Australian Terrier (Aussie): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Side shot of an Australian Terrier

CaptureLight / Getty Images

The brave, hardy, determined and smart Australian Terrier, or Aussie for short, is known for being a loyal little guard dog who is up for anything. They are believed to be the first native breed of Australia.

Group: Terrier
Height: 10 to 11 inches
Weight: 15 to 20 pounds
Coat and Color: Rough outer coat and smooth, shorter undercoat. Three main colors; Blue and tan, solid sandy and solid red
Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Australian Terrier

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Australian Terrier

The Australian Terrier shares ancestry with several other terriers including the Cairn, the Dandie Dinmont, and the Yorkshire Terrier. The blue and tan variety can sometimes be confused with a Yorkie.

The dogs were developed in Australia, in the early 19th century, after working terrier types were brought over to the country by European settlers. These little dogs needed to be able to withstand a variety of weather conditions and terrains, and their primary skill was as ratters, which they excelled at. They also developed strong bonds with their owners, and this meant they became popular as companion animals too.

The Aussie was originally known as the Rough Coated Terrier, but this was changed officially to the Australian Terrier in 1897.

Visiting British Aristocracy, United States Servicemen and other travelers started to export this charming little breed in the mid 20th century. In 1977 the Australian Terrier was recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club.

Australian Terrier Care

The Aussie is known for being extremely affectionate and loyal with their family. They may be small but they are also spunky and filled with character. They have lots of energy, can be mischievous, and are smart little cookies.

They are regarded as the smallest of the working terrier types. This means that they can adapt well to apartment living, or equally enjoy living on a farm or other rural environment.

They tend to make great family pets. They can have a playful and lively personality, and often enjoy the company of respectful children. They thrive on company and are not suited to being left for long stretches alone regularly.

Their working roots mean they like to be kept busy, and they are not suited to a sedentary lifestyle. They must receive plenty of daily exercise and enrichment to prevent problem behaviors from developing as a result of boredom.

They are also expert diggers, and you should make sure that your garden is secure and work on training. You could even consider providing a designated digging sandpit, or similar, as an outlet for this hard-wired instinct.

They are often suited to being the only dog in the house. They can live well with other dogs if introductions are done carefully. They do like to be the centre of their owner's attention, though, and they can become bossy and show guarding traits.

To minimize the chance of them showing dog aggression, early and ongoing socialization and positive reinforcement training are vital.

Care should be taken with introductions to cats too. Their hunting instincts mean that they can often have a strong desire to chase small furries. This also means that you may need to put in extra work to achieve a reliable recall.

These super-smart little dogs respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and are often spotted enjoying a variety of competitive dog sports. They can be stubborn and easily distracted, though, and it is best to keep training sessions short and frequent to avoid boredom.

The Australian Terrier has a low maintenance grooming regime. Some owners will have their dog hand stripped, but often just making sure that the hairs around their eye are kept trimmed, and that they get a weekly brush out, can be enough.

A solid red Australian Terrier running
Australian Terriers are very energetic, like this solid red colored dog. Martin Ruegner / Getty Images
A blue and tan colored Australian Terrier
A blue and tan colored Australian Terrier. Martin Ruegner / Getty Images
Solid red Australian Terrier puppies
Solid red Australian Terrier puppies. Buddy Mays / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Aussie is known for being robust and healthy but, as with any breed, they do have several inheritable conditions that they are associated with. Making sure you find a responsible breeder that performs health tests on prospective parents can reduce the risk of your puppy developing these.

Some of the conditions they are associated with include:

Luxating Patella: This is a condition that many small breeds can suffer from. The knee joint can slip in and out of position, and the problem can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, surgery may be required to provide pain relief and increased mobility.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This relates to an abnormal formation of the hip joint. It usually shows early in the dog's life, and corrective surgery can have good results.

Diabetes: If your dog is suffering from Diabetes, you may see them have an increase in thirst and hunger levels, and a need to urinate more. They can start to lose weight and become lethargic. While it can be serious if left untreated, this condition can be successfully managed after diagnosis.

Diet and Nutrition

Every dog should be fed a high quality and properly portion-controlled diet. Aussies are known for having a very healthy appetite and, given the chance, they can become overweight. Care should be taken not to overfeed or spoil them with table scraps.

Pros

  • Affectionate and companionable

  • Energetic and trainable

  • Low maintenance coat

Cons

  • Prone to digging

  • High prey drive

  • Not always sociable with other dogs

Where to Adopt or Buy an Australian Terrier

Always do your research when buying a puppy. You want to make sure that you find a reputable and ethical breeder. You will increase your chances of finding a healthy, socialized and well-rounded puppy. It also means you are not inadvertently supporting the cruel business of puppy mills.

A good place to start your research would be through the Australian Terrier Club of America.

Don't forget that there are lots of deserving rescue dogs that are looking for their forever homes. If you would consider rehoming an Aussie, the best place to start your research could be through Australian Terrier Rescue.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you have a passion for Terriers, there are lots of other breeds that you could also do some homework on. These include:

Taking the time to consider which dog breeds might suit your living arrangement and lifestyle can help to ensure you offer the right dog the right home.