Named by the perceptive Teddy Roosevelt, the Rat Terrier was developed in Great Britain originally from the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Manchester Terrierin 1820. It was brought to the USA in the 1890s. At that time they were all their original color of black and tan. Life Magazine showed President Roosevelt with three black and tan Rat Terriers.
American breeders crossed them again with the Smooth Fox Terrier as well as the Beagle and Whippet. The Beagle increased bulk, trailing and hunting ability, along with the red color. The Whippet contributed the speed and agility and probably the blue and brindle colors.
The smallest variety was derived from the Smooth Fox Terrier and Chihuahua. The Rat Terrier proved to be one of the best in the rat-baiting pits. One Rat Terrier is reported to have killed over 2,501 rats in a span of only seven hours in a rat infested barn.
The Rat Terrier is a hard-working farm hand easily able to rid an infested barn of vermin ~ no problem.
• Intelligent, alert and loving.
• Inquisitive and lively.
• Affectionate, makes an excellent companion dog.
• Good with children.
• Friendly with strangers.
• Good watchdogs.
• quick, playful.
• Not yappy.
• Pure terriere ~ feisty!
• Eager to please.
• Train easily. Well mannered well all-round dog.
• Love to be with you all the time.
• Good swimmer.
• Do not do well left for long periods alone.
• Good farm dogs.
• Hardy hunters.
• Lots of energy, needs lots of exercise.
• Easy to groom.
First and foremost, Rat Terriers are spunky dogs that love people and play. Being bred to kill rats in great quantities, they are quick to chase anything running around on the ground unless they've been brought up with them. However, they are smart dogs and if they understand another animal is not to be harassed, they will be protective of them.
Indeed, rat terriers can be trained to herd and protect a great many different animals, sometimes being used to tend small livestock such as birds. They are usually good around other animals, including other dogs, though this trait is accentuated when your puppy is socialized with dogs and other animals while very young.
They tend to be very good around children, though there is clearly a preference for the children in his or her "pack." The way a rat terrier responds to strangers has everything to do with how well socialized they were when puppies. At best, they will be friendly with others when you indicate they are not invaders.
They are very protective of their people and home, and as such, make rather good watchdogs. They hear or see everything, so you may find that dogs that spend a lot of time indoors will alert you whenever anyone walks down the street in what they consider to be a threatening manner.
While it is somewhat rare for a rat terrier to get the idea that you, as the master or mistress, are to be growled at when your dog feels like it, is a major problem that needs to be stamped out immediately by reminding the dog that such behaviour will not ever be tolerated.
When the dogs (and bitches) are left unaltered, they often begin marking territory, especially if there are other dogs in the house. It is usually recommended you have your dog sterilized if you don't intend to breed them.
Rat terriers are extremely long-lived dogs, with few Health Problems. They are also prone to Chemical sensitivity, and you should be very careful when using any scented shampoos or flea and tick treatments, including collars and dips. You should probably check with your vet first before using sub-dermal insecticides. Unscented baby or puppy shampoos should be used.
Mange susceptibility: There is a single gene defect that has appeared in some rat terriers that causes a susceptibility to the parasite that causes the mange. There are treatments available to keep the condition at bay, but it cannot be eliminated, and such dogs should not be bred.
Their coats do shed a bit, but not excessively. The fur is thick and close, so they don't require much grooming except to remove cast off and dead hairs before they land wherever they might. This will keep the hair from building up on your clothes, carpets and furniture so quickly.
Most people give their rat terriers a brushing every few days with a rubber comb or a brush to keep the shedding to a minimum. When they range outdoors a lot you might want to make it a daily exercise if your dog then expects to share the bed with you. If they stay outside, a weekly brushing is plenty.
Rat terriers very often have their tails bobbed when they're 2-3 days old, however, many actually have a mutation that shortens the tail to be about half or less in length, and this is actually allowed according to the breed standard, though no show dogs have full-length tails. The unaltered tail is generally not a problem unless you plan on taking your dog to a country where competitive animal fighting is legal. Otherwise, it is cosmetic.
Their dewclaws are very often removed, too. If you haven't had your dog altered in this way, you'll need to cut them yourself to keep them from painfully growing around and into their legs. A trim every few weeks is often sufficient and you should train your rat terrier to accept you touching his or her paws at a very early age, so they're less likely to fight back.
Though they are small dogs, rat terriers are very active dogs by nature. If they don't have an indoor play regimen, they'll need rather long walks and time to run in an off leash area. The have great stamina and are bred for sprinting.
They are especially fond of having a large yard to run around in. Though they're not usually escape artists, you should still make a point to double check the integrity of your fence, since they can slip through small holes.
Exercise is very important to keep rat terriers from barking too much. This is also very important if you or your familymembers need to spend several hours away from your dog every day. They don't like being separated from their "pack", and will suffer separation anxiety if not otherwise distracted.
Rat terriers do get bored and need constant stimulus. They are very fond of their toys and are happy to play indoors, though they are known to horde their toys and jealously guard them. They can meet much of their exercise needs indoors if there's someone to play with them.
The rat terrier is a very intelligent dog that is relatively easy to train as long as they've been properly exercised and you're consistent in your training. This breed is very closely associated with their "pack" and is very eager to please, if for no other reason than to get back to playing. Arranging your dog's training session into fun, play-like exercises, will yield good results quickly.
Unlike many terriers, rat terriers are relatively easy to housebreak. Many people recommend crate training when very young. Unless they're used to having an open crate that's comfortable when young, they may come to see it as a type of puppy jail. You want it to be a place where your dog enjoys hanging out in when they need their own "office" for a minute or two. That said, they are very keen to be with the pack at all times, and will feel punished if you banish them into "solitary confinement" too often.
When accomplishing the housebreaking without a crate, it is best to confine your dog to rooms where you can easily see him or her at all times, so there's no chance for error or sneaking one behind the couch. Keep a close eye on your rat terrier and be sure to get him or her outside at the first vague sign of wanting to go. It will drive you mad for a few weeks, but it must be done if you want to do this job right. However your dog is trained, it can't ever fully be undone later. Be sure and wait with them outside during the training process, or they'll just follow you back into the house without doing their "business."
Like all dogs, rat terriers respond best to reward training and are very sensitive to your displeasure. There should never be any need to shout at a rat terrier. If they really do something you don't like, temporary banishment (even for a few minutes) will be very effective as long as it's done immediately after the deed is done-they won't remember what they've done even a few moments after doing it, so don't bother and just redouble your efforts to be more vigilant.
Socialization is a very important part of rat terrier training, and it is said that pups should meet at least 100 people before they're four months old. This will allow them to get used to other people so they aren't so aloof with strangers, as is their custom. You should also introduce them to the other animals they will be living with as soon as possible.