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Spunky, stubborn, and fearless, this perfectly sized dog (not too small, not too big) offers an abundance of personality. This spirited breed will bring lots of entertainment into your home! Are you ready for the well-rounded Rat Terrier?

The Rat Terrier was bred to help farmers control the rat population on farms. Bred originally from the Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, and later the Italian Greyhound, Whippet, Chihuahua, and Beagle, this breed offers speed and a high prey drive towards small critters, yet they have a friendly and loving personality.

The Rat Terrier was one of President Teddy Roosevelt's favorite breeds. It is believed they
became popular when a Rat Terrier was portrayed in a photo with President Roosevelt in Life Magazine in the early 1900's.

This breed comes in three different sizes: toy, mid, and standard. Average weights are from 6 lbs (toy) to 35 lbs (standard).

Perfect Family Dog

When properly socialized at a young age with children, cats, and other dogs, the Rat Terrier does very well with all of them. They are not recommended for households that have small caged animals, like hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and especially RATS!

The Rat Terrier is extremely affectionate, preferring to lie next to you on the couch than a doggy bed. The Rat Terrier is very smart and learns quickly. They are the perfect companion for children, and kids will enjoy teaching their Rat Terrier an abundance of tricks and commands.

They are often confused with Jack Russell Terriers (JRT), but Rat Terriers can actually enjoy "down time," they aren't so high strung, and they are less aggressive then the Jack. They still have many of the strong "terrier" traits, but don't mistake them for a JRT.

They are not a yappy breed (which is unusual for a terrier breed), but will be happy to alert their families of visitors.

Enjoys Water

The Rat Terrier typically enjoys water and is a good swimmer. If you have a pool, live near a lake, or have other water access, consider including your Rat Terrier to join in on the fun water activities.

Don't forget to put a life jacket on your fur kid!

Playful Is Their Nature

This breed enjoys the company of other dogs and will be content romping around a dog park, doggy daycare, or doggy play-date.

Doggy Daycare is a great option for the Rat Terrier. If you are away from home for long hours, please consider doggy daycare as an option for your fur kid.

The Rat Terrier is energetic and can be a busy body. They have a tendency to become bored and frustrated if their energy is not channeled properly. A daily 30-minute walk will help keep your Rat Terrier fit and mentally healthy. The mid- to standard-sized breed can make good running partners too!

A fenced in-yard is recommended for this breed, as they will not hesitate to bolt after a squirrel, rabbit, or other wild critter.

Grooming Needs?

The Rat Terrier has short fur and needs an occasional brushing to remove dead fur. Nail trimmings should be done every 6-10 weeks and bathing when needed.

Various shades of coloring are common in this breed, including tricolor, piebald, black and tan, brindle, blue and apricot to list a few. These colors offset the white parts of the dogs that are located throughout their bodies.

Their ears are naturally erect or tipped. Traditionally, their tail has been docked, but the long tail is acceptable, and more breeders are forgoing the docking method.

Health Concerns

The Rat Terrier can experience severe skin and coat allergies, luxating patellas, heart abnormalities, hip dysplasia, and eye or ear problems. Their average lifespans are roughly 15 - 20 years.

Adopt First

Consider looking for a Rat Terrier through rescue organizations first. Every year, there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!

Photo Credits:


Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

Dog Breed Info

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading


  • We had a rat terrier for a while (gave her to a friend) but she was the best swimmer ever!! We would take our pontoon boat out in the middle of the lake and drop anchor. But before the boat was set my husband would open one of the side doors and off she would go - she'd jump right in and start circling the boat just waiting for someone else (my husband) to jump in and join her. She was so much fun.

  • Awww! That is so a sweet and cute story! Thanks for sharing!

  • I adopted 2 rat terriers who I think the world of, they are my constant companions and actually are my shadow. They follow me everywhere I go, love to go for walks, play with their sqeaky toys. One is a diabetic requiring 2 shots daily and the other is definitely a dirt dog. Loves to go after the prairie dogs in back of Stanley, Idaho's motel, and is definitely in a world of his own. He pounces up and down and doesn't even hear his name when called, too engrossed, even tracks gophers underground in our back yard. Definitely lets you know when someone is coming, but doesn't bark their heads off outside which is nice. Love to ride in grocery carts where ever pets are allowed, & are better behaved than children are. They certainly tie you down, but I wouldn't have it any other way now.

  • Hi Mary~ Thanks for sharing about your two fur babies! Have you seen a product called Dia-IonX at to help with symptoms of Diabetes? I hope you look into it.

  • I have a rat terrier named Ethel who is 17 1/2 years old and she is the love of my life !!!!! She is the best dog I have ever had and I would not trade her for a billion dollars !!!! I can not imagine life without her... I have had her since she was six weeks old and have loved every minute of it!! Definitely a rat terrier lover for life - but I know I have the best of them all right now!!!!

  • Hi Ann~

    WOW! 17.5 years old?!!! That is awesome! Thanks for sharing Ethel's story with us!

  • I have a rat terrier mixed with chichaua. She is strange. She does not like to be cuddled. Stays In the house, sleeps with me. She barks ferociously when the telephone or door bell rings. She doesn't like children. If you are visiting, she stops braking after she smells you and you give her a toy. If you go to the bathroom, she barks, tries to bite you when you come out. When you are leaving the house, she barks and barks. After you leave, she is `quiet. sometime I think she thinks I am a dog. I can't take her walking too much because of my illness but she seems to be okay.

  • My comment went away so I don't know if it went through. I guess I'll do it again. I had an old rat terrier who died and a young rat terrier that someone gave me because she wanted a lap dog. She loved him but her husband who had heart trouble, bled from his love touches. I also have a smaller (the other is a standard) and I have a chihuahua/rat terrier mix who adopted us. He loves to be a lap dog or to sit in the drawer when I'm at the desk.rnThe standard also has diabetes and gets 2 shots a day, but it still is not controlled. I am so thankful to have found your webpage and will go right to for

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