Ratshire Terrier

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Ratshire Terrier is a hybrid dog, which is a cross between the American Rat Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier. They are small dog with a bold personality, and are require an owner committed to providing plenty of exercise and consistent reward-based training.

The Ratshire Terrier is a power-house of a small dog, needing a daily outlet for both their mental and physical energy. Don’t be fooled into thinking their lack of height makes them into a lap dog, because they crave activity and excitement. Also, their bold nature means they will stand up for themself when challenged, which makes them a poor match for households with young children.

About & History

As a relatively young breed, the story of the Ratshire Terrier is that of the two parent breeds.

The Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier is named for the English county in which the breed developed. The need for the Yorkie arose in the mid-19th century, when poor workers needed a small dog to keep down rat number in the cotton mills where they worked. The breed arose from breeding together a number of different terrier breeds, including the Clydesdale, Skye, and Paisley Terriers from Scotland, with the English and Waterside Terriers.

The Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier is another working dog from mixed heritage, this time originating in the US. Breeds that contributed to the breed are said to include dogs as diverse as the Whippet, Beagle, and Manchester Terrier, alongside others, such as the Fox Terrier.


The Ratshire Terrier is a small dog, usually weighing less than 10kg. They are well-proportioned, as expected from a dog with a working heritage. Their head has a good sized snout, set with alert eyes and prick ears. Their overall silhouette is of a strong, athletic but compact dog, topped off at the rear end by a moderately long tail.

The majority have a smooth, short coat, but alternatively, some Ratshire Terriers have longer, wiry hair. The most common colour is white with patches of tan, black, sable, brindle, or brown. However, some dogs do have a black and tan coat colouration more typical of the Yorkshire Terrier.

Character & Temperament

The clue to the Ratshire Terrier’s temperament is that word “terrier” with an inherited instinct to stand up for themselves. This means they don’t tolerate feeling threatened, such as by the erratic tottering’s of a small child, and will come out fighting. With this in mind, the Ratshire Terrier may not be suited to an owner with a young family.

On the plus side, with the right owner they are an intelligent, resourceful, and rewarding pet that thrives when given plenty of physical exercise. Be prepared for a dog that may test the boundaries, but when an owner responds consistently the dog feels secure and be deeply bonded to that person.


Think of a Ratshire Terrier as an independent soul with a mind of their own. But find the right motivation and these intelligent dogs respond well to training. The trick is to use reward-based methods that make the dog eager to work, and to be patient when they become distracted.


As a hybrid dog there is little statistical data about their health problems. However, both parent breeds are known to suffer from certain conditions, so there is an increased probability of these showing up in their offspring.

Portosystemic Shunt (PSS)

In the womb, the developing puppy has a blood vessel present that bypasses the foetal liver. When the pup is born, this blood vessel should shut down which then ‘switches on’ their liver function. Should this fail to happen the dog has a condition known as a portosystemic shunt (PSS) where the liver is switched off and doesn’t detox the natural toxins associated with digestion.

Signs of this condition include excessive salivation after eating, mental dullness, and stunted growth. The condition may be managed with medication, but this is not a cure. There are various surgical options for repair, which carry a high success rate but are expensive.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is also known as ‘wobbly kneecaps.’ In a normal knee, the patella (kneecap) is firmly anchored so that the big thigh muscles pull in only one direction. With patellar luxation, the kneecap pops to one-side, such that the thigh muscles pull at an angle. This can lock the knee in the wrong position, causing the dog to skip a step.

There is a spectrum of patellar luxation from mild (which can be managed with pain relief) to severe (corrective surgery is required). The condition also carries an increased risk of arthritis in later life.

Tracheal Collapse

The trachea, or windpipe, is the flexible tube through which the dog breathes. Unfortunately, some breeds are prone to this tube being overly soft, which means it can collapse when the dog breathes in.

Affected dogs should not wear a collar but be walked on a harness. The severest cases require surgery to implant a stent or support around the windpipe and prevent it collapsing.

Skin Allergies

Terrier breeds are well-known for an increased risk of allergic skin disease. This presents itself as extreme itchiness or excessive licking. There are many excellent treatment options available, but life-long therapy is required and the medications are costly.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Once again key to understanding the Ratshire Terrier’s exercise requirements is that word “terrier”. Although physically small, they have the boldness and energy levels of a dog bred to catch vermin. They are never happier than when trotting alongside their owner’s heel, with a job of work to do.

In the modern world when it’s unlikely a pet needs to be a ratter, the next best activity is plenty of exercise. This means a good 60 to 90 minutes of lively exercise per day, over a couple of walks. But remember, for a Ratshire Terrier, more is better.


The short coat of the Ratshire Terrier makes them a low maintenance dog. Regular brushing with a slicker helps to remove shed hair and keep the coat in tip-top condition. Should the dog inherit a longer coat from the Yorkie parent, then combing is required to prevent knots forming. Bathing is only necessary if the coat becomes heavily soiled, and for owner’s that prefer a sweet-smelling dog then shampoo once a month with a mild, moisturising product to keep skin healthy.

As with any dog, daily tooth brushing is essential to eliminate plaque formation and slow down tartar development. This is best achieved by getting the pup used to a toothbrush from an early age and using pet toothpaste.

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