How to be a Good Rat Terrier Owner

By Jane Meggitt

Besides basic care, being a good rat terrier owner means spending a lot of time with this active, sensitive dog. Rat terriers need their human's companionship. Left to their own devices, ratties can become destructive from sheer boredom. Take good care of your rat terrier and he will share your life for a long time, perhaps as much as 18 years.

The Rat Terrier

If you're looking for a small terrier who generally gets along with other dogs and doesn't mind cats, the rat terrier is the dog for you. Yes, he's a terrier, with all the energy, fearlessness, barking and digging that goes with an earth dog, but his bloodlines contain relatively recent crossings with beagles, whippets and even Chihuahuas. That makes him calmer and less aggressive than the average terrier. American Kennel Club recognition came in 2013 for this all-American farm dog. The AKC describes the rat terrier as "friendly, inquisitive and lovable." There's no argument on that last trait.

Rat Terrier Training

The Rat Terrier Club of America recommends crate training your rattie. One thing you don't want to do is leave a young rattie to his own devices in the house while you're away. You're likely to return to domestic devastation. Most ratties housetrain fairly easily, but that all depends on your ability to watch for signals that a puppy has to go, and give him the opportunity to do so outdoors. Praise your rattie effusively when he eliminates outside, and you'll soon have a reliable dog in that department. Ratties require a moderate amount of exercise, and love to play. They make wonderful family dogs, always up for fun with kids.

Feeding the Rattie

Feed your rattie a high quality dog food. Your veterinarian can recommend a good choice for your dog. The amount of food necessary depends on whether your rat terrier is a miniature or standard size, the two divisions in the breed. The miniature rat terrier stands at least 10 inches tall at the shoulder, but no taller than 13 inches. The standard rat terrier stands more than 13 inches high, but doesn't exceed 18 inches. At maturity, ratties generally weigh between 8 and 25 pounds. While you would feed a standard rattie more than a miniature, it's not a significant difference in the daily ration. While an occasional treat is fine, avoid letting your rattie become overweight.

When you bring your rat terrier puppy home, feed him frequently -- every three to four hours -- to avoid low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. An episode of hypoglycemia can prove fatal to tiny puppies. If you bring your rattie home after the age of 12 weeks, it's not a concern.

Rat Terrier Health

Rat terriers don't have a lot of hereditary health issues. Some ratties are predisposed to allergies, so make sure your dog is up to date on flea control to prevent flea allergies. If your dog does develop the skin problems associated with canine allergies or demodectic mange -- another rattie predisposition -- take him to the vet.

Rat terriers may suffer from dental disorders, such as an incorrect bite. Slipped kneecaps, or luxating patellas, occur in the breed, as they do in many small canines. Serious luxation necessitates surgical correction. Teach your rattie to accept daily tooth brushing from puppyhood. Of course, he requires regular veterinary wellness visits, vaccinations and prescription heartworm preventive.