Comparison of UKC and AKC Breed Standards for the Rat Terrier

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 in its entirety.

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Body and General Appearance

UKC: Suggests some body areas of growth should not be “judged” under 12 months of age. (i.e. height, ears) 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, length or ears etc. should not be finalized, penalized or judged on before 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.


Both the UKC and AKC standards agree 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.

SKULL – 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”.


UKC says round eye shape

  • Eye color must align with coat color
  • Eye color can vary with coat color but that eye rims and nose color must match
  • Both eyes must match
  • Wall or china eye are faults
  • Light eyes in dogs with dark colored coats is a fault
  • Bulged eyes are also faulted in UKC
AKC says oval eye shape

  • Eye color must align with coat color
  • Eye color can vary with coat color but that 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


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 and 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.
Some accepted colors in UKC are not accepted in AKC.

  • 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 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 with 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.


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 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 list shoulders are well laid back. Both say smooth or flat muscled allowing free and easy movement. Both claim 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 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 suggest nice compact feet, oval in shape. AKC says toes should not point in or out. Both say front dew claws can be removed and both state that rear dew claws must be removed. (AKC mentions rear dew claws below in hindquarters). UKC lists flat and or splayed feet as a fault.


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 says upper and lower thigh should be approximately equal in length. AKC does not compare. Both say the hindquarters should be muscular. 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.


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 a ring tail.

Comparison: UKC prefers docked or natural bob tail, while 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: The coat is short, dense, and smooth, with a sheen. Whiskers are not removed.
Disqualifications: Wire or broken coat; long coat.

AKC: Short, close lying, smooth and shiny coat. Texture varies; a very slight ruff or wave along the back is allowed, but 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 suggest nice tight coat. But AKC states hairlessness is a DQ while UKC states long coat is a DQ. Both want short tight coat.


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 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 strong driving power from rear legs with fully extending hocks. AKC warns against rolling or weaving action in gait.


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 describe a dog with a lot of energy. Easily trained and ready to please. Both agree that Rat Terriers are not to be sparred in the ring. Both standards state that extreme aggression or shyness should be penalized.


  • Any dog over six months of age measuring less than 10 inches
  • Any dog over six months of age measuring over 18 inches
  • Any blue color in the eye(s)
  • Cropped ears
  • An absence of coat (genetic hairlessness)
  • Any suggestion of kink or curl or coat type other than described
  • Solid colorations (other than white)
  • Bi-colors without white, or dogs with a patch or strip of white measuring less than one inch at its widest dimension
  • Brindle color patterns
  • Merle color patterns
UKC: (A dog with a Disqualification must not be considered for placement in a conformation event and must be reported to UKC.)

  • Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid
  • Viciousness or extreme shyness
  • Unilateral or bilateral deafness
  • Albinism
  • A short-legged dog whose proportions vary significantly from the 10:9 ratio
  • Hanging ears
  • Wire or broken coat
  • Long coat
  • Brindle
  • Merle
  • Absence of white
  • Bi-color where neither color is white.

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