The American Hairless Terrier is the only hairless dog breed indigenous to the United States, and the breed’s creation was something of a happy accident. Today, the breed is known as an active companion dog and an especially great choice for allergy sufferers.
Some fans of the new breed abbreviate the name to AHT, while some refer to them as hairless Rat Terriers. Although these are purebred dogs, you may still find them in shelters and rescues. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if this is the breed for you.
Like all terriers, the American Hairless Terrier is a curious, spunky, and intelligent dog breed. They can thrive in larger family homes with kids or with active urban dwellers in apartments or condos. If you’re looking for a small dog who enjoys snuggling, being a goof, and alerting you to potential dangers, the American Hairless Terrier just might be the dog for you!
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Health And Grooming Needs
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Terrier DogsHeight:12 to 16 inchesWeight:10 to 16 poundsLife Span:13 to 16 years
More About This Breed
- American Hairless Terriers can be black, sable, blue, brindle, red, or brown. Sometimes their skin or very short, fine coat is a solid color, and other times they are a combination of two or three colors.
- They make excellent dogs for allergy sufferers, thanks to their minimal shedding. They still do shed some dander, so they are not 100 percent hypoallergenic–no dog is.
- Make sure your AHT gets at least one good half-hour walk per day along with lots of little active play sessions throughout the day.
- American Hairless Terriers make great playmates for active kids. However, they are on the small side, and over-eager children could easily hurt your AHT. Always supervise playtime.
- American Hairless Terriers tend to get along with other dogs, but when it comes to cats, they still have the prey drive of their Rat Terrier parents, so they may be prone to chasing.
- These dogs don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. They need attention and validation, which makes them great dogs for big families or active urban dwellers.
- AHTs are incredibly smart and inquisitive, and they love to please their humans. They may try to test you at first, but when you stick to regular training, your AHT will learn the pecking order.
No one planned to create the American Hairless Terrier breed at first. Rat Terriers had steadily gained popularity in the United States through the 20th century, with President Frankin D. Roosevelt counting himself as a fan. But in 1972, something unexpected happened in Trout, Louisiana. One Rat Terrier was born hairless. Her birth coat fell out when she was a few weeks old.
Edwin and Willie Scott got the hairless Rat Terrier, whom they named Josephine. They started breeding Josephine, and over the years, she produced several more hairless pups. Once two hairless Rat Terriers were finally bred together in 1983, the American Hairless Terrier was born. They continued to breed some of the American Hairless Terriers with Rat Terriers, creating Coated American Hairless Terriers. This was to ensure a healthy breed pool.
It wasn’t until 1999 that American Hairless Terriers’ parent-breed, the Rat Terrier, was officially recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). At this point, AHTs were included in this category, but Scott wanted their breed to be its own and formed the American Hairless Terrier Association (AHTA).
On January 1, 2004, the UKC officially recognized the American Hairless Terrier. The American Kennel Club (AKC) followed suit in 2016 and recognized the AHT breed.
The American Hairless Terrier stands between twelve and 16 inches from the shoulder and weighs between ten and 16 pounds.
However, some AHTs can be smaller or larger than the average or standard for their breed.
Like many other dogs in the Terrier breed group, American Hairless Terriers might be small, but their personalities are anything but. They have high energy levels, will let you know if something is on their mind (or if someone is at the front door), and don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. The AHT needs attention and validation, which makes them great dogs for big families or active urban dwellers.
The American Hairless Terrier can have something of a Napoleon complex, so it’s important to start training early and consistently. Fortunately, AHTs are incredibly smart and inquisitive, and they love to please their humans. They may try to test you at first, but when you stick to regular training, your AHT will learn the pecking order–even if they do retest that boundary every once in a while.
Even though they’re energetic, American Hairless Terriers love to cuddle just as much as they enjoy playing and performing trained tricks. As a smaller dog, they may stick to their “main” human, or the main caregiver, the most. Still, AHTs won’t ignore the rest of the family; they just happen to play favorites.
American Hairless Terriers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all AHTs will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
Some of the more common health problems American Hairless Terriers suffer from include:
- Patellar Luxation
- Demodicosis (Red Mange)
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (Hip Joint Bone Degeneration)
- Cushing’s Disease
As with all dogs, you should keep up with your American Hairless Terrier’s regular veterinary checkups to detect any health concerns early. Your vet can help you develop a care routine that will keep your dog healthy.
American Hairless Terriers are prone to weight gain, and they have high energy levels. This means your AHT needs a good amount of exercise. Make sure your AHT gets at least one good half-hour walk per day along with lots of little active play sessions throughout the day.
Check their ears for debris and pests daily, and clean them as recommended by your vet. Trim your dog’s nails before they get too long–usually once or twice per month. They should not be clicking against the floor. Your groomer can help with this.
Your main concern when it comes to your American Hairless Terrier’s care will be maintaining their oral health. You should brush their teeth daily, as small breeds are prone to dental issues. Your veterinarian can instruct you on how to brush your dog’s teeth properly.
An ideal American Hairless Terrier diet should be formulated for a small- to medium-sized breed with high energy.
Like other Terrier breeds, the American Hairless Terrier is prone to weight gain. Keep your AHT healthy and happy by measuring their food and feeding them on a regular, twice-a-day schedule, as opposed to leaving food out for grazing purposes.
As with all dogs, the American Hairless Terrier’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your American Hairless Terrier’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs–including weight, energy, and health–to make a specific recommendation.
Coat Color And Grooming
Both the Coated Hairless and the Hairless American Terrier have very distinguishable coats or skin patterns. AHTs can be black, sable, blue, brindle, red, or brown. Sometimes their skin or very short, fine coat is a solid color, and other times they are a combination of two or three colors.
One of the best parts about the American Hairless Terrier–no matter if they are coated or not–is that they make excellent dogs for allergy sufferers, thanks to their minimal shedding. They still do shed some dander, so they are not 100 percent hypoallergenic–no dog is.
Their short coats mean that they will need sun protection, even in the colder months. Be sure to apply doggy sunscreen to your AHT before going outside with them for 15 minutes or more. Their lack of coat also means you will need to get your American Hairless Terrier a coat, booties, and maybe even a hat for the winter months if you live in a colder area.
Children And Other Pets
American Hairless Terriers make great playmates for active kids. Socializing your AHT with children is easier the younger you start, but you can still introduce an older AHT to kids if you do so calmly and slowly. Children, no matter their age, should also know how to respectfully play with a dog. The American Hairless Terrier is on the small side, and over-eager children could easily hurt your AHT.
In general, American Hairless Terriers tend to get along with other dogs, given that they are introduced slowly and in a calm environment. When it comes to cats, AHTs still have the prey drive of their Rat Terrier parents, so they may be prone to chasing.
Still, each dog is unique, and how your American Hairless Terrier gets along with kids and other animals comes down to training, socialization, and luck of the draw.
Rescues specifically for American Hairless Terriers might be hard to come by. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to hairless dogs or all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:
- Bald Is Beautiful Hairless and Small Breed Rescue, Inc.
- Wright-Way Rescue
- Angels Among Us Pet Rescue