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AMERICAN RAT TERRIERS
By Ed Draper
J ust 10 or 15 years ago, had you been out walking your Rat Terrier, chances are you would have heard comments like, “Oh, look, a Jack Russell!” or “Ah, yes... unquestionably a Fox Terrier!” Not so much today. At least in the experience of this writer, people are begin- ning to recognize Rat Terriers. In fact, a just couple of hours before writing this, I was walking my two RTs in a park and asked a passerby to identify the breed. She answered correctly. RTs may look a little like Jack Russells or Fox Terriers from a distance, but there are significant di ff er- ences. To name a few, other similar size breeds, such as Basenji, Fox Terrier, Toy
Fox Terrier and Parson Jack Russell Ter- riers, have straight shoulders; Rat Terriers have laid-back shoulders. Rat Terriers have a reach and drive, their front ends are dif- ferent, their legs fit under legs better and they have more slope on the pastern. Th e Rat Terrier was created in the 19th century as an e ffi cient, intuitive hunter of small vermin on farms and ranches. Immi- grants to America used a mixture of crosses of old time Fox Terriers and several other European Terriers, including Old English White Terrier, Manchester Terrier and Bull Terrier. Later on the breed was crossed with Smooth Fox Terrier, Beagle, Toy Fox Ter- rier, Whippet and Italian Greyhound and other feist breeds. Th e result was a sturdy, compact, small- to medium-sized terrier,
with speed, agility, keen intelligence and an inherent need for human contact. During the 1910s and 1920s, Rat Terri- ers were commonly seen on farms all over the United States and remained popular as pets through the 1940s. But, with the growth of mechanized farming and the use of poison to control small vermin, the breed’s numbers began to dwindle. In the 1950s the breed was maintained only by a handful of breeders. Rat Terriers success- fully re-emerged during the late 70s and 80s. Th e Rat Terrier Club of America, founded in 1995, worked for several years to refine and establish a national breed standard for the Rat Terrier as it is today. Th e breed achieved full AKC recognition in June of 2013. 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& . ": t
Rat Terriers range from 10-25 lbs., and 13 ½ "-15" in height. Th eir short, smooth coat comes in any variation of pied pat- terning—comparatively large patches of one or more colors in combination with white. Acceptable colors, with or without “tan points,” include the predominant black (or chocolate), red, apricot, blue, fawn, tan or lemon. Th e distinctive color- ing and patterning makes Rat Terriers easy to spot in a field. Beyond being a farm dog, Rat Terri- ers have proven themselves to be a ver- satile, multipurpose breed with a play- ful, happy-go-lucky attitude. They are an all-in-one dog—able to do virtually anything they are trained to do—and they are easily trainable and exception- ally intelligent. They excel in conforma- tion, agility, obedience, rally obedience, weight pull, terrier racing, Earthdog, barn hunt and lure coursing. They are capable of hunting rodents and vermin above and below ground. They make f ine therapy and service dogs. And they are loyal friends and companions— especially for families. Whether you live on a farm or in a condo, Rat Terriers are adaptable to almost any lifestyle—as long as they have human companionship. Th ey are unusually sensitive, intuitive, anxious to please, and thrive on praise. Th ey make excellent house dogs and can be crate trained, but they don’t do well in ken- nels, consistently tied up or as “outside only” dogs where they are isolated from people. Th ey are at their best as mem- bers of a human family. Most are patient and tolerant of children, but may be reserved with strangers. Th e breed sheds seasonally and requires brushing with a soft brush or rubber curry mitt. While they are one of the calmest of the terrier breeds, they are nevertheless high-ener- gy, and require exercise, daily walks and lots of companionship. Rat Terrier owners have also pro- nounced characteristics. One of them is a contagious enthusiasm about their breed. If the present trend continues, we predict that in another 10 or 15 years Rat Terriers will be one of the most recogniz- able breeds in the country.
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AT HOME WITH THE RAT TERRIER
By Stacy McWilliams
hen most people think of Rat Terriers, they see the familiar tableau of the rugged little
farm of rodents, help hunt squirrels and play with the kids. To the turn of the cen- tury farmer, the Rat Terrier was an indis- pensable part of family life. Today, the Rat Terrier remains a favor- ite of rural people everywhere, but it is also an ideal family dog that is just as much at home in the house as on the farm. Th eir size makes them economical to feed and kennel, and their short hair makes them less messy than many shedding breeds. Th ey are among the friendliest of terriers, making them excellent pets for children.
feist going barn to barn with his master, ridding the farm of vermin. A great deal of this vision is true. A hundred years ago, you would be hard pressed to fi nd a farm in America that didn’t have a Rat Terrier. Th ey were the ideal dogs for rural life: a compact, hardy dog that would rid the
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A growing child couldn’t ask for a bet- ter, more loyal friend than a Rat Terrier. And while they may be tenacious while on the trail of a rat, at home they are just as comfortable snuggling next to you on the couch for a long winter nap. Outside the home, we get to see another side of the Rat Terrier. Those unfamiliar with the breed are quick to notice its keen intelligence and eye-popping athleticism. These two traits—along with exceptional brav- ery—are indispensable for a dog that
makes its living dispatching ground quarry. The athleticism and intel- ligence of the Rat Terrier can also be found on display in a simple game of fetch. There are few things more enjoyable than watching a “rattie” race across an open f ield, leap high in the air after a ball, and then return it with a huge grin on its face. Aesthetically, the Rat Terrier is among the most pleasing dogs in the world. Rat Terriers are structurally balanced with a well-de fi ned, expressive face. Th ey are
sturdy, but not bulky or cumbersome. In many ways, the Rat Terrier is a study in artistic balance, a combination of chis- eled musculature and e ff ortless grace. Such traits lend themselves naturally to the show ring where they have been a fi x- ture in the UKC ring for some time and this June will complete the crossover to the AKC. With a storied past and a bright future, the Rat Terrier has solidi- fi ed itself as a quintessential American success story.
“A growing child couldn’t ask for a BETTER, MORE LOYAL FRIEND THAN A RAT TERRIER.”
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RAT TERRIERS: BREED Q&A
1. Describe the breed in three words. DB: Perfect, working farmdog. SG: Smart, elegant and muscular. LLR: Sturdy, compact and physically fit.
I am in Massachusetts now, but am moving to Tennessee. I am a reptile person who breeds high quality Morphs and I am into hunting with my dogs. I have American Hairless Ter- riers and also Xolos, along with the Rat Terriers. I have over 40 years in breeding and showing in all venues with over 80 titles to credit. I also work in protection sports with my GS and Belgian Malinois. I enjoy showing my dogs and will until I can no longer do it. I am approved to judge Bullmastiffs, which is the breed I started with and did for over 35 years while still having my other breeds at the same time. I also judge Rat Terriers, American Hairless Terriers and Boston Ter- riers. The next breed I will take on is the Xolo. SUE GOLDBERG
2. How do you feel the breed is doing after 3 years in the AKC? DB: The breed is still fairly new to AKC still, but I am hoping over time that the Rat Terriers will get more uniformed. There are still a lot of wrong types being shown and put up. I would suggest to judges to ask the Rat Terrier Club of America for a copy of the PDF for a $5 fee for breed information on correct type. SG: The Rat Terrier breeders are to be congratulated for all they’ve achieved in three short years. The breed has much more consistency in type, is far better in quality and much closer to what the standard describes than when they first were recognized. LLR: I would like to see more consistency in breed type, a common issue in most breeds I believe when they come into AKC. The breed is still “all over the place” and I would hope that the breeders will see value in using dogs bred by others if it will afford an opportunity to improve upon their own stock. 3. What do you feel is the best attribute of the Rat Terriers you see in your ring? DB: Rat Terriers need to be able to move; it is not a walking breed. They should also have substance enough to do what they were bred for. We don’t want tall and spindly. SG: Better balance, better toplines and better heads.
We are snowbirds—living in Warren, New Jersey when it’s warm and Marco Island, Florida when it gets cold. In my other life, I am an executive recruiter, filling senior level assignments for most- ly Fortune 500 corporations. I’ve been involved with Soft Coated Wheaten Ter- riers since 1968, before they were recog- nized. We’ve produced 70 Champions,
three of the breeds Top Producers, a Best in Show bitch that was the #2 Wheaten in the country 2013 and 2014; the #1 male in 2013; and multiple Group and Specialty winners. I began judging in 1995 and am now approved for the Terrier, Sporting and Non-Sporting Groups; BIS; Juniors and provi- sionally for Afghans, Dachshunds and Salukis. LINDA L. REECE
Illustrations courtesy of Kimberly Seegmiller; RTCA President
I live in beautiful Hampton Roads, Virginia. I have several interests outside of my dogs including seeing America through camping, attending classic car shows, antiquing and baking all kinds of goodies that I should not eat! I started in dogs through a 4-H dog project in my home state of Pennsylvania. This experi- ence led me on to AKC Junior Showman-
ship, conformation and obedience. I have shown dogs for 50 years with over 40 of those devoted to breeding and exhibit- ing Smooth Fox Terriers. I started judging in 2000.
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LLR: I have judged this breed for 17 years and believe the biggest improvement has been in overall soundness, both physically and mentally. There used to be a lot of issues with rear assembly (patellas) and it was not uncommon for a Rat Terrier to have a go at you when attempting to exam them on the table. 4. What should judges understand when judging the Rat Terrier against other Terriers in the group ring? DB: Look for balance and a good, strong topline. Look for the dog that moves effortlessly and seems like it is at ease when moving. Perky and always with attitude. Never tall and spindly; must have some bone to do its proper job. The Rat Terrier that stands out and says, ‘Here I am.’ SG: These are sturdy, powerful ratters; compact, yet off- square; muscular and fit. They must retain elegance in order to conform to the standard. Any size between 10 and 18 inches is within the standard and must be judged equally. LLR: Well, remember that they are not judging them against the other Terriers, they are judging each Terrier in reference to how well they fit the description of their individual breed standards. But to answer your question, they are not a fancy breed, they should be evaluated as a functional working Terrier through and through. 5. Do you feel there is enough breed educational material for reference? DB: No, judges should always go to the parent clubs and see their PDFs on the breed that is the best source and refer- ence. I, myself do that on every breed I judge. It gives
you pictures of the proper structures of the breed with a few pictures of actual dogs they find to be of nice quality. If this was done before judging the breed, we would be able to help the breed and not guess it. LLR: No, there are not enough materials out there for judge’s education. I am constantly asked and happy to help my peers in the judging world for some clarification on the Rat Terriers breed standard and I make myself available for mentoring whenever possible. I do believe that the lack of educational materials offered by any given breed club is due to lack of financial resources, putting together materials for educational purposes is not inexpensive. 6. When judging Rat Terriers what is the most important feature you look for? DB: Balance, outstanding correct movement and type. SG: A dog built to fulfill its function as a ratter and to course small game. Muscular, not Toyish, regardless of size—and never coarse. LLR: Breed type at first glance when they come in to the ring. As well as the need for overall proportion and bal- ance combined with soundness all around. Conditioning is very high up on my priority list when judging the Terriers. Stable temperaments are a must. 7. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? DB: They read the standard, but not seeing examples of correctness hurts the breed. That is why I suggest the PDF from the parent club which is the Rat Terrier Club of America; ordering it is well worth it to do right by the breed. SG: That a well-balanced 10" Rat Terrier is as competitive as an 18" dog. Also, there seems to be a bit of confusion as to the markings and coloration. LLR: Everything! I believe that the Rat Terrier is the most misunderstood breed in the Terrier group. They are not Smooth Fox Terriers, they are not smooth coated Parson Russell Terriers nor are they Manchester Terriers. They have a front that is different than a lot of Terriers and the “BALANCE, OUTSTANDING CORRECT MOVEMENT AND TYPE.”
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“NOW, THERE IS FAR GREATER CONSISTENCY IN TYPE AND ALSO IN QUALITY.”
topline is very different than what most judges are used to seeing on a short haired Terrier. Please remember that the Rat Terrier standard allows for a size range of 10" to 18". You will probably find it difficult to look at a 10" bitch and a 17" dog side by and apply the written standard to what you are looking at, quite honestly you will sometimes find yourself asking if they are the same breed. They can look that different. Please do not be afraid to wicket this breed, there is a DQ for size. There must be mention about temperament as well, this breed may be somewhat reserved when you approach them on the table. This does not mean shy to the point of wilting on the table or showing the whites of their eyes. They are Terriers and, reserved or not, they must not be afraid nor show aggression. 8. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. DB: The breed has been around for 200 or more years, but only as farm dogs catching vermin. So it still maintains a lot of different types within the breed. With all of us on board, we are in hope that the breed will become more uniformed, but that can only happen by what judges are putting up. If judges don’t know the breed, they are hurting, not helping. A good breed fancy will know its dogs and what it likes and stick with it. Many who are not as knowledgeable will breed to whatever wins. That is why it is so important for the judges to really know the breed well and educated themselves. SG: I’d like to share my admiration for the great strides the breed has made in a short time. They were really a ‘mixed bag’ when they first came in to AKC; many were
almost unrecognizable as to what breed they were. Now, there is far greater consistency in type and also in quality. LLR: The Rat Terrier is pretty much a do-anything Terrier breed. They excel at performance sports and are excellent family pets. You need to have a sense of humor to own most Terrier breeds and the Rat Terrier is no exception. Their short, smooth coat makes them a very low maintenance breed. They are very hardy and easy keepers. 9. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? DB: At one of my very first times showing a Bullmastiff, upon going around the ring, the dog decided it wanted its food now and jumped at my bait pouch. All the meat went flying to the floor with all the dogs in the ring jump- ing for the meat. Needless to say, I was pretty red faced at the time, but it was funny. SG: Many years ago, I was showing a very outgoing, exuber- ant seven-month-old puppy in Bred By. A fellow exhibi- tor watched his antics in the ring and after he won the points, laughingly described him as a, “Dope on a rope!” LLR: The story I like to share about a judging experience that really sticks with me happened years ago. I was judging a class of puppies (not Rat Terriers) and as I approached the table to examine the dog he took one look at me coming towards him, leaped up in the air and over my head at which point I reached up, caught him mid-air, set him back on the table, gave him and his owner time to compose themselves and preceded to judge the dog. The owner and I had several laughs about that over the years and the dog did go on to become a Champion.
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