American Hairless Terrier

An American Hairless Terrier climbs a dirt bank from a pond.

The American Hairless Terrier is a young breed—the first of the type was born in a litter of Rat Terriers in the 1970s, and development of the hairless breed made slow progress in the decade following. The breed is every bit terrier—a big personality in a little body, with plenty of affection to go around. AHTs need a firm and consistent, yet gentle owner who can take certain transgressions with a bit of humor. The goofy, playful American Hairless Terrier is a ball of energy, and is quite rugged for its small size, but does require some special considerations—like sunscreen, and limiting bushwhacking adventures—due to the lack of protective fur. The Hairless Terrier's development focused mainly on creating a companion rather than a working dog, so though they still think every rodent must be chased, they're also more than willing to curl up in a lap for a good nap (as long as there's nothing better to do).

Other Names

The American Hairless Terrier is also nicknamed the AHT. The breed is available in a coated variety, called the Coated American Hairless Terrier.

Physical Description


The AHT is a hairless breed with solid colored or white skin with brindle, spotted, or saddled coloring. They're born with downy hair that disappears by eight weeks of age. Though the name is the American Hairless Terrier, there is also a coated variety of the breed. The AHT is a relatively new variety of terrier, so in order to maintain the health of the breed and to prevent conditions arising from a small gene pool, coated varieties are also allowed.


Average Height: 7-18 inches


Average Weight: 7-25 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The American Hairless Terrier is an active, muscular breed that developed from ratting dogs. The hairless variety, though unsuitable for hunting activities, is alert and possesses hunting instincts. The ideal height is 12 to 16 inches at the withers, with a rectangular—slightly longer than tall—body. A medium bone offers good proportion, without being too light or heavy. The AHT is alert, with a curious expression, tapered muzzle, expressive eyes, and V-shaped ears—erect ears are preferred but tipped or button ears are acceptable as long as the carriage matches. The tail is help upward, in a slight curve, and may be carried behind the dog while in motion—docking is not accepted. The skin should be smooth, in any color combination. Though a hairless breed, a coated variety is accepted. The coated variety must possess a full coat—a patchy, long, or wiry coat is a serious fault. – AKC Breed Standards

The American Hairless Terrier's development began in the 1970s when a hairless puppy was born in a litter of Rat Terriers, but the type of terrier as a whole is much older. The Rat Terrier has a history that spans centuries and includes the 'Feist,' an early example of the Rat Terrier breed. The Feist was kept on the flagship of Henry VIII to hunt vermin.

When a litter of Rat Terrier puppies produced a hairless puppy due to a natural gene mutation, the owners of the puppy began development of a hairless Rat Terrier with the help of veterinarians and breeders. This was not the first instance of a hairless puppy born to the coated breed, but it was the first attempt to breed for the trait. After nearly a decade of attempts to produce more hairless puppies, they were finally successful. The hairless gene is recessive—unlike the gene in most other hairless breeds. This means the American Hairless Terrier did not develop from other hairless breeds, but developed separately.

The breed was developed from American Kennel Club (AKC)-registered Rat Terriers, so the original dogs in the development of the AHT were also qualified to be registered as Rat Terriers. Because they were looking only to develop the breed, the AKC recognized the American Hairless Terrier as part of the miscellaneous group in 2014, and it joined the terrier group in 2016.

AKC Breed Category

Terrier Group


General Temperament

Energetic, bouncy, and stubborn, the American Hairless Terrier is a terrier through and through. They were developed as a companion dog breed, unlike their ratting cousins, but they haven't lost the prey drive that is so deeply a part of the terrier's history. This terrier is considered to be one of the most affectionate. When you finally burn through some of the AHT's boundless energy, you'll have a canine who's ready to cuddle.

Family Life

Are American Hairless Terriers Good with Kids? While many terriers aren't the most kid-friendly, the American Hairless Terrier tends to do well with older kids and even younger children who are respectful of the dog's personal space. AHTs aren't an ideal match for babies and toddlers, but with supervision they may be able to adjust.

Are American Hairless Terriers Good with Other Pets? American Hairless Terriers are often good with other dogs if introduced properly, though battles over alpha dog status may occur until the household balance is figured out. They may be able to live with cats, but are likely to chase them for entertainment. Small animals such as rats, mice, and hamsters are not a good match for the prey-driven AHT.


American Hairless Terriers are alert and watchful, and will bark to let you know someone is approaching. After you've welcomed a newcomer into the home, they're likely to be greeted with wiggling and licking. They are not suitable guard dogs due to their small size.

Energy Levels

High energy levels in the American Hairless Terrier require plenty of exercise and attention to prevent destructive behaviors and excessive barking.

Specific Concerns

  • The American Hairless Terrier is likely to dig.
  • He has a strong prey drive.
  • An escape artist, he's also likely to wander.
  • He is prone to sunburn due to his hairlessness.
  • He is sensitive to cold temperatures.
  • The AHT is a rare, difficult-to-find breed
  • He has a terrier personality.



With plenty of exercise and time to play outdoors, an American Hairless Terrier is a great choice for most living situations. Whether in an apartment or in a large house, an AHT needs time to burn off energy—indoors and outdoors—which can help prevent destructive behaviors and nuisance barking.


While American Hairless Terriers love to spend time outdoors, there are a few considerations for health and safety. The breed is prone to sunburn due to its hairlessness, and may require sunscreen to prevent skin damage—a jacket may be necessary in cold weather as they lack a coat of their own to prevent a chill. They're escape artists with a strong prey drive, so fenced areas and leash walking are ideal. AHTs should never be left outdoors unsupervised, because their terrier nature can get them into trouble in an instant. They're also fond of digging, whether in your freshly planted rose garden or the middle of the lawn. Providing a digging space for your American Hairless may minimize terrier excavation in off-limits areas.


At least 30 minutes of exercise per day is necessary, but American Hairless Terriers are happiest and better behaved with 45 minutes or more each day. Even with enough exercise, the breed possesses an excess of energy and will expect playtime, and will likely run laps indoors. Without enough exercise, AHTs may become destructive, bark excessively, or become hyperactive.


Terriers of all types have plenty of stamina, and the American Hairless Terrier's endurance level is likewise impressive.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: The American Hairless Terrier may be able to run up to five miles, if healthy and properly conditioned.
  • Hiking Miles: A full day on the trail may be easy for an American Hairless Terrier with considerations. Sunscreen is absolutely necessary, as are water and rest breaks when the dog needs them. Adventures on a hiking-appropriate leash are best, as AHTs have a strong prey drive and a tendency to wander.


The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food to feed an average-weight American Hairless Terrier is a half cup to one cup per day, split between two meals.

While American Hairless Terriers don't tend to guard their food more than other breeds, children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.

Alone Time 

An American Hairless Terrier may be able to stay home alone for four to six hours per day, but may suffer from separation anxiety or become destructive without enough attention or exercise. Crate training can help an AHT feel secure, and can keep your dog and belongings safe while you're out. Some Hairless Terriers may bark excessively if left home alone.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

14-16 years


Though the hairlessness of the American Hairless Terrier means brushing isn't necessary, the skin is prone to sunburn. AHTs need an application of veterinarian-recommended sunscreen before going outside. Baths—with a gentle shampoo to prevent skin irritation—are necessary occasionally, and more often after the application of sunscreen. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or breaking a nail. Your American Hairless Terrier may be sensitive about having his paws touched, so get him used to it early.

Common Health Issues

Though generally a healthy breed, American Hairless Terriers may be prone to breed-specific health concerns, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Allergies and skin conditions
  • Epilepsy
  • Dental concerns
  • Deafness
  • Liver shunt
  • Cushing's disease

You can minimize serious health concerns in an American Hairless Terrier by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



American Hairless Terriers can learn basic obedience with ease—but their stubborn nature means they may not always act like they know the rules. Gentle, positive reinforcement goes a long way with this eager breed. Start early and be consistent if you want a well-behaved AHT. Good first steps include teaching leash manners, an emergency recall, and introducing spaces outdoors where your AHT is allowed to dig.

Advanced Training

Willing-to-learn American Hairless Terriers are fantastic candidates for agility and advanced tricks or obedience training. They appreciate spending time with their owners, and fun activities hold their attention. Keeping training varied and entertaining is the best way to earn an AHT's cooperation.

Sporting Dog Training

Because they are descended from ratting dogs, American Hairless Terriers have a natural hunting instinct. Their lack of coat and delicate skin remove them from the running as a hunting companion, but they may be able to try their paw at Earthdogging exercises or nosework.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about American Hairless Terriers.

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Yes, the American Hairless Terrier is considered a hypoallergenic breed—however, this does not mean allergic individuals will never have a reaction to an AHT. Allergic reactions are triggered by more than just fur. Dander and saliva contribute to allergies as well. Because any dog can trigger an allergic reaction in a human, there is no guarantee—but many claim the American Hairless Terrier is one of the best choices for allergy sufferers.

An American Hairless Terrier may produce moisture along the spine in hot weather or while under stress, but whether this is sweat is unclear. All dogs are covered with hair follicle-associated glands that produce pheromones. Dogs don't sweat from these glands; they sweat only from their paw pads and noses—areas where there is a second type of gland, but no hair. Because the American Hairless Terrier does not have hair, he may sweat—but the claim has not been scientifically proven.

Is the American Hairless Terrier Actually Hairless? American Hairless Terriers are born with light, downy hair that begins to fall out by a few weeks of age. They are completely hairless by eight weeks of age, or may retain an incredibly fine type of hair called vellus—this hair is similar to 'peach fuzz' on humans. The American Hairless Terrier also comes in a coated variety.

As a new breed, the American Hairless Terrier has a tiny gene pool with little genetic diversity. The hairless gene in the AHT is a recessive gene, meaning both parents need to pass the gene in order to always produce hairless puppies. In order for this to be possible, there would be a high instance of inbreeding while developing the Hairless Terrier without allowing coated dogs in the gene pool. Coated Hairless Terriers bred to hairless AHTs may produce coated puppies, but those coated puppies will also carry the hairless gene. This coated dog may go on to produce hairless puppies, thus expanding the gene pool. Though allowed, breeding coated to coated AHTs is discouraged as it doesn't work toward the goal of a hairless breed. Coated AHTs are currently allowed under the breed standard in order to maintain the health of the breed—but the goal is to eventually phase out the coated variety when there is enough genetic diversity to prevent serious health concerns within the breed.

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