These little dogs are essentially small terrier hybrids that were bred for the very specific purpose of killing the local rats and snakes in 19th century Australia. As such, the Aussie's ancestor dogs are generally those terriers that originate from the British Isles just as the European migrants did.
The American Kennel Club has recognized this breed since 1960 as Britain's official kennel club did nearly 30 years earlier. Today, Australian Terriers remain common in Australia and are gaining in popularity in other countries, too. The breed's friendly and fun-loving nature makes them ideal for a great many city and suburban dwellers that want a companion who can chase rats that isn't a cat.
Aussie's look a lot like many of the breeds they're descended from. As such, they may be black like a Scottish Terrier or black and tan like a Yorkshire Terrier or silvery like a Cairn Terrier or, even pure white like a West Highland terrier. However, they always have a coarse outer coat over soft under-coat that makes them good in inclement weather.
There is a very similar but separate breed of dog called the Australian Silky Terrier. Those dogs are very much the same except for their long, finely textured hair that most closely resembles that of a Silky or Yorkshire terrier that needs to be regularly groomed. By way of comparison, the Aussie is usually plucked when necessary and requires only the most cursory of grooming.
Physically the Australian Terrier tends to be a bit shorter than long with a thick stout body and an especially thick collar of fur around the neck. Today, these Aussie dogs are most often found as companion animals because of their happy nature and adorably fearless.
Aussie dogs also do well in the country, though they are sure to want to be near you if you're around.
Australian Terrier Temperament
The Australian Terrier is a tough, cheeky little fellow with courage that reminds people of a much larger dog. It has boundless energy and is very loyal, showing great affection for its immediate family and its extraordinary intelligence makes it a responsive and very protective companion. It is an alert, amusing and loveable little dog. Spirited, curious, and self-assured, it has very keen hearing and eyesight, making an excellent watchdog.
It wants to please its master and is more easily obedience trained than most other terriers. This breed is not snappish. It likes to bark, and must be told after they first alert you of something, enough is enough, no more barking.
An Australian Terrier who is pack leader of it's humans may snap at children. Children need to be taught how to be kind to the dog, but also how to be the dogs leader. They are friendly with other dogs as well as other pets. However they may chase small animals outside the house and should be in a safe area at all times. Socialize this breed well. This is a good dog to travel with.
The stiff, long, shaggy coat is easy to care for and does not need clipping. Simply brush several times a week, being gentle with the soft undercoat. Brushing stimulates natural oils and will soon bring the coat to a high gloss. Because the breed standard is for a hard coat, don't wash this Terrier too often - any more than about once a month will make the coat lank. The coat should be brushed while it dries. Be sure to trim around the eyes and ears, if necessary, with blunt-nosed scissors. The Australian Terrier sheds little to no hair.
It is said the Australian Terrier is a mixture of several different breeds of terrier that were shipped from England just as a lion's share of the European Settlers were. By the 1820s there was a dog known to locals as the Australian Terrier that didn't fully come into existence as a breed with an official standard until the latter part of the century.
The official lineage of the Aussie dog is unknown, partly because so many dogs went into the creation of this breed uniquely suited to Australian conditions. The breed is an example of taking a genetic pool, combining it together again and picking the animals that fare best. The rapid development of the breed suggests the early mortality rate of the plucky progenitor terriers was high.
It is thought that several of the Australian Terrier's adaptations are for dry, dusty conditions and hunting snakes. These include a rather thick ring of tough fur and a fearless attitude. Aussie dogs and their shrill barks were also once ideal for their use as watchdogs on a frontier that still contained real dangers, well into the 20th century.
Though the Australian Terrier is a genuinely friendly and intelligent animal that wants to please his or her owner, you will need to be firm, especially if you're doing something your dog doesn't approve of for some reason.
You must establish yourself as boss to this clever dog before you'll be accepted as the alpha. That means making sure you're consistent with your commands and not imposing punitive measures that are well in excess of the transgression. Positive reinforcement works the best and
Crate training during the initial housebreaking stage can be a very handy tool for new puppy owners who want to keep their new dogs from establishing a scent of urine in their homes. This breed is somewhat prone to stubbornness and that can include house training and simple obedience training. They are naturals at agility tests and Earth-trials.
The easiest way to get an Australian Terrier ready to learn is to get them nice and tired out with some vigorous exercise. Long walks and vigorous playtime are useful exercises. They are very good at running around in the underbrush looking for rodents, but it may not be a good idea to do this somewhere your dog could get lost or run out into traffic.
They also require mental stimulation, and one without the other won't be nearly as effective. Interactions with new people, animals and experiences are very good for your dog's mental health. A poorly socialized dog is prone to all sorts of embarrassing and potentially problematic situations. Taking them out in to public and meeting others is absolutely necessary to create a dog that will be the happy companion that's a joy to be around.
These are naturally healthy little dogs that live many years.