American Hairless Terrier Dog Breed: Information and Personality Traits 

A fairly new breed, the American hairless terrier closely resembles its rat terrier ancestor in all ways but one — the coat. Despite its name, the American hairless dog breed comes in coatless and coated varieties, with the latter possessing a very short, shiny coat. Bright, playful and energetic, the coatless American hairless is an excellent match for people with allergies.

American Hairless Terrier at a Glance
Close-up of an American hairless terrier dog.


Weight Range:

Male: 12-24 lb.
Female: Female: 12-24 lb.


Male: 12-16 in.
Female: 12-16 in.


Dark brown, amber, hazel or blue eyes; V-shaped and erect ears; Medium length nose; normal mouth; Long and tapered tail


Exercise Requirements: Moderate
Energy Level: Moderate
Longevity Range: 14-16 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low
Tendency to Bark: Moderate
Social/Attention Needs: Moderate to High

Bred For:



Length: None to short
Characteristics: Either hairless or short and shiny
Colors: Pink skin with black, gray, red or golden spots
Overall Grooming Needs: Low

Club Recognition:

AKC Classification: Terrier group
UKC Classification: Terrier

The American hairless terrier is a small, sturdy and muscular breed.

This dog has a small head and a narrow, medium-length muzzle that, in profile, forms the shape of a wedge, says the American Kennel Club. They have erect, V-shaped ears that give them an alert appearance. Their eyes are typically either dark brown, amber or hazel, but can also be blue.

This breed can either be hairless or coated. The hairless variation has no hair on its body, although it does have eyebrows and whiskers. The coated variation has a very short coat of sleek, shiny hair. In all dogs of this breed, the skin or coat can be any color, although it tends to be pink. There's typically a pattern of spots in black, red, gold, gray or sometimes blue. The American hairless tends to be a hardy breed and can live as long as 16 years.


As far as temperament goes, the American hairless is a terrier through and through. Intelligent, playful and energetic, these delightful little dogs are as eager to please as they are clever, which makes training easy. Alert and inquisitive, this breed is loyal and protective and makes an excellent watchdog. American hairless terriers are loving and affectionate companions who get along well with children and other animals, making them a great choice for a family pet. This dog's compact size and loyalty also make them a good choice for singles, couples and apartment dwellers.

Living With:

Although they're bundles of energy, American hairless terriers also enjoy curling up in laps and cuddling next to their favorite people. They need about 30 minutes of walking each day to burn off excess energy, as well as vigorous play to alleviate boredom. This breed enjoys participating in activities and tends to excel at agility courses and competitions.

Bred from rat terriers, the American hairless has a strong prey drive and loves to chase small animals and dig in the yard. It's best to keep this dog on a leash or inside a fenced yard so they don't run off after squirrels and other small animals. They may require supervision to prevent them from digging up garden beds.

While their intelligence and agreeableness make them highly trainable, the American hairless also has a stubborn streak. They need a patient leader who can remain calm and assertive in order for training to be successful.

This breed has genetic predispositions to heart conditions, hip dysplasia, hip joint disease and luxating patella, so it's important to research both the breeder and health history of the parents when considering a puppy. While many hairless dogs tend to suffer from skin conditions, the recessive nature of the hairless gene means that the American hairless is exempt from such disorders, according to Dogster. However, the hairless variety does need extra protection from the elements. You'll need to keep them covered with sunscreen and shade in the summer and bundle them in sweaters during the colder months.

Both variations of the American hairless dog breed are light on grooming needs. They only need occasional bathing and require no brushing. Shedding is minimal for the coated variety and nonexistent for the hairless version, which makes them great pets for moderate to mild allergy sufferers. However, both types of the American hairless still have allergy-producing dander and saliva, so even the hairless variety might not be suitable for those with severe allergies.


While the American hairless terrier came into existence as a breed as recently as the 1970s, its pedigree can be traced back to the early 1800s, when rat terriers — then called feists — were bred in England to hunt rats. It wasn't until these dogs were brought to America by British miners in the late 1800s that they were crossbred with the smooth fox terrier, stabilizing the breed and creating the rat terrier we know today.

The American hairless is essentially a modified version of the rat terrier. As a breed, its origins can be traced back to a singular dog named Josephine, a rat terrier pup who was born without hair. She was adopted by Edwin and Willie Scott, who spent eight years breeding Josephine to other rat terriers until she produced a pair of male and female hairless siblings named Jemma and Snoopy. This pair was then bred to each other, and in 1983 they produced the first litter of entirely hairless puppies, thus creating the American hairless breed.

It was the Scotts who founded the first club devoted to this breed. The American Hairless Terrier Club of America formed in 2009, but it wasn't until very recently, in 2016, that the AKC granted full recognition to the American hairless as a separate and distinct breed.

Related Pet Care Articles