A Complete Guide to Rat Terriers: All You Ever Wanted to Know!

rat terrier standing in grass field

Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier puppy is a small dog that's an entertaining escape artist. These dogs are mischievous at best and stubborn at worst. They'll likely drive their owners crazy sometimes, but Rat Terriers will also make their owners constantly laugh as well. These dogs are incredibly hyper animals, and they'll chase anything their little heart desires.

These little puppies will have their owners laughing while they goof off around the house on their own. Their high energy, curiosity, and jumpiness add to the entertainment they provide when they're hyper. Owners of these dogs will find that they're effortless to love.

More experienced dog owners should adopt these perky pets. However, if you're a wannabe first-time dog owner and you're on the lookout for the best dog to adopt for you, don't let this scare you away! Dog training sessions are meant to be short and fun. Five minutes a day before bed, after lunch, whenever works for you is the best way to train these dogs. If you're ever worried you can't teach them well, consider doggy training lessons by a professional. They can get costly, but they're worth the money. However, a well-behaved Rat Terrier puppy will only come from regular and positive training sessions.

Rat Terrier puppies are relatively adaptable to a few different living situations, and they have open hearts towards all sorts of people, including children and strangers. These dogs are crazy, but they're also fun and social, so don't depend on them to guard your house! They'll most likely invite an intruder inside and ask for belly rubs and treats.

Rat Terriers are small dogs that need their families to be home with them most of the time. They don't do well alone and depend greatly on those around them. Because of their small size, they're great for apartment living, too!


Supposedly, it was President Teddy Roosevelt who gave the Rat Terrier puppy its name. The breed began as a farm dog that hunted vermin. When Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, he shared how his Rat Terrier puppy irradicated the White House rat infestation. These dogs have been consistently excellent at hunting, and they're a public servant in America's history. Some people don't agree that Teddy Roosevelt's dog was indeed a Rat Terrier, but it's no matter because someone with authority renamed the short-legged Rat Terrier puppy the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.

The Rat Terrier puppy is an American-born dog breed that came from a mixture of a few other breeds of terriers. These dogs were bred to be farm dogs and hunters and were used nationwide for whatever pests were around that these dogs could take on. In the 1910s, the midwest even mixed Rat Terriers and Greyhounds to get a mixed breed that could care for a raging jackrabbit problem. One of the other breeds people mixed the Rat Terrier with was the Beagle, which is why the Rat Terrier today has such a good sense of smell.

As time passed, farmers began using poison to deal with pest problems rather than Rat Terriers, and the breed's popularity declined. The Rat Terrier puppy had a popularity resurgence around the early 1970s, and eventually, multiple strains of the Rat Terrier were born. For example, there's now a strain of Rat Terrier called the Decker Rat Terrier, and these dogs can hunt wild pigs, cougars, deer, and bears while maintaining the other traits of an excellent Rat Terrier. A second strain to emerge from the Rat Terrier puppy is the American Hairless Terrier, created after the first hairless Rat Terrier was born in 1972.

two rat terriers in front of a black background


Rat Terrier dogs can stand anywhere between 13 to 16 inches tall, but the average Rat Terrier puppies don't have specific weight guidelines. For example, the Decker Rat Terrier is typically 22 to 40 pounds and stands between 16 to 19 inches. A Toy or Miniature Rat Terrier puppy is much smaller and only weighs between 5 and 10 pounds and stands no taller than a foot at its shoulders.

Any Rat Terrier puppy owners shouldn't stress about the size of their animal too much. A Rat Terriers' overall size will vary based on that strain.

One reason Rat Terrier puppies are so popular is their variety in size. Owners love that these dogs aren't big but aren't small enough to be very fragile.


Rat Terriers are great dogs that'll be loyal to their family unless a bunny hops into their view. These dogs love their homes, but they have a very serious prey drive and are easily distracted. Because of this, they have a desire to wander around and shouldn't be left off-leash. Some people find that these dogs are similar to other prey-driven terriers such as the Jack Russel Terrier or the Smooth Fox Terrier, and they are. Still, Rat Terriers have a unique foolishness that only their breed possesses.

If a Rat Terrier doesn't receive proper socialization training, they might become fearful or anxious around strangers. This can make them take longer to enjoy meeting new people or make them aggressive when they're around strangers. But Rat Terrier puppies that receive proper socialization will find it easier to get along with new people. Rat Terrier dogs love spending time with their family and might suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for too long.

Rat Terriers sometimes get into trouble, since they love digging and are gifted escape artists. These dogs can't be trusted outside on a leash by themselves because if there's even the slightest chance they can get off the leash, the Rat Terrier will grasp that chance by the horns. These dogs are playful pets, and even though they're a little on the crazy side, they can be very affectionate creatures when they find the time to wind down.

rat terrier standing in a grass field


Rat Terrier puppies are brilliant dogs. If they're let outside on a leash and collar to entertain themselves at their leisure, they'll spend all of their time digging up the yard while finding a way to slip out of the leash. These dogs are smart and they'll figure out what to do to get whatever it is they might want.

Rat Terriers are very intelligent, and once owners find the right training methods, these dogs can be quite easy to train. Sometimes it can take a few different techniques with a Rat Terrier, who can redefine the word stubborn. Potential owners need to make sure they have the energy and patience to work along with a Rat Terrier through the training process.

A badly trained dog can be destructive and accidentally run away because of poor training. These dogs need someone committed to teaching them how to be their best selves.

This is why the Rat Terrier puppy can be a tricky dog because they're knowledgeable, but they're also very stubborn, and they need consistent and repetitive routines to make sure they do their best at their training sessions.

All owners who train their Rat Terrier puppies should always remember that positive reinforcement is equally as important as consistency. During training sessions, dogs that are scolded will grow to associate training sessions with getting in trouble. Avoid this by never reprimanding your Rat Terrier puppy when they don't complete a command. It's much better to keep training sessions quick and positive by providing treats and verbal praise when your Rat Terrier puppy does something right.


Rat Terrier puppies shed more during the more significant changes in the seasons. These dogs aren't big shedders year-round, but there will be noticeable amounts of fur on your couches and clothes when it comes to those warmer changes of the seasons. If your dog experiences extreme stress or anxiety, they might go through bursts of shedding fur then, too.

All dogs should have heavier shedding sessions during the change in seasons in spring and at the end of fall. Brushing your dog daily during these periods will help remove any excess fur from their coats. It won't prevent all the loose fur from sticking to your sleek black clothes, but it can still help a little bit, and a lint roller can help you out. A heavy-duty lint roller will be your friend.

rat terrier stading in a backyard

Rat Terrier Health Overview

On average, smaller dogs live much longer than larger dogs. Rat Terriers live quite long and have an average lifespan of 13 to 18 years.

Rat Terrier puppies are generally healthy dogs, and most Rat Terriers will go their entire lives without experiencing any severe health conditions. Even though many of these dogs are healthy, some Rat Terriers might experience some common health conditions. For example, many dogs struggle with stress and anxiety at some point in their lives, and owners find there are many remedies for anxious animals.

Rat Terrier puppies might also experience some physical health issues. For example, many small dogs have knee displacement issues, and it isn't uncommon for Rat Terriers to have minor knee issues. These dogs might also have mild joint conditions that affect their elbows and hips. Overall, owners shouldn't stress about their Rat Terrier puppy being unhealthy.

Common Psychological Health Conditions


Even though Rat Terrier dogs are rambunctious pets, they'll likely suffer from stress at some point in their lives. Dogs might experience stress or discomfort, especially if they aren't adequately socialized when they meet new people or go to a new place. Some dogs show stress symptoms by shaking out as if they're wet, shaking their head, or shivering.

Sometimes, Rat Terrier puppies will experience stress caused by a certain event. Some repetitive events like the mailman arriving or loud sirens driving by could cause these dogs to experience stress. Like people, dogs experience stress and anxiety from different events.

Some owners don't adopt their dogs when they're puppies and, therefore, have to socialize them as adult dogs. It's possible to teach your dog how to be social while they're an adult, but owners can use certain supplements or treats to help keep their dogs calmer in times of stress.


Even though Rat Terrier puppies are hyper pups, they can also be quite affectionate pets. Many dogs will suffer from anxiety because of how attached they get to their owners. Rat Terrier puppies are great at entertaining themselves, but if they get left alone for too long, they'll start to miss their humans and suffer from separation anxiety.

If you've ever heard of dogs destroying the house in their owner's absences, it's because that dog was suffering from anxiety. When dogs have anxiety, they act out in a burst of bad behavior. Animals communicate through body language, so tearing up a couch cushion lets their family know they're nervous. The puppy ate your shoes out of panic, that's all!

Potential owners can rest assured knowing they can provide calming supplements to dogs that suffer from anxiety. Many dogs will appreciate a special snack when their owner leaves for long amounts of time. Dogs will miss their owners in their absence, but they'll enjoy having a delicious snack to eat while they wait for their return. Some dogs are too nervous to eat while their owners are out, so the owner can give their dogs CBD to calm them.

rat terrier sitting in front of a blue background

Calming Dog Products

Rat Terrier puppies will benefit from products like a nice calming dog bed or some nice zen treats that can help a Rat Terrier puppy feel relaxed whenever they're in a stressful situation. Whether a thunderstorm causes the animal stress or their human's absence, a few simple, helpful tools can allow your dog to feel much more comfortable.

Common Physical Health Conditions

Rat Terrier puppies are at risk of contracting joint issues like patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, or elbow dysplasia. These dogs might be born with joint issues but not experience any of their symptoms until much later in life.

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Often, dogs with joint problems have less severe instances of these conditions. Many mild conditions can be treated at home with a few simple remedies. It's rarer for dogs to have more severe conditions, although severe versions of these health issues will benefit from more medical treatments.

Potential owners shouldn't let the risk of health conditions deter them from adopting a Rat Terrier puppy.

Patellar Luxation

Many dogs have joint issues that only cause them minor pain symptoms. Rat Terriers have a knee issue where their knee pops out of place occasionally. Often, when a Rat Terrier puppy experiences this condition, it might adopt a strange run that happens randomly. It may look like they're running like normal, and then they'll have some strange movement where they don't use one of their hind legs before slipping right back into their usual stride. This is a sign a Rat Terrier puppy is suffering from patellar luxation.

These dogs don't need anything to care for them but typically benefit from supplements to aid their joint issues. They can also benefit from other over-the-counter aids like dog CBD to help their pain symptoms. There are plenty of joint supplements out there that provide more nutrients to the cartilage in the joints.rat terrier standing in front of a black background

Hip Dysplasia

Rat Terrier puppies might suffer from the health condition hip dysplasia if the hip joint doesn't align itself correctly. Many dogs are born with this condition and don't experience any symptoms until much later in their adult life.

This condition can worsen if a Rat Terrier puppy receives too much exercise or doesn't get enough. Often, dogs with hip dysplasia that aren't active might benefit from moving around more, so their bodies don't stiffen up and release fluid into their joints. More active Rat Terrier dogs may benefit from the exact opposite.

Typically, hip dysplasia causes dogs pain, but owners can treat this symptom with supplements and vitamins to help with hip joint issues and arthritis. Owners of dogs with hip dysplasia should know that their dogs can get help by treating their pain symptoms and providing comfortable places to rest their joints. This can be on a dog bed or couch.

 Joint Health Options We Love

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Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia occurs when a Rat Terrier puppy's elbow joint isn't aligned correctly. Many dogs have elbow dysplasia and may not ever experience severe enough symptoms to do anything about it during their lifetimes.

Occasionally, elbow dysplasia is more severe and can limit a Rat Terrier puppy's daily exercise habits and lifestyle tendencies. Typically, Rat Terrier puppies with this condition might not enjoy running, jumping, or climbing the stairs.

Rat Terrier dogs with elbow dysplasia might experience symptoms of pain. Owners should know there are many treatment options to help these dogs with their issues.

Owners of dogs with elbow dysplasia should know that many dogs benefit from treatments that can ease their painful symptoms. Supplements and a soft place to rest can be more than enough to comfort a Rat Terrier puppy with elbow dysplasia. Owners can also provide dog CBD, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. There are many different options for owners when it comes to treating their dogs with elbow dysplasia.

To keep your Rat Terrier's oral health at its best, you should brush their teeth twice a week. Many owners find that giving their dogs dental treats can help keep their breath smelling fresher and their teeth cleaner. It's important to clean your Rat Terrier dog's teeth regularly so you remove tartar and plaque build-up. Poor oral health can lead to other serious health conditions like heart disease or digestive tract issues.

To help animals with dental disease, owners need to brush their dog's teeth regularly. For Rat Terrier puppies, it's incredibly important to provide daily brushing sessions. Some owners find they can't get around to brushing their dog's teeth daily but instead give them teeth cleaning treats, which can be beneficial as well.rat terrier standing in a field


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Rat Terrier Breed's Needs


Rat Terrier puppies are high-energy, athletic dogs. They were bred to hunt vermin and are famous for killing rats in the White House. These dogs would love to spend their entire days digging and running around. They need about 40 minutes of exercise every day to ensure their body stays in its peak health. These dogs need to get this energy out, or they may become destructive in the house. Their intuitive nature to dig can turn into digging holes in couch cushions if they aren't given the exercise they require.

Many owners forget that prey-driven dogs like the Rat Terrier also need mental exercise. These dogs can be stimulated by hiding their treats for them to sniff out or using dog-treat puzzle toys to help distract them for hours. Rat Terriers might also enjoy a game of hide-and-seek with their owners since they love running around places.

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The amount of food you provide your Rat Terrier can vary greatly based on their age, sex, weight, height, and any other health conditions they may have. Over 50% of adult pet dogs in the United States are obese. A large part of this is because so many dogs don't get their required daily exercise. A more active Rat terrier will typically need more food than a less active one. If a Rat Terrier weighs up to 15 lbs, they're going to need anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 cup of food daily. A Rat Terrier weighing 15 lbs to 40 lbs will need anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of food daily.

High-quality dog food can provide your Rat Terrier with more vitamins and nutrients in fewer servings, so it's a good idea to feed these dogs good quality foods. Owners should feel safer knowing their vets can help them determine the proper amount of food to feed their dogs.

If you can't tell if you're dog is overweight or not, you should examine him at home. Owners can examine their dog's body by standing above them and looking for a waist. If your dog has a slight waist, that's good. No waist means they need to lose weight, and an exaggerated waistline means they need to gain weight. Owners can also feel their dog's side and put slight pressure on their fingertips to feel their dog's ribs. If you don't have to put any pressure to feel their ribs, or you can see them right away, that dog is malnourished. If you need to put more than a little pressure on their ribs, then your dog is overweight and would benefit from weight loss.

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Rat Terrier puppies have dense, soft, and short fur that has a natural shine. Their fur can come in a few different colors, including white, black, tan, rust, lemon, blue, chocolate, and orange. Some of these dogs also have a ticking pattern on their coats. These dogs only need to be brushed once a week to maintain a clean, shiny coat. They can be bathed, but owners should only bathe them when necessary. These dogs need dog-specific shampoo for washings.

Owners should check their dog's ears monthly by inspecting the floppy part of their ears only. Owners should also trim their Rat Terrier puppies' nails every few weeks.rat terrier sitting in front of a black background

Top Product Picks for Rat Terrier Dogs

Rat Terrier dogs benefit from specialty items their owners can purchase for them from any pet store or online store. Before owners bring their Rat Terrier pets home, they need to make sure they have the proper food for their pets. Rat Terrier puppies will need different food than adult dogs and elderly dogs.

Owners might want to purchase a crate and bed for their dogs to provide a space that's all their own. In times of stress or anxiety, Rat Terrier puppies might appreciate going to a private place where they can feel comfortable away from loud noises or excessive people.

Owners will also need to purchase a collar, a leash, and a harness for their dog, but they should ensure they buy the right size collar and harness. Small dogs often have tracheal issues and should never be walked without a harness on.

These dogs might also benefit from winter clothing depending on where they live. Colder climates affect smaller dogs more, and sweaters can make these dogs more comfortable on walks and other outings.

Harnesses We Love 

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Other resources

  1. Rat Terrier Club of America

  2. American Rat Terrier Association

  3. National Rat Terrier Association Club

  4. Petfinder Rat Terrier

  5. Ratbone Rescue

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