A Guide to a Feist Dog Breed: The Rat Terrier!

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toy rat terrier dog breed smilingThese adorable little escape artists are true terriers. Full of energy and as the name suggests, incredible hunters. Along with their playful aurora, these lively terriers look the part too with their perky ears and round intelligent eyes. The Rat Terrier is much more than your average pet!

101 On The Breed

Also known as the American Rat terrier, the Decker Rat Terrier and the Feist, this breed of dog used to be one of the biggest farm dogs in America.

Bred for their adept killing ability, both above and below ground, this American breed is a force to be reckoned with! It was once reported one of these dogs killed over 2500 rats in just 7 hours!

However, they not only make great little hunters but the Rat Terrier also make exciting family pets.

The Feist Dog: A Native to the United States!

This breed was originally made to hunt rats, mice, and squirrels on the farms of America in the early 18th century. In those days, purebreds and paperwork didn’t mean much to the farmers, instead they focused more on the working ability of the dogs.

As a result, the Rat Terrier became developed from a wide mix of terrier and non-terrier breeds in the rural parts of America. From these terriers a specific line was targeted for those best at hunting squirrels, these became known as feists.

These terriers ran almost wild in the rough terrain of early America throughout the 18th century, making these little guys hearty and well-suited to living in America!

Appearance and Personality

Lean, alert and muscular, these lively little terriers look just as their breed suggests! The smooth, sheeny coat of the Rat Terrier highlights their compact but very lean appearance.

They have perky ears and a nose to match, making their head very similar to most terriers (especially the Jack-rat terrier). The muzzle itself it relatively long, allowing for a wide a powerful bite!

However, arguably the most prominent feature of the Rat Terrier is the ears! Standing tall, erect and wide, these relatively large ears sit slightly to the side of the dogs head.

Although they are a short-legged dog, the Rat Terrier retains an aesthetic athletic appearance, with their weight always proportional to their height.

Although a mostly white terrier, these dogs can also come in black and tan, chocolate, blue and virtually every coat color variable! However, regardless of their size and shape, nothing holds these guys back from having a good time!

How Big do they Get?

Originally cross-breeding to create a Chihuahua-Rat Terrier for smaller-breed work, the Rat Terrier now comes in three different sizes.

With the standard Rat Terrier size, mid-sized and the toy Rat Terriers, their heights range from 8 to 23 inches tall! The miniature Rat Terrier dogs are perfect for getting into small holes!

The weight ranges too, from 4 to 35 pounds. However, regardless of their type, all Rat Terriers a quick to get down a vermin hole!

A Perfect Combination! Rat Terrier mix

Recognised by both the Rat Terrier Club and American Kennel Club, the Rat Terrier is one of the oldest breeds in America. The ideal characteristics of the Rat Terrier made it a popular breed to mix with!

From creating designer breed dogs to needing smaller dogs for specific work abilities, these mixes made some awesome hybrids!

fiest dog breed rat terrier chihuahua mix staring

Rat Terrier Chihuahua and Other Mixes!

Cute but with the playful confidence of the chihuahua, you wouldn’t find a better designer hybrid than this! The Rat-Terrier Chihuahua resulted unsurprisingly, from the mixing of the Rat Terrier and Chihuahua.

Now recognized by the American Canine Hybrid Club and the Designer Dogs Kennel Club, this hybrid has made its own!

These puppies take the curious charm from the chihuahua breed and the attentive, alert characteristics from the Rat Terrier and make a perfect little cocktail!

Known to be extremely attached to those closest to them, the chihuahua breed often suffers from separation anxiety. This is one, sometimes not so popular characteristic of this breed.

The trait is not always present but can etch its way into some of these puppies. However this trait aside, these little guys can be the perfect family companion! These days the Rat Terrier is mixed with all sorts to produce sort-after characteristics, check them out below!

3 Fun Facts You Need to Know About the Rat Terrier Dog

  1. Remember, they were bred as a hunting dog, they will have a lot of energy to burn! The Rat Terrier is not afraid to remind you he’s there, running through mud and digging holes are amongst his favorite hobbies!
  2. Rat Terriers can be quite protective and quick to let you know when there are on-goings around the house.
  3. As mentioned earlier, this breed ran wild in the outbacks of an America. With little health problems, this largely disease-resistant breed is more than ideal!

The Trainability of Rat Terrier Puppies

The intelligence of terriers is widely recognized, making these puppies extremely trainable!

Considered one of the most trainable of the terriers, the Rat Terrier breed shows the ideals qualities of ability, obedience and willingness to please.

Although they have a high intelligence, these Rat Terrier puppies can be stubborn! Yes, dogs can be stubborn just like us. If they don’t want to perform a particular task, they can prove difficult. Also, probably due to their intelligence, they can be easily bored too!

Repetitive tasks and training could bore your little terrier and he could end up refraining from training. Believe it or not, he may also display selective listening and obedience!

With the tendency to be difficult, it is important you maintain a consistent position of dominance for successful training. These terriers love rewards, so training with these is more often than not successful!

The Feist Dog Breed! They Can be Quite Fit!

With fewer health problems than most pure breeds, these terriers prove extremely healthy! Along with less genetically associated defects, the Rat Terriers is one of the longest-lived dogs in America.

An extensive survey suggested the most common health issues with Rat Terriers. These included a luxating patella, degenerative myelopathy, and demodectic mange. Although uncommon they can be problematic and should not be overlooked!

Patella luxation is one of the most common health issues seen in small breed dogs, and the Rat Terrier is no exception. Occurring when the kneecap moves from its natural groove, it can cause varying degrees of pain and discomfort.

The cause of patella luxation is not clearly understood, however, trauma is thought to be a large contributor. Good news is patella luxation is very treatable!

Without having to foot a large vet bill, patella luxation treatment can be straightforward. Although, it can be a reoccurring incident, so don’t let it slip your eye!

three rat terrier puppies posing

Degenerative myelopathy is also common but doesn’t begin to show signs until around 9 years of age. Degenerative myelopathy affects the spinal cord, dogs affected by it can present with various signs. Signs include muscle atrophy and loss of coordination beginning in the hind limbs.

The disease can be quite easily identified by vets, but unfortunately, there is no effective treatment. Most dogs need to be euthanized due to severe immobility!

There are, however, ways you can improve their quality of life. Supportive therapies such as vitamin supplements can prolong and improve life for your terrier!

The demodectic mange seen in Rat Terriers is caused by a tiny mite often passed from mother to offspring. Commonly seen in puppies and less often adults, demodicosis can present with inflammation and swelling of the skin.

Signs include hair loss, especially around the face, and sometimes pus and redness due to secondary infection. Thankfully, most dogs will recover without any veterinary treatment!

Lastly, not common but worth mentioning is the von Willebrand’s disease. An inherited bleeding disorder affecting most breeds of dogs. Excessive nosebleeds or blood in the stool or urine are some signs associated with von Willebrand’s disease. This can lead to pain, swelling, and even anemia!

The best treatment for this disease is a synthetic analog of vasopressin which can be prescribed by your local vet. If you see any signs f this disease, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible as it can progress quickly!

Longevity of the Fiest Dog

Take a guess at how long these terriers live. Somewhere around 12-18 years?

That’s right, these are amongst the longest living dogs in America! With their exceptional breed standards, longevity is a Rat Terriers specialty. Making them ideal for a family with young children wanting a friendly companion to grow up with!

3 Tips for Pet Owners with a Rat Terrier puppy

  1.  Although they are bred for the farm, these little guys actually make a good apartment dog! As long as they are given a fair amount of regular exercise, city living is within reach!
  2. It is instinct for Rat Terriers to chase and kill vermin. Cats can look a lot like a squirrel! Unfortunately, cats and Rat Terriers do not gel too well in the same house.
  3. It is best to train puppies early! Start them on a consistent training pattern to ensure no nasty behaviors or habits sneak through.

Spunky, Fit, and Full of Energy! These Pups Are Always Looking for Adventure!

Adventure runs in their veins! Alert and full of excitement and affection, Rat Terriers can make the ideal companion for the right family. If you need an adventure buddy or someone to keep you on your toes, your best bet is the Rat Terrier!

Common Questions

Is this a Healthy Dog Breed?

Are the Little Pups Family Dogs?

What are the Different Sizes of the Rat Terrier?

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