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Rat Terrier

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Rat Terrier

Form and Function

The Rat Terrier is historically known for protecting homes or farms from rodents. They are sturdy and compact little dog but also elegant. There are two sizes of Rat Terriers, but both are slightly longer than tall (but not short-legged) with a moderate build. Their coat is short and smooth. The American Hairless Terrier is derived from Rat Terriers with a hairless mutation.


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Breed Traits

Energy Level

4 out of 5

Exercise Requirements

3 out of 5


5 out of 5

Affection Level

4 out of 5

Friendliness To Dogs

3 out of 5

Friendliness To Other Pets

3 out of 5

Friendliness To Strangers

2 out of 5


2 out of 5

Ease of Training

4 out of 5

Grooming Requirements

1 out of 5

Heat Sensitivity

2 out of 5


5 out of 5

Breed Attributes




8-25 lb





Area of Origin

United States

Date of Origin



The Rat Terrier’s ancestors probably included Manchester Terriers, Smooth Fox Terriers, Old English White Terriers, and Bull Terriers, among others. Working class British immigrants brought mixes of these breeds to America in the late 1800s. Rat Terriers were used for protecting homes and farms from rodents.

Rat Terriers were popular farm dogs by the early 1900s–they were probably among the most popular dogs in America. President Theodore Roosevelt even kept them in the White House. The Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is a short-legged offshoot of the Rat Terrier. In the early 1900s, Midwestern farmers mixed Rat Terriers with Whippets and Italian Greyhounds to increase speed so they could better protect the farm’s crops. In the South, they were mixed with Beagles for better scenting ability. This was done in part because the Rat Terrier was traditionally considered a strain, rather than a breed. As a result, the Rat Terrier’s size varies.


The Rat Terrier is often a loyal and energetic companion, very playful, and always on a quest for fun and adventure. They’re usually eager to please and learn quickly but do have a stubborn streak and can become easily bored and distracted. They are somewhat reserved with strangers. The hound in their background can sometimes make them friendlier toward other dogs compared to most terriers, and most get along well—but they often won’t back down from a challenge. They can be good with cats if properly socialized with them, but introductions to small pets are ill-advised. Most Rat Terriers are not excessive barkers.


Rat Terriers tend to be a very active and playful dog. A daily walk around the block, coupled with several play sessions will help meet their exercise needs. Indoor games and tricks can provide mental exercise on inclement days. With exercise, they are a calm member of the household. Their thin coat and small size makes them vulnerable to chilling. Coat care is minimal.


  • Major concerns: none
  • Minor concerns: allergies, patellar luxation
  • Occasionally seen: none
  • Suggested tests: knee
  • Life span: 12–15 years


Note: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

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