American Hairless Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Young American Hairless Terrier standing in the grass

Lenanet / Getty Images

The American hairless terrier, sometimes known as AHT, is a small- to medium-sized dog breed that's grown in popularity since its development in the 1970s. The dog is recognized for its usually hairless body, but it does have eyebrows and whiskers, along with its signature erect, alert ears. What the AHT lacks in fur it makes up for with its energetic, bright, and fun-loving personality.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Terrier

HEIGHT: 12 to 16 inches

WEIGHT: 12 to 16 pounds

COAT: Completely hairless except for whiskers and guard hairs on the eyebrows and muzzle; coated variety has a soft, short, and dense coat

COAT COLOR: Any color combination; even the hairless variety will have solid or patterned skin pigmentation that can vary greatly

LIFE SPAN: 14 to 16 years

TEMPERAMENT: Playful, inquisitive, alert, intelligent, lively, loving


ORIGIN: United States

Characteristics of the American Hairless Terrier

If you're looking for a big personality in a little body, and one that is likely to be a bit of a challenge but lots of fun, then the American hairless terrier could be for you. However, if you're looking for a little lapdog, this isn't the breed for you. The dog may be small, but it's driven, athletic, and has lots of stamina.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability High
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the American Hairless Terrier

The American hairless terrier is a newbie on the block, and the only hairless breed of dogs native to the United States.

Its history can be easily traced back to 1972 when a female hairless rat terrier named Josephine was born in a litter bred by Edwin Scott. Scott didn't realize this anomaly had happened at first as all AHTs are born with a downy hair covering that falls out after a few weeks.

Scott bred from Josephine and the dog's descendants to produce more hairless types of terriers. At first, the dogs were simply referred to as rat terriers of the hairless variety.

The Scotts continued their careful breeding program, and in 2016 the American hairless terrier was officially recognized by the AKC.

Because there's still a very small gene pool, some American hairless terriers are still born with a thin coat, and these are referred to as a coated AHT.

The American hairless terrier retains many of the characteristics of its rat terrier descendants. These dogs, developed in the early 19th century in England, were used as ratters and they were nicknamed "feists" because of their feisty little personalities.

American Hairless Terrier Care

An AHT is very energetic and often regarded as more affectionate than some terrier-types, but this dog can also be pretty spunky, so you need to be ready to put in the work to train it about boundaries.

The breed can get along well with other dogs with the right introductions, but be aware that it often has a bossy personality and will want to rule the roost. However, an AHT still has a built-in prey drive and may not be amenable to living alongside smaller furry pets.


An American hairless terrier is a smart dog that likes to have a job to do. If it's left on its own too much during the day and not given enough exercise or enrichment, problem behaviors can start to surface. The AHT likes short bursts of activity (and not in the direct sun), so a few short walks a day totaling about 30 minutes, plus a quick game of fetch indoors or outdoors, should suffice for exercise.

You may also find your AHT inherited another terrier passion—digging. Providing your dog with a designated digging pit or rewarding alternative, more desirable actions can help to prevent this from becoming a problem.

If the dog is particularly adventurous and you often take it off-the-beaten-track, you'll have to watch out for it trying to tackle thorny undergrowth as the dog could more easily damage its skin.


An American hairless terrier requires basic grooming, but with extra care when it comes to the dog's skin. An AHT commonly won't have a coat, so the dog's skin is very exposed, and this brings additional care considerations. About once a week or so bathe with a mild dog shampoo and pat your dog's skin dry. in hot weather conditions, you may need to apply a moisturizing sunscreen (try a sunscreen formulated for infants and toddlers) and even cover its body against the sun.

In the cold weather, an AHT will need a practical and well-fitting coat outdoors while exercising, and the dog may even need to wear a fleecy sweater indoors if your home is drafty.


You'll need to work hard on your AHT's rock-solid recall and keep the dog on leash in areas where there may be too much temptation for it to start a chase. This smart breed also has a stubborn streak, and trying to force the AHT while training could backfire quickly. Instead, it responds well to reward-based training methods. Keep any training sessions short, varied and fun, and you'll see good results.

Two American Hairless Terriers in coats in the snow
Sergey Tikhomirov / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The American hairless terrier is a new breed, so research is still ongoing about the inheritable conditions that could affect this dog.

When selecting your puppy, make sure you go to a reputable breeder that performs appropriate health checks on the parents before breeding. Current research shows that there are a few inheritable conditions that may affect the American hairless terrier, including:

  • Demodectic Mange: AHTs can have a problem with the naturally occurring Demodex Mite proliferating in larger than normal numbers, and this can cause hair loss, skin irritation, and infections. It can be treated, but it may be something that has to be managed throughout the dog's life.
  • Legg-Calve Perthes: This congenital condition is more common in small breed dogs, but may affect AHTs. An inadequate blood supply to the hip results in a deformed femur. Surgery is generally required to correct the problem.
  • Luxating Patella: Common in small dog breeds, this condition is a result of the knee joint slipping out of its groove. Corrective surgery may be required.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your American hairless terrier a high-quality and properly portion-controlled diet. The amount you feed your dog will depend on its size and level of activity.

Obesity is a major problem with the dog population in North America, and it can lead to a host of more serious health problems. Keep an eye on your AHT's body condition and avoid feeding unhealthy treats and table scraps to your dog.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Hairless Terrier

The American hairless terrier is still a very rare breed, even in North America. To secure a puppy from a reputable breeder, you may need to get onto a waiting list or travel further afield. Expect to pay about $1,500 up to $4,000 for a purebred AHT. While it will be very rare to find an AHT available for adoption, there are lots of other wonderful terrier-types looking for forever homes in shelters across the country.

To start your search for an AHT, try the following sources:

American Hairless Terrier Overview

  • Fun-loving and affectionate

  • Very low-maintenance grooming regime

  • Energetic

  • Not lapdogs and tend to be independent

  • Skin needs protection in extreme weather conditions

  • Can have a high prey drive

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in dogs similar to the American hairless terrier you could also consider the following breeds:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you'll find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.

  • Why is the American hairless terrier considered hypoallergenic?

    An AHT is a popular choice for people who suffer from allergies as a result of the dander that shakes out of a dog's fur. However, an AHT's dander doesn't easily collect on surfaces in your home because it instead gets trapped in the oils that the dog's skin produces. While an AHT is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction, no dog is truly hypoallergenic as all dogs produce dander.

  • Does the AHT get along with children?

    An AHT's playful nature means it will often get along well with considerate and active older children. Always teach children how to play respectfully with any dog, as well.

  • Does the AHT bark excessively?

    Excessive barking is a possibility with an AHT. Like most terriers, this dog can be an alert barker, making it a good watchdog. Don't let this habit escalate though or you may end up with a rather yappy housemate and have to work hard on retraining and rewarding desirable quiet behavior instead.