Australian Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Side shot of an Australian Terrier

CaptureLight / Getty Images

The Australian Terrier is a small dog breed from Australia with pointed upright ears, a short frame, and a medium-length double coat with a wiry texture. This brave, hardy, and determined dog is known for being a loyal companion with an adventurous personality.

Known for being the first native breed to receive recognition in Australia, Australian Terriers are the smallest of the working terrier breeds. These dogs may be small, but they're also spunky and filled with character. Filled with energy, they can also be mischievous. If you're looking for a new best friend that also keeps you entertained, the Australian Terrier might be the perfect addition to your family.

Group: Terrier

Height: 10 to 11 inches

Weight: 15 to 20 pounds

Coat: Medium-length, wiry, waterproof double coat

Coat Color: Blue and tan, red, or sandy

Life Span: 11 to 15 years

Temperament: Spirited, companionable, alert, courageous, affectionate

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: Australia

Characteristics of the Australian Terrier

Australian Terriers can adapt equally well to apartment living and farm life or other rural environments. They tend to make great family pets thanks to their playful and lively personalities, and they often enjoy the company of respectful children. These terriers thrive with plenty of company, so they shouldn't be left alone for too long.

This breed does well when it's the only dog in the house, but it can also get along great with other dogs and even cats when introduced carefully. Since the Australian Terrier loves to be the center of its owner's attention, it's still likely to become bossy or show guarding traits toward other animals. These dogs aren't suited for every type of family, but for the right person who's dedicated to their care, they can become extremely loyal and affectionate.

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 was originally known as the Rough Coated Terrier, but its name was officially changed in 1897. The breed shares ancestry with several similar dogs, including the Cairn Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and the Yorkshire Terrier. Because some Australian Terriers have black and tan coats, they're often confused with Yorkies.

These dogs were developed in Australia in the early 19th century after working terriers were brought over by European settlers. These little dogs needed to be able to withstand a variety of weather conditions and terrains. They were primarily bred to be ratters, which these spunky, courageous little canines excelled at. Australian Terriers also developed strong bonds with their owners and became popular companion dogs.

While visiting British nobility, American servicemen and other travelers started to export this charming little breed back to the United States in the mid-1900s. In 1977, the Australian Terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Australian Terrier Care

When it comes to exercising, the Australian Terrier's small size can be deceiving. This breed isn't suited for life as a lap dog, but rather for staying active and performing a job. Intelligent and eager to learn, these dogs also excel at most training techniques, though they can have a stubborn streak at first. When it comes to grooming, your Australian Terrier will do best with routine care and haircuts when needed.


The Australian Terrier's working roots mean that this breed likes to be kept busy. These dogs need about 30 to 45 minutes per day of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent problem behaviors from developing as a result of boredom. They're also expert diggers thanks to their ratting skills, which means that they're likely to find entertainment in garden beds despite their owners' desires. Thankfully, options like sandpits are a great way to let this breed follow its instincts in a designated area while staying active.


The Australian Terrier has a low-maintenance grooming regime. Some owners will have their dog's coat hand-stripped, but simply trimming the hair around the eyes is sufficient. Brush this breed at least once per week to keep its fur healthy and tangle-free.

Australian Terriers will also need to have their nails trimmed, ears cleaned, and teeth brushed on a regular basis. Like other small breeds, these dogs are prone to dental infections, so it's important for owners to keep up with these needs. Daily teeth brushing is ideal, but even quick weekly brushings will help keep problems at bay.


This smart breed responds well to positive reinforcement training methods, and it's often spotted participating in a variety of competitive dog sports. Activities like agility training are a great way to work your dog's mind and body at the same time while strengthening your relationship.

Since Australian Terriers can be stubborn and easily distracted, it's best to keep training sessions short and frequent to prevent boredom. Reward your dog with treats, affection, and playtime for desirable behaviors during training.

This terrier's hunting instincts can lead it to chase small pets or become aggressive with animals it's unfamiliar with. This also means that a reliable recall may require extra time and work. Care should be taken with introductions to cats, and socialization with dogs should be early and ongoing to prevent dog aggression.

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 Australian Terrier is known for being robust and healthy, but it's still possible for inherited health conditions to develop. Responsible breeders strive to maintain high standards by performing genetic tests on prospective parents. Always ask your breeder to provide clear test results from any relevant tests for the litter.

Some of the conditions associated with the Australian Terrier breed include:

  • Luxating Patella: Common in many small breeds, this condition causes the knee joint to slip in and out of place. Severe cases may require surgery to provide pain relief and healthy mobility.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This disease relates to an abnormal formation of the hip joint. Signs usually begin to show early in the dog's life, and corrective surgery can have good results.
  • Diabetes: If your dog is suffering from Diabetes, you may notice signs like increased thirst and hunger levels along with frequent urination. Your dog may also begin losing weight or become lethargic. While it can be serious if left untreated, this condition can be successfully managed after diagnosis.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Australian Terrier a diet of high-quality dog food with properly controlled portions. These dogs are known for having healthy appetites, and if given the chance, they can become overweight or obese. Monitor your dog's weight and limit treats to help prevent conditions like diabetes and joint issues from developing or worsening.

If you're unsure how much food your dog needs or which type of food to choose, consult your veterinarian. They can help you come up with a healthy diet and portion plan based on your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.

Where to Adopt or Buy an Australian Terrier

If you think the Australian Terrier is right for you, check out shelters and breed-specific rescues to find your next best friend. If there aren't any Australian Terriers in need of forever homes in your local shelter, many rescues can also help you connect with terrier rescues within your region or introduce you to similar terrier breeds that can join your family.

When adopting from a breeder, ensure that the breeder of your choice readily provides the litter's medical history. Responsible breeders should also allow you to meet the puppies' parents and let you see that the dogs are raised in a comfortable, safe indoor location. Australian Terriers typically cost around $1,200 to $1,500, but pedigreed puppies from a show dog's litter may cost significantly more.

The national breed club, breed-specific rescues, and the AKC can help you start your search:

Australian Terrier Overview

  • Affectionate and companionable

  • Energetic and trainable

  • Adaptable to apartment living or rural life

  • Prone to digging

  • High prey drive

  • Not always sociable with other dogs

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love the Australian Terrier, you may also like these similar terrier breeds:

There's a whole world of dog breeds out there that can join your family. With a little research, you can find your perfect match!

  • Are Australian Terriers Good Pets?

    Australian Terriers are loving, playful, and always up for new activities with their owners. These dogs do best with active families that can properly socialize them with other animals.

  • Is an Australian Terrier a Yorkie?

    While the two dogs look alike, Australian Terriers and Yorkshire Terriers (Yorkies) are separate dog breeds. Australian Terriers can also have coat colors other than black and tan, which includes both red and sandy-hued fur.

  • Are Australian Terriers Cuddly?

    Though they're not suited to be lap dogs all day, Australian Terriers can be exceptionally affectionate pets when exercised properly. These dogs are very companionable and love spending time with their owners.