The Loyal Rat Terrier: Complete Breed Profile Information

Small Dog, Big Heart

Rat Terrier     by Janice Jones     |Updated 10-06-2022

Loyal, loving, and energetic are all characteristics of the Rat terrier.  Sometimes called RT, or “Rattie”, these small dogs are the perfect pet for many dog lovers who are looking for a companion and exercise buddy.

rat terrier

They actually get their name from America’s 26th president Mr. Teddy Roosevelt. He had one that he named “Skip,” who did a very good job of clearing the White House of a rat problem that they had. Following that, he decided to call the breed the Rat terrier in honor of these very important work.

This breed definitely lives up to its name by holding the record for the most rats hunted. One Rattie cleared a barn of 2500 rats in a mere 7 hours.

However, these dogs are not just hunters; they are also a source of inspiration. Musician, Laurie Anderson actually created an album inspired by her little Rat terrier, Lolabelle.  In this album, she used music pitches and tones that were unperceivable to the human ear, and performed it on the steps of the Sydney Opera House to over one thousand dogs.

They have large, pointed ears that stick up straight when they are interested in something. They also have large and expressive eyes that look bigger than they actually are due to the skinniness of their face.

Although some people do not agree with it, most Ratties have a docked tail. The frame of the dog is compact but sturdy. They are very muscular and have strong shoulders and powerful, but small, legs.

These particular small dogs are very adaptable and can live pretty much anywhere as long as they have the appropriate amount of exercise. These little dogs are very active, and they love to be running around the yard, or going on a walk.

Families that do not have time for daily exercise with their RT may want to rethink adopting this particular breed of dog. However, if you are looking for a lively, energetic, smart and overall loving dog, then you may have just found your match made in heaven.

Quick Facts

Other Names Used: Rattie, RT, American Rat Terrier, Ratting Terrier, Decker Giant

Affiliation: Ratter; farm and companion dog. AKC and UKC recognized


     Height: (Toy) 8 inches

     Weight: (Toy) 4-6 pounds

Coat Type: Smooth, single layer coat

Colors: Black, tan, chocolate, blue, pearl lemon and apricot. May be tricolor or bi-color, with at least one color being white.

Country of Origin: United States

Activity Level:  Moderate to High

Life Expectancy: 15-21

Good with Children: yes, but use caution around small children, as they can be delicate

Good with Other Pets: yes


Rat TerrierRat Terrier

For a while during the 1900s, the Rat terrier was the main source of keeping mice, rats, and other varmints at bay, especially during the “dust bowl” era.

They are a combination of the smooth coated fox terrier, the now extinct English White terrier, with a dash of Whippet, a little Beagle and a sprinkle of Bull terrier.

At the beginning of the Rattie excitement, they were originally black and tan, and it is said that Teddy Roosevelt owned three black and tan Rat terriers.

Now, the breed is listed in the terrier group (Foundation Stock) and is AKC’s 178th dog breed.

A rat terrier on a leash is walking down a dirt path

Personality of these Small Dogs

Playfulness Paws Ratings
Affection Level Paws Ratings
Friendliness Towards Strangers Paws Ratings
Good with Children Paws Ratings
Good with Other Dogs Paws Ratings
Good for First Time Owners Paws Ratings
Exercise Needed Paws Ratings
Ease of Training Paws Ratings
Watch Dog Ability Paws Ratings
Grooming Requirements Paws Ratings
Shedding Paws Ratings
Cold Tolerant Paws Ratings
Heat Tolerant Paws Ratings

Explanations for At a Glance Ratings 

  • Playfulness:  Most=5   Less=1
  • Affection:  Most=5   Least=1
  • Friendliness Towards Strangers:  Most=5  Least=1
  • Good with Children:  Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good with Other Dogs:   Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good for First Time Owners:  Good=5  Not Good=1
  • Amount of Exercise Required:  Much=5  Minimal=1
  • Ease of Training:   Easy=5   Difficult=1
  • Watch Dog Ability:   Excellent=5   Poor=1
  • Grooming Needs:   Extensive=5  Minimal=1
  • Shedding:   Heavy Shedding=5   Minimal Shedding=1
  • Cold Tolerance:   Cold Well Tolerated=5    Poorly Tolerated=1
  • Heat Tolerance:   Heat Well Tolerated=5   Poorly Tolerated=1

Rat terriers are basically little bundles of joy when it comes to their temperament.

They have a very strong bond with their owner and can be a very lovable pet for the right family; however, they are not particularly good with small children because of their small and dainty leg structure.

However, if you raise a RT from puppy-hood onward, they can be absolutely great with children, depending on how they are raised.

A rat terrier dog running through an agility challenge

Ratties are also very adaptable and can live pretty much anywhere as long as they have room for lots of exercises. Ratties can adapt to either your couch potato lifestyle or your on-the-go lifestyle.  They do prefer to be active at least for some of time during the day. They also make really good watchdogs, and despite many popular beliefs, are not that yappy at all.

Rat terriers are often confused as Jack Russell Terriers, which have a completely different attitude and temperament. Like most Terriers, it is said that Rat terriers have an “off switch.” Meaning one minute they will be running around the yard, and the next minute they will be passed out on the couch with their owner.

Extensive socialization and training at a young age is crucial for the particular breed; however, training is very simple and many describe it as fun to train a Rattie. Training is a joy and also fun and easy, unlike other terriers.

They are very eager to learn and live to please their owner. Ratties also make very good swimmers, and they are not anxious or afraid to get their paws wet. They are overall very loving, loyal, and fun dogs to have in one’s family. Most anyone would be overly content owning a Ratties.


Rat terriers luckily have a very short and smooth coat, which makes grooming very easy to do. An occasional brushing or combing to get all the dead hair out is all it really needs.

This is not a non-shedding breed, so they shed seasonally and brushing with a soft rubber brush or glove can help keep the shedding at bay.

They need to be bathed regularly, especially if they spend much time outside. While bathing, the paws, eyes, ears, and anal glands need to be checked. Other than that, the RT is a very easy breed when it comes to grooming.

Health Concerns

From all the robust breeding, the RT is generally very healthy and can live many years. Only a few common health problems need to be checked up on, but other than that, your Rattie is set!


Primary Lens Luxation

Patellar Luxation

Hip Dysplasia

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Syndrome



  • Adaptable
  • Loyal
  • Fun and easy to train
  • Easy to groom
  • Make good watchdogs


  • Need more than average amount of exercise
  • Caution around small children 
  • Can suffer from Small Dog Syndrome if not socialized properly as a puppy
  • Can be fragile

More Resources

The Rat Terrier Breed Profile at the American Kennel Club

Pin for Future Reference

The Rat Terrier Pin Image

Especially For the Rat Terrier Lover

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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