Teddy Roosevelt Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A Teddy Roosevelt Terrier on a sidewalk

Michele M Vogel / Shutterstock

The Teddy Roosevelt terrier, named for the 26th President of the United States, is a small hunting terrier with a short and dense bi- or tri-colored coat. The Teddy Roosevelt terrier is closely related to the rat terrier, but with shorter legs. Affectionately known as “Teddies,” the Teddy Roosevelt terrier is a small but feisty breed, with an energetic and fun-loving personality. 

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier (UKC)

Height: 8 to 14 inches tall (at the shoulder)

Weight: 8 to 25 pounds

Coat: Short, dense, medium-hard to smooth, with a sheen

Coat Color: Any bi-color or tri-color; must always have some white

Life Span: 14 to 16 years

Temperament: Loyal, energetic, feisty, active, playful, lively, companionable

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

Characteristics of the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier

Teddy Roosevelt terriers are friendly, outgoing, and always ready for the next adventure. They make great family dogs and are wonderful friends to respectful children who handle them gently. Thanks to their small size, Teddy Roosevelt terriers can live happily in smaller homes and apartments, as long as they get enough daily exercise. After a long day playing and exploring, Teddy Roosevelt terriers are happy to cuddle on the couch. Unlike some terriers, Teddies tend to be dog-friendly and will even get along with much larger breeds. However, the Teddy Roosevelt terrier has a high prey drive (the instinct to chase and kill small critters) so they can’t be trusted around smaller pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and sometimes cats.

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

History of the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier

At one time, the rat terrier and Teddy Roosevelt terrier were considered two varieties of the rat terrier breed. The longer-legged variety (today’s rat terrier) was known as the Type A rat terrier and the shorter-legged variety (today’s Teddy Roosevelt terrier) was known as the Type B rat terrier. 

Both terrier types were small, hardy, working terriers that served the valuable function of keeping farms and homes free from rats, mice, and other vermin. These terriers developed somewhat naturally, so there aren't available breeding records to pinpoint the exact breeds that went into their development. However, it’s thought that the ancestors of today’s rat terrier and Teddy Roosevelt terrier likely included the smooth fox terrier, the Manchester terrier, the bull terrier, the beagle, the whippet, the Italian greyhound, and the white English Terrier (which is now extinct).

In the 1990s, some breed fanciers sought to separate the Type A and Type B rat terriers. Their efforts led to the development of a separate breed standard for the Teddy Roosevelt terrier and a new national club: the American Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Club. The club chose the name Teddy Roosevelt terrier to pay homage to President Theodore Roosevelt, who owned a small terrier named Skip, which may have been a rat terrier or rat terrier mix. President Roosevelt praised Skip for keeping the White House clear of rats and other vermin. 

The Teddy Roosevelt terrier is recognized by the United Kennel Club, where it's part of the Terrier Group. It’s also part of the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous Class, which allows the breed to participate in performance sports while awaiting full recognition. 

Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Care

Teddy Roosevelt terriers are a relatively easy breed to care for. They are full of energy but, because of their smaller size, working that energy out isn't as daunting as it would be for a larger dog. Likewise, they are moderate shedders and need a bit of grooming upkeep—nothing the typical owner can't handle.


Teddy Roosevelt terriers are athletic and full of energy. They need much more exercise than you might assume considering their small size. Daily walks or hikes are nice, but you can also consider swimming, vigorous games of fetch or Frisbee, or even training for a competitive dog sport like agility or flyball. Make sure to keep your Teddy on a leash when you're out and about—their instinct to chase and hunt small creatures is so strong, it can even cause them to run out into traffic. 


These terriers have short, smooth coats that shed moderately, though regular brushing can help keep that to a minimum. Bathe your Teddy Roosevelt Terrier whenever it becomes dirty and trim their nails every two weeks. Inspect their ears weekly to look for redness, debris, or odor. Clean the ears with a pet-safe ear cleaner if they become dirty and make an appointment with your veterinarian if they look inflamed, have excessive discharge, or have a foul smell. Maintain our dog's good oral hygiene by brushing its teeth at least a couple of times per week.


Smart, curious, and eager to please, Teddy Roosevelt terriers can be taught almost anything. Keep training upbeat, fun, and positive, using treat or toy rewards and plenty of praise. They love to dig and will gladly keep your home and property free from rats, mice, gophers, moles, and other vermin if given the chance. To keep your Teddy Roosevelt terrier from digging in places you’d rather it leave alone, provide it approved digging spots in certain areas of the yard. You can even use a child’s sandbox filled with sand or soil. Try secretly burying treasures like treats, chews, and toys for your Teddy Roosevelt terrier to find. 

Common Health Problems

Although Teddy Roosevelt terriers are generally healthy and hardy, they can be predisposed to certain genetic diseases like all purebred dogs. The American Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Club recommends that all Teddies have appropriate genetic tests performed, receive cardiac screenings for heart health, and have their knees examined and graded before being bred. Issues that have been identified in the Teddy Roosevelt terrier include:

  • Primary lens luxation: A painful eye disorder that causes glaucoma
  • Chondrodystrophy: A severe type of intervertebral disc disease
  • Patellar luxation: A condition that causes kneecaps to slip out of place.

Diet and Nutrition

To avoid overfeeding your Teddy Roosevelt terrier, serve measured amounts of age-appropriate dog food twice a day. Free feeding (leaving the bowl filled all the time) can lead to excess weight gain, which can put a strain on your dog's joints and back and causes other health problems, like diabetes. On the flip side, some very active Teddies may need more food to fuel their bodies. If you’re not sure how much to feed talk to your veterinarian or breeder for advice.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Teddy Roosevelt Terrier

The Teddy Roosevelt terrier is a relatively new and rare breed, so it may be hard to find a breeder who has puppies available. The American Kennel Club provides a list of member breeders on its website. Be prepared to get on a long waitlist. If you wish to adopt, some Teddy Roosevelt terriers or Teddy mixes may end up in local animal shelters or become available through private rescue groups. 

Teddy Roosevelt Terrier Overview

  • Great family dog 

  • Affectionate and engaging

  • Kid-friendly and dog-friendly

  • May dig up the yard

  • Needs lots of exercise

  • High prey drive/not safe off leash

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before committing to a Teddy Roosevelt terrier, make sure to do ample research to determine if it's the right breed for your home. Talk to other Teddy Roosevelt terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you're interested in similar breeds, check out:

There's a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Teddy Roosevelt terriers good apartment dogs?

    Yes—thanks to their petite size, Teddy Roosevelt terriers can do incredibly well in smaller homes or apartments. That being said, they do have a lot of energy, so you will still need to make sure to give them lots of outdoor time and activity in order to keep them stimulated.

  • Are Teddy Roosevelt terriers aggressive?

    Teddy Roosevelt terriers are not considered an aggressive dog breed. However, they do innately have a high prey drive, which can cause them to chase and "hunt" smaller creatures like mice and squirrels.

  • Are Teddy Roosevelt terriers rare?

    Teddy Roosevelt terriers are a fairly rare breed, especially in their "pure bred" form. Many times, terriers are bred with each other, so it's important to find a breeder that specializes in just Teddy Roosevelt terriers if that's what you desire.