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The Rat Terrier is an American dog breed with a rich and varied background as an all-around farm dog. Traditionally more of a type than a breed they share much ancestry with the tough little mixed breed dogs known as 'feists.' Several private associations have maintained Rat Terriers registries for some decades, but more recently there have been movements to obtain breed recognition by the major canine organizations. Common throughout America on family farms in the 1920s and 30s, today they are generally considered a rare breed. Today's Rat Terrier is a handsome, intelligent, active little dog that is equally cherished as a farm helper and as a family pet.
Although often mistaken for a Jack Russell Terrier, the Rat Terrier has a different profile and a very different temperament. Rat Terriers are finer of bone and have a more refined head. They always have a short single coat--never wire coated. Rat Terriers tend to be less aggressive than Jack Russells; while they have a definite terrier personality they also have an "off switch" and love lounging on the sofa or your lap as much as tearing about the yard. Rat Terriers are normally cheerful dogs but they tend to be more sensitive than Jack Russells to changes in their environment, owner's moods, or to unexpected noises, people, and activities. The "social sensitivity" of Rat Terriers makes them very trainable and easier to live with for the average pet owner but it also means that extensive socialization from an early age is critical. For this reason research the breeder carefully and avoid puppies from litters that are raised outside the home or with minimal handling. Be sure to expose your puppy to as many people and places as possible, especially during the first 3 months of life--the critical period for socialization. Crate training is essential and gives your dog a "safe haven" when you or your dog needs a break.
When searching for a Rat Terrier take your time and be ready for road trips to find the right puppy. Rat Terriers are "easy keepers" but that also makes them a target for commercial breeders who do not take the time to socialize and place puppies responsibly. Find a breeder who does early socialization and temperament testing to ensure that the individual dog will suit your home and family. Many people find a perfect pet through rescue services. Going through a rescue service is commonly viewed as a more humane and preferable way to obtain a pet than buying from puppy mills or careless breeders, but be sure to ask lots of questions and spend time with the dog if possible. A Rat Terrier will live for 15 years or more so it's important to find a good fit to your family and lifestyle. Answer all questions that the rescue organization asks you so that they can determine the right dog for you. Most importantly be sure to provide plenty of mental stimulation (positive training) as well as exercise to ensure that both you and your dog are happy and fulfilled. Train your pup using Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer tips!