Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier

Group: Terrier

Origin: U.S.A.

– Standard: Over 13 inches up to and incl 19 inches
– Miniature: 10 inches up to and incl 13 inches

Weight: Approximately 10 to 25 lbs.

 Rat Terrier

Bred by: Monika Miller, Full Moon Kennels
Photo courtesy of Full Moon Kennels

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Breed Profile

The Rat Terrier is an American breed developed from a mixture of crosses of Fox Terriers, Old English White Terriers, Manchester Terriers, Bull Terriers, Beagles and others. The resulting smooth-coat Terriers are of small to medium size, muscular and medium boned. Originally bred primarily to hunt, protect and guard against vermin on farms, the Rat Terrier has a strong jaw and is known for his quick and agile movements. During the early 1900s, the Rat Terrier was one of the most common farm dogs and used to hunt Jack Rabbits that were infesting the crops of the Midwest. At this time, farmers started introducing Whippets and Italian Greyhounds into the breed in order to increase the Rat Terrier’s speed and versatility.

Throughout the years, several other crosses were added to the breed thus creating more of a hybrid than a purebred dog. This practice was denounced by many but it wasn’t abolished until the breed’s stud file officially closed in 1960. The Universal Kennel Club (UKCI), condoned and registered these hybrid crosses for several decades. Recognition of today’s Rat Terrier is limited because of the mixed-breed stigma and because there was no written breed standard until 1994. For decades, some breeders had been breeding toward their own specific standards with registration being haphazard and lacking documented pedigrees. Due to these problems and without a nationwide standard, there essentially was no Rat Terrier breed.

The Rat Terrier Club of America (RTCA) was founded in 1995 and worked for several years prior to draft a standard that would correctly define and promote the breed as it is today. Today, a written standard is in place and most reputable breeders use the standard as their breeding goal. In January 1999, the United Kennel Club (UKC) adopted the ideals and format set forth in the RTCA standard. The breed has also been accepted for recording in the American Kennel Clubs Foundation Stock Service (AKC FSS) Program since 2004.

Today’s Rat Terrier is still a very capable hunter who may follow his quarry to ground as well as trailing, flushing and treeing game such as rabbits, varmint, and birds. He is also an intelligent, playful, energetic, devoted and protective companion. Rat Terriers are known to be very sensitive, eager to please, and very determined. They crave human companionship and make great house dogs. The Rat Terrier is slow to mature and some remain playful and active throughout their entire lives. Most Rat Terriers are very tolerant and patient with children, especially those in their home.

Being an active and energetic dog, the Rat Terrier enjoys many dog sports and activities, including agility and obedience.

Health Issues

The Rat Terrier is a hardy and long-lived breed with an average life expectancy of 12 to 18 years. Hip and elbow dysplasias as well as eye problems are rarely seen in this breed. The most common problems are allergies and bad or incorrect bites. In addition, some incidence of Patellar Luxation have been reported as well as sensitivity to certain anesthesias. Demodectic Mange has also been seen and is thought to be inherited in the breed.

If you are considering the adoption of a Rat Terrier puppy, or any breed, it is very important to be selective in choosing a responsible and reputable breeder. Ensure that the prospective puppy’s parents have all health clearances. Breeding of any dog should not be done until after they have been proven to be free of evidence of significant hereditary diseases. (For more information on selecting a breeder, see the articles on the main General Information page.)

Additional Health Resources:


Grooming Information

  • Grooming — This section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website includes tips, articles and information covering all aspects of dog grooming along with a listing of Groomers from across Canada.


Training Resources

  • Training — For training information, see this growing section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website for tips, articles, as well as listings of training centres across Canada.


Additional Information

  • Clubs, Sports & Activities — For information on the many sports and activities you can get involved in with your dog.
  • Working Dogs — The Working Dogs section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website provides information and listings of organizations that are involved in various dog jobs, such as Guide Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Police Dogs, Protection Dogs, and much more.

Breed Listing

*NOTE 1: CHIC – The Canine Health Information Center “is a database of consolidated health screening results from multiple sources. Co-sponsored by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Health Foundation, CHIC works with parent clubs to identify health screening protocols appropriate for individual breeds. Dogs tested in accordance with the parent club established requirements, that have their results registered and made available in the public domain are issued CHIC numbers.” To learn more, visit: www.caninehealthinfo.org

*NOTE 2: The Fédération Cynologique International (FCI) is the World Canine Organization, which includes 91 members and contract partners (one member per country) that each issue their own pedigrees and train their own judges. The FCI recognizes 344 breeds, with each being the “property” of a specific country. The “owner” countries write the standards of these breeds in co-operation with the Standards and Scientific Commissions of the FCI, and the translation and updating are carried out by the FCI. The FCI is not a breed registry nor does it issue pedigrees.

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