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  • Temperament: Friendly, Inquisitive, Lovable
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 96 of 194
  • Height: 10-13 inches (miniature), 13-18 inches (standard)
  • Weight: 10-25 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-18 years
  • Group: Terrier Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Rat Terrier standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Rat Terrier head facing left
Rat Terrier sitting sideways facing left, head turned slightly forward
Rat Terrier coat detail
Rat Terrier

Find a Puppy: Rat Terrier

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Rat Terrier was originally bred for ratting and farm work. A multipurpose companion dog that is capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground, and to course small game. He is a sturdy, compact, small-to-medium sized parti-colored dog giving the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting speed, power and balance. Honorable scars or a couple of broken or missing canines or incisors teeth are not to be faulted. The following is a description of the ideal Rat Terrier. Variations are penalized to the extent of the deviation.

HEAD

The head resembles a smooth, blunt wedge from a front or profile view. When seen from the front, the head widens gradually towards the base of the ears in an unbroken line and is well filled up under the eyes. The expression is intelligent, alert and full of interest. The eyes are not large. They are obliquely set wide apart and are oval in shape. Eye color varies with coat color from darkest brown to hazel. Eye rim pigmentation corresponds with nose color and facial markings. Gray eyes are acceptable in blue or blue-fawn dogs only, being a serious fault in other colorations. Any blue in the eye(s) is a disqualification.

BODY

The body is compact, strong and flexible with well sprung ribs. The brisket extends to the elbow. When viewed from the front, the ribs appear to be oval. The Rat Terrier, while muscled and fit, has flat muscles that blend into the body. The chest is moderately wide and well filled with a discernible forechest. The underline ascends gradually with the ribs extending well back to a moderate tuck-up. Back – The back is level and firm from the withers to the loin. The short loin has a slight muscular arch blending into the gently rounded croup.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder blades are well laid back with flat muscles providing enough space between the shoulder blades to allow for free movement. The shoulder blades and the upper arms are nearly equal in length and well set back so that the elbows fall directly under the highest point of the shoulder blade. The depth of the body at the elbow is the same distance as from the elbow to the ground. The forelegs stand straight and parallel with elbows turning neither in nor out. The pasterns are slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The feet are oval in shape. The toes turn neither in nor out, are compact, moderately arched, with thick pads and strong nails. The front dewclaws may be removed.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are muscular but smooth and in balance with the forequarters. They should not be bulging or coarse. Stifles are well-bent with short hocks that are parallel and perpendicular to the ground. The hind feet although slightly smaller are similar to the front feet. Rear dewclaws are removed.

COAT

Short, close lying, smooth and shiny coat. Texture varies; a very slight ruff or wave along the back is allowed, but undesirable. Any suggestion of kink or curl is cause for disqualification. Whiskers must not be removed. Absence of coat (total genetic hairlessness) is a disqualification.

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About the Rat Terrier

Balanced, compactly built Rat Terriers are tough but elegant-looking. There are two size divisions: Miniatures stand 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder; standards are over 13 inches and as high as 18 inches. The smooth, shiny coat comes in varieties of pied patterns. (Pied, a word borrowed from the horseman’s lexicon, means “comparatively large patches of one or more colors in combination with white.”) These smoothly muscled exterminators are constructed for the efficient movement required for a long day’s work.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Rat Terrier

Find a Puppy: Rat Terrier

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Rat Terrier Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Rat Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Rat Terrier’s short, dense coat requires very little care to remain in good condition. A weekly once-over with a soft brush or hound glove will keep his coat healthy and glossy. A bath every month or so will likely be enough, depending on the dog’s lifestyle. Rat Terriers shed seasonally, during which time a shedding tool or rubber curry brush will help remove loose hair. The nails should be trimmed at least monthly, keeping them short and neat, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog. Check his ears weekly, and remove any excess wax and debris, which can cause ear infections. Teeth should be brushed daily if possible, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

Some Rat Terriers can get sufficient exercise for their needs through indoor playtime, but most will thrive with daily walks and a bit of tennis-ball-chasing and other play in a fenced enclosure. They tend to do well with other dogs their size or larger. Early socialization is a must, and puppy training classes are recommended. The Rat Terrier has a strong prey drive, and they should never be allowed off lead, as most will not be able to resist the urge to chase when faced with a strange cat or squirrel.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

The Rat Terrier is extremely intelligent and trainable, although some can be stubborn and determined at times. They can excel in agility, obedience, rally, and other canine sports. They are unusually sensitive and intuitive, and they love to please their owner—they thrive on praise and respond quickly to positive training methods. Most are patient and tolerant of children but may be reserved with strangers. While they are one of the calmest of the terrier breeds, they are nevertheless high-energy dogs who require exercise, daily walks, and lots of companionship. They are at their best as members of a human family.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

Rat Terriers are generally very healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (loose kneecaps), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and cardiac and eye disorders. A conscientious breeder does genetic testing of all breeding stock with the aim of reducing the incidence of and ultimately eliminating health problems.

Recommended Health Test from the National Breed Club:

  • Cardiac Exam
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthe Radiographic
Rat Terrier
Rat Terrier
Rat Terrier

History

​Here’s a breed that says up front what they’re all about: Rat Terriers are terriers bred to kill rats. A good ratter was standard equipment on old-time farms, where a rodent infestation could mean the difference between having enough grain to last the winter and going hungry. But practical-minded farmers expected their dogs to be more than specialists, so RTs also earned their keep as all-purpose hunting partners, watchdogs, henhouse guardians, and sturdy childhood playmates.

Did You Know?

The Rat Terrier is AKC’s 178th breed.
The Rat Terrier has been assigned the Terrier Group designation.
At the May 2006 Board Meeting it was voted (unanimously) to permit the Rat Terrier to compete in AKC Earthdog Tests, effective September 1, 2006.
At the July 2012 board meeting the Rat Terrier club of America became the official parent club for the Rat Terrier.
At the January 2010 board meeting the Rat Terrier Club of America will serve as the AKC parent club to represent the Rat Terrier and was approved to compete in the Miscellaneous class, effective June 30, 2010.
At the August 2005 board meeting the Rat Terrier has been approved to compete in AKC companion events effective January 1, 2006.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Rat Terrier was originally bred for ratting and farm work. A multipurpose companion dog that is capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground, and to course small game. He is a sturdy, compact, small-to-medium sized parti-colored dog giving the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting speed, power and balance. Honorable scars or a couple of broken or missing canines or incisors teeth are not to be faulted. The following is a description of the ideal Rat Terrier. Variations are penalized to the extent of the deviation.

HEAD

The head resembles a smooth, blunt wedge from a front or profile view. When seen from the front, the head widens gradually towards the base of the ears in an unbroken line and is well filled up under the eyes. The expression is intelligent, alert and full of interest. The eyes are not large. They are obliquely set wide apart and are oval in shape. Eye color varies with coat color from darkest brown to hazel. Eye rim pigmentation corresponds with nose color and facial markings. Gray eyes are acceptable in blue or blue-fawn dogs only, being a serious fault in other colorations. Any blue in the eye(s) is a disqualification.

BODY

The body is compact, strong and flexible with well sprung ribs. The brisket extends to the elbow. When viewed from the front, the ribs appear to be oval. The Rat Terrier, while muscled and fit, has flat muscles that blend into the body. The chest is moderately wide and well filled with a discernible forechest. The underline ascends gradually with the ribs extending well back to a moderate tuck-up. Back – The back is level and firm from the withers to the loin. The short loin has a slight muscular arch blending into the gently rounded croup.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulder blades are well laid back with flat muscles providing enough space between the shoulder blades to allow for free movement. The shoulder blades and the upper arms are nearly equal in length and well set back so that the elbows fall directly under the highest point of the shoulder blade. The depth of the body at the elbow is the same distance as from the elbow to the ground. The forelegs stand straight and parallel with elbows turning neither in nor out. The pasterns are slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The feet are oval in shape. The toes turn neither in nor out, are compact, moderately arched, with thick pads and strong nails. The front dewclaws may be removed.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are muscular but smooth and in balance with the forequarters. They should not be bulging or coarse. Stifles are well-bent with short hocks that are parallel and perpendicular to the ground. The hind feet although slightly smaller are similar to the front feet. Rear dewclaws are removed.

COAT

Short, close lying, smooth and shiny coat. Texture varies; a very slight ruff or wave along the back is allowed, but undesirable. Any suggestion of kink or curl is cause for disqualification. Whiskers must not be removed. Absence of coat (total genetic hairlessness) is a disqualification.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLACK & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 019
BLACK TAN & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 030
BLACK WHITE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 034
BLUE WHITE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 260
RED WHITE & SABLE Check Mark For Standard Color 158
WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 199
WHITE & APRICOT Check Mark For Standard Color 200
WHITE & BLACK Check Mark For Standard Color 202
WHITE & BLUE Check Mark For Standard Color 288
WHITE & BLUE FAWN Check Mark For Standard Color 334
WHITE & CHOCOLATE Check Mark For Standard Color 287
WHITE & FAWN Check Mark For Standard Color 207
WHITE & LEMON Check Mark For Standard Color 211
WHITE & RED Check Mark For Standard Color 214
WHITE & SILVER Check Mark For Standard Color 216
WHITE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 217
WHITE BLACK & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 219
WHITE, CHOCOLATE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 397

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BADGER MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 001
BLANKET-BACK Check Mark For Standard Mark 084
IRISH MARKED Check Mark For Standard Mark 115
PIEBALD Check Mark For Standard Mark 025
SABLE, WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 067
SPOTTED OR PATCHED Check Mark For Standard Mark 106
TAN POINTS Check Mark For Standard Mark 029
WHITE MARKINGS, TAN POINTS Check Mark For Standard Mark 030
WHITE MASK, WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 104
SOLID 110

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