Tenacious. Historic. Loveable. And just darn cute. Best Bully Sticks brings you the Rat Terrier this week in our Breed Spotlight! This dog is 100% American, with a can-do American attitude. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about this feisty little pup!

History & Background: If you haven’t guessed yet, this terrier’s name is derived from its earliest occupation, hunting “varmits,” which is sometimes referred to as “ratting.”  This dog is distinctly an American breed that English immigrants created by mixing breeds like the English White Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, and Whippet. A staple “farm dog” during the Dust Bowl era, this dog hunted small game that included squirrels, rabbits and other small creatures.  One of these tenacious little dogs is said to once have killed 2,500 rats in an infested barn in 7 hours.

This dog was a very cherished dog on farms across the United States. The Rat Terrier’s more famous owners include Shirley MacLaine, Eleanor Powell, John Sandford & William Faulkner. A Rat Terrier was even mentioned in Harper Lee’s famous 1960 work, To Kill A Mockingbird. Needless to say, over the years the loving companionship this of this dog may have won out over its utility.

Height: 10-13 inches (toy), 13-18 inches (standard)

Weight: 10-25 pounds

Coat: This dog has a short, close coat that is very soft and shiny. Some Rat Terriers might have a bit of a wave in their fur on their back.

Color: A Rat Terrier is described as being “pied,” which means large patches of color on a white body. To meet the breed standard, the dogs can be bi, tri, or even parti-colored and can have any combination of colors, but the majority color must always be white.  The most common color combination is called “black tri-color” and refers to the mostly white body, black piebald and tan points. Tan-points are light brown markings on the face.

Appearance: The Rat Terrier is often confused with the Jack Russell or the Fiest, however this dog has a different profile, more streamlined musculature and a more refined head shape. Overall, this dog is a very graceful looking and athletic dog. There are some very distinct features about the Rat Terrier including erect ears and a bobbed tail, either docked or naturally occurring. The eyes of the Rat Terrier are bright and full, extending to the rims of the lid.

Temperament: The temperament of the Rat Terrier is different from his cousin, the Jack Russell in that this dog is less aggressive. However, this dog is a ball of energy that can come in seemingly unending amounts. The more exercise they can get, the happier they will be. They are very sensitive dogs and can quickly sense and react to changes in their owners, their environment, strangers and noises. Because of their sensitivity, a Rat Terrier needs to be socialized early in life to be able to cope with change. This breed is highly intelligent, can be trained easily and does very well in agility and obedience trials. A Rat Terrier, also unlike a Jack Russell, has an “off-switch” which means they are very content to snuggle up on a couch and doze for long periods of time as well.

Health: The most common ailment for Rat Terriers tends to be skin allergies. However the Canine Health Informatin Center suggests this breed be tested for patellar luxation, cardiac abnormalities, hip dysplasia, and Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome.

Product Suggestions:  Because the Rat Terrier sometimes suffers from skin allergies, Best Bully Sticks recommends a treat from our line of Hypoallergenic Dog Treats. The All-Natural Lamb Weasand will be perfect for this breed. “Lamb Weasand are all natural gullets from US free range lamb. They are twisted together to form the equivalent of a lamb jerky/chew.”

If you’ve learned anything from this breed spotlight, it’s that Rat Terrier are tenacious and if you let them, they would play all night and all day. Best Bully Sticks carries a flying disc that makes that a possibility! The Nite Ize Flashflight Dog Discuit Frisbee for Dogs features a LED light that shines bright green for exciting nighttime fun with your canine companion!

Do you own or know of a Rat Terrier? Tell us your Rat Terrier story in the comments section!