How to Train a Rat Terrier

Want to learn how to train your Rat Terrier to be one of the best-trained dogs? Click here to find out how.

About the Rat Terrier

Balanced, compactly built Rat Terriers are tough but elegant-looking. There are two size divisions: Miniatures stand 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder; standards are over 13 inches and as high as 18 inches. The smooth, shiny coat comes in varieties of pied patterns. (Pied, a word borrowed from the horseman’s lexicon, means “comparatively large patches of one or more colors in combination with white.”) These smoothly muscled exterminators are constructed for the efficient movement required for a long day’s work.

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​Here’s a breed that says up front what they’re all about: Rat Terriers are terriers bred to kill rats. A good ratter was standard equipment on old-time farms, where a rodent infestation could mean the difference between having enough grain to last the winter and going hungry. But practical-minded farmers expected their dogs to be more than specialists, so RTs also earned their keep as all-purpose hunting partners, watchdogs, henhouse guardians, and sturdy childhood playmates.

Quick Facts

  • Temperament: Friendly, Inquisitive, Lovable
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 86 of 197
  • Height: 10-13 inches (miniature), 13-18 inches (standard)
  • Weight: 10-25 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-18 years
  • Group: Terrier Group


The Rat Terrier was originally bred for ratting and farm work. A multipurpose companion dog that is capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground, and to course small game. He is a sturdy, compact, small-to-medium-sized parti-colored dog giving the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting speed, power, and balance. Honorable scars or a couple of broken or missing canines or incisor teeth are not to be faulted. The following is a description of the ideal Rat Terrier. Variations are penalized to the extent of the deviation.


The Rat Terrier should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


The Rat Terrier’s short, dense coat requires very little care to remain in good condition. A weekly once-over with a soft brush or hound glove will keep his coat healthy and glossy. A bath every month or so will likely be enough, depending on the dog’s lifestyle. Rat Terriers shed seasonally, during which time a shedding tool or rubber curry brush will help remove loose hair. The nails should be trimmed at least monthly, keeping them short and neat, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog. Check his ears weekly, and remove any excess wax and debris, which can cause ear infections. Teeth should be brushed daily if possible, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs.


Some Rat Terriers can get sufficient exercise for their needs through indoor playtime, but most will thrive with daily walks and a bit of tennis-ball-chasing and other play in a fenced enclosure. They tend to do well with other dogs their size or larger. Early socialization is a must, and puppy training classes are recommended. The Rat Terrier has a strong prey drive, and they should never be allowed off lead, as most will not be able to resist the urge to chase when faced with a strange cat or squirrel.


The Rat Terrier is extremely intelligent and trainable, although some can be stubborn and determined at times. They can excel in agility, obedience, rally, and other canine sports. They are unusually sensitive and intuitive, and they love to please their owner—they thrive on praise and respond quickly to positive training methods. Most are patient and tolerant of children but may be reserved with strangers. While they are one of the calmest of the terrier breeds, they are nevertheless high-energy dogs who require exercise, daily walks, and lots of companionship. They are at their best as members of a human family.


Rat Terriers are generally very healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (loose kneecaps), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and cardiac and eye disorders. A conscientious breeder does genetic testing of all breeding stock with the aim of reducing the incidence of and ultimately eliminating health problems.

[bctt tweet=”A good ratter was standard equipment on old-time farms, where a rodent infestation could mean the difference between having enough grain to last the winter and going hungry.” username=”alaskadogworks”]

Recommended Health Test from the National Breed Club:

  • Cardiac Exam
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthe Radiographic
  • Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)

Did You Know?

  • The Rat Terrier is AKC’s 178th breed
  • The Rat Terrier is assigned to the Terrier Group
  • As of 2006, the AKC has allowed the breed to compete in the Earth Dog Tests

Want to learn how to train your Rat Terrier to be one of the best-trained dogs? Click here to find out how.