Finding a Rat Terrier
Congratulations on doing your research on the hundreds of dog breeds and settling on a Rat Terrier! Of course, we may be biased, but we think they are one of the best dog breeds around. While they may be a bit energetic (you know they are bred to hunt vermin like Rats – that takes energy!), they also enjoy quiet time with the family as well as a number of dog sports like Fast Cat, Agility, Rally and Obedience. These sports are all fun ways to interact with your new family member.
Like all pups, they should get basic obedience training in order to be a good family member. Know how you want your adult dog to behave and model the training you do with your pup accordingly. Be consistent in your demands.
All that said, we know you are on this page looking for help in finding the perfect pup for you. We have some ideas on what to look for in a breeder, then some useful web links for you, and finally a list of RTCA Members who are Breeders and have paid to be on the Breeders List.
Here are some ideas for screening a breeder, and minimal things to look for. While you may simply be looking for your perfect family companion, there is a reason you choose this breed. If you wanted any dog you could go to your local shelter or rescue. Your pup will likely live 13-16 years! Choosing the right breeder and the right pup for you is a small investment of time to make. These suggestions fit most breeds and breeders, so if further research leads you to a different breed, these are still good ideas to keep in mind.
Things to look for:
~ Involvement with the Breed - Club memberships, training, showing, and trialing all give the Breeder access to both current information on the breed and a good opportunity to evaluate their dogs.
Club Membership shows an interest in dogs and with breed clubs an interest in your breed in particular. It is also a good way to stay informed about things happening in the breed as the Clubs will usually publish articles when issues arise. Also, clubs usually are the ones that donate to health, genetic and behavior studies that may be breed-specific. In short, membership shows a commitment to the preservation of the Breed. Which is something as a pet owner you should be concerned with. You are choosing a purebred dog rather than a mixed breed or the first puppy that strikes your fancy at a shelter or rescue for a reason - you are looking for a dog with a specific set of traits. Those traits are why you are looking for this breed.
Conformation Showing is often underrated by people who are just looking for Companions (pets). But, if the breeder is getting out there and showing they are seeing how their dogs compare to the others of their breed. Winning or not, they should be able to get an idea of the good and bad things in their dogs. Things they will look to correct in future breedings. And a dog showing in conformation will be out around lots of other people and dogs - that will give an idea of temperament. And back to point one - they are doing something with their dogs, their dogs are getting out in public.
Training and trialing shows you a lot more about the personality, drive, and overall temperament of the dog. And again, how are they in public? With strangers? Membership in a training club or trialing organization shows an interest in dog behavior, temperament, and dog/human bonds.
A Breeder who is doing some or all of the above is not simply looking to "produce pets". They are looking to maintain the breed they love.
~ Carefully Planning Litters - Most breeders will be looking at Pedigrees, learning what they can about the dogs in the lines that they are not familiar with, and planning a match that will complement the strengths and weaknesses of each dog. It is pretty common that they do not own both parents, most often they will just own the dam. That is not to say that two dogs owned by the same person won't be a good match. It certainly can be. But most people do not rely on that as there are many variables that might make the pair not a good match. This happens even when you carefully research the pedigrees and purchase both pups with possible future breeding in mind. It is not a simple math equation.
~ Health Screening - This is very, very important. It shows the breeder is doing all they can to ensure healthy pups that will not have issues that could be prevented.
Rat Terriers are fortunate to have known genetic markers for several issues – and again fortunate that those issues have a simple mode of inheritance. So some serious & heartbreaking problems can be eliminated by simply not breeding carriers to carriers! So genetic testing is vital for parents.
Most ethical breeders will also do several other tests – OFA X-rays for Hips & Elbows. Patella check. Eyes & heart evaluations. The eyes are evaluated by a Veterinary Ophthalmologist and the results are submitted to OFA. Hearts are done by either a regular Vet or a Cardiologist - a Cardiologist is generally preferred as there have been heart issues in the breed. The results should be recorded and registered with the OFA, and viewable online. Aside from the OFA being a great verification tool, it is also a valuable historical record for Breeders to view. So recording your results helps not only your breeding program but the future of the breed. (www.ofa.org)
Dogs must be at least 2 years old for the hips & elbows, 12-18 months for many other evaluations. Breeding before 2 years old is not a good thing as most dogs are not fully mature until at least two.
Finally – Talk to the breeders you are considering! Do you feel comfortable with them? Are they someone you would go to for all your questions? Your breeder should always be the first person you contact for any question or problem with your pup.
Here are some additional good links for you:
The RTCA offers a list of Breeders also. These Breeders are RTCA Members who have paid to be on the list. As Members, they at least meet the first criteria we mentioned.
The OFA – this is the central Database registry for Health Screening tests. They also have a number of articles on the diseases affecting each breed:
The AKC Marketplace lists AKC registered pups. Do your due diligence to screen any breeder! The only requirement for listing a pup on the AKC website is to register your litter with the AKC.
Rat Terrier Rescue:
Maybe you are thinking an older dog might be a good fit? Or you’d like to see if there is a suitable Rat Terrier for you looking for the right home? These are the two National Rat Terrier Rescue groups:
Good Luck with your search and welcome to the Breed!