Rat Terrier

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Species group:

Other name(s): American Rat Terrier; Ratting Terrier; Decker Rat Terrier; Decker Giant Rat Terrier

The basics:
An American farm breed officially recognized by the AKC in 2013, the Rat Terrier is a small, spunky dog that deserves to be better-known among active families with older children seeking an energetic companion. One of the most popular farm dogs in the early 20th century, the Rat Terrier was developed from the Fox Terrier crossed with some hound breeds to develop a capable hunting companion capable of chasing hares, rabbits, and other prey that gave a fast, long, straight run.

The hound DNA in its background was a double-edged sword. On the plus side, the Rat Terrier tends to be more even-tempered and outgoing than many terriers. However, because the dog was regarded as a mixed breed rather than a purebreed, it was ignored by many breeders and became a rarity in the mid 20th century as the family farm complete with loyal "varmint" dog was replaced by modern mechanical farming and poison control practices. This terrier's recent acceptance by the AKC may encourage pet owners looking for a small but lively dog to take a second look.

Appearance / health:
The Rat Terrier is a small-to-medium-sized terrier. The head is fairly long with medium sized muzzle, which is straight, tapered, but never snippy. Wide set eyes are round or slightly almond shaped and carry an alert, lively, but soft gentle expression. Ears are V-shaped, which could be pricked or semi-pricked. Tail is short or full length and is usually docked.

Rat Terriers have a short double coat and shed all round the year. Grooming the coat two or three times with a slicker brush keeps it clean. Occasional cleaning the coat with a rake help clearing matting. Bathing three or four times a year is sufficient as frequent bathing softens the undercoat and lowers its insulative and water resistant qualities. Checking and cleaning the ears, eyes, and teeth regularly go a long way in preventing infection.

They are very energetic and need lots of exercise. Taking them for a brisk walk and play sessions is necessary to keep them physically fit. They could be excellent jogging companions. It is good to involve them in obedience classes, obstacle course or earthdog classes to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.

The Rat Terrier is a hardy breed and faces few health problems.

Behavior / temperament:
Rat Terriers are full of energy and are predominantly an active breed. However they are also willing to relax with their humans and many Ratties even like to cuddle under the covers next to their person.

As puppies RT’s can be busy, and are best trained using only positive methods. Like all puppies, they must be watched so they do not escape fences, but this passes with maturity.

Rat Terriers are inclined to chase other animals and small prey. RT’s love to have a job and are ideal for playing dog-sports with their human such as Frisbee, Tug, Flyball, Agility, running on the beach or hiking (on a leash, until trained to be off-leash).

Rat Terriers are intelligent and are quick to learn commands. Ratties are very sensitive and training should be done by reinforcing the correct behavior, and being very careful to avoid “correcting”.

Rat Terriers have a high-pitched bark and like to bark at every sight of sound they come across. They need to be corrected whenever they bark excessively.

Is a Rat Terrier right for you?

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What owners are saying about Rat Terrier health

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What owners are saying about Rat Terrier behavior and training

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Buddy the Rat Terrier

I have owned several Rat Terriers throughout my life. They have all been the same as far as personality. They are all very hyper pooches. They love their family especially their kids. If they are fearful they are aggressive. Each of the Rat Terriers I owned throughout my li...

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