What you see here, indeed, is a photo of my dog, Cobb.
I know what you're thinking and you're absolutely wrong. You'll not find a lot of cutesy stories about Cobb nor will I pretend that Cobb is writing this post and talking about life with "his humans."
No, the purpose of all this is to convince you that all good Americans should adore the rat terrier. Cobb and his ilk are as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Budweiser.
Well, not Budweiser. Not anymore. Anheuser-Busch sold out to the Belgians. Therefore, Budweiser sucks and all good Americans should dump any swill brewed by those traitors at Anheuser-Busch in the street and go buy a 12-pack of Samuel Adams. But I digress...
Here's the thing about the mighty, mighty rat terrier. Whenever you see a rat terrier, you should know that you are gazing at a representative of the American breed of dog. That's right. The rat terrier was standardized in the good old U.S. and that's true of how many breeds? As it turns out, a very select few. The rat terrier is my favorite of that small group of U.S. breeds, however.
"But, Hawg? Why should I adore the rat terrier? What's so great about them?"
I'm glad you asked. Here are a few observations about this feisty breed, both good and bad.
Characteristics of the all American dog
Rat terriers come in three varieties -- standard, miniature and toy. Cobb is a miniature rat terrier, meaning he weighs in at about 16.5 pounds. Standard rat terriers are a bit larger. I don't like toy rat terriers because they are bug-eyed and, therefore, creepy.
Rat terriers feature fine fur, mottled skin and their coats are generally mostly white with large patches of black and tan. Their ears are either upright or fold over a bit at the tip. According to the American Kennel Club, Cobb has a genetic flaw because one of his ears stands straight up and the other folds over at the tip. The AKC can go to hell. Cobb's "flawed" ears give the boy character.
Rat terriers kill stuff. Lots of stuff.
I really wish this breed was called "varmint terrier" for public relations purposes. The name "rat terrier" is none to appealing and "varmint terrier" is more accurate, anyway. If something moves and it's smaller than the rat terrier, the dog will try to catch it and kill it. Heck, I've seen mine go after things that are as big as he is.
We live near the Saline River and, as such, we have a lot of snakes show up in my yard. When Cobb was just a little pup, he started to cut down on our snake problem. Yes, he catches them, kills them and buries them, too. That's what I call service!
Some people, of course, will try to argue that a healthy snake population is good for the ecowhatsit and that mother earth cries when one of her creatures is killed and blah, blah, blah, bloppity blah. Nonsense. The only good snake is a dead snake, and the bond between Cobb and me was further strengthened the day that I found out he shares my anti-snake views. God bless that snake-hating little dog!
A concern, of course, is that some of those snakes that Cobb tangles with are poisonous. What if he gets bitten? According to our vet, the best thing to do in such an emergency is to give the pup some Benadryl. Good to know.
A rat terrier may be small, but it's no sissy
Believe it or not, there are some people want a small, house dog but they don't want a temperamental thing that looks like a mop. Rat terriers make good house pets, but they're tough, energetic little critters that like to roughhouse and romp with the best of them. They're great with kids, too.
Rat terriers are fast. Way fast.
Early on, a lot of breeds were cut into the rat terrier bloodline. You can find everything from whippets to Italian Greyhounds lurking in the rat terrier family tree. Why? Because rat terriers were, once upon a time, primarily farm dogs that earned their keep by chasing down and killing varmints. Also, they've put in a lot of time as hunting dogs. So, speed was essential back when the breed was being developed and that means they're turn-on-a-dime speedy.
That can be bad, of course. Rat terriers are also marvelously curious and that leads them to want to explore outside the fence, house or wherever they are confined. Cobb has gotten the door on me more than a few times and he is almost impossible to catch when he gets loose and is running through the neighborhood. He's more than just fast -- Cobb is quick and elusive, too.
Rat terriers are healthy
Because of the rich genetic stew that gave birth to the rat terrier, you just don't get the same inbreeding problems with the dogs that you do with a lot of other ones. Rat terriers, then, are almost mutt-like in their resistance to health problems.
They do have problems with allergies, however, and can break out in rashes if exposed to things like "doggie perfumes" or any of that other rot. It's just as well. What dog wants to smell like a rose, anyway?
Rat terriers are smart
That can be a good thing, of course, because a stupid dog isn't a whole lot of fun. Rat terriers are stubborn, however, and that can be a problem when combined with intelligence. Cobb tends to figure out things, like how to pull of his rabies tag, get rid of that citronella-spraying collar that was supposed to cure him of barking and how to get out of fences.
That little "get out of the fence" trick got him slapped in the dog pound one day. Poor fellow.
Rat terriers have the worst bark on the planet
A barking rat terrier is an awful thing. Cobb is cursed with a bark that's shrill and cutting and he just loves to bark, too. Bark, bark, bark. All the damned time. That's one of the reasons why Cobb spends a lot of time in the house -- I have neighbors and I don't want them to hate me.
One neighbor complained a few months ago about Cobb's barking (it was during the afternoon) and we got a visit from animal control. A friend observed that the heat was just hassling Cobb because he's got a record. Once a dog has been in the pound he just can't live it down.
Rat terriers are friendly if socialized well
Rat terriers get on very well with people and other animals if they are exposed to a lot of people and other animals as pups. Cobb is a friendly type who gets along with our other animals well enough (except for one cat and he can terrorize her all day long for all I care), but he's also intensely jealous.
Why? Because rat terriers bond closely to their owners. If, for example, I'm petting Winston the dog and Cobb figures he ought to be petted, he has no problem with crawling all over Winston and trying to push him out of the way. On the subject of loyalty to owners, rat terriers are extremely sensitive to the moods of their owners -- if you're mad, they know it and cower accordingly. On the other hand, if you're ready to play, the terrier is game. There's a warning here -- if you get a rat terrier, plan on keeping him. From what I understand, they don't adapt well from being pulled away from one owner and handed to another. Once that bond is in place, it's best to make it permanent.
If you want a dog that's both loyal and responsive, the rat terrier is a great choice.
A male rat terrier never runs out of pee
That means that you'd better be ready to let them out of the house often and you'd better be ready to get up out of bed when they wake up and want to go outside. If it's 6 a.m. and you're feeling sleepy, you'd better get to that door and let the dog out. You'll regret it otherwise.
I once thought Cobb had a bladder problem until my wife saw another rat terrier walking down the street and stopping to pee on everything he could find. That's a rotten condition, of course, but it can be turned into an advantage -- when Cobb escapes, we often catch him when he slows down to mark his territory.
Rat terriers are fearless
Yep. They're loud, pushy, hyperactive and never ones to back down from a fight. We have three dogs and one of them weighs 120 pounds -- he's given the aggressive Cobb a scar or two over the years. The big dog is largely passive, but Cobb's not and that can lead to trouble.
By the way, the name Cobb is derived from "Ty Cobb" and it rather fits the breed.
Embrace the rat terrier, America. That little dog is your heritage.