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Rat Terrier- Dog Breed Information

Rat Terrier- A Fiesty Spitfire

The rat terrier is a wonderful little dog and a true terrier.  These little guys love to dig so much that they could dig themselves out of anywhere.  They are spitfires that can make anyone laugh with their funny shenanigans. The rat terrier is highly energetic, loves to chase smaller animals.  Life with a rat terrier will never be boring as they are always up to something. 

They don’t really care for approval or pleasing their owner and can be stubborn from time to time.   This breed was originally bred to hunt and eliminate rats and originated from the United States of America

At A Glance

  • Breed: Rat Terrier
  • Breed Group: Terrier
  • Temperament: Friendly, Inquisitive, Lovable
  • D.H.T. Outdoor Ranking: -4/10 For Temperate Climates
  • Worldwide Popularity: Low
  • Breed Origin: United States of America

General Information And Breed History

General Info

The rat terrier belongs in the terrier group and is very true to their terrier name.  this is because they are feisty, super energetic, stubborn and loud. 

This dog is a very good hunter and watchdog.  Rat terriers have a very strong jaw for a little dog and are wickedly fast.  Good traits for hunting and eliminating rats on the farm.  

Rat terriers are small and very strong.  They stand between 13 to 16 inches at the withers.    Their coat is smooth and comes in many different colors.   Standard colors for their coat are black, tan, chocolate, gray-blue, tri or bi-colored. 


Rat Terriers are an American dog that originates from the Fox Terrier, other terrier types, beagles, whippets, and Italian greyhounds.    Breeding with these dogs, gave them added speed, scent ability, and a pack mentality.

The purpose of the Rat Terrier was to hunt and kill rats and vermin on the farm, so they needed to be fast to keep up with vermin.  They also needed the extra scent to be able to locate said vermin. Being able to work in a pack was a bonus. Instead of having just one dog hunting, the farmer would have an entire pack which was better for getting rid of vermin. 

By the time 1910 rolled around these dogs were very popular on farms.  Once farms started using chemicals to control the pest problems in the 1950s the Rat Terrier started to decline.

After the 1970s came along a man named Milton Decker decided to breed his dog to bring back the breed from near extinction.  He was able to breed a larger rat terrier that was given the name Decker Rat Terrier. This bred was used for hunting as well.  The prey for this dog was deer, cougar, wild pigs, and even bears! And, they were able to water retrieve as well. Quite the super dog if you ask me.   The Decker rat terrier is a lovely dog and makes a great companion all while being a spitfire of a terrier. 

The Decker Rat Terrier (standard size) stands between 16 – 19 inches, 22-40 lbs. while the Rat Terrier (miniature size) stands at 13-16 inches, 10-18lbs. 

Oh, and there is a toy size as well!  They stand at more than 12 inches and weigh 5-10bs.  How cute does that sound?

General Appearance

The Rat Terrier is very talented at multitasking.  This dog was bred for farm work and ratting. They are also great companions to people.   These guys are super-fast and can hunt below ground just a well as above ground.  

Rat Terriers are quite the muscular and athletic small dog breed.  Their appearance gives off a look of a dog with lots of speed, and power.  They need to be strong and fast to be able to catch the quick-moving vermin like rats, and squirrels. 


You’d think that the Rat Terrier is a yoga master given all its flexibility and strength.   Their chest is wide and holds well-sprung ribs with a very distinctive forechest. The body is muscular and very fit.  Their muscles blend very well into the body. Back is leveled while from withers to the loin. The short loin is partially muscular and blends into the croup. 

These dogs have great expressions in their eyes that show intelligence and interest.  Their eyes are small, set wide apart and are oval-shaped. Eyes are dark brown or hazel.  The rim of their eyes match the color in their nose and marking on their face. 


The coat on a Rat Terrier lies close to their body and is shiny and smooth.  The texture is normally slightly rough but has been known to be wavy. There should be no curl to the Rat Terrier’s coat. 

Legs & Feet

Feet on the Rat Terrier are oval with compact toes, very thick pads and durable nails.  Their legs are straight and parallel with elbows.

Tail & Hindquarters

The back legs of a Rat Terrier are smooth and muscular and in balance with the front legs.  They are not known to be coarse or bulging. The back feet are a bit smaller than the front but share the same qualities.   The tail is short and erect. 

General Statistics

  • Life Expectancy: 12-18 years
  • Male Height (at the withers): 10-13 inches (24.5 cm-33.02 cm)
  • Female Height (at the withers):   10-13 inches (24.5 cm-33.02 cm)
  • Male Weight: 10-25 lbs (4.5 kg – 11 kg)
  • Female Weight: 10-25 lbs (4.5 kg – 11 kg)

Recommended Dog House Dimensions

The recommended dog house dimensions can be found on the dog house dimensions charts for 440 recognized breeds which includes this dog breed that looks like a wolf.  But to save you time, here are our dog house minimum size recommendations:

  • Door Height: 19.8 inches (8.9 cm)
  • Door Width: 12.6 inches (32 cm)
  • Inside Ceiling Height: 24.3 inches (61 cm)
  • Interior House Length: 39.6 inches (100 cm)
  • Interior House Width: 25.2 inches (64 cm)

Expected Costs

Breed Average Puppy Cost: $450 USD

Starter Costs: $1,000

This is our estimate for initial purchase, shots and a few things like food, a bed, leash, that sort of thing.  Basically, this will get you set up but the costs will be greater once the dog is old enough to get spayed or neutered.

Anticipated Annual Care Cost: $500- $1,000

How The Rat Terrier Reacts To


The Rat Terrier is good with children.  They are known to be patient and kind, even to those who are not part of their family.  Rat Terriers love their family children so much that they insist on sleeping under the covers with them at night.

Even though these two get along quite well, never leave a child and dog alone unsupervised.  Also, talk to your children about approaching a dog the proper way and never try to take away their water or food while they are drinking or eating.  They are protective of what is theirs, and this could lead to an unwanted bite. 

Other Dogs:  

There are few and far between arguments between Rat Terriers and other dogs.  Well, maybe over some food and where to sleep, nothing too serious. That being said, the Rat Terrier is not an aggressive dog unless of course provoked, and get along with other dogs. 

  Rat Terriers like being around and playing with other dogs.  However, if another dog shows aggression to a Rat Terrier they will respond with aggression.  Being a terrier, once this little is lite up, there really is no backing down. The Rat Terrier sees no size and will go up against a much larger dog if they feel threatened. 


The Rat Terrier will get along with cats, but only cats that are in their family.  It is best that they are raised together. This is because they are hunters and like to chase fast smaller animals. However, they do like cats and will treat them as part of the family. 

If you are bringing a Rat Terrier into a house that has a cat, then you should introduce them slowly.  Give them time, and they will be the best of friends.

Other Animals:

It is not recommended to have a Rat Terrier and other small animals living in the same house.  Remember that these dogs have a high prey drive. So small animals that make quick movements may be in trouble with a Rat Terrier around.  Examples of small animals are mice, chinchilla, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and of course rats. 

Care Requirements


This dog requires daily walks and some ball chasing.  But make sure the ball chasing is done in a well secure yard.  The Rat Terrier is the Houdini of terriers. They love to dig and are quite capable of digging themselves out of a yard that is not properly secured. 

They can get enough exercise indoors, but they prefer to be outside.  Can you really blame them? Being outside is much better than being stuck in the house all day.

Since this dog has a very high prey drive, they must always remain on a leash when you take them out on walks.  They cannot stop themselves when a squirrel crosses their path.

Grooming & Coat Info

The coat of the Rat Terrier does not require a lot of attention.  Using a hound glove or soft brush once or twice a week will keep it healthy and shiny.   They do not require a lot of bathing as well. Once a month will do just fine with this canine.  Unless of course, he gets digging and ends up with mud all over.

During shedding season you will need a shedding tool to remove the loose dead hair.   Keep their nails short because long nails can cause discomfort to your dog and issues with walking.

Health & Nutrition

The Rat Terrier is a generally healthy dog. A breeder will check their breeding stock for conditions like

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • Cardiac disorder 
  • Eye disorders

This canine will do well on a high- quality dog food like most dogs.  If you decide to feed your dog human food, make sure you know what is safe.  If you are unsure, check with your veterinarian. 

Make sure the follow the portion instructions in order to keep your dog at the proper weight for its size and age. 


Highly intelligent, the Rat Terrier can be easily trained.  However, they are a terrier and can be stubborn from time to time.  This breed does extremely well in Dog Sports like agility, obedience training, and rally just to name a few. 

The Rat Terrier is sensitive so training must be positive with rewards and praise for a job well done.  They will respond best to positive training. They will not do well with any negative training that makes them feel bad.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Rat Terriers Aggressive?

Rat Terrier is not known to be an aggressive dog breed.  They get along with children and make wonderful family pets.  They will however not back down if another dog presents aggression towards them.

Does The Rat Terrier Shed A lot?

The Rat Terrier sheds, but they do require to be brushed with a shedding tool to get rid of the loose dead hair. Even though they do not shed a lot, their hair will get on your clothes and even on the furniture. Best to keep a vacuum and broom close by!


  1. The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds – D. Caroline Coile Ph. D
  2. American Kennel Club
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Canadian Kennel Club
  5. Rat Terrier Club of America

Recommended Dog Gear

Take a look at our Recommended page for a variety of dog products and items. Here are some of the things you can expect:

  • Dog Houses – For small dog breeds, medium dogs, large dogs, and even extra large dog houses!
  • Books, Literature, and Media – We’re working on compiling hundreds of titles of the best video, audio, and books we can find on dogs just for you.
  • Gifts – Only gifts for the discerning dog, and maybe something nice for you too.
  • Harnesses, Collars, and Leashes – We don’t recommend anything that will harm a dog. At DHT we believe in a harm-free training experience so you won’t find any of those collars that cut into the dog’s neck. And no shock stuff either. But, we do have some very cool tech collars worth looking at.
  • Dog Life Jackets and Other Specialty Equipment – Keep your dog safe with you out on the water this summer.
  • GPS and Tracking Collars – As mentioned, very cool tech collars worth checking.
  • Dishes for Dog Food and Water – No garbage, only decent products. We like stuff that will last and won’t fade in the sun.
  • We’ve got more reviews coming at you all the time so stay tuned for more from the Dog House Times team!

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