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Rat Terrier

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Rat Terrier

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 4, 2022
Verified by: IMP

Rat terriers were popular with farmers before 1930 because of their ability to kill rodents.

Rat Terrier Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Rat Terrier Conservation Status

Rat Terrier Locations

Rat Terrier Locations

Rat Terrier Facts

Fun Fact
Rat terriers were popular with farmers before 1930 because of their ability to kill rodents.
Perceptive and stubborn
Common Name
Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier Physical Characteristics

  • Fawn
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Chocolate
Skin Type
15 – 18 years
35 lbs

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Rat Terrier as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Warm climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
12-35 lbs
Female weight
12-35 lbs

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At least seven breeds were used to create the rat terrier, including beagles, smooth fox terriers, old English white terriers, Manchester terriers, bull terriers, whippets, and Italian greyhounds.

Rat terriers are brilliant dogs, but they can be very stubborn. This breed was first developed by early American farmers who wanted a dog who could kill rodents, and they are very talented at burrowing and digging. The standard rat terrier stands between 13-and-18 inches tall. This dog is vigilant, and it will often alert its owners to unusual happenings. The coat on the rat terrier is always made up of more than one color.

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A loyal rat terrier is a serious dog that will want to be with you constantly. They are a happy breed that would love to be a trusted member of your family.

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The 18 different types of Rat Terriers and Rat Terrier mixes

According to the American Kennel Club, there are two official sizes of rat terriers. The standard rat terrier must be at least 13 inches tall while the mini is shorter. Unofficially, there are also toy rat terriers that grow to be about 8 inches tall. Only the mini and the full-size are officially recognized in shows, but the toy can make an interesting pet.

  • Raggle
  • Rashon
  • Brat
  • Rattle Griffon
  • Rat-Cha
  • Toy Rat Doxie
  • Jack Rat Terrier
  • American Rat Pinscher
  • Rat-A-Pap
  • Pek-a-Rat
  • Pomerat
  • Rattle
  • Puggat
  • Ratshi Terrier
  • Foxy Rat Terrier
  • Ratshire Terrier

3 Pros and Cons of Owning a Rat Terrier

Pros! Cons!
Easy to groom – Provide a monthly bath and an occasional brushing with a rubber comb. More frequent brushing may be needed if the dog is shedding in the spring and fall. Stubborn – Rat terriers can be stubborn, so you need to be a good leader.
Intelligent – Rat terriers are very smart. Strong prey instincts – Be sure to socialize this dog well with other animals because it has a strong prey instinct, especially for little animals.
Loyal – Rat terriers are very loyal and take their job of protecting you seriously. No nonsense – This breed often has trouble tolerating nonsense, which means that it may not be the best dog for families with young children.

Rat Terrier Size and Weight

Standard rat terriers stand between 13-and-18-inches tall at the shoulder. The dog should be slightly longer than he or she is tall, and it should have long legs. There is little difference between the size of a dog and a bitch. Puppies are usually born in litters of five to seven pups. These pups may take up to 15 months to mature mentally and 24 months to gain their total weight and height.

Height (Male) 13 to 18 inches tall
Height (Female) 13 to 18 inches tall
Weight (male) Typically 12 to 35 lbs.
Weight (female) Typically 12 to 35 lbs

Rat Terriers Common Health Issues

Rat terriers are usually healthy dogs, but there are some common health issues that you may want to prepare for if you add one to your family. Hip dysplasia occurs when the ball of the hip no longer fits properly in the socket. It can affect older rat terriers’ quality of life as they have a hard time getting around. Another issue that may occur is Patellar luxation, which means that the kneecap becomes loose. Additionally, rat terriers can have Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, where the blood does not circulate properly to the hip joint, and the bone dies. Remember that getting a mixed breed animal, like those crossed with mini breeds, can add additional health problems. In some rat terriers, the most common health issues are:

Health and Entertainment for your Rat Terrier

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  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease

Rat Terrier Temperament and Behavior

Rat terriers are intelligent dogs who love to learn new tricks. This breed loves to please its owner. You can use this trait to your advantage when training them. Start reinforcing the behavior you want to see early, and you will end up with a dog with a well-mannered personality that everyone will love to be around.

Another personality trait that you will notice in this breed is that they are exceptionally watchful and loyal. They take their jobs of keeping dangers away very seriously. This can sometimes lead to nervous behavior. Therefore, they may not make the best dogs for families with young children unless you are willing to supervise them and introduce the child to the dog properly.

Rat terriers are independent dogs. Once they decide that they want to do something, almost nothing can stand in their way. Be sure to spend time giving your rat terrier things to keep them occupied, or you may notice destructive behaviors. Overcome your dog’s stubbornness trait by being firm in your training so that the dog knows who is in charge. Use their independent personality to train them for a task that they need to complete each day.

How To Take Care of Rat Terriers

You need to take care of your rat terrier pet mentally and physically. You must give your pet the correct type of diet. Rat terrier puppies need a different diet than older dogs. It is also vital that you train them and exercise them regularly. Proper care often lengthens their lifespan. Regular brushing helps stop them from shedding all over your home.

The Best Dog Food for Rat Terriers

Rat terrier puppy food: Since rat terriers tend to have bone issues, you must feed a puppy food that is high in calcium as it is the building block of strong bones. Until your rat terrier pup is 12 weeks old, they need to be fed four times a day. Between three and six months, you can feed the puppy three meals a day. Then, cut back to two meals a day if the puppy is growing properly.

Rat terrier adult food: Rat terriers tend to get obese quickly. Feeding your dog twice a day can help keep them at the proper weight. Most rat terriers need about 1 cup of food daily, but it depends on their metabolism and the amount of exercise they get. You should be able to see where their waist is and feel but not see their ribs.

This typically healthy breed will do well on almost any quality diet, but it’s a good idea to find dog food formulated to prevent joint problems like hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

So, at A-Z Animals, we find that the best dog food for Rat Terriers is Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Healthy Mobility, Small Bites.

The special small dog recipe has a nutrition profile brimming with calcium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and EPA from fish oil to boost cartilage for tough joints. There are plenty more vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, E, D3, B12, and amino acids for nose-to-tail wellness.

Click below and see if your Rat Terrier thrives eating Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility Small Bites.


Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Healthy Mobility Small Bites, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice & Barley Recipe, 30 lb. Bag

  • A small kibble food shown to support hip & joint health from day 1
  • Promotes mobility and joint health in small-breed dogs with EPA from fish oil
  • Supports an adult dog’s joint health with natural sources of glucosamine & chondroitin
  • Uses a balanced set of minerals to promote strong bones in little dogs
  • Made with natural ingredients with added vitamins, minerals and amino acids

Rat Terrier Maintenance And Grooming

Rat terriers shed lightly throughout the year, and you will notice more shedding in the spring and fall. Use a soft brush or a rubber grooming mitt to brush the dog weekly. When your rat terrier has been digging, be sure to give him a bath using a gentle dog shampoo. Plan on trimming his nails about once a month.

Rat Terrier Training

Rat terriers love to please their owners, but they can be a little stubborn. Positive reinforcement usually works well with them. Start as soon as possible to socialize your rat terrier as they can be shy around strangers.

Rat Terrier Exercise

Rat terriers need 30-to-60 minutes of daily exercise. They have a powerful prey drive, so be sure to choose where you let them off leash carefully. Take them for a daily walk and enjoy their companionship. This breed can be trained for a variety of competitions, including agility training.

Rat Terrier Puppies

You must socialize your rat terrier puppy early. Their prey instinct means that they see other small animals as prey to be caught without proper training. They often take their job as a watchdog seriously, so they can also see strangers as something to worry about without proper early training. Breeders and rescues are often good sources for advice.

An 8 week old Rat Terrier puppy posing for the camera.

Lisa Turay/Shutterstock.com

Rat Terriers And Children

Rat terriers can form a strong bond with children who have been appropriately introduced and are supervised. These dogs have a no-nonsense temperament, which may not make them the best dogs for families with young children. Once the child is old enough to understand how to treat the dog properly, you will likely discover that they quickly become best buddies. Deciding on a mini rat terrier may mean it is easier for a young child to hurt the dog.This is also true of rat terriers mix with a smaller breed, so be sure to talk to breeders about your family situation.

Dogs Similar to Rat Terrier

There are several dog breeds that are similar to the rat terrier including:

  • Fox terriers– Ranging from about the same size to a little smaller, these dogs share the rat terrier’s intelligence and alertness. Often, the price of a purebred fox terrier is higher than for a rat terrier.
  • American Staffordshire terrier – This stockier dog shares the rat terrier’s intelligence while being friendlier to children. The price of owning these dogs is usually higher because they need more feed.
  • Cairn terrier– The Cairn terrier loves to dig like the rat terrier, and it is usually active and happy. The price of owning this breed is usually higher because they need more grooming.

There are many popular names for rat terriers, including:

  • Rattie
  • Terry
  • Max
  • Bella
  • Lola
  • Cutie

Famous Rat Terriers

There have been several famous rat terriers throughout history, including:

  • Harper Lee mentions a rat terrier in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Eleanor Powell trained a rat terrier she named Buttons to tap dance for the movie Lady Be Good.
  • Shirley MacLaine wrote a book called Out on a Leash about her rat terrier.
  • William Faulkner owned several rat terriers and often wrote about them.
  • Shirley Temple is seen putting a rat terrier to bed in The Little Colonel.

Last update on 2022-07-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Rat Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a Rat Terrier?

A rat terrier is a canine that is intelligent and loyal.

What Does a Rat Terrier Look Like?

A rat terrier stands between 12 and 18 inches tall at the shoulders. They are slightly longer than they are tall. This breed has an upright tail and upright V-shaped ears. It has a short coat that is at least two colors, with one color often being white. This breed tends to get heavier during their 15 to 18-year lifespan.

Are Rat Terriers Good Pets?

Rat terriers are incredibly loyal, and they make ideal pets for the right home. They tend to get along well with animals that are their size and bigger. Additionally, they often get along well with older children and adults. If you like the look of a rat terrier but are concerned about temperament, talk to rescues or breeders about a mix breed dog where the other parent’s breed does great with young children.

Are Rat Terriers Aggressive?

Rat terriers can be aggressive when they are not properly socialized when they are young. If you are getting the dog from a rescue, ask about what socialization they have done with the dog. If you opt to get one as a puppy instead of from a rescue, then be sure to socialize it with strangers, children, and other animals as soon as possible.

Do Rat Terriers Kill Rats?

Yes, rat terriers were originally bred to kill rats. Most still have a powerful prey instinct. The instinct will usually be present in purebred animals and may be present in mixed breed dogs.

What are rat terriers known for?

Rat terriers are known to be marvelous diggers who love to create burrows and trenches in the ground. They are loyal dogs who need a strong leader. These dogs can be trained for a variety of tasks.

How Much Does a Rat Terrier Cost to Own?

You can expect to pay a price of about $700 for a purebred rat terrier. Then, you will need to spend about $300 per year to feed your dog. Remember that this price may be higher depending on the quality of feed that you choose. Veterinarian bills can average about $1,200 per year while vet supplies can be over $500 annually. Expect to spend at least another $200 annually on dog treats, bedding, and toys. Remember that your actual price may vary, especially if you decide on a rat terrier mix breed dog.

Is a Rat Terrier Good With Kids?

Rat terriers can be good with older children. Be sure to supervise interaction carefully and instruct your children how to play with the dog properly.

How Long Do Rat Terriers Live?

The average lifespan of a rat terrier is between 15 and 18 years.

What is the difference between Rat Terrier and Jack Russel?

The Rat Terrier is taller than Jack Russell and heavier. It also has a lower energy level, which helps boost its trainability. Also, unlike the English Jack Russell, the Rat Terrier originated in the United States.

Check other differences here!

  1. American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rat-terrier/#:~:text=A%20bath%20every%20month%20or,will%20help%20remove%20loose%20hair.
  2. Small Dog Place, Available here: https://www.smalldogplace.com/designer-dog-list.html
  3. Animal Care Tips, Available here: https://animalcaretip.com/tips-for-taking-care-of-rat-terrier-pups/#:~:text=rat%20terrier%20puppies%20between%20eight,meal%20daily%20is%20usually%20adequate.
  4. Europetnet, Available here: https://www.europetnet.org/pet-resources/dog-breeds/item/1996-rat-terrier.html

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