correct a rat terrier as they really are very intuitive, and whilst they need to be taught to socialize at an early age no more so than any other dog.

Special traits

They are very poor swimmers and should never be left near water without supervision.

Ideal weight: 22-40 pounds / 10-16 kg
Average height: 16-19 inches / 40-48 cm
Life expectancy: 15 years, but 18 years is not uncommon


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