History and Development of The Old Dominion Terrier
UKCI (Universal Kennel Club International) was the first registry to recognize the Rat Terrier as a purebred and accept them as a recognized Purebred breed in 1936.
The Rat Terrier is a well known farm dog as far back as anybody can remember but their numbers started dwindling in the 1950’s when modernization of farms turned more to chemical/poison varmint control thus the need for less varmint type dogs. A few breeders still had small packs of these wonderful dogs but the gene pool was declining to very small numbers. In an attempt to revitalize the dog and it’s numbers the crossing of these dogs with the Toy Fox, Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua, I.G. and Beagle breeds was acceptable practice from the ’70’s until January 1, 1998 when UKCI officially stopped registering any dog as a Rat Terrier that was a known cross thus closing the UKCI Rat Terrier stud books to known crosses. Although they no longer allowed known crosses to be registered as Rat Terriers from that point, to this day they still allow hardship registration of dogs that have the appearance of the Rat Terrier so it’s anybody’s guess as to what breeds are now part of the Rat Terrier breed. Those who state otherwise are truly lacking in knowledge about the Rat Terrier.
During the 1970s, Milton Decker, a hunting enthusiast, had purchased a Rat Terrier of mixed ancestry from the Lindseth family in Oregon. The dog, named Henry (pictured above), was the start of Milton Decker’s breeding program of large Rat Terriers. Milton worked with other breeders such as Kenny Keller from Kansas, Lorena Jones and E.C. Allen in TX.
Because there was a need for larger dogs at the time, this made way for breeding and retaining the large size. He succeeded in doing this along with fixing in an erect ear set when Basenji was added to the mix. ** WE SHOULD NOTE THAT MILTON DECKER DID NOT TRULY CREATE A LARGER DOG ** As per the history written in The Decker Terrier book by Eli Brown, Mr. Decker bought larger dogs from other breeders to ‘create’ his line or variation.
The dogs that he produced from these lines lived up to all his expectations. Here was a utility dog that was an excellent all round hunter. Vermin, squirrel, bird and upland quail were commonly hunted and they would also retrieve from the water when necessary. These dogs were capable of baying up wild pig and would tree just about anything. They were also skilled in hunting big game like deer, cougar and bear. Some were even used on Jaguar in Central America before they hit the endangered species list. Bow hunters loved them because they were such great scent trailers. The dog would stay within 300 feet of the hunter and have been known to even turn the hunt back.
Natural instinct without any training makes them valuable to the farmer. They will efficiently and quickly rid a farm of mice with a quick shake, a toss over their shoulder and proceed onward. When presented with many mice to kill at once, what couldn’t be put in his mouth to kill was pinned down with his paws until he could get to them. These dogs have proven invaluable in states where new laws have prohibited the use of poison baits or traps. They help to control pocket gophers and feral pigs on ranches that are plagued with them. Their ability is not limited to hunting. Their quiet demeanor also makes them excellent apartment dogs.
As these large terriers made their way around enthusiasts all over the United States, they have garnered the nickname of Decker Giant, Decker Hunting Terrier and Giant Rat Terrier. When Milton Decker retired, many of his dogs went to Tim Brown. With Tim’s help, Seegmiller kennels gathered the last of the larger dogs coined ‘Original 52’. Sadly, at the height of their popularity, there was a great rift between the hunters and the show people. Many hunters are against any type of dog registry and claim the AKC and UKC ruin dogs and supposedly “the hunt” in the dog is gone. The show people use these registries to help maintain integrity of pedigrees. What hunters don’t understand is that both AKC and UKC are simply the record keeper It is up to the breed club to decide what the standard is along with the temperaments of the dogs. This is all done by vote and agreement from breeders to abide by. Also, many hunters breed their dogs according to what they consider to be ‘of good hunt’. By doing so, they are not necessarily breeding purebred dogs, which is why some lines of these larger Rat Terriers look like they may have Pitbull or other breed in them. Because of this rift, Milton Decker was moved to write a letter to the Rat Terrier clubs as well as to the registries asking that his name not be associated with these dogs. At the same time, enthusiasts of these larger dogs have also been getting unfavorable and unwarranted comments from Rat Terrier purists, calling these dogs nothing but mutts and shunning them from the showring by not including the larger, stockier dogs in the breed standard. Ironically, there have been many show breeders who have included these larger dogs in their breeding program and created some spectacular show dogs who fit the current Rat Terrier standard and are now winning in the ring. By doing so, these larger dogs are being bred down and becoming extinct in rapid speed.
Much like the other varieties of Rat Terrier, namely the American Hairless Terrier and the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, these larger Rat Terriers need to separate from the Foundation breed and be recognized as a breed of their own. To be considered a separate breed, there has to be a marked differences between the Foundation breed (Rat Terrier) and the variation which we now call the Old Dominion Terrier. Size of over 18 inches and averaging between 35 to 50 pounds is just the first difference. A stocky, muscular body with a regal stature as well as a calmer temperament makes the Old Dominion Terrier worthy of its own recognition as a separate breed.
WHY THE NAME ‘OLD DOMINION TERRIER’? Old Dominion notates that this breed has been in development since the 1800s. The Rat Terrier, as a breed, has their enthusiasts who like a small to medium dog and decided that the development of their ideal dog has been accomplished. Milton Decker’s breeding program along with another breeder, a Mr. Wood in Georgia, continued to develop their dogs beyond the traditional Rat Terrier. As Mr. Wood has passed on and Milton retired, Milton’s son, Ellis Decker, has continued to develop his ideal dog with other hunters and have started their own registry known as the Decker Hunting Terrier. The Decker Hunting Terrier registry does allow adding in other breeds of dogs with the type of extreme hunting temperament which the general public (and novice hunters) can’t handle in day to day life. By opening their registry to other breeds, this would negate what a purebred dog is but we wish them well in their endeavors. Those of us who are enthusiasts and breeders of these large Rat Terriers (after 5 generations from the original cross with another breed and have been registered as Rat Terriers since the 1970s), we are left in a conundrum. We are either forced to breed our dogs down to conform to the Rat Terrier standards – thus losing this wonderful variation – or continue breeding the best dogs that are left from the Original 52. These larger dogs are still currently being called Decker Terriers but to honor Mr. Decker’s request, we had to come up with a different name. We can’t call them Giant Rat Terriers as a breed since Rat Terriers are already a recognized breed. So, the name Old Dominion Terrier is to show they have been in existence for a long time and that we are not including any other breeds other than our Foundation breed into our stock to increase the gene pool. We are breeding true to the Original 52.