Quick Facts

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The Look of a Rat Terrier

Rat Terriers are small, compact, muscular and somewhat brawny (displaying their sturdiness and strength). They have small heads, medium-length muzzles, black noses and ears that stick up. They have strong necks and shoulders, deep chests and sturdy legs. Their tails can be either long or short at birth. Rat Terriers have short, medium-dense coats that come in red, yellow, black, black & tan, black tan & white and blue & white. Overall, Rat Terriers have a tough, alert and outgoing look.


  • Small
  • Tough and fearless
  • Dependable
  • Loving
  • Great ratters
  • Easily trained

Ideal Human Companion

  • Singles
  • Active, sporty types
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Hikers
  • Families

What They Are Like to Live With

Whether you’re a high-energy person or need a companion to keep you moving, a Rat Terrier could be the perfect pal. They have enough intelligence and energy for three dogs, yet their diverse genetic background helps them maintain an even keel. In other words, Rat Terriers are not the type of dog to bounce off the walls—in fact, they are more than happy to cuddle on the couch.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors—whether for work or pleasure—your Rat Terrier will always follow, proving to be an excellent worker and dedicated friend. Easy to train and eager to please, Rat Terriers can help on the farm, in the field or in the yard. And if you have a rat problem, they can be amazingly helpful. Or if you just need a hiking or jogging companion, they can do that, too—happily.

Rat Terriers are fun and loving playmates for children. They have gentle, fun-loving personalities and they know when to adjust the energy level. Their solid terrier instincts can make them slightly territorial, but they are generally good with strangers. However, they do have nose when it comes to intruders—they will bark and alert the family if they sense a threat.

Things You Should Know

Rat Terriers need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether through walks, jogs through the neighborhood or hikes in the park. Being an intelligent working breed, they also like constructive games and tasks to keep their minds sharp. They will be happy living in an apartment as long as their daily exercise requirements are met. Rat Terriers may be high-energy dogs, but they do appreciate cozy time indoors.

A healthy Rat Terrier can live as long as 18 years. These are solid, healthy little dogs for the most part, but some can develop hip dysplasia and allergy problems. Their short coat is a breeze to manage. Just brush them every few days.

Rat Terrier History

Rat Terriers originated in America as a cross between Fox Terriers and a long list of European Terriers that includes Manchester Terriers and Bull Terriers. To stop a rabbit epidemic that threatened crops in 1910, farmers increased the speed and agility of these dogs by crossing them with Whippets, Italian Greyhounds and Smooth Fox Terriers. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, hunters crossed the early Rat Terriers with Beagles to improve their tracking abilities. While common in the 1920s and 1930s, the modernization of farming created less of a demand for Rat Terriers. Today, Rat Terrier clubs grapple with the true lineage of the modern breed. But, most of them agree that the Rat Terrier’s diverse gene pool is what allows them to remain a healthy, adaptable and intelligent breed.