Dog Training

Rat Terriers Puppy Training Rat Terrier History Difference between Rat and Toy

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Before you try to train the Rat Terrier we need to get a few things cleared up. First you must understand what a Rat Terrier is and isn't. Many people get the Rat and Toy Fox Terriers confused or use the name interchangeably. That they're two entirely different breeds can't be stressed enough. Never approach the owner of the former with your Toy Fox puppy and call him a Rat. While they will no doubt appreciate how cute your puppy is the other owner will still seriously set you straight. Rat owners are usually proud of their dogs and the history of this interesting breed.

Introduced to America first by British and Irish miners this breed of terrier gained a reputation as hardy scrappy little dogs. Bred from the now vanished English White Terrier these little guys were used mostly for small game like vermin and rabbits. They became very popular in the southern states and with Native Americans. Over time the original dogs then known as 'feists' were bred with other breeds also well known and well liked in America such as the Beagle, Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds and the Miniature Pincher.

Legend has it that it was Teddy Roosevelt a huge fan of the breed who gave them their new name. He appreciated their spunk and energy not to mention their hunting skills and is believed to be the first to call them Rat Terriers.

Rats have a sleek easy to groom coats. According to the Rat Terrier Club's web page at the breed standard has them as being a sturdy and compact medium sized terrier. They should be neither too muscle bound nor too finely boned.

Looking at these standards you can see the major difference between the Toy Fox Terrier and the Rat Terrier is the sizes allowed. For a Rat Miniature is "10 inches, up to and including 13 inches" and for the Standard "over 13 inches up to and including 19 inches. According to the American Kennel Club website at the Toy Fox Terrier Breed Standard size should be '8.5- 11.5 inches with 9-11 acceptable. In other words, the Toy Fox will usually be slightly smaller and lighter than the Rat terrier.

A Rat's color standards are "hound colors, tri-coloreds, and bi-coloreds, predominately white and black with tan or rust trim are preferred", but chocolate, red, orange, lemon or blue is acceptable with or without the tan trim.

If you have any question about a puppy meeting the standards check the club's website before you adopt the little guy and fall in love with him. Be sure you familiarize yourself with the standard before you go looking for your dog.

Training a terrier can be fun, but expect some hard work. A well known fact is that most of the terrier breeds have what's lovingly referred to as a 'dynamic' temperament. If you've heard the expression "stubborn as a terrier", but weren't completely sure what that meant training your new furry friend will give you all the explanation you need.

Some of the problems you might experience as you work with your dog are his suspiciousness of strangers, his chasing instinct which can be interpreted as aggression, his strong desire to dig, and his barking. Combine this with his stubborn nature and you'll have your hands full.

You'll also have an easy to groom, energetic, playful, loyal friend ready to let you know if he spots any trouble.

To begin you'll want to let you new friend in on the house rules. Namely, the housebreaking rules, which you need to start enforcing right off the bat. Giving you new little pal leniency the first week is only going to confuse him. Be firm right from the beginning and that way there will be no bad habits to undo later.

Don't hit the little fellow, yell or sound angry when you give commands. That will only give him a nervous temperament that's hard to rid him of later. He needs to learn some language just like a child needs starting with the word 'no'. If you find him doing something he shouldn't be doing firmly move him away to where he should be and use a firmly spoken, but not shouted 'no'.

While the puppy is small confine the little fellow to a small area you can secure him in which you've puppy proofed in advanced. Remember he needs puppy safe toys to keep him company. He'll need his water and food bowl kept there. Put down papers he can 'elimate' on in this space as well. If you can afford the expense most pet stores carry special puppy pads actually treated with a chemical the puppy will recognize as 'a place to go'.

Understand that for the first few days he'll go anywhere and everywhere and that he'll probably do things that will gross out the strongest stomach in the household such as chewing on the papers you've laid out for him. Remember he's not just covered in fur by accident, he's an animal. No matter what you do in this relationship he'll always be an animal. Just lay down new papers and keep trying. If you catch him in the act of going where he shouldn't use the 'no' word and gently grab him and move him to the area he's supposed to use. When you see him using the pads or the grass outside enthusiastically tell him what a great, fantastic dog he is. Praise will work wonders and eventually he'll understand where and when it's ok to 'elimate'.

Some pet owners use a crate to house train their dogs, but you're a Rat owner. Your dog is too energetic and too in need of stimulus for you to try such a method. You don't want a neurotic little terrier so you'll go with the safe enclosed space method.

Even if you have a big yard you need to train the puppy to walk on a leash. Rat Terriers need lots of exercise, so the sooner he gets use to a leash the faster you can start taking him out for long walks. When you first put the leash on, he might assume he's got a brand new chew toy, so let him get that out of his system. For the first few times you're trying him on the leash leave it slack for a few minutes. Then gradually draw the leash in until he's walking right beside you. Only do this a few minutes a day while he's small working up over time to his being able to say on the lease for a few hours.

Always keep your dog on a leash in public unless you take him to an enclosed area like a dog park. You'll run into smug owners who let their dogs run without a leash even in places where it's illegal to do so. You, being a smart, well adjusted owner know better than to satisfy some desire to be 'natural' or have an ego about your dog never running from you. You know your Rat loves you more than anything else in the entire world, but if something tiny and furry scurries by a few centuries of breeding will scream "HUNT!" and he might for a few seconds forget about your bond. In that few seconds, he can put enough distance between you both to be lost forever. He can also be distracted by things beyond your control when he's not on the leash and might act inappropriately. You won evolution's brain lottery, and he needs you to do the thinking for him in a world far too complicated for him. Always keep him on a leash.

Back home you'll need to keep a watchful eye on your Rat around smaller animals. Use the 'no' word if he nips at or plays to rough and he'll probably keep these lessons about what's the family hamster and what he can hunt for a lifetime. Likewise if he bites you even as a puppy firmly put an end to it. Those little bites won't be so cute when he's full grown so stop him now.

Don't let him up on beds or any place you don't want him as an adult. Keep him in his own soft, warm, safe places with no memories of forbidden comfy spots to torture him later. You'll both be happier in the long run. Likewise never give him food prepared for humans. Always give him dog food. He won't miss or whine after treats which will make him sick or fat if he never tastes them. As long as you're loving, firm and he gets enough exercise you should have you new friend around for a very long time

More about this author: Kacey Stapleton

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