What to Know About Australian Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 07, 2024
7 min read

Australian terriers are a small dog breed with ancestral ties to Australia and Great Britain. They’re a great choice to bring into your household, being devoted watchdogs and excellent family dogs with hypoallergenic coats. They love human companionship and have a friendly demeanor. 

The Australian terrier's life span can range between 11 and 15 years. Like other small breeds, the Australian terrier's life span is much longer than that of larger dogs. 

When this breed reaches maturity, they'll weigh between 15 and 20 pounds. They stand between ten and 11 inches tall at the shoulder. 

The Australian terrier temperament is spirited and intelligent. They're small dogs with large personalities. This breed is very self-assured and has a lot of curiosity and endurance. They're small dogs but quite sturdy. 

This breed has a distinctive coat around its neck and front legs. Their silky hair in certain areas strongly contrasts the other, rougher parts of their coat.

Their coat ranges from blue and tan to solid sandy or solid red in color. Australian terriers are sturdy dogs that can be longer than they are tall. They have pointed ears and could have a docked or undocked tail.  

Australian terriers are working dogs, and you can see that in their keen facial expressions and intelligent demeanor. 

The Australian terrier has a double coat that protects them from harsh elements. This double coat also helps repel dirt and mud. A weekly brushing and occasional bath will keep your dog well-kempt. They will need the hair in front of and between their eyes maintained, though. You can keep this in check by plucking them out or trimming long strands. 

Other grooming requirements include frequent nail trimmings and daily teeth brushing. This will help protect your Australian terrier from future pain or dental problems.

Australian terriers are high-energy dogs and need plenty of training and exercise. They're active and need regular exercise. If your dog gets bored, they may start chewing or causing problems around the house. To keep your dog entertained, try to incorporate daily play sessions inside or outside. They would also love to accompany you on walks or hikes. 

This breed of dog greatly benefits from puppy training and obedience classes. Keep the earlier training sessions short, though, so you don't lose your dog's attention. 

Your Australian terrier needs a high-quality diet approved by your veterinarian. They can become overweight, so it's essential to monitor their calorie consumption. Make sure you don't overfeed them treats during training sessions. 

Another part of caring for your Australian terrier is keeping to scheduled exams and vaccinations. The necessary check-ups and annual testing will allow your vet to catch any early signs of diseases or conditions that could occur. Catching these conditions early helps prevent future complications. 

All dogs should have the following core vaccines (unless there’s a medical reason not to vaccinate):

  • Distemper
  • AdenovirusP
  • parvovirus
  • +/- Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

In addition to these, other vaccines are just as essential for some dogs based on their lifestyle and risk.

Australian terriers are sturdy for their size, but there are certain conditions breeders should test for before allowing their dogs to breed. Recommended tests include: 

  • Patella evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist evaluation
  • Thyroid evaluation

As your puppy grows into adulthood, there are certain conditions that Australian terriers are more prone to, including: 

Dental disease. This is a chronic problem for dogs over the age of two. As tartar builds up on the teeth, it can lead to infection in the gums or roots of the teeth. Daily teeth cleaning with a dog friendly toothpaste can help prevent dental disease in your companion. They will also need professional cleanings with your vet as recommended

Obesity. This is a serious problem that can affect your dog. By overfeeding them, you can increase your Australian terrier's risk of: 

  • Worsened joint problems 
  • Metabolic and digestive disorders
  • Back pain
  • Heart disease

Diabetes. This is a common disease in dogs, but Australian terriers have an above-average risk. If your dog develops diabetes, you may notice them eating, drinking, and urinating more. However, they'll likely lose weight at the same time. Your veterinarian can help regulate your dog's insulin with proper treatment. 

Pancreatitis. If your dog develops inflammation in their pancreas, you may notice symptoms like: 

You should talk to your vet immediately. If left untreated, pancreatitis can lead to long-term problems like diabetes. 

Your dog will likely need pain management and fluid support. 

Allergies. Australian terriers can get a skin allergy that affects their feet, stomach, skin folds, and ears. Allergies can develop between one and three years old, worsening each year. You may notice your dog rubbing their face or licking their paws constantly. 

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, This is a malformation of the hip joint that manifests early and can be corrected with surgery

Knee problems. This breed is prone to patellar luxation when their kneecap slips out of place. If you ever notice your dog running, only to suddenly pick up a leg and skip or hop for a few strides, they may have had their kneecap move. In most cases, the condition affects one leg, and your dog can pop the kneecap back into place on their own. Surgery may be required to keep the kneecap in place in more severe cases, though. 

Eye problems. Australian terriers can inherit or develop many different eye conditions that can be pretty painful and even lead to blindness. Your vet will likely check your dog's eyes at every routine appointment. They'll look for cataracts or conditions where hair or tissue grows irregularly and affects the eye. They'll also look out for dry eye, which is common in Australian terriers. Dry eye happens when the tear glands don't produce enough tears, and the eyes get sore, itchy, and more prone to infections. 

Bladder or kidney stones. Australian terriers need diagnostic imaging occasionally to ensure no stones are not present. Stones are more common in this breed than in others. If you notice your dog struggling to urinate, unable to urinate, or bleeding when they urinate, take them to your vet as soon as possible. 

While Australian terriers have a great disposition and make great family dogs, there are some special considerations you need to take before adding one to your home: 

Australian terriers are prey-driven, and if they see a cat or small animal, they'll likely run after them. This can make them more difficult to introduce to small pets in your home. It also makes them less trustworthy off-leash. 

Australian terriers are territorial and don't get along with dogs larger than them or of the same sex. You'll want to make sure you're introducing them in a home with no other dog or a dog of the opposite sex. 

This breed is prone to boredom and separation anxiety. They also like to dig, so be careful leaving them home alone for long periods. Crate training them can help ease both your and their anxiety when you have to leave them at home for a while.

Australian terriers are confident, loyal companions. They’re quick to learn and eager to please. They work best in a household with the time and energy to train, socialize, and exercise the dog. 

If you are looking for a small breed for your family, Australian terriers get along with children. You'll need to ensure your children and your dog are trained on proper behavior. Make sure your dog isn't too rowdy with your child and vice versa. 

Once boundaries and training have been set in place, the Australian terrier should fit nicely into your family. 

British settlers brought the working terrier to Australia in the 19th century. They brought several breeds of working terriers. 

The Australian terrier is likely the result of interbreeding between British breeds like Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Norwich, Scottie, Skye, and Yorkshire terriers. Each breed has elements that can be found in the Australian terrier. 

Australian terriers were bred to be all-purpose exterminators. They hunted small mammals and snakes. The breed developed a special "leap-twist-and-pounce" method for killing snakes. Australian terriers were bred to work hard and fear nothing. 

This breed formed tight bonds with their owners and became known as little frontier dogs. They're one of the smallest working terrier breeds, but they're solid and sturdy. On the flip side, they can be cuddly, devoted house pets at the end of the workday.

The Australian terrier is considered "Australia's Dog" because it was the first native breed to be recognized in Australia. It was also the first Australian breed to be recognized in other countries. The first Australian-Terrier-devoted club was founded in Melbourne in 1887. The Kennel Club in England recognized the breed in 1933, and the AKC followed suit in 1960.

Australian terriers have a long history that has proven to them to be excellent working dogs and even better companions. If you're looking for a small dog with plenty of energy to play with and a lot of intelligence, then this breed is perfect for you.