Rat Terrier Information

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(Feist, American Rat Terrier) The Rat Terrier is a perky looking little dog.  With its small round head and short square muzzle ended with a small black nose, the Rat Terrier seems to be tiny all over.  A distinctive feature of this breed is their large bat-like ears that can stand erect or be folded over.  Large round eyes give away all of this breed’s emotions.  For a petite breed, the Rat Terrier has a surprisingly muscular neck but also long skinny legs.  Smooth hair covers the Rat Terrier’s entire body and comes in a variety of colors, including chocolate, red, sable, pearl, black and tan, blue and white, red and white, red brindle, or tri-spotted.

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A other name for the American Rat Terrier is a Ratting Terrier. This breed also comes in black. The Rat Terrier is divided into two varieties for conformation exhibition, Miniature and Standard. The Miniature variety must not exceeding 13 inches, measured at the withers. The Standard variety is over 13 inches but not exceeding 18 inches, measured at the withers. Each variety will weigh in proportion to it's size. Rat Terriers are working terriers and should be presented as hard and muscular.

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Rat Terriers are energetic and cheerful dogs.  Family members are important to these little, eager-to-please dogs.  Easily used as companions to children, the Rat Terrier enjoys playing with kids of all ages.  Some strangers will be ignored and some will be enthusiastically greeted by this breed.  These dogs can often be territorial but are mostly sweet.  Training makes this breed happy, and they do an excellent job at it.  Their lively and always wanting to have fun attitude is what makes a Rat Terrier unique.

The Rat Terrier is an energetic, alert dog whose curiosity and intelligence make it easy to train. The Rat Terrier has sometimes been described as having a dual personality. It is a fearless, tenacious hunter with seemingly unlimited energy. When it is not hunting the Rat Terrier is an exceptionally friendly companion, getting along well with children, other dogs, and even cats. Rat Terriers enjoy human companionship immensely and will enthusiastically share any activity with their owners. Rat Terriers should not be sparred during conformation judging.

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8 – 23 inches
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4 - 35 pounds
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General Health

The Rat Terrier is extremely healthy and has no common diseases.  They have a long life expectancy of 15-18 years.

Some Rat Terriers may have allergies and dry skin.

Rat terriers can be afflicted with luxating patellae (slipping knee caps) and hip dysplasia. They may also have inherited eye diseases such as juvenile cataracts and luxating lenses. Rat terriers may developVon Willebrand's Disease (a condition where the blood cannot clot properly) and thyroid issues. While no breeder can guarantee you a perfect rat terrier, savvy puppy buyers should seek out breeders who regularly screen and OFA certify their breeding dogs against these common genetic diseases. The Rat Terrier also has had some history of diabetes but it only contracts diabetes when over weight.

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Rat Terriers originated in England in 1820 as a result of breeding Smooth Fox Terriers with Manchester Terriers.  By the end of the 19th century, the breed had already crossed the Atlantic and was being embraced by American dog lovers, including President Theodore Roosevelt who actually is credited with naming this happy-go-lucky breed.  After their arrival in the U. S., Rat Terriers were crossbred with other dogs, including Beagles, Whippets, and Chihuahuas, in order to achieve the three distinct sizes of the breed.

The Rat Terrier is an American breed descended from terriers brought over by English miners and other working class immigrants. These terriers probably included crosses between the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and the now extinct white English Terrier. These dogs were used as ratters, and gambling on their prowess in killing rats was a favorite hobby of their owners. Some of these dogs were crossed with Whippets or Italian Greyhounds (for speed) and Beagles (for hunting ability). Eventually, these tough little terriers evolved into today's Rat Terrier. The breed was popularized by President Teddy Roosevelt, who frequently hunted with his Rat Terriers. Many are still used as ratters and squirrel hunters, particularly in the South, where they are sometimes known as "Feists." The hairless variety appeared for the first time in a litter in 1972.

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Grooming is extremely easy for this smooth coated dog.  Brushing once a week is enough to keep them looking their best.  Baths are not necessary.  Exercise is very important to these highly energetic dogs.  Playing games or running off leash are good ways to keep this little dog busy.  Never worry about walking or playing the Rat Terrier too much because they rarely run out of energy.

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Ideal Environment

The Rat Terrier does great in a variety of living environments.  Family is important to them, and children can have these gentle dogs as companions.  Strangers will not be threatened but may be ignored; however, some Rat Terriers are very friendly to everyone. Their reaction to new people just depends on their personality.  Sometimes these dogs can be territorial but they are not aggressive.  Plenty of exercise and training is needed to keep this breed happy and healthy.  Owners need to have lots of time and energy for playing and walking this active dog.  An apartment or house is a good living environment for this versatile breed. 

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Dog Training!

If you're having problems training your dog or getting control, you should read our review of DogProblems.com. Adam will do whatever it takes to help you whip your dog into shape. I've used them to help with my Great Dane as well as help friends train their dogs. It's the first place I go to help answer users Questions. Many training issues are too extensive to answer in this forum, which is why I refer a lot of the load to his site. Update: I've been using and recommending DogProblems for three years now. I, as well as my users, value the techniques we've learned. I get weekly emails from users who have become better owners from the information they received.

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Rat Terrier Q&A

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how come all the rat terriers i see have little tails?

They usually dock them to prevent the rats and such they catch from having something to bite at. You see, I have a rat terrier of my own and her tail is just a nub.


how many puppies does a rat terrier usally have?

We have had 3 litters since 2007. The first litter we had 7 & lost 2. The second litter we had only 1 but he made it. We just had a litter 10 days ago and she had 8. 5 boys & 3 girls. We lost 2 in the first 3 days, 1 boy & 1 girl. So it really depends. I think it is different for each litter and depends and the female & male you bred as to the number of puppies you will have and also the care that is provided during pregnancy and after. Just know you really have to watch them in the first few days very closely. It's a good idea to have puppy replacement milk & a puppy nursing bottle on hand just in case.


How can I determine the age of my rescued rat terrier?

By judging teeth wear or by counting the number or teeth.


Why are Rat Terriers so shaky?


just adopted a rat terrier but she is scared of my husband. Will she warm up to him?

Eventually if he plays and spends time with her.


how many puppies do they avg

buddy is 8 of 9 puppies, unusual but happens ,his front muscle upper arm area was crushed from others resulting in funcioning 3 legs,this did not stop him from normal routine, in fact he can swim-fist litter had 4 puppies from Buddy all normal so far


a new borns tail should be cut to what length?

3rd vertabra---- best to have a vet do it. It's fairly cheap.


One of my rat terriors is very skinny, doesn't like to eat no matter what I try, and shakes. He seems scared of everything and the vet has not given me any good answers as to what to do about it. Looking for any ideas.

She or He must feel #1. My suggestion, if you don't already, allow the little rattie to sleep with you, forever bonded...


I have a rat terrier that is 8 years old. He goes after his tail and bites it and it bleeds all over the place. Could it be because it's cut on a nerve because he goes after it constantly.


I have a 2 yr. old rat terrier. She has a sty on her lower left eye lid. Should I leave it alone?

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