5 Things to Know About Rat Terriers

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance but energetic, family-friendly dog who loves the outdoors, you’ll find it in the Rat Terrier.

rat terrier breed profile
Rat Terrier puppies tend to bond to one another. Photo: Angel Sallade
AKC GroupAKC Group
10-25 lbs.
10-13 in. (Miniature);
13-18 in. (Standard)
Life ExpectancyLife Span
15-18 years

1. Key Characteristics of Rat Terriers

The Rat Terrier is a small to medium-sized companion pet and hunter of small animals and vermin.

This muscular and compact dog usually has a multicolored coat that includes a variety of colors and patterns. These appear as large patches in colors like blue, fawn, tan, black, chocolate, apricot, red or lemon. Some coats have 3 colors, also known as tri-spotted.

Rat Terriers’ ears are triangular and erect when the dog is alert. The tail naturally varies in length among these dogs.

2. Where Rat Terriers Came From

Originating in Great Britain in 1820, Rat Terriers were brought to the United States in the late 19th century.

Several breeds may have been involved in the creation of Rat Terriers, including:

Between 1910 and 1930, Rat Terriers were crossed with faster breeds and Beagles to help curb the growth of animal and vermin infestations on farms. The Rat Terrier’s speed and scent abilities increased as a result of the crosses.

The breed first participated in American Kennel Club (AKC) events in 2006 and was later added to the Terrier Group.

rat terrier breed profile
This breed is smart, friendly and great with children. Photo: Petful

3. How Friendly Are Rat Terriers?

Active, playful and loyal, this family-oriented breed is usually friendly, though wary of strangers. Feisty and fearless, Rat Terriers remain active for most of their lives.

Along with being good with children, family members and other dogs, they are intelligent and easy to train (and house-train).

The AKC recommends against getting more than one puppy at a time — the puppies might bond to one another instead of to their human.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs


VERY HIGH: The Rat Terrier may be smaller than other dogs, but don’t let the size fool you — they are very active and energetic. Be prepared for daily walks or jogs of at least 30 minutes (although they would enjoy much more).

They are active indoors, so apartment living is possible, but you still need to provide outdoor exercise every day. Have a yard? Make sure you secure it well — Rat Terriers love to dig.

Grooming Needs


LOW: Grooming a Rat Terrier is extremely easy. They need only an occasional brush through the short coat to remove dead hair.

As with any dog, perform teeth and nail maintenance and ear cleaning regularly.

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Health Problems


MEDIUM: There are a few common health problems among Rat Terriers, although each individual dog’s health may vary. These possible issues include:

Some of these dogs are sensitive to demodex mange and anesthesia.

More Stats About Rat Terriers

Friendliness ★★★★☆
Ease of Training ★★★★★
Barking/Howling ★☆☆☆☆
Shedding ★★★☆☆
Tolerate Being Alone ★★★☆☆
Very Good With Kids ★★★★★

This comprehensive video shows how the Rat Terrier became such a beloved dog today:

YouTube player

5. How to Adopt a Rat Terrier

Rat Terriers can end up in shelters and rescues. Start searching Petful for an adoptable dog first.

If you’re set on going to breeders, make sure they are reputable and not puppy mill operators.