The Australian Terrier, a Dog With Many Jobs: Plucky, Spirited Terrier from Down Under

March 1, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Its ancestors originated from some English and Scottish terriers of the early 19th Century and most likely emerged from the same types as the as today’s Dandie Dinmont, Sky, Manchester, and Yorkshire terriers as well as the now-extinct Black and Tan terrier. (There is some controversy about whether the Cairn terrier and the Irish were part of the mix.)

Before being crossbred with other breeds from to establish a uniform type, rough-coated dogs with short legs and rough arrived from Britain on the first ships arrived in Australia. Today’s Australian terrier evolved from breeding efforts which began in Tasmania before spreading to the mainland, specifically to Victoria and then the other Australian states.

The first Australian terrier club was established in Australia in 1887 and dogs were exported to England shortly after that. Introduced to the U.S. in the 1940s, this terrier was recognized by the AKC but was not admitted to the registry until 1960 making it the 114th breed.

Aussies Have Many Functions

The Aussie terrier’s primary job was as a watchdog. Another purpose was to eliminate vermin and snakes. Sometimes these terriers would guard mines—specifically gold and opal mines near Melbourne, Victoria. In rare instances, the Australian terrier would herd sheep. Great companion dogs, they also function, unlike most terriers function as guard dogs making them one of the most versatile terrier breeds. These energetic dogs are affectionate and adaptable to their families, other people and animals, but like most terriers, they possess some potential for showing aggression, especially intact males competing for a bitch in heat. However, the Australian Terrier is suitable for novice dog owners and do well with older, considerate children.

That Australian Terrier Look

The AKC standard places their height at ten-to-eleven inches, at the withers, although its head stands high over its front. This terrier has a hard, straight outer coat and a soft, short undercoat. Permissible colors include blue and tan, all red, or all sandy. Ears should be small and point straight up from the head, and their small eyes should be round and of a dark brown to black color. The skull is slightly elongated with a strong, powerful muzzle with a slight fill below the eyes. Its nose is black, and the tail should be set high at a right angle from the body.

In general, the Australian terrier has relatively few health problems. However, diabetes and thyroid problems are not totally uncommon in the breed. Particulary warm climates can make them prone to allergies, and, as in other small dogs, luxating patellas, a disorder that casuses the kneecaps of the rear legs to slip in and out of its groove, can appear in Aussies. This problem is believed to be hereditary. Surgery can correct the most severe cases. Legg-Calve-Perthes, also inherited, is a condition, with an onset in five-to-nine month old puppies, in which the femoral head of the leg to degenerate causing in the deformation of the hip joint. and arthritis. This can also surgically resolved with good results.

As with all purebreds, it is essential to acquire your dog from a responsible breeder. He or she will provide a contract guaranteeing the buyer against any inherited problems of both health and temperament and will have provided a puppy with good basic socialization.

Good breeders most often request that you return any dog of their breeding for any reason-- usually for the duration of its life.

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