If you're a rodent, watch out for rat terriers. If you're a human—which is more likely to be the case—that's another story. Ratties come in two sizes, miniature and standard. Even the standard isn't a big dog. He'll keep your home varmint-free and worm his way into your heart.
An all-American dog, the rat terrier breed results from farmers crossing many other breeds to come up with a good vermin hunter. Its bloodline includes fox terriers, beagles, whippets and more. That mix creates a smart, fast dog with hunting ability. The rattie's ears may be upright or droopy. Grooming his short, smooth coat is a breeze. He's a long-lived little guy. It's entirely possible that your buddy will be around until his late teens.
Ratties love to play with their person. Your rattie becomes a true member of the family, following you everywhere. He's a good little watchdog, but don't forget he's a terrier. That means he likes to check out everything in his world, and has a deep desire to dig. He can overdo it on the noise level, so nip the nuisance barking in the bud. He's not as high-strung as some terriers, but separation anxiety is an issue with some ratties. That means you'll have to be careful about leaving him, especially when he's young. Crate-training is a good idea, if only to save your house from unsupervised rattie destruction.
Kids and Other Dogs
Ratties get along well with children, and their energy level matches that of kids, so they can romp and roughhouse. They're not dog-aggressive. In fact, you might have to be careful about meeting strange dogs because your rattie will generally assume he's made a new friend. That terrier breeding means they will return fire if another dog goes after them, however. Your rattie and a cat will eventually come to terms, but because he's bred to kill rodents, be careful if you have rabbits or other small pets. His farm dog heritage makes him good with livestock if you've got horses or cattle.
These smart little dogs thrive on training, and it's really necessary for them. Ratties get bored easily, and with that boredom come problems, mostly for you. It's amazing how much havoc a dog under 25 pounds can wreak in your house when he has nothing else to do. If you can, bring your rattie with you on your travels. If he's with you, he'll probably be on good behavior. Ratties do well in obedience, agility, rally, flyball and other canine sports. They're a good outlet for his energy and keep him out of trouble, the same purposes that sports serve for kids.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.