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AKC and UKC Rat Terrier Breed Standards


The Rat Terrier breed was first recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1999. The American Kennel Club recognized the Rat Terrier breed in 2013. Between AKC and UKC, there are a few differences in the written Rat Terrier breed standards. Several AKC judges also judge in UKC. For these reasons, it’s important for all AKC judges to understand why they are seeing differences in Rat Terriers that compete in both AKC and UKC conformation shows.


What’s the difference between the AKC (American Kennel club) and UKC (United Kennel Club) Rat Terrier breed standards? 

We have compared both Breed Standards to one another and targeted individual parts of each standard; compared them against each other as a learning tool for UKC and AKC judges, breeders, and the general public. The information provided below is only “in part” and neither Breed Standard appears in its entirety.

akc rat terrier standard


Rat Terrier’s Body and General Appearance

UKC: Suggests some body areas of growth should not be “judged” under 12 months of age. For example, dog height and ear set. The 10:9 ratio is to be judged. UKC stresses that the loin should be “moderately short.”

AKC: Sets a dog’s final height at six (6) months old. A Disqualification (DQ) relating to height, lengthof ears, etc., should not be finalized, penalized or judged before twelve (12) months of age. Dogs can change a lot between 6 and 12 months old. AKC states, “The short loin has a slight muscular arch blending into the gently rounded croup.”

Comparison: UKC and AKC agree on “A small to medium compact hunting dog.” Both standards state the dog should only be “slightly” longer than tall.


Rat Terrier’s Head

Both the UKC and AKC Rat Terrier Breed Standards agree that the head shall be a blunt wedge shape when viewed from the front or from the side.

UKC: The head is proportionate to the size of the body. When viewed from the side, the skull and muzzle are of equal length and joined by a moderate stop. Viewed from the front and the side, the Rat Terrier’s head forms a blunt wedge shape. Fault: Abrupt Stop.

The skull is broad and slightly domed. It tapers slightly toward the muzzle. The jaws are powerful with well-muscled cheeks. Serious Fault: Apple Head.

AKC: The Head resembles a smooth, blunt wedge from a front or profile view. When seen from the front, the head widens gradually towards the base of the ears in an unbroken line and is well-filled-up under the eyes.

Comparison: The UKC Standard appears to be more concerned with head shape, noting an apple head as a serious fault and an abrupt stop as a fault. AKC lists the stop as “moderate but distinct.” UKC states that skull and muzzle should be equal in length, while AKC suggests that muzzle is to be “just slightly shorter in length than the skull.”


Rat Terrier’s Eyes

UKC – ‘Round’ Eye Shape

  • Eye color must align with coat color;
  • Eye color can vary with coat color, but eye rims and nose color must match;
  • Both eyes must match;
  • Wall or China eyes are faults;
  • Light eyes in dogs with dark-colored coats is a fault;
  • Bulged eyes are also faulted in UKC.

AKC – ‘Oval’ Eye Shape

  • Eye color must align with coat color;
  • Eye color can vary with coat color, but eye rims and nose color must match;
  • ANY blue in eyes is a DQ;
  • Gray eyes are accepted in diluted dogs only, but are a serious fault in other colorations.


Rat Terrier’s Colors

Comparison: Both AKC and UKC disqualify, aka DQ, merle, brindle, and absence of white. Both DQ the absence of white but vary in descriptions. AKC states an amount of white must be on the forechest or body and must not be less than one (1) inch at its widest point, adding “a few white hairs does not constitute an acceptable marking.” UKC only says the “absence” of white is a DQ.

  • UKC: Some accepted colors in UKC are not accepted in AKC. Isabella (aka Pearl) is a good example. UKC does not list Red as a color, but it clearly lists Fawn as a fault. UKC also lists Albinism.
  • AKC: Lists colors via color codes that are very exact. AKC lists white as the first color in every dog. To some, this could be misleading. For example, a black and white dog, with only the minimum of allowed white, would be listed as white and black. Many dog people have become accustomed to naming colors in order of the prominence of colors on that dog, i.e., white, black, and tan would suggest the dog is mostly white, followed by black, and lastly, tan. Tan being the least prominent color on this dog. The color codes are not mentioned in the AKC written Standard. AKC lists Red and Fawn as acceptable colors.

akc rat terrier standard


Rat Terrier’s Forequarters

UKC: Shoulders are smoothly muscled. The shoulder blades are well-laid-back, with the upper tips fairly close together at the withers. The upper arm appears to be equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an apparent right angle. The elbows are close to the body. Viewed from any angle, the forelegs are straight, strong, and sturdy in bone. The pasterns are strong, short, and nearly vertical.

AKC: The shoulder blades are well-laid-back, with flat muscles providing enough space between the shoulder blades to allow for free movement. The shoulder blades and the upper arms are nearly equal in length and are well-set-back so that the elbows fall directly under the highest point of the shoulder blade. The depth of the body at the elbow is the same distance as from the elbow to the ground. The forelegs stand straight and parallel, with elbows turning neither in nor out.

Comparison: Both Standards list shoulders that are well-laid-back. Both say smooth or flat muscled, allowing free and easy movement. AKC and UKC both claim that upper arm and shoulder blade should be nearly (or appear) equal in length. Both state that dogs should have nice straight forelegs, viewed from any angle. UKC says elbows should be close to body, i.e., not out. AKC also says that legs should be parallel, and elbows turn neither in nor out.


UKC: The feet are compact and slightly oval in shape. The two middle toes are slightly longer than the other toes. Toes may be well-split-up, but not flat or splayed. Front dewclaws may be removed. Rear dewclaws must be removed. Faults: Flat Feet; Splayed Feet; Rear Dewclaws Present.

AKC: The pasterns are slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The feet are oval in shape. The toes turn neither in nor out, are compact, moderately arched, with thick pads and strong nails. The front dewclaws may be removed.

Comparison: Both AKC and UKC Rat Terrier Breed Standards suggest nice compact feet, oval in shape. AKC says that toes should not point in or out. Both say front dewclaws can be removed and both state that rear dewclaws must be removed. (AKC mentions rear dewclaws under Hindquarters.) UKC lists flat and or splayed feet as a fault.


akc rat terrier standard


Rat Terrier’s Hindquarters

UKC: The hindquarters are muscular, with the length of the upper and lower thighs being approximately equal. The angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the angulation of the forequarters. The stifles are well-bent, and the hocks are well-let-down. When the dog is standing, the short, strong rear pasterns are perpendicular to the ground, and viewed from the rear, parallel to one another.

AKC: The hindquarters are muscular but smooth and in balance with the forequarters. They should not be bulging or coarse. Stifles are well-bent, with short hocks that are parallel and perpendicular to the ground. The hind feet, although slightly smaller, are similar to the front feet. Rear dewclaws are removed.

Comparison: UKC Rat Terrier Breed Standard says that upper and lower thighs should be approximately equal in length. AKC Rat Terrier Breed Standard does not compare. Both say the hindquarters should be muscular. AKC and UKC both suggest well-bent stifles. Both say, when standing, the hock should be perpendicular (right-angled) to the ground. Both state that, from the rear, hocks should be parallel.


Rat Terrier’s Tail

UKC: The tail is set-on at the end of the croup. A docked or natural bob tail is preferred, but a natural tail is not a fault. Docking should be between the second and third joint of the tail. The natural tail is thick at the base and tapers toward the tip. When the dog is alert, the tail is carried in an upward curve. When relaxed, the tail may be carried straight out behind the dog. Faults: Bent Tail; Ring Tail.

AKC: The tail set is a continuation of the spine. Tails are customarily docked between the second and third joint, or can be a natural bobtail or left naturally long and tapering to the hock joint. Length is unimportant. The carriage is variable, depending on attitude, carried from slightly below horizontal to almost erect, but not over the back or as a ring tail.

Comparison: UKC prefers a docked or natural bob tail, while a natural, full tail is allowed and is no fault. AKC says tail length is unimportant. Otherwise, the tail is pretty much described as
the same.

UKC prefers a docked or natural bob tail, while a natural, full tail is allowed and is no fault. AKC says tail length is unimportant. Otherwise, the tail is pretty much described as
the same.


Rat Terrier’s Coat

UKC: The coat is short, dense, and smooth, with a sheen. Whiskers are not removed.

Disqualifications: Wire or Broken Coat; Long Coat.

AKC: A short, close lying, smooth and shiny coat. Texture varies; a very slight ruff or wave along the back is allowed, but is undesirable. Any suggestion of kink or curl is cause for disqualification. Whiskers must not be removed. Absence of coat (total genetic hairlessness) is a disqualification.

Comparison: Both AKC and UKC Rat Terrier Breed Standard Standards suggest a nice, tight coat. However, AKC states hairlessness is a DQ, while UKC states that a long coat is a DQ. Both want a short, tight coat.


Rat Terrier’s Gait

UKC: The Rat Terrier moves with a jaunty air that suggests agility, speed, and power. Rat Terrier gait is smooth and effortless, with good reach of forequarters without any trace of hackney gait. Rear quarters have strong driving power, with hocks fully extending. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward a center line of balance.

AKC: A ground-covering, efficient trot with good reach and drive, suggesting agility, speed, and power. The legs are parallel at a trot, but as speed increases, the legs converge toward a center line. There should be no elbowing out, weaving or rolling action while in motion.

Comparison: Very similar. UKC does state that there should be no trace of a hackney gait. AKC warns against elbowing out. UKC states a strong driving power from rear legs with fully extending hocks. AKC warns against rolling or weaving action.

akc rat terrier standard


Rat Terrier’s Temperament

UKC: The Rat Terrier is an energetic, alert dog whose curiosity and intelligence make him easy to train. The Rat Terrier has sometimes been described as having a dual personality. He is a fearless, tenacious hunter with seemingly unlimited energy. When he is not hunting, however, the Rat Terrier is an exceptionally friendly companion, getting along well with children, other dogs, and even cats. Rat Terriers enjoy human companionship immensely and will enthusiastically share any activity with their owners. Rat Terriers should not be sparred during conformation judging.

AKC: Keenly observant, devoted, full of energy, yet easily trained and obedient to command. The Rat Terrier is a non-sparring breed and generally friendly with other dogs, but may be reserved with strangers. Submissiveness is not a fault. Overt aggression and excessive shyness should be penalized.

Comparison: Compares very well. Both Standards describe a dog with a lot of energy; easily trained and ready to please. AKC and UKC Both agree that Rat Terriers are not to be sparred in the ring. Both Standards state that extreme aggression or shyness should be penalized.


Rat Terrier’s Disqualifications


  1. Unilateral or Bilateral Cryptorchid;
  2. Viciousness or Extreme Shyness;
  3. Unilateral or Bilateral Deafness;
  4. Albinism;
  5. A Short-Legged Dog Whose Proportions Vary Significantly from the 10:9 Ratio;
  6. Hanging Ears;
  7. Wire or Broken Coat;
  8. Long Coat;
  9. Brindle;
  10. Merle;
  11. Absence of White;
  12. Bi-Color where Neither Color is White.

(A dog with a Disqualification must not be considered for placement in a conformation event and must be reported to UKC.)


  1. Any Dog Over Six Months of Age Measuring Less Than 10 Inches;
  2. Any Dog Over Six Months of Age Measuring Over 18 Inches;
  3. Any Blue Color in the Eye(s);
  4. Cropped Ears;
  5. An Absence of Coat (Genetic Hairlessness);
  6. Any Suggestion of Kink or Curl or Coat Type Other Than Described;
  7. Solid Colorations (Other than White);
  8. Bi-Colors without White, or Dogs with a Patch or Strip of White Measuring Less Than One Inch at its Widest Dimension;
  9. Brindle Color Patterns;
  10. Merle Color Patterns.

Comparison: Some things vary here, but both Standards mention varying penalties in other sections of the Standard. For example, extreme shyness is mentioned above in the AKC Standard, but is mentioned in UKC as a DQ. Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid is not mentioned in AKC’s Standard while it is a DQ in UKC.



Featured image courtesy of: American Kennel Club (AKC)