Pet Advisor Blog

Rat Terrier – Dog Breed Guide

Breed summary

Size: Medium
Weight: Standard: 12 - 35 pounds; Mid-sized: 6 - 8 pounds; Toy: 4 - 6 pounds
Height: Standard: 14 - 23 inches; Mid-sized: 8 - 14 inches; Toy: 8 inches
Longevity: 18
Bark Tendency: High
Aggression: Low
Compatibility to other pets: Medium


The Rat Terrier is a well-muscled dog with a strong body and powerful legs. In addition, these dogs have a short-haired coat that can come in a variety of colors. For instance, pearl, black, white, etc. In addition, this breed is highly intelligent, alert and loving. Therefore, they are perfect as companion dogs.

The Rat Terrier dog breed was named by American President Teddy Roosevelt that he used when out on hunting trips. In short, the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is essentially a Rat Terrier but a different breed as its lineages are purely from the Rat Terriers which Teddy Roosevelt bred and used.

Official Name

Rat Terrier
Other names: The Feist, the American Rat Terrier, Ratting Terrier, Decker Giant, Rattie, R-pooble


Date – Early part of the 20th Century
Country – United States
Family / Group – Terrier

Recognized By:

America’s Pet Registry, Inc.
United Kennel Club
Continental Kennel Club
National Kennel Club
Universal Kennel Club International
National Rat Terrier Registry
American Canine Registry
Rat Terrier Club International
Rat Terrier Breeders Association
American Canine Registry
Dog Registry of America, Inc.
North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
American Kennel Club – Foundation Stock Service Program


All the Rat Terrier varieties and types originated in the United States during the early part of the 20th Century. These dogs are descendants of the various cross bred terrier types that were brought to the United States by European settlers, most of the migrants coming from England. Among the various terrier-type of dogs that were used to produce this particular breed includes the now extinct English White Terrier, all the varieties of the Manchester Terrier breed and the Smooth Fox Terrier dog breed.

Firstly, these dogs were bred to control the rat population. Their impressive skills as rat hunters gave way for this breed to be used and excel in the blood sports of ratting.

Secondly, Rat Terriers underwent a re-breeding stage and they were crossed with fast dog breeds. For instance,  the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound. In addition, breeders also threw some lines of the Beagle breed into the mix. The goal was to achieve a hardy and versatile terrier that will be quick enough to catch jackrabbits.


Rat Terriers are very intelligent dogs that will be curious and highly energetic all the time. Also, these dogs are very playful and have remarkable tenacity during the hunt. On the other hand, when at home, and around family, Rat Terriers will be friendly and shall display affection toward their family. Having children, as well as other pets won’t be a problem. Because they are known to get along with everyone. It is very important to get them to know who the boss is in order to avoid Small Dog Syndrom – human induced behavior problems that can include territorial issues. In addition, the Rat Terriers are good swimmers and never afraid of the water.

Bred For

The Rat Terrier dog breed was developed to be used in hunting trips, companion dogs, family pets as well as tasks that are considered as terrier work.


Moreover, Rat Terriers will do okay as apartment dogs if sufficiently exercised. In other words, they should get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise every day. For example, Toy and Miniature Rat Terriers are suitable for building living conditions. However, the Standard Rat Terrier is great for suburban homes. Also, the Decker Giant Rat Terriers will be great if suited in rural areas where there is enough space to move about.


All the varieties of the Rat Terrier dog breed are very easy to groom and will require minimal attention in doing so. However, an occasional combing and brushing to remove dead hair is all they really need.


Rat Terriers are famous for their eagerness to please disposition. They are quick to learn and adaptable, making these dogs very easy and enjoyable to train! As for most dogs, an early age socialization and training are important for them.


The Rat Terrier dog breed are at high risk of developing hip and elbow dysplasia and luxating patellas. Also, these dogs are at high risk of acquiring mange and allergies. Therefore, if thinking of adopting a dog of this breed you should look for puppies from breeders that are reputable. In addition, you can check a rescue center and adopt one from there.


All the varieties of Rat Terriers require a pretty good amount of activity to satisfy their energy needs. Rat terrier dogs need long walks or jogging every day. In conclusion, Rat Terriers are a perfect match if you are looking for an active and devoted companion.