- The rat terrier's ancestors may have included Manchester terriers, smooth fox terriers, and perhaps whippets. Later breeds that may have played a role included the beagle, Italian greyhound, miniature pinscher and Chihuahua.
- Mixes of these breeds came from dogs brought to America by working class immigrants from Britain in the late 1800s.
- Rat terriers were used for both vermin control and for rat pit contests, where men bet on how many rats in a pit a dog could kill in a certain time period. A rat terrier holds the rat killing record of 2501 rats in a seven hour period in an infested barn.
- President Theodore Roosevelt hunted with these dogs and even kept some in the White House. He is credited with naming them rat terriers.
- The Rat terrier has traditionally been viewed as a strain, rather than a breed, of dog, which means that crossing to other breeds and mixes has been permissible throughout most of its history. The modern incarnation of this practice is probably the feist, a strain of small terrier-like hunting dogs used to catch squirrels and other rodents.
- Because it has been bred as a strain with used to hunt game of varied size, the rat terrier comes in a great range of sizes.
- Rat terriers were popular farm dogs by the early 1900s; in fact, although no statistics are available, they were probably among the most popular dogs in America.
- With the advent of pesticides in the 1950s, the rat terrier's popularity as a working vermin hunter declined. By that time, however, the breed had a following because of it attributes as a companion.
- Several breed clubs now exist, but they disagree about what the best course is for the future of the breed.
- The National Rat Terrier Association has maintained breeding records for decades and is opposed to recognition by major kennel clubs.
- The United Kennel Club recognized the rat terrier in 1999.
- The Rat Terrier Club of America is working toward AKC recognition. It is recognized by the AKC Foundation Stock Service, which makes it eligible to compete in many AKC performance events.
Rat Terrier Behavior Concerns
- Makes a loyal and energetic companion.
- Playful and very good with children.
- Somewhat reserved with strangers
- May be cocky and even scrappy with other dogs.
- May not be good with small pets, and is especially ill-advised around rodents.
- Does best with reward-based training involving food or games.
- Eager to please, and learns quickly, but is easily bored and distracted.
- Some may bark a lot.
Rat Terrier Suggested Exercises
- Makes an alert housedog.
- This is a very active and playful dog. A daily walk around the block, coupled with several play sessions, will help meet its exercise needs.
- May not do well in dog parks unless large dogs are segregated from small dogs. Even so, some rat terriers may bully other small dogs.
- Games and tricks provide needed mental exercise.
- Its thin coat and small size makes it vulnerable to chilling.
Rat Terrier Grooming
- Coat is smooth, hard and short.
- Brushing once a week will remove dead hair.
- Shedding is average.
Suggested Rat Terrier Nutritional Needs
- Rat terriers tend to stay in good weight or be slightly overweight.
- Adult dogs should be fed a balanced diet, with restricted calories if the dog starts to gain too much weight.
- Small snacks can cause weight problems in very small dogs.
- Tiny rat terrier puppies should be fed often to prevent hypoglycemia, a serious condition to which very small puppies are prone. Frequent small meals of high protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates may help guard against this condition.