About the Breed

bgAre these wonderful Rat Terriers the breed for you? Is a rescued dog right for you? As fabulous as rescued Ratties are, they are certainly not for everyone. There is no breed that fits all. Rescued Rat Terriers need patient, firm and dedicated humans. We urge you to consider whether or not you are the right fit before you apply.


The Rat Terrier is a muscular, active, small-to-medium hunting terrier. Ears are V-shaped, set at the outside edges of the skull, and may be erect or button. The Rat Terrier may have a natural tail carried in an upward curve, a natural bob tail, or a docked tail. The Rat Terrier comes in solid white, other solid colors with markings, and white with a variety of colored patches.  The coat is short, dense, and smooth.


The Rat Terrier is divided into two varieties:

There is one strain  in particular, a Decker Rat Terrier, that you may hear about in your Rattie travels. These Deckers (or Decker Giants) were named after Milton Decker, a breeder, who bred prey-driven hunting Ratties. These Deckers are generally thought of to be larger than your average Rat Terrier, but what really makes a dog a Decker is the bloodline, not the size.

Did You Know? The Teddy Roosevelt Terrier (formerly called a Type B Rat Terrier) and the American Hairless Terrier are Rat Terrier varieties and now considered standalone UKC-recognized breeds.


The Rat Terrier is generally friendly with, or inquisitive of, new dogs. Active, alert, always on the move whether hunting or playing, and intensely responsive to pack humans. The Rat Terrier is loyal, affectionate, faithful and generally friendly towards people, but protective, and yet may be somewhat reserved or aloof towards strangers.

While they have a definite terrier personality, they also love lounging on the sofa in a lap as much as tearing about the yard. Rat Terriers are normally cheerful dogs but they tend to be sensitive to changes in their environment, humans’ moods, or to unexpected noises, people, and activities. The “social sensitivity” of Rat Terriers makes them very trainable and easier to live with for the average human but it also means that extensive socialization is critical. Proper socialization of a Rat Terrier includes exposing the animal to a wide variety of people and places. Like most active and intelligent breeds, Rat Terriers tend to be happier when they receive a great deal of mental stimulation and exercise.

by Theresa E. Baker

The Rat Terrier is an American breed whose family tree has roots extending back to England.

In the early 1800’s the terrier of the day was crossed with the bulldog of the day, resulting in the first bull-n-terriers.  These dogs were quick ratters, not only able to rid the farm of rats, but able to do dual time in the ratting pits, where the fastest rat killer might win his owner a cash prize and help feed his family.

As did many English breeds, this cross made its way over to the US where farmer-hunters crossed and combined  it with refined breeds known for their ratting prowess such as Manchester terriers and Smooth Fox terriers.  Across the US, in various regions, the dogs were again crossed with other breeds to suit the needs of the region and of the quarry at hand.  Some regions crossed back into the bulldog for grit, some crossed to beagles for a hot nose, some crossed to small sighthounds for speed and eye, some alternated with crosses back to Manchesters and Smooth Fox terriers, while yet others kept outcrossing to a strict minimum.   The end result was a working farm dog which excelled at ratting and vermin control; a hunting partner with a 100 yard range that allowed hunters to follow on foot while it trailed and treed small game; an alert and responsible watchdog; and a loving and loyal companion.

At the turn of the century, 100 years ago, the Rat Terrier was experiencing a popularity that would extend through the 1930’s and 40’s. No farm was without one of these trusty little dogs, and everyone knew the breed.  In the 1950’s, however, the tides began to turn. With new poisons and pesticides to control vermin, and the increase in mechanized farming, the family farm began to change and the trusty little farm dog was displaced. As numbers began to decline, the rising popularity of ‘pedigreed’ purebred dogs and the ‘sport’ of dog shows saw to it that the ranks of the common farm dog continued to dwindle. Yet, a small number of dedicated breeders spread all across the U.S. still required a utility hunting partner. Devoted breeders continued to breed for temperament, type and working ability, utilizing outcrosses when necessary. Their efforts saved the breed. In the 1990’s the Rat Terrier has made a successful comeback. Registered by the UKCI, and officially recognized by UKC in 1999, six breed clubs have formed within the ranks of  Rat Terrier lovers nationwide. The Rat Terrier is clearly here to stay.

Now, at the turn of the century, 100 years later, the Rat Terrier is again enjoying the popularity it so richly deserves.

[Sources of information for this page: United Kennel Club, Rat Terrier Club of America, Wikipedia, and Theresa E. Baker]

Do you need help with your dog? Read these great tips from WonderPuppy.
Can’t keep your dog? Please consider these options when you’ve tried everything else.