The rat terrier gets its name from one of its early occupations in rat pit gambling. It is believed that the breed was developed by crossing breeds like the English White Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, and the Whippet. Initially bred for speed, its agility was later put to use to hunt down vermin, squirrels, hare, and other small game. These abilities made it an excellent farm dog. Later, other breeds like the Beagle, Italian Greyhounds, Miniature Pinschers, and Chihuahuas might have been added to the mix to include the qualities of scenting ability, speed, and a smaller size. The advantages of this kind of great genetic diversity that this dog possesses is good overall health, intelligence, and soundness.
There are numerous wonderful qualities that this dog breed possesses. A feisty, fearless terrier at heart, it is alert and active. For this reason, owners must include a sufficient amount of mental stimulation and exercise in their pets' daily activity list. However, a surprising personality trait is that this dog also knows how to take it easy and enjoys periods of lounging around. It is a good family dog as it gets along well with children. In fact, if brought up along with them, it will form strong bonds and attachments. This dog is fairly perceptive to small changes, and can detect any alterations in its environment, owner's mood, or any out-of-the-ordinary happening. Its intelligence makes this breed easier to train than many other dog breeds. Even though the classic traits of its personality are friendliness and affection, it can be trained to be a good guard dog. However, it also needs to be socialized early in its childhood. Ideally, expose the dog to different kinds of people and places, particularly during the first three months of its life. It is an excellent swimmer and loves to splash around in water, so you can be assured that bath time will not be a problem. It also makes for a good farm and hunting dog.
This breed needs at least 20-30 minutes of exercise everyday, including playtime. As mental stimulation is important, ensure that you play a game of catch or any other game with your dog. Remember its origins as a hunter breed and find appropriate activities. The ideal living quarters for this dog is a home that has a small to medium-sized yard. However, there is a warning for those who put a lot of work into, and love, their yards. This breed loves to dig (as its instinct to hunt down rats), and is sure to burrow into the lawn. One is advised to ensure the dog's safety, and at the same time allow it to spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors.
Like all other dogs, this breed needs regular baths and grooming. A bath can be given when your dog begins to smell. An important part of dog care includes checking your dog every alternate day for any kind of infestations, and brushing its coat about once in three days to keep it in good shape. This breed does not shed much on a regular basis, except when shedding its winter coat. It is considered to be non-shedding breed, but not quite hypoallergenic. A good diet and regular visits to the vet are a must.
Also essential for your own and your dog's sanity is to firmly establish a pack leader status. Since this dog's personality possesses many wonderful qualities, but also includes those of independence, stubbornness, and persistence, you must let him/her know that you are the master. If not, issues such as Small Dog Syndrome may crop up. And know that being firm and loving aren't exclusive qualities. The love you give your dog will be returned to you manifold.