As its name suggests, the Rat Terrier is an expert exterminator of rodents, having been bred to do just that. An integral part of protecting a farm’s crops and harvest, the Rat Terrier has served as a skilled farmhand but is far more than just a ratter.
Today, the Rat Terrier, the 178th breed introduced to the American Kennel Club has become the 86th most popular of 193 total breeds. Intelligent and trainable, the Rat Terrier has expanded and diversified its skillset, where the breed thrives as an excellent family companion, watchdog, and hunter.
Rat Terrier Appearance
Rat Terriers come in two sizes: standard and miniature. The Miniature Rat Terrier is 10 to 13 inches in height, while the standard Rat Terrier is 13 to 18 inches tall. Weighing somewhere between 10 and 25 pounds, the Rat Terrier is a relatively small breed.
The Rat Terrier can come in a variety of colors, most of which include some combination of black or white, and any number of secondary colors like tan, silver, red, blue, sable, apricot, chocolate, and fawn. Rat Terriers can also have several markings in various colors like badger, sable, and white. Piebald markings, blanket-back, spots and patches, and tan points are also commonly seen in the breed and AKC standard.
The expression of the Rat Terrier should be alert and intelligent. Rat Terriers have a compact body that is both strong and flexible, covered by a short, smooth, glossy coat.
Rat Terriers are wonderful companions and effective workers with unique personalities. A hardy dog with a life expectancy of 12 to 18 years, the Rat Terrier is an all-purpose dog that is happy to work or play and will easily adapt to the lifestyle of its owner. That said, the Rat Terrier is a highly active and social breed that needs constant stimulation to prevent destructiveness and bad behavior. In short, indestructible dog beds may be a necessity for the energetic little Rat Terrier.
Regardless of whether you live in an apartment or a home, the Rat Terrier will quickly settle in and become a beloved member of the family. The Rat Terrier is extremely affectionate and friendly, and will love just about everyone it meets, from adults and children to other dogs and cats. Nevertheless, the rodent is still the nemesis of the Rat Terrier, so any pocket pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and mice should be kept far away from these dogs.
Despite its gregariousness and friendliness, the Rat Terrier can be very territorial and is a skilled watchdog. Once properly introduced, the Rat Terrier should get along just fine with guests, but it may sound the alarm when unknown visitors show up at its home.
Thanks to its size and adaptability, the Rat Terrier is the perfect travel partner and will love joining you for just about any adventure. Unfortunately, Rat Terriers do tend to get separation anxiety and prefer to be in a pack, so a furry companion for your friend can help keep this breed content when you’re away or otherwise occupied.
Caring for a Rat Terrier
Caring for a Rat Terrier is simple, but not necessarily easy. Ensuring proper care for this special breed will help provide a healthy, wholesome life for your four-legged friend.
An active breed that will spend a good part of its day on the move, the Rat Terrier demands a high-quality dog food with a complete and balanced nutritional profile. Many Rat Terriers will do well on a grain free dog food or wet dog food, though a commercially available dry dog food from a reputable company should be perfectly sufficient. Rat Terriers need plenty of protein, but it’s also important to ensure this dog’s diet contains essential vitamins and minerals. As with other dog breeds, the Rat Terrier’s diet should be tailored to its age, since puppies and senior canines will have different nutritional needs.
Rat Terriers on average will need far more exercise than a typical dog. The Rat Terrier is both a workhorse and an avid playmate, and will be happy to take on a day job, in addition to accompanying its owner on any outdoor excursions, long walks, and hunting trips. Rat Terriers will also indulge in all sorts of play, from interactive dog toys to automatic fetch machines and canine sports. Given their social needs, the Rat Terrier will likely prefer to play in groups, so don’t be surprised if these pack-minded dogs want to get involved in whatever activity the family is participating in.
Rat Terriers, like other dog breeds, should begin training at a young age and can benefit greatly from obedience classes and puppy socialization. The Rat Terrier is a highly intelligent dog that loves to work with people and is perfectly equipped to carry out orders and perform any number of tricks and helpful tasks. Consistency and patience are key in successfully training a Rat Terrier, and care should be taken to avoid using harsh commands while training. A positive, rewards-based training routine that implements shorter sessions will help make training sessions more effective and pleasant for both the owner and the dog.
Overall, the Rat Terrier enjoys generally good health and a relatively long lifestyle. Still, these dogs, like all others, are subject to certain conditions and illnesses that owners should be made aware of. Participating breeders owe certain responsibilities to the database known as the Canine Health Information Center, and will have to submit a number of evaluations showing the results of a particular dog’s health. Any breeder that does not provide this information should be avoided.
All dogs, including the Rat Terrier, can suffer from ear infections and problems relating to the teeth and gums. Owners can help reduce the risk of these health concerns by keeping up with regular brushing teeth with a toothpaste for dogs, and checking and cleaning the dog’s ears. Flea and tick prevention should also be provided, which can take the form of a flea collar or a flea treatment for dogs.
More serious health concerns to look out for when choosing a Rat Terrier include orthopedic issues like Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, hip dysplasia, and problems with the knees such as luxating patella. The Rat Terrier may also find itself more prone to epilepsy and heart disease, chronic allergies, congenital deafness, hernias, and eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and lens luxation.
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