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Australian Terrier

This spirited, smart Terrier from Down Under makes an energetic and loyal companion.

Australian Terrier Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Terriers
Height
Weight
Life Span
Up to 15 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

The Australian Terrier was developed in Australia, as his name implies. Bred to hunt and exterminate rodents and snakes, Australian Terriers were also prized as watchdogs and companions. Today, the Australian Terrier dog breed maintains those same characteristics: he is a delightful companion, a fierce earthdog competitor, and a conformation and obedience showman.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games for smart cookies

  • Overview

    The Australian Terrier, called an "Aussie" by his admirers (although he's not to be confused with an Australian Shepherd), is a small terrier with upright ears and a rough, shaggy coat. He is the littlest of the working terriers, but don't let his size fool you. He's definitely a lot of dog in a tiny package, with a typical terrier slant on life: tenacious, independent, hardworking, and lively.

    With a spirited, mischievous personality, the Aussie jumps into life with attitude. But he's usually strongly attached to his family — so strongly attached that he'll often match his mood to yours. If you've got the blues, he is calm and quiet. If you're happy and excited, he turns frisky and playful.

    Mostly, the Aussie is upbeat, active, and silly, clowning around and entertaining his owners. He has an affinity for the young, the elderly, and the disabled. He makes an excellent playmate for a child, although adults should supervise interactions with very young children: Australian Terriers are not snappy or aggressive, but they do have limits on the handling and roughhousing they will tolerate.

    He may be small, but the Australian Terrier has the confidence of a large breed. He is a wonderful watchdog and will bark to alert his owners of the approach of anyone or anything new and different.

    Since they're so intelligent, Australian Terriers will readily learn whatever you're teaching (so be sure you don't inadvertently teach your Aussie pup that it's okay to jump up on you or chase the cat — or he'll keep up the behavior throughout his adulthood as well). Repetitive training is a bore for these bundles of energy, so lessons must be fun and increasingly challenging. Also, the independent Aussie likes to think the schooling is all his idea. Positive, reward-based training works wonders.

    Since the breed was developed as a working terrier, the Aussie instinct to chase and kill small animals — including squirrels, rabbits, mice, and cats — is strong. A securely fenced yard is essential, as is leash training. If you have rodents or other small pets, you need to introduce your Aussie to them when he's a young puppy, and teach him from the start that they are off limits. This can be very difficult — in truth, the best strategy is to never allow the Aussie to gain access to them. He can live with cats if he grows up with them and is taught to leave them alone, but he's likely to consider all felines outside your household to be fair game.

    If you like a pristine lawn or showplace garden, an Australian Terrier may not be the breed for you. Like all terriers, he loves to dig — it's in his breeding — and if left unsupervised for too long, he'll decide that tearing up the lawn is an ideal way to amuse himself.

    Even though he stands a mere 10 inches tall and weighs about 14 pounds, this is one confident breed. The spunky Aussie will challenge other dogs, including those much bigger than he is. He can be aggressive and bossy to other dogs in his household.

  • Highlights

    • The Aussie is all terrier, and not everyone finds his favorite hobbies endearing: he loves to bark, dig, and chase.
    • Bossy is the Aussie's middle name. He wants to be the dominant dog in a multidog household (males can be cranky with other male dogs). In fact, he'll happily take over the role of pack leader among people, too — so be sure to establish yourself as the boss before he does.
    • Early training and socialization are musts to keep this dog happy and well liked by family and friends, both human and animal.
    • The Aussie's personality is active and lively. If you prefer a dog with a more subdued nature, look at other breeds first.
    • To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
  • History

    The Australian Terrier is believed to be descended from a dog known as the Rough-Coated Terrier, a relative of the old Scotch dog of Great Britain. Breed researchers have some consensus of opinion that this Terrier was crossed with other British Terriers who were brought to Australia, including the precursor of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the Skye, the Yorkshire, and the Black and Tan Terrier. The result was the tough and courageous Aussie.

    Because early European settlers in Australia faced harsh conditions, they needed a hardy, fearless dog that could work in all kinds of weather. Aussies were bred to control and exterminate rats and snakes on the waterfront, in gold mines, and on sheep stations in the outback. They were also used as watchdogs, shepherds, and companions to the people living in these stressful outposts.

    The Australian Terrier is the first native breed to be recognized and shown in Australia. He was first shown as the Australian Rough-Coated Terrier in 1868 in Melbourne, and he was officially renamed the Australian Terrier in 1897.

    The Aussie was brought to England by members of the foreign service and the British aristocracy. The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1933. Starting in the late 1940s, servicemen and other travelers brought the Aussie to the United States, where he eventually debuted at the Westminister Kennel Club show in 1957.

    Nell Fox of Pleasant Pastures Kennels, the author of Australian Terrier (THF Publications, 1997) helped bring recognition to the breed in this country. Fox, a native of New Zealand, had been familiar with the Aussie in her youth and imported some of the first Australian Terriers to arrive in the U.S.

    In 1960, the Australian Terrier became the 114th breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, the first new terrier breed in 21 years. The Australian Terrier Club of America formed in 1957 and became a member club of the AKC in 1977.

  • Size

    Both males and females stand 10 to 11 inches tall and weigh 14 to 16 pounds.

  • Personality

    The Aussie is a fun-loving, upbeat dog who makes a great companion for any individual or family who wants to share his energetic lifestyle. Devoted to his owners, he's happiest when he's part of daily family life. He likes to be in the house, playing with the kids, following you room to room, or shouldering his way to the front door when you greet a friend. He is clever and should be easy to train — as long as you keep him busy and never, ever bore him.

  • Health

    Australian Terriers are generally healthy but, like all breeds of dogs, they're prone to certain conditions and diseases.

    • Patellar luxation. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
    • Legg-perthes causes a deformity of the hip joint ball. It starts with a decrease in the blood supply to the head of the femur bone, until the bone eventually dies off, collapses, and becomes deformed. The result is arthritis or inflammation of the hip joint. It's unclear what causes legg-perthes, but it may be inherited or related to injury. Treatment includes rest, physical therapy, and surgically removing the deformed femoral head and neck. Dogs generally do well after the surgery, and many suffer only minor lameness, particularly during weather changes.
    • Diabetes mellitus prevents the body from regulating blood sugar levels properly. A diabetic dog will eat more food to try to compensate for the lack of glucose reaching the body's cells — but he will lose weight because food is not being used efficiently. Symptoms of diabetes are excessive urination and thirst, increased appetite, and weight loss. Diabetes can be controlled by diet and the administration of insulin.
    • Allergies. Aussies can be prone to allergies (though they are common to dogs in general). There are three main types: food allergies, contact allergies (caused by a reaction to topical substances such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals), and inhalant allergies (caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew). Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.

    While no dog is perfect and these ailments do not affect all Australian Terriers, it is imperative to do your research to find Aussies of good breeding, with a multitude of health tests in the breeding program to ensure you get the healthiest possible dog that you can.

  • Care

    The Aussie enjoys the company of his human companions and does best when living in the house, not left to his own devices in the yard — which he will dig up like a gopher if given the chance. Your flowerbeds might stand a chance if you can train him to dig only in one designated spot in the yard, but don't bet on it. Chances are he'll make up his own mind about the best digging areas.

    You'll be better off if you supervise him closely when he's in the yard. Don't leave him alone too long or he'll be overcome by temptation, and your tidy landscaping will be only a memory. You must also fence your backyard to live amicably with your Aussie, who will take off after any cat, rat, or rabbit he sees if he's not confined or supervised on a leash.

    Since all dogs in the Terrier group tend to be bossy and aggressive around other dogs, proper socialization of your Aussie puppy is a must. Regular obedience training, beginning with puppy classes, is not only fun but is essential with this breed. Keep in mind, though, that the Aussie is a quick study — don't bore him by practicing the same lessons over and over.

    In fact, you may find that your intelligent Aussie is the type who loves progressively challenging levels of obedience classes and agility training. Motivation is key: the task at hand must be challenging and fun, and you must offer an irresistible incentive, such as treats, toys, or verbal praise. You don't work for free, and neither does the Aussie.

    Begin crate training when he's a puppy. This will help you housetrain him, and it provides him with a welcome refuge as well as a familiar means of safe travel when he's in the car.

    The spirited Aussie needs plenty of exercise — ideally, several brisk walks a day. He remains active well into his golden years.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 1 cup dry food a day.

    Unlike some small breeds, the Aussie is not a fussy eater. He has a hearty appetite, though he doesn't usually overeat. For more on feeding your Australian Terrier, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    The Aussie's shaggy coat is rough to the touch, with a soft undercoat. About two inches in length over most of the body, it is longer on the chest and head. It comes in three color types: blue and tan (tan body with a blue saddle), sandy, and red.

    The Aussie sheds minimally, and it's easy to groom him. Brush him once a week, trim his toenails once a month, and bathe him as needed — usually every three months or so, unless he has rolled in a scent that only a dog could love. Frequent bathing isn't recommended because it softens the coarse terrier coat. While a soft coat isn't harmful to any dog and is fine for a pet, it does detract from a show Aussie's physical appearance.

    Check the ears once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Also wipe them out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems.

  • Children and other pets

    The Aussie makes a wonderful family pet, well suited to families with kids. He loves to play but, like all dogs, should be properly socialized and supervised around very young children. He prefers to be with his people and can become destructive when left alone too long. He also has a penchant for chasing cats and small animals, so he isn't best suited to homes with rabbits, mice, or hamsters. However, with patient training, the Aussie can be taught to respect and leave alone the animals he lives with — but only those he lives with. He will eagerly chase the neighbor's cat or a squirrel at a park.

  • Rescue Groups

    Australian Terriers are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and you may find Australian Terriers in need of adoption and or fostering.

  • Breed Organizations

    Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Australian Terrier.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Not usually

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Moderately

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • Less than average

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Not usually

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Moderate

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Very

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Very

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • High

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • High

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Sometimes

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Very good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Sometimes

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • High

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • High

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Very

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Very High

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Very high

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Moderate

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Very high

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Low

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Miniature

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Very high

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Not particularly well

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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