The Rat Terrier
The Rat Terrier is an all-American breed and the result of combining several terrier breeds, that was bred in recent history to help get rid of pests and rodents that occupied family farms between the 1910s and 1940s. Eventually farmers began using poison to control rodent population so the number of these dogs has started to decrease. In the late 1970s these dogs re-emerged, but this time they were more popular as family pets.
FUN FACT: Rumor has it that President Theodore Roosevelt named this breed after his dog named Skip, solved the White House rat problem during his presidency. It hasn’t been proved that this dog Theodor Roosevelt had, was in fact the Rat Terrier, but the name stuck and has been used ever since.
The Rat Terrier is a small and sturdy dog. Miniature Rat Terriers are between 10-13 inches in height and Standard ones are 13-18 inches. These dogs weigh 10 to 25 pounds. The Rat Terrier has pied (large patches of one or more colors with white) or parti-colored short coat and the color white is dominant, covering 10-90 percent of dogs’ body. The other colors on Rat Terriers’ body can be: red, black, blue, chocolate, apricot, tan, fawn or lemon. The Rat Terriers’ smooth coat is easy to maintain; weekly brushing with a soft brush or a rubber curry mitt to remove loose hair will be enough to keep the coat clean and healthy. Shedding is moderate, except in the fall and spring. Rat Terriers should be bathed and their nails should be trimmed as needed.
FUN FACT: Rat Terriers can be born with erected or dropped ears, and both types can be seen in the same litter.
Bred to work all day on the farm, the Rat Terrier has high energy level and needs plenty of exercise. Sufficient exercise is crucial for this breed. If not exercised enough, the Rat Terrier will become bored and destructive. Destructiveness is mostly made of destroying gardens, digging holes, chewing the furniture and/or a lot of barking. Keep your Rat Terrier on a leash during your walks because this dog can easily detect potential prey and give chase without warning. Indoors, Rat Terriers are good house dogs, under condition that they are not left by themselves for too long, and without enough toys to keep them busy.
Just like some other Terrier breeds, the Rat Terrier is also athletic, energetic, fast, quick to bark, quick to chase, scrappy, independent, clever, stubborn, persistent, and intense. They tend to be reserved towards new people. Proper socialization at a young age is important. Socialization helps a Rat Terrier to get along with other dogs, and animals in general (including cats). Be careful only with smaller animals, such as hamsters or gerbils, because the Rat Terrier can, and probably will see them as prey. These dogs make excellent watchdogs and will let everyone know that someone is approaching, or some new sound occurred.
The Rat Terrier has friendly, outgoing temperament. These dogs love to be around people - their people. They go along well with children, especially if they were raised together. It is important that this dog is used to the high-pitched screams and quick movements that are part of life with kids, because Terriers can snap as a reaction to these screams and movements.
Training Rat Terrier might be challenging as these dogs have a mind of their own. They are recommended for people who have a lot of training experience or are willing to seek professional help. They need people who are firm and experienced, otherwise the Rat Terrier will swarm all over their owners.
Rat Terriers have a lifespan of 12 to 18 years. They are generally healthy but can suffer from a few health problems of major concern. They are prone to patellar luxation (condition where the kneecap becomes dislocated out of its socket), malocclusion (incorrect bite – a deformation in the jaw structure), Legg-Perthes syndrome (deformation of the head on the femur bone), skin issues, allergies, epilepsy, etc.
FUN FACT: A Rat Terrier with blue eyes, wall eyes (an eye with a whitish iris), or China eyes (clear, flecked or spotted blue) may be more prone to deafness than those with dark or hazel eyes.
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