The Rat Terrier is a spunky, dynamic, and playful little dog that makes a great family companion. It was only recognized by the AKC as an official breed in 2013. This relatively new dog breed is not quite popular or in-demand as yet; in fact, its popularity has even diminished in its home town of Manchester. Well, we certainly hope that will change soon! Let us study the characteristics and interesting facts about the Rat Terrier.
Interesting facts about Rat Terriers
- Rat Terriers originated in the UK and in the early days of the breed they were called Manchester terriers. The breed might have been the result of the cross between a small Italian greyhound and black-and-tan terrier.
- The name Rat Terrier stuck after President Teddy Roosevelt’s dog Skip cleared the White House of uninvited guests – rats!
- For a long time, this breed was considered the best rodent hunter and was especially used in the countryside in general stores and in basements to clear off rats. One Rat Terrier even set the World Record of killing more than 2500 rats from a barn in less than 7 hours!
- In 1879, the Manchester terrier Club was formed. But the breed was divided into two categories. The Rat Terrier was the larger of the two and used for hunting rodents while the smaller variety was established as the progenitor of the black-and-tan toy terrier and used mainly as an apartment breed.
Rat Terriers are small dogs; a male Rat Terrier’s weight is between 8-25 lb (4 to 11 kg). In height, they measure up to 33-46 inches. These dogs appear to have larger ears and eyes probably because the rest of their bodies are so small!
Given the varied sizes and shapes of the breed over the years, it is little wonder that the Rat Terrier is confused with other breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier and Toy Fox Terrier. However, there are many differences between these breeds. The Rat Terrier is known for its V-shaped ears that may be erect or tipped while the Toy Fox terrier is always known to have erect ears set more to the side. Also, the eyes in the Rat Terrier are obliquely set as compared to the forward placed eyes on the Toy Fox Terrier.
There is also a version of the Rat Terrier known as the hairless Rat Terrier. Unlike the other hairless breeds that have tufts of hair, the hairless Rat Terrier is completely bald except for his whiskers and eyebrows.
Rat Terriers have short, dense, and smooth coats. They come in different colors like blue, lemon, and chocolate but always with a little bit of white fur. The most common coloring in the ratty is white, black, and tan. The eye color varies with the coat color ranging from darkest brown to hazel.
Rat Terriers’ tails are usually docked between the second and the third joint. They can be naturally bobtailed or left naturally long-tailed, or tapering to the hock joint.
Where to find a Rat Terrier
The best place to find Rat Terrier breeders is on the official site of the Rat Terrier Club of America. Shortlist several breeders near you and visit their kennels. If they keep the parents of your potential puppy, ask to meet them. The dam’s (mother’s) temperament will give you an insight into the puppy’s temperament and personality as well.
Some Rat Terrier breeders also produce working dogs capable of stamina in the field. Other breeders are more interested in sending their puppies to people living in the cities. In any case, ask the breeders about her/his intention behind the breeding program. A good breeder would be looking to minimize health issues and would also be more concerned about the breed’s welfare. Steer clear of breeders who keep several dog breeds and breed extensively with the sole objective of making money.
Always choose a breeder who is willing to answer all of your questions. Remember that a good Rat Terrier breeder will be an important resource for you long after you have taken your puppy home. You can also look for a Rat Terrier rescue dog from an animal shelter nearby. The average cost of a pedigree Rat Terrier puppy is between $500 and $1000.
Temperament and personality
Rat Terriers make great family pets and they are excellent watch dogs. They are known for being fiercely loyal to their owners. Ratties get along well with kids and love to play a game of fetch at any time of the day. They are sweet, lovable, and affectionate dogs.
Do not for once be fooled by their small size: this is a small dog with a large personality. Ratties form a strong bond with their family members and are sensitive to the moods of the humans around them. They are wary of strangers and are territorial about their homes and surroundings. Ratties, like all terrier breeds, have tremendous energy and are always curious and alert. Since it has a strong prey drive, Rat Terriers do not do so well with small household pets.
Like all terrier breeds, the Rat Terrier needs plenty of exercise without which, it is bound to get bored. So make sure that you walk your Ratty at least twice a day or allow him to run about in a fenced area. The breed adapts well to both, city and country life. However, they are always ready to bolt after small animals; so always leash your pet when outdoors. This breed does well in obedience and agility courses.
Like all terrier breeds, Rat Terriers need consistent, early training to prevent unwanted behaviors like chasing small animals, barking or jumping on visitors, or relieving themselves indoors. Always start with crate training and house training. This way; your Rat Terrier puppy will know where to relieve himself. Be consistent in training and always keep the training sessions short. Moreover, it helps if you can end each training session with plenty of play-time. Always use reward-based, positive training. This is better than using harsh training methods that could make your dog fearful or aggressive.
Grooming a Rat Terrier
This hardy breed is a wash-and-wear type of dog which means that he hardly needs any grooming or maintenance. Periodic baths and occasional nail trimming, brushing of coat and oral hygiene is necessary to prevent issues. The coated Rat Terrier variety sheds twice a year. So use a rubber curry mitt or a natural boar bristle brush to remove dead stray hairs. The hairless Rat Terrier needs its own special grooming but it isn’t too different from its coated cousins.
Health concerns in Rat Terriers
Rat Terriers are a hardy breed with a life span of 12-18 years. They are prone to allergies and skin infections such as bug bites. Like all active, outdoorsy terriers, they could develop luxating patellas. Good food, regular exercise, proper grooming, and timely vet checkups can keep your Ratty healthy and disease-free for years.