The Rat Terrier began as a variety of the Smooth Fox Terrier. Infusions of Italian Greyhound, Whippet, Beagle, Miniature Pinscher, and Chihuahua were used to create an efficient ratter for farms, as well as a competent hunting companion for the farmer. Like his cousin the Toy Fox Terrier, he’s playful, silly and fearless.
The Rat Terrier is cheerful and sensitive. Although he definitely has a terrier personality, he’s calmer than some terrier breeds such as the Jack Russell and enjoys lap time with his people. He likes to “talk,” and is always willing to share his opinion with you.
Life with a Rat Terrier is never dull. Smart, active and fun-loving, he doesn’t want to miss out on anything exciting. This makes him a great companion, but it also means he can become bored and destructive when no one is home to keep him entertained. He is also prone to separation anxiety, so it’s essential for him to receive plenty of socialization, early crate training, and practice being alone in a crate or dog-proofed room.
Despite his small size, this dog needs plenty of training and exercise, plus a dog-proofed home, to keep him out of trouble. If your Rat Terrier is less than two years old, you can’t expect to leave him on his own in the house. Locking him in a room won’t work; he’ll just chew his way out, so plan to use a dog crate, tall baby gates and exercise pens to keep him confined, and make sure they’re not near any drywall or linoleum that could be chewed.
Like all terriers, the Rattie takes great pleasure in digging, barking and investigating. He’s generally not yappy, but if he doesn’t receive enough attention, he can become a nuisance barker. He’s generally friendly toward other dogs, but although he might not start a fight, he won’t back down from one either.
He’s smart and learns quickly, but is also easily bored. Keep training sessions short and fun or he’ll rapidly lose interest. Agile and athletic, the Rat Terrier excels at dog sports, especially agility, flyball and rally. He can also be a super therapy dog.
Because of his small to medium size, ranging from 8 to 25 pounds, the Rattie fits well in many types of homes, but if you live in an apartment or condo, his potentially noisy nature and high activity level should give you pause if you won’t be home during the day to keep him entertained. Rat Terriers love attention and do best with people who can spend a significant amount of time with them daily. They can be a good choice for families with older children and other pets.
The Rat Terrier’s smooth coat is easy to groom with a quick weekly brushing to remove dead hairs. During shedding season in spring and fall, you’ll want to brush him more frequently to keep loose hairs under control. He also needs regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental hygiene, plus the occasional bath if he rolls in something stinky.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Rat Terrier needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Rattie who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.