Complete Guide To The Rat Terrier: Health, Personality, Feeding and More

Small and feisty, the Rat Terrier has all the makings of a hallmark Terrier. Loyal, energetic, and intelligent, this small dog can be well-suited for apartment life if it is given enough daily exercise. The Rat Terrier can be standoffish toward strangers but generally accepts other pets as long as they are larger than the Rat Terrier.  

My favorite Rat Terrier of all time was the one owned by my Grandparents when I was a kid. “Tick” was fun, protective, and a fantastic “guard” dog for the farm. Nowadays, I see Rat Terriers occasionally in my veterinary practice and still admire the spirit and look of the breed.

How Big Do Rat Terriers Get?

This breed of dog is small and comes in both a miniature and a standard version. Miniature Rat Terriers are smaller and will measure just 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder. Comparatively, standard Rat Terriers are slightly larger, measuring 13 to 18 inches at the shoulder. The Rat Terrier will usually weigh between 10 and 25 pounds between both varieties, with not much size variation between males and females.

What Do Rat Terriers Look Like?

This dog has a short and smooth coat that consists of shiny and soft fur. Many coloration patterns are acceptable, including rust, tan, red, blue, chocolate, lemon, and orange. In almost every case, Rat Terriers will have white markings. It is also possible to see ticking (spots) or pied color patterns.  

What Is The Personality Of A Rat Terrier?

The Rat Terrier is a loyal, loving, and attentive dog. This dog makes an excellent watchdog and enjoys having a job to do around the farm. Like other Terriers, the Rat Terrier is quick to go to the ground and will take to digging. In fact, this dog will dig so much it can become a bit of a problem. Simply give your dog a designated area in the yard where digging is permitted, and it will be happy.  

The dog is incredibly intelligent and likes to learn new tricks. Although this dog is stubborn and can take some time to learn new behaviors, the Rat Terrier is a people pleaser at its core. However, the Rat Terrier can quickly run the roost for inexperienced dog owners and take advantage of a dog novice. Always use positive training methods with the Rat Terrier and remember to stay flexible. If one training approach doesn’t work, simply move on to a different method.


How Much Grooming Does A Rat Terrier Need?

When it comes to wash-and-wear coats, the Rat Terrier couldn’t get easier. This little dog needs very little when it comes to grooming. A simple, quick brush with a soft brush once per week should be enough to keep this dog healthy. Bathe when necessary, or about once per month so that the fur can stay smooth and shiny.

Like all dogs, you will want to keep the nails clipped short, and the ears kept clean. While this dog is a minimal shedder, expect two heavy sheds each year with the changing seasons.  

How Much Exercise Does A Rat Terrier Need?

Like most Terriers, the Rat Terrier has a fair amount of energy, especially for a smaller dog. These dogs are happy to get some playtime and to take a vigorous walk. Although they are not built for long-distance routes, this little dog needs at least 40 minutes of active play each day to stay happy. The Rat Terrier does particularly well if it is paired with other dogs of the same size or larger. This dog is social and friendly toward other dogs and will enjoy being able to play together.  

Although this small dog can be well suited for apartment life, be sure to give your dog plenty of daily exercise. This dog will become destructive and can develop nuisance behaviors if it is not exercised appropriately. Always be sure to keep this dog in a safely enclosed area. Like most Terriers, the Rat Terrier has a strong prey drive and will chase any tiny chipmunk or squirrel that catches its eye.  

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A Rat Terrier?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Rat Terrier. These little dogs have a pretty small mouth so large kibble will be a lot more difficult to chew.

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your dog a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

It is important always to give your dog high-quality dog food. Monitor the number of treats and “people food” you give your dog to keep him healthy and fit. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best and easiest way to extend the life of your Rat Terrier. 

How Long Does A Rat Terrier Live?

12-18 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Rat Terrier Have?

Like many smaller breeds that look similar to it, the Rat Terrier has certain health issues that prospective and current owners need to know about including:

  • Dental Disease
  • Luxating Patella
  • Obesity

Keep your Rat Terrier at a healthy weight and stay on top of their dental care and your dog should have pretty great odds to live to at least 15 years old.

Where Can I Find Out More About The Rat Terrier ?

Rat Terrier Club of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find a Rat Terrier?

The Rat Terrier is a top-rated dog due to its spirit, intelligence, and easily manageable size. The Rat Terrier can easily be found from breeders around the country. Before selecting a breeder, make sure to do your homework ahead of time. You want to find a breeder familiar with the breed and takes good care to only breed desirable traits into the dog.

Check out the breeder listings from the Rat Terrier Club of America first, followed by the AKC Puppy Marketplace for a puppy.

It may also be possible to find this dog from a rescue group specializing in Rat Terriers. You may have success reaching out to rescues such as Ratbone Rescues, the Rat Terrier Club of America, or the American Rat Terrier Rescue to find a purebred dog in need of a forever home.  

Fun Facts About the Rat Terrier

  • A famous Rat Terrier resided in the White House at the side of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was said that the president gave this dog its name after his dog helped to eliminate a rat infestation.  
  • Even though this is a small dog, he can be quite the escape artist. This small dog can jump a fence that is even five feet high. Always be sure to keep a close eye on your Rat Terrier.
  • The Rat Terrier is thought to blend together an Old English White Terrier, Bull Terrier, Fox Terrier, and Manchester Terrier. This dog is an American breed of dog.  
  • One famous Rat Terrier even appeared in Hollywood. This dog was featured in the Shirley Temple movie, “The Little Colonel.”
  • The Rat Terrier has also helped to develop a new breed of dog. In 1972, a hairless Rat Terrier was born, which eventually led to the development of the American Hairless Terrier.