Originally a farm dog, the Rat Terrier was bred for the purpose of chasing rats. This is a task at which they have excelled for well over 150 years now. These working dogs are also noted for their ability to herd flocks of chickens and other small domestic farm animals when called upon to do so and may be trained to handle all manner of livestock. In fact, they are known to be the smallest of herding dogs, with their size being a distinct disadvantage that prevents them from herding some larger livestock.
In addition to the practical reasons that people decide to purchase a Rat Terrier these dogs are also very playful. Unlike many smaller breed dogs they lack some of the more problematic behaviors that are attributed to other small dog breeds. They are very good earth dogs and often do well in competitions when they are allowed to participate.
The coat of a Rat Terrier often consists of two or three colors with white as the base color for the coat. The other colors on the coat may include variations of brown, tan, black, and/or yellow. Their coats are very short and they do shed, unlike many other terrier breeds.
Rat terriers originated on farms of the American Midwest where they were well suited for combating the rat populations that were growing out of control on the farms lining the landscape. As more and more people learned of the skills these dogs had at not only chasing but also killing rats they began showing up on more and more farms throughout America.
With fewer farms in America today than ever before, the demand for these dogs as working animals is quickly dwindling. There are some who prefer these as companion animals because of their size and the fact that they are very trainable. Their loyalty is yet another reason that many owners find the Rat Terrier to make a good pet and not just a working dog. Unfortunately the Rat Terrier is currently an endangered breed.
The Rat Terrier is not a dog for the meek of spirit. These dogs do have a tendency to be somewhat high strung if they do not get a fair amount of exercise and will chase small things around the house (their natural tendency is to chase rats and mice so anything similar in size is fair game for these dogs). They are very intelligent however so some of this behavior can be trained out of them.
The Rat Terrier is generally good with children though they are more inclined to favor children that have been identified as part of their family. The more often they are socialized the less reaction they will have to strangers. If you want a Rat Terrier that is welcoming to strangers then you will definitely want to socialize your Rat Terrier early and often.
Most owners find that Rat Terriers live long lives (up to 20 years) and generally suffer from very few health problems. A few things you will want to watch for are sensitivities to chemicals. This includes shampoos, flea treatments, collars, and dips that are used on and around your Rat Terrier. It is best to use unscented puppy shampoo in hopes of avoiding allergies to the chemicals used for fragrance in the shampoo or baby shampoo for similar reasons on your Rat Terrier.
Rat Terriers are also highly susceptible to mange. There are treatments available to treat the symptoms but there is no cure. Dogs that develop mange should not be bred.
Rat Terriers, unlike many other terrier breeds, do shed. Their fur is short and doesn’t require much effort when it comes to grooming other than to remove loose or excess hair before it finds its way to your clothing, furniture, or floors. Regular brushing (every few days) with a rubber comb is an excellent way to prevent problematic shedding that other dogs may have. If your Rat Terrier spends a fair amount of time in the great outdoors you may also want to make an added effort to brush them daily to remove any potential debris—especially if you allow your dog on the furniture or the beds.
By nature a Rat Terrier is a very active dog. This means that they do need a good bit of exercise in order to relieve themselves of any pent up energy. You can accomplish this by playing with them indoors or by taking walks with them on a daily basis. If you have the ability to do so it is a good idea to allow them a little time to run off the leash as well.
Making sure that your Rat Terrier has plenty of exercise is vital to insuring that it doesn’t bark too much or engage in destructive behavior. You should also make sure that it has plenty of toys to play with and some loving attention regularly throughout the day. This is not a puppy that enjoys being separated from its family.
Rat Terriers are intelligent dogs that are relatively easy to train provided that you are consistent and firm in your training methods. This is a breed that is generally eager to please and this makes positive reinforcement or reward training very effective. If you can make the training exercises seem like fun to your Rat Terrier it will be a far more rewarding experience for both of you.
Crate training is an excellent route to take when they are young, especially if there are other dogs in the house. If you do not crate train from the beginning some Rat Terriers will view the crate as a punishment rather than a training tool, which can do more harm than good for the training process. Training is possible however without this tool and if you find that your Rat Terrier is having adverse reactions to crate time then it is a good idea to avoid crate training and try other methods.