One of the smallest of the terrier breeds, the Australian Terrier was bred to be a working dog as well as a companion pet. This dog may be small in size, but his attitude is as large and feisty as every other terrier breed. This loyal, even tempered and extremely active canine is comfortable working and living in almost any environment.
The Australian Outback is a harsh existence for people and animals who venture onto the land ill prepared for life in an unforgiving environment. In the late 1700s, European settlers from Britain arrived in Australia. As more and more people migrated to the Land Down Under, they brought a variety of terrier breeds with them, including ancestors of the Skye, Norwich, Irish, Cairn, Yorkshire, Manchester and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. These British breeds were bred with the small Tasmanian Rough-Coated Terrier to develop an intelligent, alert, brave, fast, and able rough-coated dog – the Australian Terrier – the first dog breed recognized in its native land of Australia.
Known as the “Aussie” (not to be confused with the Australian Shepherd or Australian Cattle Dog) by his fans, this dog breed was created out of a need for a small fearless working dog to control rats, snakes, rabbits and other small prey, and work in the unique landscape found throughout Australia. The courageous Aussies accompanied their owners as the Australian frontier was settled. These dogs were used in gold mines and along the waterfront to kill rats and snakes, as a watchdog, and a helper working alongside shepherds herding sheep in the Outback. Developed with a weather-resistant coat, the Australian Terrier can manage all kinds of weather and handle different types of terrain, and is at home in almost any environment.
Recognized as the only true terrier developed outside of the United Kingdom, the Australian Terrier stands just 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weighs 14 to 16 pounds. He has a life span of around 15 years. Don’t let his small size fool you though. This is a spunky, fearless, clever, tenacious, and independent dog who is tireless when doing his job. However, he is also an affectionate canine with a keen sense of humor and a happy personality.
The Australian Terrier is a devoted family pet that is good with children. However, because they were bred to hunt down small critters, this canine doesn’t get along well with cats and other small pets, and may not be friendly with other dogs he doesn’t know well. He isn’t shy about challenging another dog regardless of size. An Aussie can be bossy, and males may not get along well with other male dogs. It’s important to make sure you establish yourself as his leader from the start.
Because of his watchdog ability, he can also be a barker. This intelligent breed with a high prey drive should never be let off leash, because he will wander off in search of small critters to chase. He learns quickly, so be prepared with plenty of CANIDAE dog treats as a reward. The Aussie is a confident, playful and intense dog who needs plenty of exercise and excels at agility, Earthdog trials, obedience and conformation.
First time owners may find him to be a handful, but with lots of patience, proper training and consistent positive reinforcement, this breed can find a place in most homes. Keep training sessions short, fun and challenging so he doesn’t become bored with learning – and teach him early how you want him to behave. He is all terrier and happiest spending time with his owner inside and outside. He can tolerate hot and cold weather, but doesn’t do well living outside by himself. Left alone outside, you may discover he entertained himself by digging up the yard, like any bored terrier will do.
For the most part, an Aussie is a healthy breed that stays active well into his senior years, but has a tendency to gain weight if he doesn’t receive adequate exercise. Their coarse outer coat with a soft undercoat doesn’t require a lot of grooming, and was designed to give them protection from harsh weather conditions. The coat can be blue and tan, red or sandy with a thick ruff of hair around the neck. The Australian Terrier resembles a Yorkshire Terrier, but is slightly longer than they are tall, more muscular and larger than a Yorkie.
People involved in the British foreign service eventually brought the Australian Terrier to England where it was recognized in 1933. The Aussie began to appear in the United States in the late 1940s when returning servicemen came home, and with immigrants who came to the US. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Australian Terrier as the organization’s 114th breed in 1960.
Photos by Larry Jacobsen/Flickr
Read more articles by Linda Cole