The Decker Rat Terrier

As the story goes, Milton, the owner of a plant nursery near Eugene, Oregon, was shopping for plant stock. No sooner had he pulled into the driveway of the wholesale nursery of Betty and Chris Lindseth when several Rat terriers flew out of the house to check him out. An avid hunter, Milton was gobsmacked by these dogs, and the rest of his visit didn’t turn out to be about plants, but about those terriers. After a while, the Lindseths had taken a liking to Milton, and invited him to pick out a dog for himself. Milton picked “Henry,” the quietest of the bunch.

At 32 pounds, Henry was a hefty boy for his breed, but after one hunting outing, Milton saw great working ability in him. Henry had natural treeing instincts, was great on upland birds, and would hunt any pest alive. Milton Decker was smitten.

Rat Terrier,Decker Rat Terrier,Deckers Giant,Milton Decker

Henry

Wanting to preserve Henry’s qualities, Milton set out to find Rat Terriers he felt would create his ideal of the perfect dog –  a strain of uber-prey-driven hunting Rat Terriers, but with the proper temperament: Milton’s son, Ellis Decker, would later say, “Temperament definitely played a large role in the creation of these dogs. Almost more than hunting ability. Dad was careful to choose for many reasons, and temperament was at the top of the list. They are like people, all have different personalities.”

Milton began his journey in the 70s by acquiring the largest Rat Terriers he could find to use as breeding stock. By the time he was satisfied with the results of his breeding program, he had developed a dog that stood taller at the shoulder than other Rat terriers, and was heavier, weighing between 25 and 35 pounds. Milton’s new line was called “Decker Rat Terriers,” or “Decker Giants,” and to be a true Decker terrier, the original Decker bloodline had to be carried through a dog’s pedigree.

In some parts of the country, Deckers are used extensively for hunting, and depending upon whom you ask, they’re regarded as great “squirrel dogs,” and unequaled as a “jump dog” for deer in brushy areas (so called because they’ll seek out the deer, jump him and chase him about 200 yards while yipping shrilly, then return to their master).

While Deckers are generally larger than average Rat Terriers, some breed enthusiasts insist that it’s bloodline, not size, that makes a dog a Decker.  We’re come across a few bullet points as to what the subtle differences are that sets Deckers apart from any other size of Rat Terrier (but as always, we defer to the breed experts):  A Decker’s skull is somewhat broader and tends to wedge into the muzzle and square off; Face wrinkles are common, as is a “regal elegance” to the dog, and, of course, there’s the size. Some sources say that Decker added a few other breeds into his breeding program, such as the Basenji (which would account for the wrinkles), but the breed makeup is still mostly Rat Terrier.

Thumbnail image of Milton Decker with his Deckers, an image found on Pinterest and happily credited upon receipt of information. Insert photo of ‘Henry.” 

84 thoughts on “The Decker Rat Terrier”

  1. I have a Decker Terrier! Everything you stated is exactly my Abby. I just love her, I know two of her siblings and they are nothing like mine. There’s have stayed so much smaller and very timid and shy. My Abby is very out going and a jumper and fast runner.

    The picture that I added was when she was younger, she is now 3 1/2 years old. Weighing at 33 lbs.

    • Debbie, Abby is wonderful! It’s always helpful to hear from people who actually live with a breed, so thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

      • My Bob made me a rat terrier lover and he makes me laugh everyday..I’m fascinated by his intelligence and his ability to run and jump. I’m curious to find out if he is a decker rat terrier he is 30lbs. He got bigger than we thought How can I find out if Bob is a decker?

    • My dog Gracie looked identical to your Abby but at full size. Her ideal weight was about 11-12 pounds.
      She passed away a couple of years ago. She had Cushings and Dimensia and developed an infection in her stomach that she couldn’t handle.
      Is there a such thing as a minature or toy Decker?

      • I have a 7.2 pound toy Rat Terrier who was a rescue. She is prey driven but watches and stays close to me. She has chased deer, squirrels, and even a fox several days ago. We have to be very careful because of her size but could she be a Decker?

  2. I adopted a Decker just after the Great Recession and he just passed away. He was an amazing companion… fiercely loyal, obedient and affectionate and great with babies and kids. He wasn’t used for hunting but I am relatively active. Jax loved long hikes and runs, swimming and games of fetch. I would imagine he would have been an ideal hunting dog. Not a single bug, mouse or rat got past him, indoors or outdoors. He even took down an opossum once. I miss him! Best dog ever!

    • We’re so sorry for your loss, Jim. Jax was lovely, such a happy expression! Might you get another?

      • Eventually. After I get past the loss and save up some money. I may adopt again, but honestly Jax is the closest thing to the most ideal dog I’ve ever come across. So smart and easy to train too. I may have to get another DRT.

    • Hi Jim,
      Jax sounds like he was a great dog & my condolences for his loss.
      You say you got him after the Great Recession, which I’m assuming is December 2007?
      How old was Jax when you got him?
      I have a Great Decker, she is a little over 14 now. Got her as a puppy in 2004.
      Best,
      Tina

    • Sorry for your loss I know the feeling too well. That said, it seems Jax only lived to be about 10. Young to pass for a Decker. May I ask what happened…?

  3. I just put down my decker giant down and found one of his offsprings that i will be adopting. These dogs are great all around. I hunted with mine and he remained the most gentel animal. I’m happy that many breeders of the decker giants stay true to milton deckers idea of the dog.

    • Brett, we’re so sorry for your loss, but happy that you’ve been able to find an offspring to fill the void. These dogs do sound like amazing companions!

      • Linda,
        I’m not sure if you are still looking but I have Decker Terriers that was born on 9/16/18. The parents are CKC registered. They puppies should be ready for their new homes around November 11th.

        If you are still interested send me an email at sandersm982 @yahoo.com with your contact info.

          • Bob and Mark, just to be clear, your comments here should not be construed as an endorsement. National Purebred Dog Day serves to advocate for purebred dogs, but we’re not a clearing house for puppy placements. Perhaps it’s best to take any further communications between you privately.

  4. The foundation dog, Henry, was not a Rat Terrier. Mr. Milton Decker himself identified him as a “Fox Terrier mix”.

    Also, the Basenji heritage is openly regarded by Mr. Decker and all of the founding breeders of Decker Rat Terriers; there is a large percentage of Basenji in the original lines he produced, and the Basenji and ensuing cross-bred dogs are tracked in their pedigrees.

    • This is Sedona I believe she is a decker, she has gotten up to 45 lbs but it is always muscle, solid never an once of fat. She is about 10 years old now not sure we adopted her. She loves hiking and has been in every environment in north America. She has taken down rabbit, mice, ground hogs, and other rodents. Once she cought a mule deer and was kicked in the head and she ended up at the vet over night. In her prime she could run well over 40 mph. She is the most loyal dog I have ever met.

      • She’s a cutie, John, and your account of her sounds now familiar as we learn about the Decker. Impressive dogs!

        • Once you own a Decker and are amazed at the intelligence and loving attitude, you realize you truly have the best dog in the world! I will always own a Decker now. Thank you, Mr Decker

          • I agree I dont think in could own a diffrent dog now, everyone who meets Sedona just loves her and says she is the best dog they have seen. Except for sweets she has a sweet tooth and will eat anything she can if it is left out if no one is around

  5. We have a Decker. That’s her in the picture with her little brother Lucas. She’s an incredible dog. Very sweet, incredibly athletic and an efficient and very patient hunter.

  6. While there are many opinions about Milton Decker’ project, those of us who own “Decker Rat Terriers” are great fans of Milton and the strain of Ratties he produced. While there are people who want to insist they are something else, we, the owners of them continue to favor this type of dog above all others, and always go for a Decker, for our next dog. Thank you Milton, whatever anyone wants to call them, we love our Deckers!

  7. I had a Decker rat terrier. He was on the small side he was 17 in at the front shoulders and weighed 22 lb. But he was a coon killing machine one-a-day and he’d be tired for a couple of days and then go back at it again. Biggest raccoon ever killed with him with 44lb. He was an avid better Hunter and retriever never lost a bird wounded. He would retrieve geese and that was comical. The he would drag all these backwards. He really didn’t care for the water. But he would go get a duck but not to his liking. The dog was great with people had a awesome personality. I miss them everyday. I looked hard to find another one up here in South Dakota and never found one. And I am in the market for a puppy soon. Probably after January when I have money lol

    • Shane, your Decker sounds like he had more personality and “grrrrr” than dogs three times his size! It sounds like you found “your” breed, and we wish you luck in finding your next one (though s/h’ll have big paws to fill!)

          • I live inTampa and found a Breeder in Glenville, GA. Clan ClArk Deckers. This is my first one. She’s 6 months old , 25 lb., and looks so much like a Basenji I am stopped often to answer “what kind of dog is that”?

  8. Rambo and Roxy are deckers from Red River kennel in Crowley Tx. They enjoy boating, hunting and cool off in the pool the chill out from texas summer. Greats with kids. Cant say enough.

  9. We picked up our Decker without knowing what we had. We got ours a year ago from a shelter here in Phoenix. They thought she was a cattle dog/boxer mix. Odd to have picked up a pure Decker from a shelter. After a lot of reading and nosing around, that is the consensus, that she is Decker through and through.

    She is a terror around other dogs and runners. This sounds like this is due to a poor early upbringing. Apparently she was brought in off the street. She behaves otherwise like all these descriptions above–hunter, loving, loyal.

    • David, how wonderful that you found her, and that you know what you’ve got!! If you get a chance, we’d love to see her picture!

    • That’s how we found our Decker! She’s amazing and we are looking for an adult companion for her, preferably over five or six. Any information on where we can find another DRT in/near Tennessee is much appreciated!

  10. My Decker is amazing. He found us after having been dumped at a dog park I guess because he was instinctively too active. Extremely young at the time, he followed me and my beagle home. Later we discovered he had a special chip from a breeder that had not been registered.
    Among a pack of barking dogs one night, I found this little probably 3 month old dog jump from the pack into darkness, pulling out a possum that he shook violently until stunned and laid the helpless, unconscious critter at my feet while the other dogs just kept their distance barking.I knew then that he was fearless. Incredibly intelligent, he understands commands instinctively and is a great compliment to my beagle. They are a hunting team machine. The beagle sniffs out and the terrier retrieves immediately.

    • What a wonderfully vivid description of a Decker, Glenn! And lucky for him he found you! Thanks for writing and for sharing his story with us!

    • He did this at 3 months old ?? Or did you mean 3 year’s old !! Um texting and sometimes its changing my words

  11. I adopted this dog from the Humane Society as a 9 week old puppy of 8 lbs – he was flown in from a shelter in Arkansas. I was told by source he is a rat terrier and another he could be a heeler mix but that he shouldn’t get larger than 30lbs. He is now 4.5 months old and just hit 30lbs. Was wondering if you thought he could be a Decker Terrier? He looks like a big rat terrier to me.

    • We rely on the experts to help us out here, Shannon, the people who breed and own Rat Terriers and Decker Terriers. Anyone?

      • Update, this dog is now 65lb but look like a HUGE rat terrier still.

        • LOL, thanks for the update, Shannon. There’s just now more of him to love!

  12. I came to know the Decker Terrier from my cousin, who started breeding them. She usually only breeds 1 or 2 litters per year, but apparently, her male got out of the house one day and knocked up 2 females! They gave birth 2 days apart. She contacted me and asked me if I wanted a puppy. So, we brought home this girl and named her Kori! She’ll be turning 2 years old in a couple weeks and weights 23lbs. She is super loyal to me. She was super easy to potty train and train in general (sit, shake, come, etc). She’s not a huge barker, but when she does bark, you need to pay attention because she’s barking for a reason. It is a high pitched yip sound. She’s calm most of the time, but I do exercise her a lot with walks and she has a big back yard to run in. In the summer, we get her pool out and she swims. She has caught a mouse, chipmunk, and a lizard, so if I used her for hunting, I’m sure she’d be awesome at it. We loved her so much, we are adopting a second Decker Terrier in two weeks! Same mother and father as Kori, so they will be sisters.

    • Mine is a puppy and she beats the 20lb cat up everyday and he lets her but at the end of the day they cuddle up together.

      • What a visual, you paint, Emily! Their relationship sounds like the one enjoyed by Looney Tune characters, Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dawg!

  13. We unfortunately lost our Frankie to kidney disease at 13 recently. We still are heart broken over it. He was a purebred Rat terrier and was large at 27 lbs. Greatest dog I have ever had. We are wanting to get a Decker after we get over the heartbreak. Do they have any health issues and what is life expectancy? Thank you

    • We’re so sorry to hear that, Jack. We are not Rat Terrier experts, and merely try to share information about the glorious dog breeds out there. We did come across a Rat Terrier chapter that may be of help, but we know nothing about it, and thus can’t vouch for it. We found it here: http://deckerratterrier.nrta.com/index.shtml

    • My Decker Ace is also 13 and soundly went deaf and is currently unable to walk due to rear hip pain, not sure why yet. Up until this year he was perfectly healthy. Not sure how much time he has left

  14. My father had a rat terrier when I was born and I LOVED that dog. I researched the Decker and decided that was exactly what I wanted. Found a breeder in TN and I pick up my baby on April 22. I am so excited, I can hardly wait. Thanks for all the encouragement concerning the Decker. I will not be hunting but the breed sounds like an awesome companion dog. I am a dog trainer and I need a smart, obedient dog to help me with training. Do you think a Decker will work?

    I also plan to use my Decker in Agility.

    He will live with my two labs. All will be males.

    Will all this work?
    Thanks

    • Hi Nelle, congratulations on your Decker. We imagine he’ll be a wonderful companion and agility dog as it sounds like there isn’t much this breed can’t do. As for getting along with your males, it’s hard to say, as different factors may impact the new dynamic, including whether or not the males are all neutered, how long they’ve been together, etc. We’re not dog trainers, and can only offer a layman’s opinion to make introductions carefully, and initially in “neutral territory.” Let us know how it goes!

  15. Jackie Hagberg in Madera, Ca. breeds Decker terriers. I got one from her 10 years ago. I hunt with mine and she is the best on pheasant and quail. Jackie is very careful to keep the pure Decker lines and I will get another dog from her when mine gets old. R. Flanagan

  16. My love, Mugsy, born July2, 2003. She passed at the age of 14. When I got her as a 6 week old puppy in Pacifica, CA (from a little farm), I was told she was a rat terrier. She grew into a tall, elegant 26 pound lady with long legs. I am sure she was a Decker. She was an amazing ratter and as agile and graceful as they come. She could run so fast! She was such a healthy dog until the end. My husband and I are looking to bring another one into our home…

  17. I adopted this dog which fits exactly the description of a decker from a shelter in North Carolina. Every squirrel in a 10 miles radius runs when they see him coming.

    • When I first got him I thought he was a Basenji because he did not bark. He does bark now at strangers arriving to the property and in pursuit of squirrels and groundhogs specifically. He has amazing endurance and patience and can box jump about 5 feet. He is very protective and takes a while to warm up to strangers or male dogs. But that could be his personal history. He was easy to train to be around cats And chickens which is honestly amazing despite his prey drive for other animals.

    • LOL, Brittany, it looks like he’s even searching for squirrels on the high seas! A delightful picture, than you for sharing it with us.

  18. We have a Decker Rat terrier. She is now 8 years old, got her when she was 2 months old. She was kept in an outside kennel close to another kennel with beagles. She would bark like a beagle & still does when prompted. We got her from a ad in the paper for $50. The people we bought her from got her mother in Kentucky. They bred dogs & her mother didn’t get pregnant so they gave her away. Well it turned out that she was pregnant. Her dog’s name is Sheba, looks like a rat terrier but is bigger, weighs 36 pounds & is 8 years old. She was a gentle dog but 3 neighbor boy abused her when weren’t outside with her & she doesn’t like people. We have 2 other regular Rat terriers & Sheba guards them when they go potty to & waits to potty herself after they are finished. She & one of our other Rat terriers catch & kill rabbit in our yard. They don’t stand a chance. She is very loyal & protective. She has a thyroid condition & was quite heavy for a time but is thinner now & more active. Because of her size & she looks just like a Rat terrier we feel certain she is a Decker Rat Terrier. We did she her mother & she was heavy but looked just like a regular Rat Terrier.

    • Margaret, we can see from the photograph that your dog is suffering on that armrest (chuckle). You could be right about her, she has the size of a Decker…perhaps one of our Decker owning readers can share their opinion, as well?

  19. I just very recently lost my 18.5 year old Labrador… I live on my ranch in Northern California, and would enjoy another buddy dog. I have been researching the Decker Rat terrier for some while now, and would like to have my next buddy dog to be a Decker. Are there any Decker Rat terriers breeders that may breed with less of a hunting drive? Mainly because I enjoy taking my dog with me when I am trail riding with my horses.

    I sure would enjoy a Decker after February 2020, when I’ll be ready to train another dog around my property with various farm animals, and I will have the time.

    Any comments would be helpful to me and very much appreciated.

    Rich N.

    • We’re sorry for your loss, Rich – and while there’s no good time to lose a beloved companion, wow, that is a very impressive age for your Lab to have reached. Hopefully, one of our readers can offer some suggestions for you, but until then, the Decker Rat Terrier club has a section on breeders, we’d start there: http://deckerratterrier.nrta.com/index.shtml

  20. I lost my Ratty to cancer 3 weeks ago. Best. Dog. Ever. Hands down. I don’t hunt but he did 🙂
    He was just a couple week shy of his 17th birthday. I don’t think the pain of losing him will ever go away. He was the total package: friend, companion, caretaker. And so smart. Anyway my Scrappy was a full Ratty but he was also 26 pounds, very lean, and about 14 inches at the shoulder. What are the chances he is in the Decker bloodline? He was lean though and showed some whippet physicality’s. Anyway, I’d like to have another some day but I’d really like the standard or larger. Any ideas for a good breeder?

  21. I am wondering if we have a decker. We rescued her and the sellers claimed she was shitzu and corgi. Very obvious she wasn’t that but being covered with fleas and obviously wormy so we couldn’t let her go back. She has grown into a 35lb lovely dog with mild temperament and loves to hunt and run. She hates water and loves to fetch and will track down a rabbit or mouse super fast. Short of doing a doggie DNA test we have been trying to figure out what she is. Any sure way to determine? She looks like the deckers on here, and appears to match many of the descriptions.

    • We’re not huge fans of DNA tests, Michelle, as too often their data base is either too small, or produce results that seem hard to believe (what are the odds of a dog found wandering the road in the rural south is part Pharaoh Hound?) Perhaps one of our readers experienced with the Decker can offer an opinion on your dog?

  22. Love my Deckers! Thor and Thunder are my old boys and Molly and Hoss are my 8 1/2 month olds UKC deckers. Hoss comes in at 44 pounds and is pure mucle!❤

  23. Adopted a dog while stuck at home during the pandemic. Were told by shelter she was a Jack Russell Terrier, but when she started eating, she got BIG!!! Everything I’ve read suggests Decker Rat Terrier, only she’s got haunting grey eyes! What a marvelous breed! Brave, and loyal, trusting and loving. She takes everything in stride. Clearly had a rough time before coming to the shelter; mange, fleas, tie-out neck injuries, etc. She was very timid; hand and neck shy (understandably) and wouldn’t go near the car when we got her. But boy, she has come out of her shell, and she does EVERYTHING we ask of her. Once she understands what you want; bam, she’ll do it every time. Don’t want? Got it. Never doing it again. I’ve never met or owned a more obedient, responsive dog.

    • What a wonderfully insightful comment, Emily, and to have a picture to boot! She sounds not only like a wickedly intelligent dog, but a lucky one to have been found by you.

  24. We have wondered if our dog is a Decker. Came via a rat terrier rescue, and seems to have the look, but we don’t know much about his history. A DNA test came back with about 12 different breeds. He is a little over 40 pounds.

  25. I love this interesting history of a decker rat terrier, which I didn’t know before. Additionally, I have one of its kind who is exceptionally cute, and I named him divine deck (means DD). We play together, and even he sleeps with me. I can’t spend a single second without him.

    • They do worm their way into our hearts (and beds!), don’t they?

  26. We adopted our decker, Scooter (aka Scooby, Stiff Adams, Scoot McGoot) in Eugene, OR in January 2020! He is the most precious, loving boy and he makes us laugh every day (except when he sneaks off his leash and goes for a run around the neighborhood — precisely why he was dropped off at the humane society). He gets along so well with our dogs, he’s great around kids, and is just a bright light in these strange times!

  27. Why do you all think it’s so great that these Deckers kill other animals? Hunting is awful enough but killing for fun is appalling. I have a 17 pound Rat Terrier named Louie. He is not blood thirsty, it’s all about the chase for him. He is always on a leash because he is a runner. He is such a magical dog. Loving, cuddly, rowdy, silly and smart as hell. We would never have any other dog but a rattie.

    • Not sure where you got the idea that we support “fun-hunting,” Kathi, but when vermin is a problem, it’s more human to use a ratting terrier than poison. That said, thanks for sharing Louie’s picture, he’s a cutie!

  28. My Decker Henri, at about 7mos and 30lbs. Bother parents are 40lbs+. He is treeing a squirrel here. An incredibly fit, muscular, and lean dog. Lightning quick and can jump REALLY high. Favorite dog I’ve ever had.

  29. Some sites say that Basenjis were used as part of the founding for Deckers, but my guy Reggie doesn’t look to have any of that breed in him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Website

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)