Rat Terrier Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

August 24, 2019

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

Rat Terriers are sweet, inquisitive and full of love. They’re also sweet and compact and made to hunt down pests, making them a great dog for those in search of a smaller pup with energy and love to show off their hunting skills. Here’s a guide to help you decide whether the Rat Terrier is right for you, or to help you get to know your best canine friend a little better.

Also Known As…

RT. Rat. Ratty. Teddy’s Terrier (named for President Teddy Roosevelt and his fondness for the breed). “It’s like a Chihuahua got both tall and athletic!”


The Rat Terrier was bred in the 1800s in the U.S., developed by crossbreeding various types of Terriers. These breeds included English White Terriers, Bull Terriers and Manchester Terriers. Once breeders had mixed these breeds together, they added in Greyhounds, Beagles and Whippets. They created the perfect rat and vermin hunter, and by the early 1900s the breed was a popular farm dog across the U.S.

President Theodore Roosevelt helped boost their popularity further as he brought them into the White House during his tenure as president. Since then they’ve moved from farm dogs to popular city dogs, too, especially as their size makes them easy to house in smaller homes and apartments.


Rat Terriers are a compact breed that come in two general sizes. The miniature RT generally ranges from 10 to 13 inches tall, while a standard RT comes in at 13 to 18 inches tall. They’re small but sturdy dogs that were bred to be muscular, with wide chests and strong legs that help them hunt down their prey. 

Rat Terriers are also known for their strong jaws and short tails, although many naturally have long tails that breeders dock, or cut short. 

Weight Range

Rat Terriers range from 10 to 25 pounds depending on whether they’re miniature or standard size. Either way, they remain compact dogs on the smaller side.


Rat Terriers are as curious as they are friendly. They love to sniff out a trail – remember they were bred to take care of pests for you – and are happy and playful, too. They’re intelligent dogs that love to play with their companions and will also keep watch over their pack, acting as small guard dogs. 

Ratties love time with their humans in any form, whether that’s during playtime or snuggling up on the couch at the end of the day.

Intelligence / Trainability

Rat Terriers are an intelligent breed – that’s how they became such good hunters. They know how to sniff out prey as well as how to listen to their owners as humans train them. Ratties are known to be highly trainable, but due to their intelligence they may also think they know better than you and can show off some stubborn traits. 

Be sure to train your RT not to lead during walks, as their drive to hunt down prey may take over. That means they’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to hunt down squirrels, rats and other small prey on walks. Teach them to follow rather than lead, while still giving them the opportunity to sniff around. In general, Rat Terriers are not ideal off-leash dogs. If you’re set on walking your Rattie off leash, be sure to train them to be highly obedient and focus on not letting them lead while walking.

Best Training Techniques For Rat Terriers

Despite their sometimes stubborn nature, most Ratties respond extremely well to positive training methods, as they love to keep their humans happy. Overall, this makes them a breed that’s easy to train, and with enough treats and positive reinforcement, you can teach your Rat Terrier obedience, agility and lots of tricks. They’re intuitive and very sensitive to what those around them want, making them a great training companion. 

Ideal Environment

Rat Terriers love space to roam, hunt and play, but they can also be very happy in apartments and small homes. They’re small enough to feel comfortable in smaller spaces, but don’t mistake their small size for a need for less playtime. These dogs need regular exercise to stay happy. 

Good For Families And Kids?

Rat Terriers love their packs, including children. They’ll keep up with kid energy while also understanding they should try not to bowl them over with their energy. Look forward to playtime and cuddle time with a Rat Terrier. Keep in mind, though, that it may take a bit of time for an RT to get used to very young children, as they may be interested in the same toys. And of course, make sure that children (and dog) treat each other respectfully.

Rat Terriers can be a bit possessive of their toys, but they can learn quickly how to get along with their main competitors, i.e. toddlers. Who’d want to share their favorite bone anyway? Rat Terriers will find their inner patience soon enough, and maybe even their favorite playmate in a young child.

Average lifespan

Rat Terriers live an average of 12 to 18 years.


Rat Terriers have a long lifespan and are generally considered to be healthy dogs. In later years they may suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, painful joint conditions that are common among many dog breeds.


Rat Terriers have plenty of energy to go around, especially as puppies. Be sure to give your Rat Terrier at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, through rigorous playtime as well as a nice walk so they can get their energy out. Remember that they were bred to hunt down small prey, so don’t be surprised to see your dog jet for prey – whether a squirrel or a well-thrown ball during a game of fetch.

Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)

Rat Terriers can live and play well alongside other dogs as well as new humans. Ratties love to play, so any new person in their lives may be a potential playmate. However, they’re also good guard dogs, which means they may bark at strangers they think are suspicious. 

Rat Terriers have been known to live nicely along other, larger animals (think farm animals), but be wary of how they live around cats, especially depending on their size. A small Rattie and large cat may do well together, while a standard size Rattie alongside a small kitten may not be a great mix. Your Rat Terrier may consider small pets such as kittens, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and other small animals prey to hunt down. This is especially true for any small creatures that scurry across the ground, so be wary of introducing these pets to your Rattie.

Coat & Grooming

Rat Terriers don’t require much grooming. You won’t spend hours brushing a Rattie and only need occasional baths. In fact, don’t bathe your Rat Terrier too often, as this can cause skin irritation. Bathe an RT every six weeks to three months, and give them a short weekly brushing. 

Toys Rat Terriers Would Like Best 

Rat Terriers love to run, sniff and play, so check out a good fetch toy to keep your RT happy. Balls are a classic and your RT will love them. Nothing like a toy that scurries across the ground, just like the prey they’re so eager to hunt. 

Rat Terriers can also use their smarts to figure out a thinker toy, which can keep them occupied indoors on rainy days or simply when you’re in couch mode rather than play mode. 

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

Feeding your Rat Terrier (or any dog) the freshest whole food diet you can afford (trying to eliminate fillers, grains, or inflammatory proteins such as chicken) can go a long way to decrease health issues and increase longevity.

RTs are also prone to elbow and hip dysplasia later in life, so you may want to consider incorporating supplements into their diet. As always, consult a veterinarian first.

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

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Another great option for hip and join problems. This supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your RT with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)

Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)

Recommended Products

An orthopedic dog bed is a great choice for keeping your dog happy and comfy, whether they develop joint pain or not.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Bed

BarkBox Best Dog Bed English Springer Spaniel

This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)

Notable Rescues to Find the Rat Terrier of Your Dreams

Ready to find the Rat Terrier of your dreams? These organizations can help you find your new best friend:

  • New Rattitude brings together rescued Rat Terriers with responsible humans who will help give them a strong, healthy forever home. They work across the U.S. Look through their gallery of Rat Terriers ready to be adopted and fostered. Warning: you may not be able to resist the cuteness.
  • Rat Terrier ResQ operates around the country, rescuing abandoned, neglected and abused RTs. They facilitate the adoption process to help Ratties find their perfect humans.
  • Adoptable Rat Terriers on Petfinder

Notable Instagram Rat Terriers

In the mood to fawn over more cute Rat Terriers? Here are a few Instagram accounts that feature Rat Terriers you’ll love:

Bella @bellathert!

This rescue Rat Terrier sure knows how to have fun!

Charro @charros_adventures!

Charro lives in New York City with his family, going on adventures in the city and in the country.

Kit @abitaboutkit!

The description says it all: Life revolves around Kit.

BarkBox vs Super Chewer BarkBox

***Looking for a gift to blow your pup’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

Featured image via Bellathert/Instagram

Want More Breed Guides Like This?

Yorkshire Terrier Breed Information Guide

Silky Terrier Breed Information Guide

Cairn Terrier Breed Information Guide

Border Terrier Breed Information Guide

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

August 24, 2019


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.