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Rat Terrier - A Relative Newcomer to the Terrier Group
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Rat Terrier - A Relative Newcomer to the Terrier Group

Dogs
Life As A Pet Parent

The majority of dog lovers know how skilled terriers are at tracking down rodents and that how for centuries these little dogs have been doing a great job all over the world. One relative newcomer to the terrier group which has only just been recently recognised as a breed in the States, is a delightful little dog aptly named a Rat Terrier.

A Little Background History

Although only very recently officially recognised by the American Kennel Club, the Rat Terrier has been doing a great job in farms all over America for quite some time. The breed was developed by crossing Old English White Terriers, Fox Terriers, Bull Terriers and Manchester Terriers with other terriers. The result is an ultra-feisty and extremely energetic dog that keeps owners amused and busy for hours.

Bred to be farm dogs, over time the breed has developed into the little dogs we see today. It was a Rat Terrier that starred alongside Shirley Temple in the film The Little Colonel"" back in the thirties. But new terrier strains were introduced into the breed as time went by which saw them being crossed with Italian Greyhounds and Whippets so these little dogs could be faster on their feet.

In other parts of the States, the Rat Terrier was bred to a Beagle and the result was a different type of dog and one that was willing to run with the pack. It made the Rat Terrier very good at their job because they had a superb strong scenting ability paired to a quick turn of speed. Then Toy Fox Terriers were crossed with the Rat Terrier which saw another new unique breed namely the Toy Rat Terrier appearing on the scene.

It was an American President who named the breed Rat Terriers because he shared the White House with one of these highly skilled ratters. However, some people believe the terrier owned by President Roosevelt may not be the same dog we see today, but the jury is still out. The breed all but vanished during the fifties, but then in the seventies fans of these little made sure they did not vanish off the face of the earth forever.

The Rat Terrier we see today can by anything from 16 to 19 inches at the shoulder and they typically weigh in at between 22 to 40 lbs with females being slighter smaller and lighter than their male counterparts.

Energetic, Independent and Wilful Characters by Nature

Although small in stature, the Rat Terrier boasts a very large personality and may not be the best choice for first time dog owners. The reason being they can be a little wilful at the best of times and therefore their training has to be done with a firm, yet gentle hand. These little dogs need to know who is the boss for them to be easily manageable. To share a home with a Rat Terrier means a person has to be able to ""forgive"" a few bad behaviours which these dogs typically develop no matter how well-bred or trained they are.

Like most terrier breeds and having such an illustrious ancestry, the Rat Terrier is a highly intelligent little dog although they tend to be a little wary around strangers. They also boast a rather stubborn streak which is why they are the best choice for people who have never owned a dog before.

These little dogs have absolutely no fear of anything, but with this said they are not generally aggressive and for people who've shared their homes with dogs before, they make wonderful family pets. A Rat Terrier is known to be incredibly sensitive to their owners' moods and will respond accordingly. Their desire to make an owner happy is extremely strong and if there is one thing these terriers adore, it's being praised.

They are definitely not the sort of dog to be left at home because if left to their own devices for great lengths of time, they will quickly get bored and may well develop some unwanted behavioural issues which could be hard to correct later on. The saying that a ""tired dog is a good dog"" is never truer than when describing the Rat Terrier.

Early Socialisation is a Must

Early socialisation is a must just like with any other breed. If you are thinking about buying a Rat Terrier puppy, you have to be sure the breeder has done their best to socialise all their puppies and not just left them in their kennels with their mothers and litter mates because this is not the right way for puppies to be socialised.

If these little dogs are not well socialised when they are young, they will grow up to be nice dogs when they are around the people they know and love, but they may well be a little ""off"" when around strangers and other animals which could result in some aggressive behaviour more especially towards other animals.

Rat Terriers like to be kept busy and they need to be given masses of mental stimulation and physical exercise. As such, puppies do well when enrolled into ""puppy classes"" once they've had all the vaccinations. It helps them get used to being around other dogs and people which then means they grow up to be mature, well-balanced adult dogs.

Often Mistaken for a Smooth-coated Fox Terrier

The Rat Terrier is all too often mistaken for a smooth-coated Fox Terrier because the two breeds do look very much alike. However, they are also quite often mistaken for Jack Russells too. There are subtle differences in their looks and size, but it's their personalities and characteristics that makes these little dogs so unique and which makes them stand out from the crowd.

Unique Traits of the Rat Terrier

These little dogs are very good escape artists and are more than capable of jumping pretty high fences too. They are excellent ""diggers"" and although they don't bark as such, they yap and if allowed to will do so incessantly. Rat Terriers although smart little dogs can prove hard to train because of their wilful and sometimes stubborn natures.

Puppies are born with their ears standing up and only start to drop when their eyes start to open. However, in some Rat Terriers, their ears then stand back up when they are a few months old.

Robust and Healthy Little Dogs

The Rat Terrier is considered to be a healthy and robust little dog, but sadly like so many other breeds they are predisposed to certain health issues which includes the following:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Von Willebrand's disease
  • Allergies
  • Malocclusion
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Demodectic Mange

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