The diminutive Australian Terrier is plucky, spirited, and smart’¿how did they fit so much dog into such a bitty package? Upbeat and lively, the self-assured Aussie approaches life with plenty of the old-time terrier curiosity and grit. Australian Terriers are small but sturdy, self-confident terriers known for a longish torso, distinctive coat furnishings around the neck and forequarters, and a topknot of soft, silky hair that contrasts in texture with an otherwise harsh coat. A long neck lends a dash of elegance to this rough-and-ready terrier, and the dark eyes sparkle with a keen intelligence. Coat colors are blue-and-tan, or solid red or sandy. Aussies move with the free and easy gait of a working dog. They are alert watchdogs and said to be quick studies when training. True terriers, Aussies love digging, and the urge to chase small, furry critters has never left them. Not always a great fit in multi-dog households, Aussies want you all to themselves.
Among the touches of home that 19th century British settlers brought to Australia were several breeds of working terrier. The Aussie is said to be the result of interbreeding such British mainstays as the Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Norwich, Scottie, Skye, and Yorkshire terriers—and a practiced eye can spot aspects of these and other terriers in the Aussie makeup. Aussies were bred to be fearless, all-purpose exterminators, working on small mammals and snakes. (A breed historian says that the Aussie employed a “leap-twist-and-pounce” approach to snake killing.)
Life in the remote regions of Australia with little company forged a tight bond between Aussies and their people. These tough little frontier dogs, among the smallest of the working terriers, proved to be cuddly, eternally devoted pets when the day’s work was done.
To this day, outgoing Aussies are people-oriented companions who don’t do well when neglected—they practically demand to be part of the family.
The Australian Terrier can make a fair claim to being “Australia’s Dog.” It was the first native breed to be officially recognized in its homeland, and the first Australian breed to be recognized in other countries. The first club devoted to the breed was founded in Melbourne in 1887, a breed standard was devised, and imports to America and Britain began soon after. The Kennel Club (England) granted the Aussie breed status in 1933, and the AKC recognized the breed in 1960.
Temperament: courageous / affectionate / spirited
Height: 10-11 inches
Weight: 15-20 pounds
Life Expectancy: 11-15 years
In general, the Aussie is a sturdy breed with few health problems. A responsible breeder will test breeding stock for health conditions such as luxating patella (a dislocated kneecap called a ‘trick knee’ in humans) and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a malformation of the hip joint that manifests early and can be corrected with surgery. Some dogs can develop itchy skin conditions, and flea control is essential. As with all breeds, the ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth should be brushed often.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Patella Evaluation
- Thyroid Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The Australian Terrier’s harsh, weatherproof, double coat does a good job of repelling dirt and mud, and is very easy to maintain. A quick brushing once a week is usually enough to keep it in fine shape. The long hairs that grow in front of and between the eyes can irritate the eyes if left unchecked; fortunately, they are easily plucked out with tweezers or fingers. An Aussie should have a bath only when needed. Shampooing softens the harsh coat, rendering its dirt-shedding capability ineffective, and too much bathing can also make the Aussie’s skin dry and flaky. As with all breeds, the Aussie’s nails should be trimmed regularly.
Terriers in general have a high energy level, and the Aussie is no exception. The breed is very active and requires regular exercise to keep from becoming bored and unhappy. Boredom leads to undesirable behavior. Daily play sessions, indoors or out, will keep an Aussie happy and well adjusted. However, these sessions must take place is a securely fenced yard, and when on walks or hikes, an Aussie must be on a leash. Aussies should never run loose’ their instinct to hunt is very strong, and they might not be able to resist running off to chase a cat or squirrel, and might pursue their prey so far from home that they can’t find their way back.
Aussies, like many terriers, benefit greatly from puppy training classes and introductory obedience with treats, toys, or praise. Aussies are easily bored with routine, so training sessions will be short, whether the owner wants them to be or not. They are also willful and stubborn, so a firm, consistent approach is necessary. Even with training, though, an Aussie can be reluctant to share toys or human attention, and two males may not be able to share a household.
The Australian Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.