The Rat Terrier is probably one of the best family pets.
With their easy-going dispositions, Rat Terriers make great pets for families with children or older people.
They usually adapt well to any situation. The dogs do well in apartments and condos as long as they get their daily walks and runs. And Rat Terriers thrive on love and attention and return it tenfold.
The only downside of the Rat is that because it was initially bred to be hunting dogs, they are diggers, so don’t plan to toss him or them out in the backyard unsupervised for extended periods. If you’re struggling with problem behavior like digging, get pet advice from a trainer.
Research this wonderful breed. Talk to Rat Terrier owners before purchasing or adopting one.
Avoid flea markets, backyard breeders, classified ads, and pet stores like the plague. They only perpetuate the horrific puppy mills that flood the market with poor-quality pets. Spend a few dollars more. Find responsible breeders who take pride in the quality of their dogs.
Or check shelters and rescues. As Rat Terriers are a favorite of older people, many are surrendered to shelters and rescues due to nothing more than unfortunate life circumstances. Perhaps your new best friend might be there, patiently waiting for you.
Bred to hunt rodents
Originating in England, the Rat Terrier was used for hunting rodents and small game. The dogs have a high prey drive and were treasured as adoring, loyal pets and farm dogs.
In Suffolk, England, a Rat Terrier named Billy killed 2,501 rats in an infested barn in only 7 hours. That’s a lot of rats.
Recognized for their outstanding killing skills on farms and rat-infested homes, this terrier breed became popular with gamblers who used them in fights where they fought against rats.
The “original” mix for the Rat Terrier is English White Terrier (now extinct), Smooth Fox Terrier, Whippet, and Manchester Terrier. People occasionally confuse them with Whippets and Italian Greyhounds.
More breeds were added to the Terrier group blend in the 1890s when British immigrants brought their beloved pets to the U.S. The new mix also included a little Beagle, a dash of Italian Greyhound, a drop of Chihuahua, and a pinch of Miniature Pinscher.
They indeed are the proverbial “Heinz 57.” So, technically the rat terrier is a rat terrier mix or a rat terrier Chihuahua mix.
Not a Jack Russell terrier
Often confused with the Jack Russell Terrier, the dogs have different profiles and temperaments. They come with an “off” button, which most Jackies lack. They are usually calmer, barkless, friendlier, and in tune with their moods.
The Rat Terrier, known for its phenomenal speed, needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Plan on walking and exercising your dog for at least 30 to 60 minutes daily. They find water almost impossible to resist. Swimming is a terrific and fun way to exercise them. But, the best part is, when you’re ready to call it quits, they are prepared to back inside and curl up with you.
What made them win so many hearts and become such wonderful pets for over a century is that they can flip from a ferocious, tenacious, fearless small game hunter, to a snuggly, cuddly lap dogs, in the blink of an eye.
Loveable, friendly, happy
Ask Rat Terrier people to describe their pet, and you will hear only praise for rat terrier personality. The dogs are loyal, fun, energetic, loveable, friendly, happy, adaptable, fearless, excellent watchdog, aggressive, confident, alert, sweet, great with kids, great with other pets, healthy, intelligent, want to please, affectionate, and well mannered.
Adult dogs typically adjust effortlessly to new homes and families. This makes them an excellent candidate if you are inclined to look for an older dog available from a rescue or shelter.
Even-tempered rat terrier puppies are easy to train.
Being exceedingly biddable dogs, terrier breeds are easy and fun to train for obedience, agility, flyball, dock diving, and parlor tricks. Positive reinforcement and punishment-free training go a long way with these tiny people pleasers. But be warned, they also are known as escape artists, so keep an eye on your dog whenever you are outside.
Socialize your puppy as soon as possible. Those first 20 weeks are vitally important. Get these active and playful dogs out and about. Make learning fun, and there is nothing you can’t teach them.
Rat Terrier health conditions
Rat Terriers are healthy dogs with few health problems. They are prone to hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (a condition that causes the knee cap to slide), and cardiac and eye disorders.
The dogs also suffer from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which causes the femur head to degenerate and damage the hip joint. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease causes arthritis and leads the dog to limp and avoid putting weight on the affected leg. Unfortunately, the condition can develop quickly, so regular vet visits to monitor your Rat Terrier’s health are crucial.
Find the right size
Like cars, there is a perfect size for you and your family. These muscular dogs come in three sizes. Expect the standard to reach 14-23 inches and weigh between 12-35 pounds. The mid-size is usually between 8-14 inches and weighs between 6-8 pounds. The toy may reach 8 inches and weigh between 4-6 pounds.
Their single coat makes the dogs easy to keep clean, but they shed a lot.
Many veterinarians will attest that they would go broke if they depended on Rat Terriers as their principal patients. Known for being an exceptionally healthy breed, their most common health issues include hip dysplasia and allergies.
Their life span is 15-18 years.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.