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Descended from small, rough-coated terriers from Great Britain, the Australian terrier first appeared in Tasmania and was commonly used as a 'hedge-hunter' and a ratter. As such the breed displays the slightly aggressive tendencies and bloody-mindedness that are typical of terrier breeds.
As already mentioned, the Australian terrier or 'Aussie' is descended from rough-coated British terriers taken to the Antipodes by British settlers in the 19th Century. Most of these little dogs were useful on-board ship as they were bred to control mice and rats.
The Aussie boasts the Dandie Dinmont, Yorkshire, Cairn, Skye and Irish terrier in its ancestry. It first emerged as a separate breed in about 1820 and was at first referred to as the 'Rough-Coated Terrier' before being officially recognised in 1850, and was renamed the Australian Terrier 42 years later. The UK Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1933, with the US Club following suit in 1977.
Average height to withers: 9.8"
Average weight: 6.5kg
Known as one of the smallest breeds within the terrier group, the Aussie is held in great affection by many aficionados. It is a robust, short-legged dog with an elegant head and pricked ears. The eyes in particular are keen and reflect this little animal's alert character. The nose is usually black and the chest well set. The feet again are small and elegant with black claws.
The Aussie boasts a weatherproof 'double' coat designed to keep warmth in and the elements out! It's quite long and can be reasonably silky - particularly underneath. The breed comes in a variety of colourways including red, sandy and blue and tan - rather like a Yorkshire terrier. This blue comes in a number of shades from deep dark-grey blue, to silvery blue.
This cheerful little dog has one huge character and displays a boldness that belies it stature. It has an enormous capacity for exercise and its stamina would put larger breeds to shame! Its loyalty and intelligence makes it a highly sought-after companion that shows tremendous dedication to its human family. It also makes an excellent guard dog thanks to its alert, responsive nature and its propensity to bark!
The Aussie is determined, curious and confident, with excellent hearing and eyesight, and is always eager to please which means it is usually more easily trained than other terrier breeds. While they tend to get on with other pets very well, one must always be careful with small furries - cats, rabbits etc. Remember what they were bred forâ€¦! They can also be a little bossy and keeping two male dogs of this type together is not recommended.
Any training should be delivered in a firm and consistent manner - as we have already seen, this self-assured individual knows his own mind and will try and go his own way whenever he thinks he can get away with it. He should also be reminded of his place in the pack from the start - there is nothing worse than 'small dog syndrome' and these tenacious characters are some of the worst perpetrators!
The Aussie is a robust little dog that generally enjoys rude health. Thanks to their diverse heritage they tend not to display the genetic ailments present in many breeds' bloodlines. However all breeds suffer some ailments that are particular to their type.
Common conditions include diabetes, cataracts, luxating patellas (dislocating kneecaps), ruptured cruciate ligaments, allergic dermatitis and ear infections. Average life expectancy is around 11 years.
As with most dogs, the Aussie needs a daily walk and plenty of (enclosed) outdoor space in which to frolic and play. Their stamina should not be underestimated - for such a small breed their endurance is admirable. Their tendency to 'hunt' and chase means they should be kept on the lead when outdoors in open spaces.
They do not need acres of space at home however, and a small house or apartment is perfectly fine as long as they get the exercise they need. They are definitely 'people' dogs and often prefer the company of humans. In fact they can be dog-aggressive if not socialised correctly.
As they have a medium coat a grooming routine should be considered. They do not need to be clipped, but they should be brushed regularly a few times a week. Care should be taken when brushing the soft under coat as the skin is sensitive, however brushing will distribute the natural oils and give the coat a beautiful sheen.
Bathing any more than once per month will take its toll on the coat and make it lifeless, and care should be taken to frequently check and clean the eyes and ears, trimming around these areas if necessary, to avoid infection. The Aussie sheds little or no hair.
Your Australian terrier can be fed on one of the many commercial foods made for small or mini breeds, but amounts offered should be carefully monitored so as not to overfeed due to the risk of obesity. An allergen-free diet should also be considered if you are to avoid the hypersensitivity to certain agents that is particular to the breed. Some cereals and red meat can cause a reaction, as could a flea bite, so a structured flea control programme is also essential. The Aussie may benefit from a well-researched homemade diet as the owner can then be sure exactly what they are feeding their pet. As diabetes can also occur in the breed, treats should be kept to a minimum.
Worming and vaccinations should also form part of your pet's regular maintenance and he should also be micro chipped - essential for any dog who may wander off if the mood takes him!