What is a Rat Terrier? For those who don’t know may conjure up this awful image of an ugly city rodent that only causes harm and wreaks havoc. But for those of us who do know, the Rat Terrier is a breed of dog that is surpassing many other breeds these days. They are the dogs the people speak of as being different somehow, or like human, or some wonderful alien from another planet that has come to spread joy to the humans on earth. These little dogs or not so little, look at you with an expression as if they know exactly what you are talking about, and frankly, they probably do! They don’t simply cock their heads, they use their ears, eyes, lips and every other part of their body to relate to you what it is they want or to make sure that you know they understand.

     They are sensitive and innocent living for sheer pleasures and giving love to anyone who surrounds them. Yet have the intestinal fortitude of a Great Dane and the ability of the hunt like a mountain lion. And don't think that they don’t have the intelligence to fool you. That intense look of innocence can be turned into a powerful emotion grabber. "Sorry, I didn't mean to crash into your face when I tried to kiss you! I'm just so happy to see you" and "I'm not looking out of the corner of my eye waiting for you to leave so I can do what I'm not suppose to !"

      Everything they do is made into a game. "Ok guys, lets run across the yard now, but lets see who can leap the farthest on the way" or "if you don't pick me up I am just going to jump into your arms even if you are 6 and a half feet tall. Just don't forget to catch me it’s a long way down!" Then there's the lets all get into our owners lap at the very same time and see who can stay there without having to crawl up their neck.

     It is a breed that demands to all Rat lovers that we help to keep them a healthy, intelligent breed so that they can be around for many many generations in the future. Many breeds have come into popularity only to go out because of major health issues or by being cloned into another breed leaving behind the true values of the original breed.  The Rat had a grand start of staying in existence as a healthy specimen because of the variations and types that it contains now. This makes for a huge gene pool and yet still allows for working in consistency of type without loosing a beat. Fortunately with the Rat we all have a great deal of time, perhaps as long as the breed has been existence to work towards this consistent goal.

     The NRTA has written the standards for the breed to include all the variations of the Rat. By retaining all the original qualities of the dog it allows the breeders to breed for consistency in type without sacrificing the gene pool. If a breeder prefers the button ear on a type A dog and is about 12 pounds then they should breed dogs that are as similar as possible to insure the continuity of the puppies that are born. The same would apply to all the other traits and characteristics of the specific dogs that they are breeding. This is very important to keep our Rat Terriers as they still are today and yet retain there sought after characteristics.

     One of the unique qualities that Rat Terriers have is that regardless of the size or color or minor variations in their looks, they have wonderful temperaments and without a doubt you can identify that it is a Rat Terrier, usually at a glance. Indeed they hold a very special demeanor that makes them what they are and regardless, you can't seem to get rid of it. There are the exceptions to all rules and in the Rat, if you look at them and see that they resemble one of the breeds that they were originally made from, chances are that they are not the dogs that you want to breed and further lines with. That is why standards were written. There must be guidelines to go by so that they have a direction and goal.  Not all dogs are going to fit into a breed standard but with the right amount of leeway given in a standard you can produce the best that can be got.

     What is meant by the right amount of leeway given is that when you break down for instance, a breed into size categories, the size ranges cannot be to large nor to small. It needs to have a reasonable size range in order to safely produce a uniform size with consistency. To breed dogs that vary to widely will only serve to produce a litter with a wide range of size. Along with correct temperament the conformation and colors will fall into place. It is matter of personal preference with colors and anyone can breed what they desire. Temperament and health is a must and we have a huge amount of choices with breeding them properly.

    The same applies to body style. To breed a Rat Terrier that is a class A to a Class B would just defeat the purpose of writing and following a standard. What ends up happening is the puppies that are born out of two dogs with different body styles is that some will be Class A and some Class B and some in-between. It only adds more conflicts to the breeder's attempts. To make things worse, if you then go to breed those puppies to your choice of dog you don't know what type of body style to expect because they have both.  By breeding A to A and B to B it also makes it easier when you go to sell your puppies because you can tell the people exactly what to expect. Many people have their own preference to which body style they want, not to mention if you are selling to another breeder. The last thing that they will expect out of a Class A type is the B style.

     Popularity can be a breed's worst enemy. When demand gets high for a breed the general public depends on the breeders to produce the puppies that they are after. Let face it, all breeders are not out for the good of the breed, and that goes for all breeds not just Rat Terriers. Some feel that it will be a quick buck because it becomes a demand and supply type of situation. This can quickly destroy the health, temperament and conformation of a breed.

     Showing is another issue that should be cautiously looked at especially for the breeder. When a dog becomes so popular and increases in the show ring and starts receiving championships the demand for stud service and offspring of these dogs rise. Well so does the price. In order to show a dog and win, obviously it needs to be quite the specimen of beauty. The conformation needs to be impeccable but to many times the health and brains and working abilities of the dog go down hill. The challenge in preserving a breed with not only looks and all the other important characteristics can become a nearly impossible feat. To breed dogs of this impeccable type nearly always requires the technique of line breeding and inbreeding. There are great pros in doing this but the drawback is that most times proper utilization of this knowledge is not done and a significant amount of perfect dogs cannot be produced because the health of the dog will slowly deteriorate. It is not uncommon for a breed to lose all the wonderful qualities it originally had over time because the urge to create the perfect show dog and sell them for a lot of money is a strong one.

     The NRTA in its quest for the Rat has pondered why the breed is like it is, why its become so popular, why it should remain with all its versatility, why it deserves to be preserved, how it needs to be watched over, why to keep bad blood out, why to not accept cross breeding it, why to carefully and closely track a dogs history and why we are here.

     When we think of the Rat Terrier as a breed we should think of less is more, unique is wonderful and quality not quantity.

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