PERSONALITY OF THE RAT TERRIER AND WHAT TO EXPECT
I’ll admit I am just a little prejudice, but I think the Rat Terrier is a very awesome breed. Small enough to fit into most households, but big enough to be rough and rowdy, the Rat Terrier is the perfect breed for the active family or single person. Emphasis here on ACTIVE. This breed is an inquisitive, active breed, and needs to be exercised well every day with a good long hike, interactive games or several quality training sessions. They are hunters by nature, and as such, are more of a reactive breed. By this, I mean that they don’t stop and think about things, or pause at all, they go into full out barking and chasing mode at the drop of a hat, to heck with the consequences. Their recall (or come back to you when called), is not perfect, although I can call them off most of what they are chasing unless it is a really exciting critter, like a squirrel or rabbit. I have a training flag that works fairly well to get them off of whatever they are after, but have also found that if I am in the middle of it and hollering at them, they honestly believe that I am taking part of the attack, and don’t back off. If, on the other hand, I start to walk away and (cheerfully) call them off, they are more likely to leave it. But it depends on the circumstances! If they are alone with me, without the rest of the pack, they are not as bad. It is when they are in the pack that I have the most problems.
They do tend to bark at a lot of things, and few people will be able to walk up to the house or vehicle without them announcing them. With consistent training, one or two Ratties can be taught to be quiet and well mannered. Several Ratties together are a bit more of a challenge!
I have found they don’t have the normal Terrier attitude, being more in tune with their owners/people, willing to please and not near as stubborn. They also don’t have a hyper personality, nor should they have the desire to spar with other dogs. There are exceptions of course, depending on the individual dog, line and breeder. Many of my pupy buyers consider their dogs their therapy dogs, or have used them as therapy dogs, as they are very loving and want to be with their owner. Many Ratties seem to be “in tune” with their people.
As a whole, they are healthy and long lived. Their easy to care for coat requires only basic maintenance. I only give my dogs baths if they roll in something really stinky, otherwise their short coat sheds off any mud or debris easily. In the spring, they may benefit from a good brushing to help with the shedding, but other than that, I don’t have a lot of problem with shedding.
Many Ratties have earned their obedience titles and can be seen competing in agility, flyball, dock diving and other events. They do prefer to be close to their people. One of my pups insists on joining her owner when he goes to work. You could frequently see my husband with all of the Ratties on the 4-wheeler during the summer when he’s irrigating. They just really want to be with their people. They are not as happy alone. Several of my pups have grown into companions that serve as a therapy dog for either their owners or others in the family or workplace.
I have found that as long as you provide them with quality exercise, they are quiet in the house, without a lot of demanding of your attention, but are content to snooze in the sun, if at all possible, or on the couch, chair or bed.
They love the heat, and while they do fine in cold weather and snow, they love to find the heater and get as close to it is possible. They do seem to enjoy laying in the sun whenever possible, so they should have access inside or outside if at all possible. (Just make sure they can get out of the sun if they get too hot.) In the winter, I have tried to put dog coats on my crew, but unless it is really cold out, they have been known to find a place to drag them off and leave them behind. It also depends on how much of their own hair coat they have. Chance, Sammie and Joy do not have as heavy a coat, naturally, as do EmmaLee, Maddie and Colt, so while they might like the added warmth of a dog coat, the other three don’t.
They WILL snuggle with you, under the covers, so if you are not keen on a dog sleeping with you in bed, perhaps a Rattie isn’t for you. They seem to prefer it, and love to be with you. If you are on a chair or sofa, chances are good that you will have them laying beside you, or on you. When driving, they love to look out the windows and sit on the console in between the front seats. They are rarely content to curl up and snooze until you reach your destination. Nope, they have to see where they are going!
BASIC – BUT IMPORTANT – QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Choosing a Rat Terrier to join you or your family is a very serious endeavor. With the average lifespan being around 12- 15 years it is very important that a prospective new dog owner think seriously about the ramifications of bringing a Rattie into the home. Those 12-15 or so years is a long time commitment, and while we can not look into a crystal ball, we can take a look at some basic question that will help determine if bringing home a dog or puppy is the right thing to do at this time. Knowing yourself and your family should be the first step in choosing whether or not a Rattie should join the family. Consider these important questions:
- Do we have the time?
- Do we have the finances?
- Do we have enough room in our home?
- Does anyone have allergies or other health issues?
- Can we invest the time and finances to learn how to train ourselves to train the dog if we are novices?
- If we rent, do we have the landlord’s permission?
- What is our lifestyle like?
Let’s take a minute to look at each of these questions individually.
Time is a very important consideration. If you are bringing in a young puppy, the puppy will demand a lot of time for house training and learning just the basics of being a good household companion. They will have to be taken out more frequently for potty breaks and socialization. Puppy kindergarten classes take time and commitment away from home, as do any obedience or sport classes such as agility or flyball. All dogs will need exercised, fed and spent time with. Be honest with yourself on how much free time you have available that you can devote to your new puppy or dog. If there are children at home, will their after school activities make it difficult to spend time with the dog? How much time will the dog be left at home by itself? Think about the future too and how it may affect the time that you can spend with your dog. For example, are you graduating from college and moving soon for a new job opportunity? Are you or your spouse in the military with potential of overseas deployment? Is there anything else in the foreseeable future that might make it difficult to own a dog now? Keep in mind that Ratties are very people oriented dogs and are happiest when they can spend their time with their people. Too much time alone will not be good for a Rattie.
The initial price of purchasing a Rat Terrier is just the beginning of the costs that may be associated with raising a dog. The regular visits to the vet for shots and health checks are not usually too high, but if he were injured or were to become sick, those costs can add up quickly. Fortunately, the Rat Terrier is a healthy breed overall, but there are some health issues that may occur in your dog that may require regular veterinary care or surgery. These include Primary Lens Luxation (PLL), Patellar Luxation, Hip and Elbow Dysplaisa. For more information on health issues that are tested for in the Rat Terrier, visit the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website at: http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/brdreqs.html?breed=RAT . Food costs are not very high for the average Rat Terrier, as they are not particularly big eaters. Training classes can become expensive, as well as the cost of travel if the classes are a distance away.
Consider how much space you may have for your dog. In the home, is there a private, quiet place where he can sleep and get away from the bustle of the family? While Ratties don’t require a huge home, they do need to have a place where they can get out and run. Is there a yard for him to be able to get out and stretch and play? Can he comfortably run without hitting a fence after a few strides? Is the yard securely fenced if you are in the city or suburbs? Even in rural areas, the dog should be fenced or under your control to prevent him from chasing livestock or wildlife. Remember, Ratties are natural hunters, so will go off to find critters if not contained. As they are active dogs, make sure you can provide them with a good romp at least once a day, every day. More is better. If they are exercised during the day, they are more than happy to cuddle up and watch tv with you in the evening.
If anyone in the family has health issues, they should be seriously considered before bringing a dog into the home. Elderly family members may not be comfortable with a rambunctious dog as they may fear that they will get knocked over. If someone is allergic to dogs, visit a home where Ratties reside. Make sure the person who has allergies is with you so that you may see how they react to the dog, as long as there is not any potential of a life threatening reaction. If there are any other health issues, chose your Rattie carefully to fit the situation, and make sure that the affected person is comfortable with the decision. While a dog can provide unmeasurable support and comfort, the wrong dog can make life very difficult.
If you are a novice, are you prepared to spend the time and effort it takes to teach yourself how to be a good and understanding owner? What will you do if it just doesn’t seem to be working out due to the dog’s actions? As you have made the commitment to care for that dog for its life, giving up should be the last option. Can you afford to bring in a private, professional dog trainer and are you willing to learn from them and take the time to work with your dog? (This may include veterinary care if the cause of the problem is a health issue.) Are you willing to reach out and ask other knowledgeable dog owners for help if you find that you don’t know how to handle the dog? There are a lot of excellent books there too, but remember to use only what you are comfortable with. If something doesn’t feel right for you or your dog, it isn’t, no matter who is saying it. If something honestly prevents you from keeping the dog, will you be comfortable with placing him in a new home? Can you return him to the breeder if purchased from a breeder?
If you rent, are you allowed a dog? Is there any stipulation as to how many pets you may have or certain size limits? Many condominiums and town homes only allow dogs under a certain size. Do you plan on remaining where you are living for awhile, or is there one or more moves in your foreseeable future? Dogs do better with stability, so frequent moves are not usually recommended, and there would always be the question of whether or not you can locate another place that will allow your dog.
The last consideration to think about is what your lifestyle is like. This is a very important part of the decision of getting a dog. If you or your family are constantly out and about, volunteering for different events, school sports, going to concerts or otherwise not home a lot, then perhaps a cat or fish would suit you better. If on the other hand, you and your family enjoy a lot of outdoor activities such as going for walks to the park, hiking, camping, biking or horse back riding where you can take a dog, then a Rat Terrier could be a perfect fit. If you are going to college or planning on attending college, and also have a full time job, now would not be the best time for a dog. If you have a lot of constant company and your lifestyle is crazy, few dogs would be comfortable in that situation. Or if you and your family take frequent vacations or you have to travel a lot for your job, would you be able to take your dog with you, or would he be shipped out to a boarding kennel while you are away? Ratties would not do well in a situation where they are not with their family most of the time.
Take the time as a family to seriously consider these questions. And answer them honestly. If possible, see if you can find a someone who lives in your area who has a Rat Terrier and inquire if you can meet them. Or attend a dog show and look for any Rat Terriers there. They are becoming popular enough that they do show up, albeit in smaller numbers, at the shows, so this would be a good time to talk to owners and get a better feel of whether or not a Rattie is right for you.
While the pitter patter of four feet is a wonderful noise in a home, make sure that it is the right choice for you, and the dog, at the right time. And be warned, Ratties are very much like potato chips! You can’t ever have just one!