American Hairless Terrier
Very Similar to the Rat Terrier, The American Hairless Terrier is Extremely Alert, Active and Fun!
Although it might seem odd at first glance, the American Hairless Terrier can give allergy-sensitive pet owners access to the same fun, love, and companionship that the rest of us get to experience with our own "fur balls." Surprisingly and very fortunately, these dogs also do not usually have the skin sensitivity problems that are often associated with other hairless breeds. Common-sense protections like sunscreen against sun exposure and "doggie wear" for inclement or cold weather are necessary, as these dogs don't have the protection a fur coat would naturally provide. However, other than that, these dogs are every bit as hearty, healthy, lively, and inquisitive as their fully-furred counterparts.
The American Hairless Terrier was first born by accident. It shares its ancestry with the Rat Terrier, and is basically identical to the Rat Terrier with the exception of its lack of fur. (Interestingly, these pets do have eyebrows, eyelashes, and whiskers.)
Historically, terriers had a dominant hairless gene that was always lethal, given that the gene removes the protection a fur coat would normally give a wild dog, both against inclement weather as well as sunburn, skin cancers, and some protection against predators. These dogs never survived long, but the American Hairless Terrier itself comes as a result of the accidental and occasional births of hairless terriers, thanks to a recessive gene in the Rat Terrier pool.
In 1972, one female was born completely hairless within a litter of medium-sized Rat Terriers. The terrier's owners, Edwin and Willie Scott of Louisiana, US, named the dog Josephine and specifically bred her to focus on her hairless characteristics. Josephine's first litter produced a hairless female, but didn't produce any more for several years. At the age of nine, she finally had a litter that had two hairless puppies, one of each gender. These two puppies became the foundation of the breeding program that was especially established to produce the American Hairless Terrier breed. What makes these dogs different from other hairless breeds is that the Scotts worked with a genetic specialist and veterinarian; they did this to help make sure that their hairless puppies would not exhibit the health problems and other undesirable characteristics that other hairless breeds, such as those from Asia or Africa, exhibit.
You may not even realize at first glance that the American Hairless Terrier puppies are in fact hairless. These well-muscled, trim little dogs have varied skin patterns just as all dogs do. For example, even a dog with fur has skin that matches its particular fur color: the skin under white fur is probably pink- or flesh-colored, while the skin beneath black fur is black.
Similarly, American Hairless Terrier puppies are going to have the same skin color(s) as their fullyfurred siblings. At first glance, American Hairless Terriers may appear to have fur, just very smooth, closely clipped fur. It's only upon closer inspection that you realize the dog is actually hairless.
Because of their lack of fur, the appearance of American Hairless Terrier puppies is striking, streamlined, and very athletic. They are very trim and muscular, and of course every muscle shows because they don't have fur. These dogs are tiny, usually standing only between 7 and 16 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 5 and 16 pounds in adulthood. The ears are erect and alert, and tails are usually full-length. Naturally or surgically docked tails are reason for disqualification in show.
These dogs have the same personalities as the Rat Terrier. They are alert, lively, very much fun, charming, curious, clever, and lovable. They're very good with children as long as they are raised from puppyhood with them, and are very obedient, subservient pets as long as you are the strong pack leader. As with any small dog, they can develop what is called "Small Dog Syndrome" if you baby your pet or otherwise allow it to believe that it is in charge. Small Dog Syndrome basically means that your pet is very spoiled and bratty, and thinks that he or she rules the roost. This can cause significant behavioral problems, including nipping and biting. You do your pet a great disservice if you allow this to happen, as these loving dogs want nothing more than to be cuddly, people-pleasing companions.
These dogs are very active, though, and they need lots of exercise. They can accept life in an apartment, but they need plenty of room to run and play, and should get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day. A daily walk is absolutely necessary.
Unlike other dogs, American Hairless Terriers don't need any brushing, clipping, etc., because they are hairless. However, American Hairless Terriers do need to be bathed about once a week for cleanliness purposes. They can be prone to acne because they do have sweat glands, and they will break out in a sweat if they're nervous. The acne should not need to be treated beyond ordinary bathing, and will usually go away on its own. These terriers can get rashes if their skin is exposed to allergenic substances. They should always be well-covered with sunscreen when outdoors for sun protection, and with appropriate clothing as necessary to protect them from excessive cold as well. These dogs don't pant to regulate body heat as ordinary dogs do, so they should always be given "help" with their body temperature regulation, including wearing sweaters or other dog clothing as necessary, such as a light shirt to protect against the sun, and so on.
An American Hairless Terrier grows to behave like any dog, which means that he or she likes to romp around outside. Because he or she does not have the protection of fur against cuts and scrapes, this means that you may have to treat cuts and scrapes on your pet just as you would your child. Simply clean and apply an antiseptic agent, just as you would with any cut or scrape, and get veterinary attention if necessary for particularly severe cuts, bruising, etc.
Aside from a few concerns particular to not having any fur, American Hairless Terriers are remarkably healthy dogs. In fact, they don't have any of the major skin problems seen in other hairless breeds, and their overall constitution is as hardy and sturdy as any terrier. With regular "maintenance" veterinary care, these dogs can be expected to live about 14 to 16 years.
Unique Hypoallergenic Status
These dogs aren't completely hypoallergenic, in that they can still expose allergenic folks to dander because they will shed skin; however, they are a great choice for most people who can't have pets, even so-called "hypoallergenic" breeds like poodles that don't shed. They have given many people who wouldn't otherwise be able to have dogs the ability to own these affectionate, loving, lifelong companions. In fact, many breeders have said that even otherwise stoic grown men have cried tears of joy upon learning of the existence of this breed because they have finally been given the chance to experience what life is like with the addition of man's best friend.