That rat terrier puppy you just brought home could be part of your life for a long time: It's not uncommon for these little dogs to live into their late teens. The rat terrier, an American dog breed, descends from several terriers -- including the fox, Manchester and bull varieties -- along with the beagle, Chihuahua and Italian greyhound. Your puppy's playful disposition doesn't change as he ages.
It's important to know the history of your puppy's breed. That prepares you for some typical rat terrier behaviors. As you probably guessed from the name, the rat terrier was developed to hunt rats and other vermin on farms. Squirrels, rabbits and other backyard creatures are fair game for this fast little fellow. Unlike other terriers, he generally gets along with cats and other dogs, especially if raised with them from puppyhood. If you happen to live on a farm, rat terriers are usually good with horses and other livestock.
Rat terriers don't come in solid colors. They are all some variety of "pied," or large areas of colors with white. White is key -- they can be a combination of a few colors, but one must be white. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, "A few white hairs does not constitute an acceptable marking." Many rat terriers have tan points on their heads, legs and tails. Acceptable colors, with white, include black, red, chocolate, blue, apricot, light brown -- known as fawn -- and lemon. Acceptable patterns include patches, spots and splashes.
Because rat terriers are so smart, housebreaking your puppy shouldn't be difficult. That's the good news. The downside is that these dogs don't like being alone. Separation anxiety is a common issue in the breed. Crate-train yours from an early age, because you probably can't leave a rat terrier loose in the house until he's a few years old -- unless you enjoy coming home to mass destruction. Because rat terriers are quite territorial and will "mark" with urine, it's a good idea to have your puppy spayed or neutered by the age of 6 months.
You might think rat terrier puppies are like potato chips -- you can't have just one. However, the Rat Terrier Club of America recommends that you don't have more than one puppy at a time. That's because rat terrier puppies will likely bond with each other rather than with their human families. If you want an additional "rattie" in your life, wait until your current puppy reaches adulthood and is thoroughly trained, socialized and bonded with you. Then you can bring a new puppy home. The older rattie should remain the alpha dog and leader of your rat pack.