During the time I’ve spent walking dogs at Homeward Animal Shelter, among the wonderful dogs I’ve met is ten-month-old Critter, a feisty and playful little rat terrier who loves nothing more than to explore his surroundings and play fetch—though he tends to be stubborn about giving the toy back once he’s retrieved it. He’s housetrained, vaccinated, and good with cats and other dogs. However, he’s shy around children, and would prefer to go to a home without them.
The rat terrier, as its name suggests, was bred to hunt rodents and generally keep farms free of vermin, both above and below ground. In fact, President Theodore Roosevelt is rumored to have given the breed its name after his own terrier had solved the White House’s rat problem.
As a result of being bred for this purpose, rat terriers are small, quick, light on their feet, and have a high prey drive. They should not be brought into homes with small animals, like rabbits or hamsters, and should always be leashed when they’re outdoors. Even the best-behaved dog will forget their training to chase after a squirrel. In case they give in to that impulse, microchipping is highly recommended.
Despite being a small breed, rat terriers are inherently farm dogs; thus apartment life would be detrimental to their lively disposition. They need space to run around, as well as owners who can devote their time and energy to providing both physical and mental stimulation; otherwise all that pent-up energy could become destructive.
This breed also has a high-pitched bark, so unless you live out in the country, bear in mind you may get complaints from neighbors about the noise they make. Research any noise regulations in your area before introducing a rat terrier into your home. Also note that they can be wary around strangers, though are friendly once they get to know someone.
Even with a fenced yard, rat terriers live up to their reputation as a “Houdini hound,” meaning they’re quite the escape artists. Make sure that your fence is five or six feet tall, as the breed is known to jump high. Also ensure that it’s deep in the ground, because chances are they’ll try to dig their way out.
Speaking of which: terriers of all kinds have a natural compulsion for digging. Instead of discouraging this trait, try giving your dog a designated area in your yard to dig all they want. As long as they know that spot is theirs, they’ll learn to leave the rest of the yard alone.
Critter may be stubborn and rather mischievous, but he’s a sweetheart with a lot of love to give, and would make an excellent jogging companion. For more information on adopting him or other available dogs, call Homeward Animal Shelter at 701-239-0077.