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Rat Terrier: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Care & Traits

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

Miniature Rat Terrier in the yard

Rat Terrier: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Care & Traits

Rat Terriers are compact little dogs that are attractive to canine lovers for various reasons. From their small size to their larger-than-life personality, they make excellent pets for loving families. In this article, we’ll explore all aspects of the Rat Terrier that make them stand above the rest. By the end of it, you will be able to decide whether the Rat Terrier is for you and have a little more knowledge about where to find one.

Breed Overview


10–18 inches


10–25 pounds


15–18 years


White, tri-color, white and chocolate, black and white, fawn and white, blue and white

Suitable for:

Active families, growing families, rural homes


Cheerful, energetic, adventurous, independent

The Rat Terrier is a sturdy, spunky Terrier that lives up to their name. They were originally bred to keep away small vermin like rats and other rodents. The Rat Terrier still has hunting instincts, so they might not match with every household. Rat Terriers are generally very healthy and have lengthy lifespans. There are several other amazing things to learn about them from puppyhood onward. Let’s explore.

Rat Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Rat Terrier Puppies

Rat Terrier puppy laying on bed
Image Credit: Lisa Turay, Shutterstock

Rat Terriers are very small and fragile as puppies. Although they are easy to hurt, they are otherwise very structurally sound. You will be impressed with their might and strength. These brave little dogs are not afraid of much and will constantly want to be on the go. If you’re considering getting a Rat Terrier puppy, you should always look for reputable breeders with positive reviews who can provide health records for their dogs.

Always steer clear of backyard breeders and puppy mills. Pet shops are also not a good option, as they often buy from puppy mills or similar facilities, where dogs are in less-than-favorable conditions. This can lead to illness and a poor temperament.

Rat Terrier Origin & History

The Rat Terrier is an American farm dog and hunting companion. They’re related to other small European hunting dogs known as Feists. The Rat Terrier was most active on farms between 1920 and 1930. However, Rat Terriers are considered a rare breed today, and kennel clubs still recognize them. They make remarkable pets and can provide a valuable service if you live on a farm or have rodent problems. Their rich history and rodent-seeking make them excellent mousers, so who needs a cat around when you have a dog that is so awesome?

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Rat Terrier 🧠

The Rat Terrier is an incredibly sharp and alert dog. They are incredibly keen on their surroundings and can detect even the slightest movement. Because their instincts make them talented hunters, their prey drive is incredibly high.

If a Rat Terrier sees a mouse run across the room, they’ll catch it and kill it. That means you should always keep the family hamster away from your dog and never leave them unsupervised around any other smaller pets.

Your Rat Terrier is an exceptionally cunning little dog that can find a way. They are very determined and can figure out how to do just about anything. So, if there’s somewhere you don’t want them to get to, or there’s something you don’t want them to have, they can be pretty resourceful when they want to be.

rat terrier standing in a field or park
Image Credit: Tanya Consaul Photography, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families?🏡

The Rat Terrier can acclimate well to a variety of lifestyles. However, you should always supervise small children around them since they can nip if they feel threatened. Because they are so tiny when they’re puppies, they can be easily injured by a rambunctious youngster.

Rat Terriers make very good companions to single owners as long as they get enough exercise and attention. Their spirited nature makes some fun companions, and their compact size makes them perfect for smaller living spaces.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?🐶 😽

The Rat Terrier gets along fantastically with other dogs and prefers living in homes with other pups. It helps to have a buddy around to expel their energy, and it is also good for their mental health.

That isn’t to say they can’t get bossy occasionally, as it is in their Terrier nature. They can be a little headstrong and may try to boss around the other pets, but they can behave with adequate training. However, when it comes to smaller animals, it can always be a hit or miss.

They might constantly chase the household cats, and they shouldn’t have access to rodents like hamsters.

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Things to Know When Owning a Rat Terrier:

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

The Rat Terrier is an exceptionally healthy little dog that doesn’t require a specialized diet. They simply need a high-protein, lifestyle-appropriate diet to keep them healthy. Your dog’s daily portions should be based on their weight and age, but remember that some dogs might need more or less food based on other factors, such as their health and energy level.

If there are any special tweaks to the diet related to allergies or sensitivities, your vet can recommend a brand or provide a prescription for a special diet. Subscription dog food services are becoming more popular with dog owners. Although the meals are more appetizing and canine-specific, they are pricey and not within everyone’s budget.

rat terrier dog standing outside
Image Credit: Emily Ranquist, Shutterstock


The Rat Terrier is a highly athletic dog with a lust for activity. They love to play fetch, find snacks, and track scents they find interesting. They require stimulating lives and need their owners to respond accordingly.

On average, they require at least an hour and a half of daily exercise. If you have a backyard, it should be fenced in with a very tall fence since Rat Terriers can jump 4 to 5 feet high. You can enjoy many activities with your Rat Terrier because they don’t tire easily but are satisfied with short bursts of exercise. So, they can work for a wide range of people.


Training your Rat Terrier should be pretty simple. They usually pick up on concepts pretty easily and are generally pretty easy to train. You can easily incentivize them with treats since they are food-motivated. You can also entice them with their favorite toys, and they are always ready to play. Since they are so prey-driven, they might quickly tear up their toys. Be prepared to get them durable toys that will be a match for their predator instincts.

Although Rat Terriers have a bad reputation for being hard to potty train, consistent training can speed up the process, and they can easily learn basic commands. You can also teach them to sniff out or chase down almost anything.

rat terrier with leash walking outside with owner
Image Credit: Meriluxa, Shutterstock


Grooming your Rat Terrier is relatively straightforward. Their short coats are easy to groom and only need to be brushed a few times a week. However, they aren’t hypoallergenic and shed just as much as the average dog. To keep them healthy, they’ll need a bath every 4 to 6 weeks, nail trims, ear cleanings, and teeth brushing.

Health and Conditions🏥

The Rat Terrier is a healthy dog with a lean muscle structure and few genetic health concerns. However, there are some health conditions that can affect any breed. Here are a few.

Minor Conditions
  • Eye disorders
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation

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Male vs Female

Male and female Rat Terriers will only differ slightly. As adults, the males are larger than the females, though this may not be as noticeable until they are side by side. Males have more muscular frames, while the females are a bit daintier.

As far as personality is concerned, males can exhibit little dog syndrome. They think that they rule the roost, but females are more independent. However, their sex has less of an effect on their personality than their upbringing and environment.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Rat Terrier

1. A Rat Terrier Starred in a Shirley Temple Film.

In the 1930s, when Rat Terriers were at an all-time level of popularity, they made their debut in the Shirley Temple movie The Little Colonial.

2. Farmers Once Relied on Rat Terriers to Keep Barn Vermin to a Minimum.

Rat Terriers are fantastic at what they do. They were relied upon for hundreds of years and will continue to be relied upon to hunt rodents. You never have to worry about the mouse in your house with the Rat Terrier around!

rat terrier in the park
Image Credit: Annette Shaff, Shutterstock

3. Teddy Roosevelt Owned a Rat Terrier.

The 26th president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, owned a Rat Terrier named Skip. Teddy allegedly coined the name “Rat Terrier” to describe this dog’s behavior.

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Final Thoughts

The Rat Terrier is an energetic, loyal companion, and they make excellent pets for families and single owners. They aren’t ideal if you have small animals like gerbils or hamsters, but they can be trained to get along with other dogs and cats. They respond well to training, even though they can be stubborn occasionally. They’re spirited little pups that will constantly entertain you and make you laugh!

Featured Image Credit: Nick Chase 68, Shutterstock

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