American Hairless Terrier: A Rare, Low Maintenance Breed

American hairless terrier in grass
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Canines are some of the most loyal species on this planet. With so many different breeds, sizes, colors, and personalities, it becomes difficult for any dog lover to decide which one to get. But some breeds are so easy to love, that people with no prior experience of keeping a dog can also get them without a second thought! The American Hairless Terrier is a breed that should certainly be on your shortlist.

The American Hairless Terrier, or the AHT, is a relatively new breed, coming into existence just a few decades ago. Apart from being rare around the world, they are small in size but very inquisitive and lively. They don’t require a lot of space, and they get along with everyone. As their breed name suggests, they are usually hairless, so taking care of them is easy as there are very minimal grooming needs.

In this article, we will share all that you need to know about this rare, playful dog, from traits to breed history, size, personality, and more! Read on to learn how to best take care of AHTs, and why you will never regret adopting one.

Breed Characteristics

American hairless terrier puppy

  • Adaptability: Above Average; hairless AHT varieties should not be allowed to wander outdoors unattended

  • Trainability: Average; can be trained with persistence and the use of treats

  • Health and Grooming: Good; low maintenance

  • All-Around Friendliness: Good; mostly gets along with everyone, including other animals, excepting rodent-type pets

  • Exercise Needs: Above Average; needs daily walks and playtime

Dog Breed GroupTerriers
Height7 to 18 inches
Weight7 to 25 lbs
Lifespan14 to 16 years

The breed descended from the Rat Terrier, which has been known throughout history as a ‘prodigious ratter.’ The Rat Terrier has a unique talent for catching and killing rats, as the name suggests. As a direct descendant, the AHT has similar capacities. However, unlike the Rat Terrier, the AHT is hairless.The AHT is native to the United States and is generally known as a rare breed since it came into existence due to a natural genetic mutation. Although uncommon, dogs of this breed have been adopted by people around the world.

Also, unlike its ancestor the Rat Terrier, the AHT is mostly an indoor breed, which means that an AHT will be perfect for people who are not very fond of the great outdoors, and either prefer the quiet of their homes and towns, or the hustle and bustle of the city.

However, keeping the AHT away from the wild is mostly just a precaution because this dog has no fur to protect him/her from the underbrush or extreme climate conditions. It doesn’t mean that the AHT doesn’t need to be taken for a walk or to be exercised routinely.

The Terrier group is known to be extremely active and playful, and AHTs are no different. They have big personalities and are known to be smart and inquisitive, as well as friendly. They get along with different people, so they are popular with families who don’t have very small children.

See Also: Best Dog Breeds for Kids

The breed is also known to extend its friendly nature to other animals and will do well with people who already own other pets. However, people who have pets like guinea pigs or hamsters and are thinking of adopting an AHT should know that this small breed has an instinct to hunt small animals. Therefore, a lot of socializing needs to be ensured from an early age.

If you love relaxing indoors, but also equally enjoy carefree walks around your neighborhood or to the park, then the AHT will be an excellent companion for you. This breed is also for you if you or anyone in your family suffers from any fur-related allergies.

Main Highlights

many american hairless terrier puppies together sitting on green pillow

  • The AHT is one of the friendliest dog breeds. It loves spending time with its humans, both indoors and outdoors.

  • These dogs might be wary of very small children because of their small size but will do well with them if they are raised alongside them and if the children are taught to play with them carefully. Good socialization and some training are all you need for happy family life with your dog.

  • Like other terriers, the AHT enjoys the outdoors, but should not be left alone because they do not have fur to protect them from outdoor elements.

  • The completely hairless variant of the breed is great for animal lovers who have not been able to enjoy the company of animals due to fur-related allergies. The AHT does not pose this problem and has very low grooming needs since they do not need to be brushed.

  • AHTs are not generally known to have any serious health problems. However, they might develop certain skin conditions if they are not taken care of properly. Routine checkups and trips to the vet will prevent any problems and keep you and your dog happy.

Breed History

The AHT breed came into existence in 1972, when a pair of Rat Terriers had a single hairless puppy in their litter. The AHT is the only hairless breed that is native to the United States of America.

The AHT’s ancestors, the Rat Terriers, can be traced back to the early 19th century. The breed was created alongside many other breeds under the terrier group to get rid of England’s increasing rat populations, which were responsible for the outbreak of diseases and the contamination of food supplies.

The breed was originally known as ‘Feists’ due to its feisty temperament, and the name was later changed to Rat Terriers for the dogs’ popularity of killing rats.

Rat Terriers were very common on farms, where they would exterminate rats in barnyards. One of them is said to have killed about 2,500 rats in one day. They were also very popular in rat pits, where eager people would bet on the total number of rats that their favorite dog contestant would be able to kill.

British miners introduced the breed to America in the late 19th century, and it is known to have been crossed with the Smooth Fox Terrier. It is believed that American President Theodore Roosevelt also owned a Rat Terrier called Skip.

Around 1972, a litter born to a Rat Terrier included one hairless puppy. The owners of the dogs allowed couple Edwin and Willie Scott to adopt the hairless pup—named Josephine—who was then bred and gave birth to another hairless female puppy named Gypsy.

It was after eight years of giving birth to many litters with the traditional Rat Terrier coats that Josephine finally gave birth to one male and one female hairless puppies: Jemima and Snoopy. This pair was then bred together to give birth to a number of hairless puppies, thus establishing a dog breed which is now known as the AHT.

Edwin and Willie Scott continued to breed AHTs and are known to be the founders of the first AHT club. In 2009, the American Hairless Terrier Club of America was established, and the breed is now recognized the world over.


american hairless terrier standing

The AHT is a small dog and has also been kept as a lap dog by people over the years. The breed is typically between 7 to 18 inches in height (18 to 46 centimeters) for both males and females.

The AHT’s weight can vary between 7 and 25 lbs for both genders, although females are typically known to weigh less than males. It is important to note that 7 lbs is not a very common weight, and is only noted in some AHTs which have a smaller stature.

These dogs can either be hairless or have a short coat. The hairless variety is known to commonly have a prominent pair of eyebrows and whiskers.

AHTs are known for their wide, wedge-shaped head. They have round eyes of average size, the color of which can vary from dog to dog, depending on the color of the skin. Commonly, AHTs have dark brown eyes but are also known for sporting amber and hazel eyes. However, some of them have also been known to have blue or grey eyes.

AHTs have feet that are small in size, like the rest of their body. The feet are oval in shape, with the middle toes being slightly longer than the rest. The shape of the feet allows AHTs to be agile. The ears are V-shaped. They may be erect, tipped, or buttoned. The AHT’s tail is thicker at the top and then narrows down towards the end.

The breed is known for its peppy walk, which is similar to that of other terriers. Although not to be left outdoors alone if of the hairless kind, AHTs can be taken anywhere with you as long as their skin is protected and cared for. Their small size will prove to be extremely manageable for you wherever you go!

Personality and Character

two american hairless terriers running and playing

Do you have a soft spot for dogs who have sweet, playful temperaments? Then you won’t regret getting an AHT for you or your family! These inquisitive little dogs are happy to please their humans and love playing both indoors and outdoors.

Even though their parent breed, the Rat Terrier, prefers being outdoors, AHTs are generally known as indoor dogs as they have delicate skin due to being hairless. As a rule, AHTs should not be left alone outside as their skin can suffer from injuries if they try getting into the underbrush.

As long as they’re getting enough time outside on daily walks, they should be happy being inside the house with you. They are also suited to apartment life.

Because of their size and happy nature, they are not kept as guard dogs. So if you’re looking for a watchdog, you should consider other breeds that are bred and trained for this specific purpose.

See Also: Top 10 Best Guard Dogs

AHTs may be a little wary of small children at first, because of their own small size, but with time and training, they can become valuable companions to children.

However, it should be noted that AHTs are direct descendants of the Rat Terrier, which is known for hunting rats. This means that the breed has the instinct to hunt small animals, and therefore should not be left alone with animals like guinea pigs and hamsters unless the owners are sure that the dogs have been socialized enough and can be trusted around other small animals.

Health and Potential Problems

american hairless terrier puppy with gray spots

As mentioned above, AHTs can be prone to skin problems as they do not have a coat acting as an added layer of protection.

Owners should take special care during summer or when it’s unusually hot, as the dog is known to get sunburns if exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. This can be prevented by ensuring that your AHT stays in the shade in the afternoons, even if he/she is sitting outside with you.

Another solution is to cover the dogs up in light, breezy clothing to avoid direct sun exposure. But make sure their bodies do not get overheated. You can also try applying sunscreen to add a layer of protection.

See Also: Best Dog Cooling Pad

In cooler climates, make sure you put a coat or a sweater on your AHT to protect him/her from the cold. Other than sunburns, your AHT may be susceptible to skin allergies due to the absence of fur. Many AHTs have been known to develop rashes in the grass.

There aren’t any other specific diseases that you should be wary of at all times but do make sure that your dog is getting his/her routine checkups done as some conditions may appear due to climate changes or changes in the environment.

Vet trips will ensure that any problem that does arise is effectively managed on time. Proper care will let your beloved dog live a happy and healthy life, and let you enjoy his/her company for many, many years.

Care Features

gray american hairless terrier

Since AHTs commonly don’t have a coat, it is imperative that their skin be taken care of. They should be bathed regularly to keep their skin healthy and free of all infections and problems. If your dog is showing signs of dryness, you can consult the vet and buy a recommended brand of lotion to apply to his/her skin.

A nail clipper should be kept at home, as it is healthy to trim nails every other week. A grooming brush will not be required if you have the hairless variety of the AHT. If you have the coated variety, then just groom them once a week, as the coat does not shed too much.

You should also invest in a soft toothbrush to brush their teeth and avoid the buildup of plaque. Oral health is important for dogs, just like it is important for humans. Also, check their ears, and clean them when the need arises.

Daily walks are a must to keep your AHT active and healthy, so a leash and a collar (or harness) should be bought before you bring the dog home.

See Also: Best Dog Harness

Lastly, we believe that every home which has pets should keep a first aid box in case of emergencies. The box should include the essentials, like a roll of gauze or bandages, a recommended tube of painkiller ointment, and some disinfectant.

Feeding Schedule

Most dogs need to be fed twice a day, and your AHT is no exception to that rule. We recommend that you feed them once in the morning, and once in the evening so that there is ample time for them to digest their food before they are fed again.

Just make sure that you stick to whatever feeding times you decide on, as changes, later on, may disrupt their routine and confuse them Consistency is also key to maintain discipline. Walk times should align with feeding times, so walk them before or after feeding.

You can either give them packaged dog food or home-cooked food, depending on what you prefer. Make sure clean drinking water is accessible to them at all times.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

brown american hairless terrier

The AHT comes in different varieties. Some AHTs have short, shiny coats which need to be brushed every week or every other week. Shedding is not a concern, so people with some allergies who can still keep short-coated pets can keep the coated AHT.

The coated variety is also good to go into places with shrubs, trees, and plants, as their skin isn’t exposed.

The hairless variety of the AHT has no hair at all, except for eyebrows and whiskers. Naturally, they don’t need to be groomed or brushed, but they do need to be bathed regularly, or their skin gets oily.

The breed comes in various colors, including white, black, tan, grey, chocolate, blue, mahogany, and faded yellow or orange. Hairless AHTs usually have freckles or spots that get bigger as the dogs grow.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

two gray and white american hairless terriers sitting together

AHTs are popular family dogs because of their sweet, playful nature. However, some small children might have to be taught to be gentle with the AHT due to their small size.

Other than keeping this in mind, you do not have to worry about them misbehaving with children or anyone else for that matter! Just invest some time and effort into training and enjoy your dog’s company for the years to come.

AHTs are not just playful toward humans, but animals as well. If you have a big household which includes pets, then you don’t have to worry about aggression or other such issues.

Once you’ve introduced your new AHT to the other pets, and once they’ve spent some time with each other, they’ll most likely be friends for life. Just be cautious of introducing smaller pets to your AHT as their instincts will tell them to hunt animals that look like rats.

Wrap Up

american hairless terrier with brown spots

That’s about all you need to know before and after you adopt an AHT! Small dogs like these will surely be easier to handle and care for than bigger breeds. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be losing out in any way! Playtime with them is a lot of fun and walks are easy too because of their manageable size.

Although they are perfect for all kinds of people, people with allergies will be very happy with them, because no fur means no problems! They will also be happy in smaller spaces like apartments, as long as they are able to expel energy on daily walks.

If you have ever owned an AHT, please share your experiences with us in the comments section below. Also, tell us any other details about the breed that you think we should have mentioned! If you were thinking about adopting an AHT, after reading this, do you believe you should go for it or have you changed your mind?

If you decide to go for it, we believe you should consider picking from a list of southern dog names for your truly American breed!

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.