- AKC recognized in 1960
- Lifespan: 11-15 years
- Size: Small
- Energy: High
- Recommended Crate Size: 24” dog crate*
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Table of Contents
He’s quite the handsome chap! The Australian Terrier, or Aussie Terrier as he is commonly endeared, is a lad (or lass) who hails from the Down Under, Melbourne, Australia to be exact.
Spirited, smart, and small - the Australian Terrier has it all in one adorable little package. But don’t let his size fool you. This Terrier has tenacity! Even his fur is rough-and-ready. This mate once mastered the “leap-twist-and-pounce” technique for killing snakes...poisonous ones.
There won’t be any lap lounging until this fine fellow gets his exercise out. And, since he’s a high energy dog that may take quite a while. But when he does, he’s the perfect little gentleman and quite a cute cuddler.
If you are thinking this snake hunter would be the perfect charmer for your life, read on to find out more about him, warts and all.
Although the Australian Terrier, or Aussie Terrier as he is also known as, has Australian ties, so much so that even his name reflects as much, his ancestral roots are actually from England. In the early 19th century, travelers going from Great Britain to Australia brought along their rough coated Terriers, some for companionship but most for protection against mice and rats that carried horrible diseases. He was also known for being a snake hunter and since Australia was loaded with venomous varieties, this was a very useful skill.
The rough coats mixed with other breeds like the Cairn Terrier, Dandy Dinmont Terrier, Shorthaired Skye Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, and Irish Terrier. This guy sure has a lot of cousins who each played an important role in making him the little man he is today - booming with personality and oozing with character.
He is sometimes confused with the Australian Sheepdog simply because of the name. They are two completely different breeds though.
His refinement began way back in 1820 in Australia when he was called the Rough Coat Terrier. It was in 1850 that the breed was formally recognized and wasn’t until 1892 that his name was officially changed to the Australian Terrier.
The Aussie Terrier made his way across the pond to America sometime between the 1920s and the 1940s. He was welcomed as a companion dog but as a ratter too. His snake hunting skills were appreciated too.
But it was in 1906 when the AT strutted his stuff before the world, in Melbourne and, at the same time, in Great Britain as well. By 1933, The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom welcomed him into their exclusive organization and finally, in 1960, he gained favor with the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, both in the United States. Now, he has earned his stripes in all the major and minor dog clubs and registries across the globe.
The Australian Terrier is small in size only. He is huge in might. From chasing off rats and tangling with snakes to guarding properties (and his humans) against intruders, this dog is a hard-worker who has made a big name for himself. He is classified in the Working Terrier group and is said to be a notch above most others in his class. He’s more active and, according to his fan club, has superior skills as well.
Fearless and ferocious (if you’re an intruder, rat or snake, at least), this rough and tumble breed knows no bounds. He’s a frontier dog that can hang with the toughest and pull his weight at the same time. He’s a loving and loyal dog though. He aims to please and is not fulfilled unless he does so. His love for his humans dates back as far as his hunting skills do when living in the remote regions of his homeland was so demanding, for both man and beast, that it formed a tight bond between the Australian Terrier and his beloved people. He was willing to pay the extreme price and lay down his life to protect those he held dear and in return, his efforts were appreciated when he was brought closer into the family as a lap dog and companion after his day of work was over and the sun was setting down.
The Aussie Terrier took to the spoiling. He can’t get enough. This guy is not happy unless he is with his family and will let you know about it too. He sees no reason why he should ever be without a human beside him.
The AT is highly adaptable. He does fine in most climates and can fit into most living arrangements too.
He does like to bark. It’s his way of alerting his owner that there is danger which may entail a stranger lurking in the distance or...the mailman driving up. For this reason, if he is to live in close quarters, like in an apartment or condo, his barking will need to be addressed in his training sessions. He’s highly trainable though so that shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
This dog is one of the best when it comes to being a great family dog. He’s excellent with young and old alike. He loves children and they seem to love him right back. Since he is high energy, he should always be supervised when around very young ones so he doesn’t get too riled up and accidentally knock them over. The same is true of his safety. He’s small so rowdy children might harm his as well. But, all said and done, he’s tolerant and loving.
The Aussie even gets along well with other pets. He isn’t one to back down from aggressive dogs but neither is he one to instigate trouble. He’ll do best with other pets, even cats, when raised alongside them from puppyhood. He’s a hunter at heart though so it’s not beyond him to chase a cat that darts past him or to hunt a pet snake or hamster. It’s best to keep him away from pocket pets and species of the slithering kind.
There isn’t a problem with this breed that can’t be worked out through training. If he barks too much, chases the family kitten, or exhibits any other unwanted behavior, chances are good the issue can be solved simply by letting him know what is acceptable and what is not. This characteristic was instilled into him in the old country when his obedience easily separated life and death of both him and his master. Not much has changed in that area. He is an extremely obedient soul.
The breed that was deemed “Australia’s Dog” is now far more than that. His good nature and gentle temperament with people has led to his popularity around the world. He’s upbeat, fun, funny, and smart and courageous beyond belief.
The Aussie Terrier has a look all his own but for the untrained eye, he might be mistaken for one of his cousins - a Cairn, Yorkshire Terrier, Skye Terrier, Irish Terrier, or even the Dandie Dinmont.
He’s a long fellow compared to his height. He is most recognized for his rough coat and his silky top knot. He’s small yet sturdy, weighing in around 14 to 19 pounds. ATs generally stand about 10 to 12 inches tall (but don’t tell him that...he’s sure he’s ten-foot-something!).
His legs are short and his body long supported by a medium-boned frame. His wiry, harsh coat is medium in length on his body but is shorter on his lower legs, muzzle, and feet. The ears of this breed are alert and pricked. His tail is docked, in keeping with tradition so it would not become injured or stuck when he was working on the land in the days of old.
The eyes of the AT are dark and expressive. They shine with wonder and love. Along with his coat, his eyes are one of his most unique and eye-catching features.
Australian Terrier dogs have short legs and a medium length shaggy, harsh outer coat. He sports a distinctive ruff and an apron too. The tuff of hair on his head is silky which is a nice and distinguishing contrast to his otherwise rough coat.
He walks with purpose, free and easy (as is typical of self-confident working dogs). His gait is sound and he has an excellent reach about him. He knows where he’s going and is on his way to get there.
Registered coat colors are blue and tan, sandy, and red. There are many unregistered colors of coats that disqualify an Aussier Terrier from being shown but certainly have no bearings on his being an excellent family dog. Those colors are black, black tan, black red, blue, blue black, blue black and tan, red and black, red tan, red while, sable and brindle.
It is recommended to provide your Australian Terrier a high-quality dog food that is specially formulated to suit small sized terrier breeds. It is also highly advised that you discuss your Aussie’s health with your veterinarian or breeder in order to determine the size and frequency of meals in order to ensure good health conditions for a long life.
This high energy dog will need ample amounts of protein and other vitamins and minerals to fuel his fire. Your vet or breeder can make recommendations.
You may need to feed this small dog small amounts of food through the day because he can only hold a certain amount which he will use up quickly because...he doesn’t stop. His treats should be given in limited amounts or not at all because it is best that he fill up on his nutrient-rich dog food instead.
This breed has a tendency to love food. They often overeat. They also love to indulge in snacks and people food. Especially if he is not getting adequate exercise, your Aussie may put on some pounds. While it might seem cute at first, it can be dangerous to his health, just as obesity is in humans. He can develop Diabetes, problems with his bones and joints, and a slew of other maladies. Limit his snacks and make sure he eats a well-balanced diet and gets plenty of exercise.
It is also important, as it is with all pets, to ensure that clean, fresh water is always available. If you feel your active little guy is not drinking enough, gently push your finger into his skin and if his skin springs back, he’s good to go. If not, he very well may be dehydrated. If he is dehydrated, try to encourage him to drink water. If he doesn’t, a call to his vet is in order. This is a small and very energetic dog who is at risk for dehydration.
The Australian Terrier's harsh coat seems to attract dirt. In fact, it was to do exactly that in order to protect his skin from the elements.
Even though his coat is rough and rugged, this dog is not difficult to keep groomed for the most part. He’s a naturally shabby fellow, in the opinion of some. But, to Aussie fans, it’s all in keeping with his rugged good looks.
The coat of the AT is double. It has a convenient weatherproof function which sheds little and makes them suitable in most climate conditions. While the undercoat is soft, the top layer is very wiry and harsh. A once per week brushing is all this pup requires and with that, his hair will stay in good shape.
He has hair that grows in between his eyes and in front of them as well. They get long and out of control if not trimmed up and can irritate him and block his sight so it’s best to keep up with them as needed. They can easily be plucked out with your fingers or tweezers or you can just snip them when they get too long.
You won’t need to bathe this dog much. If he gets muddy or skunked, he’ll need an extra one, but other than that, one good bathing every month or two is sufficient. Be sure to use conditioning, hypoallergenic shampoo. Shampooing him will soften his wiry mane and therefore will render is ineffective at doing its job which is to attract dirt and debris. In addition, too much shampooing will leave his skin dry and flaky. If his coat is altered very much from its natural state, it won’t keep him warm in the cold months and cool in the warm months as it is designed to do.
Aussies have fast growing toenails. If he’s outdoors enough, he’ll naturally wear them down some, but probably not enough. You’ll want to make sure they are clean of dirt. Keep them trimmed and check for cracks, chips, and splits so you can tend to them immediately and avoid further problems.
The ears of the Australian Terrier a pricked so they tend to collect dirt and debris just like his wiry coat does. Clean them regularly with a damp cloth and, if your vet approves, an ear wash that is recommended. Never use a swab. After cleaning them, be sure to dry them as well. If your AT paws at his ears or if they appear irritated, red, or swollen, make an appointment for him to visit the vet. If he has an untreated ear infection, it can become so severe he may need surgery on them or he could be left deaf.
You’d better bet the Australian Terrier needs his exercise. And, if you don’t believe it, he is sure to let you know. He simply cannot thrive without it. Since his heritage is one of working roots, it would be inhumane not to let him get his pent up, bounding energy out on a daily basis. Energy and the need to work it off runs through his blood! He’s a Terrier, remember? If not properly exercised, he’ll get bored and restless.
It is recommended that this breed get at least one full hour of formal walking a day. If you want to break it up into two sessions that is fine as long as he gets the hour in.
Before your walk, set yourself as the leader. To do so, be the first one out the door and invite him to come along. Have him walk by your side or behind you, never in front or he will get the wrong idea entirely.
Keep a close check on this hunting dog. He’s a very mild-mannered chap until a squirrel scampers past. He’s likely to chase anything that seems to beckon him to do so. It’s the hunter in him. He just can’t help himself it seems. His hunting instincts are as strong as his urge to breathe.
After a good walk, your Aussie will enjoy some vigorous playtime. He prefers to have you join in too for double the fun. Be sure you have him in a safe area when playing. He can and will chase! Never let him run loose without a fence unless you are in wide open country and there are no rabbits, chickens, or pocket pets for him to hunt.
Don’t forget to exercise your Aussie’s brain too. He needs loads and loads of mental stimulation because he’s such a smart breed. Brain games are an excellent tool to use to keep him sharp. You can find books with great challenging activities in them or look some up online. He will amaze you and himself!
If you’re going on a hike or to ride your bike, might as well let your Aussie go with you. He’s so adaptable, he can fit in most anywhere and can do most anything. Plus, he’ll get a chance to get some of his energy out at the same time.
Exercising your AT is a must. But, it doesn’t have to be a chore. He will enjoy it so much, it makes it a joyful time if you let it be.
Pet Crates Direct recommends 24” dog crates* for most adult Australian Terriers.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
Sure of himself and...at times, full of himself, the Australian Terrier is a character like none other. He’s got a very unique personality. He’s a fine mix of independence and dependence that most Aussie Terrier pet parents find absolutely perfect.
Although he is possibly even more vigilant, the Aussie Terrier isn’t quite as loud and vocal as some of his counterparts, like the Cairn. He barks more for a purpose (his version of it, at least) but isn’t given to be yappy just for the sake of barking. He is highly correctable and is so eager to please, his barking is usually not much of an issue for owners to nip it in the bud.
Spunky is a word often used to describe the AT. He is persistent, downright vigilant, and can be a bit scrappy if the job at hand calls for it. Sometimes, he’s scrambling with a snake to save his people but when it’s the family iguana that he’s after, there’s a problem in paradise.
One thing this good-natured dog despises is to be left alone. He sees no need in being away from his family. How can he protect them if they aren’t there? His separation anxiety is very real to him and if he’s left for long, his high energy is liable to kick up to speed and he may become destructive, digging up the yard if left outside, or chewing up your best sneakers if he’s inside.
It is best not to get this dog if you or someone in the family won’t be with him most of the time. The good news is that he is quite portable and flexible as well. You can take him hiking with you or over to visit a friend (he’s very mannerly when exercised beforehand).
While he does play well with other pets, he tends to be jealous of newcomer dogs or of those who visit. He sometimes acts as if he thinks he’s going to be traded in on a different model. It’s a good idea to not give another dog he isn’t acquainted with very well a lot of affection in front of him. You’ll have to warm him up to that idea. There are some Aussies who are a bit more high-strung who may not be very fond of other males, in the household or those who are strangers. Early conditioning and socialization will make a huge difference in that area though.
For those times you must leave him for a while, crating may be a good option. Crates serve as makeshift dens, offering security to him and safety for him and your sneakers as well. Be sure to reinforce the fact that his crate is a good, safe place where he can go to retreat. It is never to be a punishment.
This dog loves to play but is given to be partial to toys and activities that remind him of his working days. He’ll eagerly play Fetch or will paw around at a toy snake. He’s a lot of fun to interact with and fun to watch when he engages in solo play too.
The AT is smart, very smart. He’s not only intelligent, but he’s also wise. This breed is ranked at the top of the working class in intelligence. He can figure out solutions to problems, no doubt a carry-over from his pioneer days, and is keen on picking up what you like and dislike.
His desire to please is one of his strongest and most important traits. There are times he seems almost human, expressing emotions and deciphering yours. Be warned though that he can be willful and even stubborn. It is part of what helped him survive and thrive in the wild pioneer country in the olden days. But, what is great about his guy is that he is teachable and fully trainable. It will take some effort on your part, however.
This dog must be thoroughly exercised in order to bring out the best of him. He may seem hyper and out of control otherwise. It’s not his fault. He was designed to be active, it took a lot to perform the jobs he once had. With plenty of exercise though, he’ll be the perfect lap dog, a cozy cuddle at the end of a long day.
Tough enough but gentle at heart, the Australian Terrier has a tapered temperament compared to other Terriers yet is the leader of the pack when it comes to his work skills and ethics. He’s dynamite in a pint-size, wiry package with an explosively perky personality with a docile and kind heart.
Since their ancestral types were bred to be watchdogs, the Australian Terrier is alert and very trainable. He aims to please so that’s a huge perk as well. Furthermore, he’s got tons of energy so he won’t tire out. Being super smart though, he may become bored if a class isn’t challenging enough to suit his fancy.
If you haven’t already, you will need to establish yourself as the pack leader, the teacher, before you go any further in his training. This breed was used to leading the way on hunts but yet was ultimately guided by his owner who set his direction and ordered his steps. You are the leader so,...it’s time to let him know that.
Positive training is the one and only way to go with this dog. Treats, pats, and plenty of praise will cause him to want to excel. Negativity, like scolding him or showing disappointment, will ensure that he shuts down. With an Aussie, that’s a given.
With that done, it’s potty training time. Although the AT is smart enough to catch on, he may balk a bit, only because it’s the first time he’ll be being told, or asked, what to do and where to do it. But, the more you shower him with praise and lavish him with love, the sooner he’ll do his thing without a problem. He’s small so he can’t “hold it” all that long but he’ll no doubt do his best once he’s into pleasing you. He adapts well to the cold and heat so going outside shouldn’t pose a problem. Do be certain you go out with him and that the area is secured by a fence. A back-up plan like a kitty litter pan or puppy training pads is ideal for times he can’t get out in time.
Socialization is extremely important for the Australian Terrier. He can sway to one side and be fearful of people or sway to the other and be non-accepting of strangers, both human and animal varieties, so expose him to all sorts of people, places, and scenarios when he’s just a pup and he’ll do fine. Be sure he goes to loud, busy settings and is around people who are of all ages. Take him where there are other dogs and a few cats too but watch that he doesn’t chase the cats.
Agility training is a fantastic activity for this breed. He’s very athletic and quick and is sharp enough to learn the course. He’s often able to handle advanced agility training. It’s also a creative outlet for his bounding energy to be released. And...he’ll most likely love it! You can take him to classes or, you can actually build your own course in the perimeter of his own backyard.
Lure course training is right down this dog’s alley and he’s awesome at it. Lure coursing is gaining in popularity and is fun for all. You can make your own lure course or take him for formal training on the course.
Trick training your Aussie is fun for both you and for him. If you stick to doing tricks he enjoys, you’ll have a star on your hand. He loves to chase things so get creative and toss several balls or toys. Name one and have him go after it and not the others. He’s smart and is a pro at thinking so, he’ll ace it if you work with him. You’ll find tons of tricks for him to do online or from training books.
Training your Aussie will take him to the next level in his obedience and behavior. He is so capable, you don’t want to waste a good dog by failing to properly train him in all areas. He’ll be happier because of it and you, as his pet parent, will be too.
The Australian Terrier is not given to be a sickly breed by any means. He is very athletic and strong for a dog of his size. But, there are some illnesses his gene pool has left his susceptible to, unfortunately. Knowing what medical woes he is more likely to get will help you keep a watchful eye out for symptoms so you can take him in for a diagnosis and if warranted, treatment. This will ensure he has the best chance possible of a long and healthy life.
To get him started out on the right paw, make sure you acquire him from a breeder who is responsible and has an impeccable, verifiable reputation. This breed is one who is often victimized by greedy, irresponsible breeders out to make a quick buck on the AT.
Although the Aussie generally enjoys a life expectancy of 11 to 15 years, there are conditions he is prone to succumb to such as cancer. That is the leading cause of death for the AT, followed by old age. Some of the conditions that are common in the breed are not life-threatening but can be painful and should be seen to.
Diabetes Mellitus, also known as Sugar Diabetes, is one of two types of Diabetes. It is the kind most commonly found in dogs. The problem is due to a disorder of the metabolic system and is due to the dog’s body not converting food to energy properly, the same as it is in human bodies. The failure of the body to produce enough insulin to turn sugar into energy causes the condition and is remedied by the introduction of insulin which must be given by injections or orally since the body is not supplying it.
While it is scary for your dog to be diagnosed with such a disease, there is, at least, a remedy and the two of you have the probability of enjoying many years to come even though the condition is chronic and will require ongoing treatment for the rest of his life. If your dog is excessively thirsty, overly tired much of the time, is irritable, gaining or losing weight without explanation, and/or is urinating frequently, he should be checked for the disease. The test is simple and if it comes back positive, his vet will go over treatment options with you.
Thyroid disorders are another hormonal and endocrine issue your Aussie may suffer from. If he is overly tired much of the time, irritable, is gaining or losing weight without explanation, or is losing fur, he very well may have an imbalance. If caught and treated early, he should be just fine and can enjoy a normal and active, healthy life. If it is not treated, however, other complications could arise.
Cataracts are high on the list of maladies that Aussies may contract during their lifetime. While they aren’t life or death threatening in nature, if your dog has them, he will need treatment. A cataract involves an opacity in the lens of the eye. It can be as small as a pinhead or it can cover the entire lens. The affected area makes his sight blurry. If your pooch is having trouble seeing such as if he is bumping into things or not responsive when you hold his favorite toy or a treat up in front of him, it is highly advised that you take him in for an eye exam. Or, you may have noticed a film on his eye lens which also warrants an exam. If caught early, there are treatments available which can help him. Otherwise, he could lose his vision entirely.
Ear infections seem to plague this breed more so than others. As mentioned before, at the first sign of an issue with his ears, take him in and have them checked for infection. His vet can prescribe drops and/or antibiotics that can treat the problem and he’ll be as good as new.
Cruciate Ligament Rupture is a condition which entails the knee joint becoming unstable and causing difficulty or inability to walk. While it can be caused by an injury or obesity, it is also known to be a hereditary problem as well, which is often the case when seen in the Aussie. When the knee is weak due to this condition, it makes it more likely for accidents, like stumbling, to occur which further complicates the problem. If your dog is having difficulty getting around or cannot walk at all, his vet can examine him for this issue. Keeping an eye on his weight is a good preventative measure to take.
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease is a condition in which the blood circulation to the dog’s hip is cut off at the head of the femur. The lack of blood causes the bone to die and stop growing which, in turn, makes it difficult or impossible to walk. The condition is usually first seen in dogs who are 4 to 10 years of age. It can render a weakness which makes further injuries more likely. If your dog is having trouble walking, is favoring a leg or other legs, or is not able to walk at all, it is time to have him examined for this condition.
Luxating Patella is a problem in which the kneecap, or patella, becomes dislocated and moves from its normal positioning, causing it to slip in and out of joint. The issue can be painful and debilitating. Miniature and small breed, like the Australian Terrier, are more susceptible to this condition as it seems to be passed through the bloodline. The symptoms usually arise between the ages of 4 and 6 months. Your dog’s vet can perform tests that will let you know if he has this condition or not and if he does, she can make treatment suggestions.
Seizures can be caused by many root problems. Brain tumors, toxins in the air or in food or water, kidney failure, liver disease, and brain trauma can be underlying reasons for a dog to have a seizure. But, in the Aussie, it is most likely due to an inherited vulnerability. He may be completely normal between the seizures and can suffer one at any given time. Stress may bring one on or strenuous activity but generally, there is no rhyme or reason for what spurs them, they come randomly. Seizures are frightful for both you and your dog but they aren’t painful. If your dog is having seizures, by all means, consult his vet.
Just because there is an extensive list of problems your Australian Terrier may be prone to get doesn’t mean he’ll get any of them, it is simply wise to know what to watch for so you can seek prompt attention at the first sign of any of them.
Is an Australian Terrier Right for Me?
You’ve fallen in love with the plunky little puppy and now you’re all over the dog from the Down Under. He’s stolen your heart with his inquisitive and intelligent, sweet nature and now, you are wanting to welcome him into your world. But first, there are some things you should think over very carefully because shelters and rescues are full of Aussies whose would-be owners didn’t take the time to think things through.
Do you have the time and ability to make sure this working Terrier gets all the exercise he requires? He needs a lot - more than most dogs and, he needs it every day. If you are an active person or if you have someone you can employ to exercise him for you, it’s time to move on to the next question.
Will you have ample time to spend with this loving pooch? He will never be complete if he can’t be by your side most of the time. He’s an independent guy on one hand but he is dependent at the same time. He will need you...a lot!
This breed is very good-natured but they do have a willful streak due to their strong hunting dog background. He will need a strong hand and a strong personality to guide him so he can be the ultimate dog he was designed to be.
Hardy and spunky, the Aussie Terrier is said to be the most sensible Terrier on the planet. Can you embrace his great qualities to bring out the best in this champ?
Do you have other animals in the family? While the Aussie can get along with other pets, he’s often not fond of other males, if he’s a “he”. And, you certainly can’t trust him with pocket pets in the household. He makes an awesome “only” furbaby though.
If you think this dog from the land of kangaroos and barbies is the one for you, congratulations. He’s a charm and a charmer. He’s a gem just waiting to shine.