Australian Terrier

Breed: Australian Terrier
Temperament: Alert
Cost: $350-$500
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Recommended for: Families, older adults
Maintenance: Medium

Appearance: Australian Terriers are small, short-legged rough-coated dogs with pricked ears, a bright alert expression in either sandy-red or blue and tan. They reach about 25cm (10″) and weigh about 6kg (14lb). The top coat is wiry and harsh with a softer undercoat.

Temperament: This is an alert, inquisitive, spirited terrier which bonds closely with humans. While generally good natured, they can become yappy if left unchecked. They are good watchdogs and thus appeal to people living alone.


A hardy breed developed from a range of British terriers; Some luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps) seen.

Breeding: Litters average five pups usually with few whelping problems. They are usually born black and develop their colour as they mature. The ears will prick at around six to eight weeks.

Space & exercise: Australian Terriers are considered ideal dogs for suburbia – small enough to be happy in an average backyard or indoors. They need some exercise to avoid becoming bored but a few minutes of ball games daily is adequate. A regular walk for apartment dogs is a good idea.

Breeders warn, however, that no amount of exercise will stop them from chasing the neighbour’s cat! The chase and catch instinct is too ingrained to overcome.

Uses: As mentioned, most owners soon discover the instinct to chase is still strong in their dogs. They were developed as ratters, so anything small and mobile is still considered fair game! Many also take on snakes – often at their cost. They are excellent companions and watchdogs.

Ideal owner: The Australian Terrier is an ideal choice for families with school-age children. They are always ready for a game and are too small to knock the kids down. Many also go to older adults seeking a small, alert companion who will warn them of visitors. They are generally not destructive if left alone in the backyard but may become ‘yappy’ if bored.

Training: Due to the enthusiastic terrier temperament, longtime owners suggest positive reinforcement with special treats as the best way to train Aussies. With patience a degree of control can be achieved but new owners should be warned not to become complacent, especially around cats and other small pets such as guinea pigs.

Grooming: A brush through once a week for 10-15 minutes should keep the coat tidy and free of knots, grass and twigs. Exhibitors ‘strip’ the coat annually. This means removing the old outer hairs so the new coat grows through.

Popularity: Luckily, Australian Terriers have never been plagued by fashion trends and purebred registration figures have been very stable during the past decade. Some states may have a waiting list for puppies.

History: The Australian Terrier is the result of mixing several different terrier breeds including the Dandie Dinmont, the Cairn, and the Yorkshire, to produce an all-purpose ratter and watchdog. The breed was officially recognised in the late 1880s. It should not be confused with its smaller cousin, the Australian Silky Terrier, a toy breed.

Further information

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.

The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409