The Australian Terrier, originally known as the Blue-and-Tan Terrier, the Blue Terrier, the Broken-coated Terrier or the Australian Rough Coated Terrier, and today affectionately known as the Aussie, is one of the smallest working terriers. Accepted into the registry of the American Kennel Club's Terrier Group in 1960, the Australian Terrier is known for its small stature, rough long coat and plucky personality. The Australian Terrier Club of America joined the AKC in 1977. This little terrier, whose breed was developed specifically to control vermin, remains spirited, alert, courageous and very self-confident, with all the natural aggressiveness of a rodent-seeking terrier and with natural affection for human companionship.
The average Australian Terrier is 10 to 11 inches in height at the withers, and their average weight is about 10 to 15 pounds. They are longer than they are tall and are described as small, shaggy and short-legged. Their harsh, dense rough outer coat reaches about 2 ½ inches; their undercoat is short and soft. Their coat requires moderate maintenance. Aussies can be prone to skin conditions if they are not cleaned and groomed on a regular basis.
Australian Terriers are thought to be descendents of the Rough-Coated Terrier, a close relative of the old Scotch Dog of Great Britain, which existed in Tasmania since the early 1880's. Apparently, the Rough-Coated Terriers were crossbred with a number of other terrier breeds to produce the sturdy, weatherproof and fearless little dog that the Australian settlers needed to control rodents and snakes, tend flocks, guard the homestead and be a beloved family companion. There appears to be a consensus among historians that the breeds used in the development of the Australian Terrier include the precursors of the Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Yorkshire, Norwich, Scottish and Manchester (formerly the old Black-and-Tan) terriers. The Irish and Cairn terriers may also have contributed to the mix. The resulting stout and strong Australian Terrier was an excellent ratter and snake catcher which worked well out in the open countryside with human companions in all kinds of weather and terrain. Today, they are still very popular working and devoted companion dogs for show, city, home or farm.
The average life span of the Australian Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns can include allergies, arthritis, cancer, cataracts, diabetes, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, patellar luxation and thyroid problems. Generally, Australian Terriers are hardy and healthy little dogs.
The Australian Terrier is the quietest breed of terrier. Eager to please and obedient, Australian Terriers, although less "yappy" than their counterparts, are spunky, scrappy, persistent and full of personality. Though tiny, these working dogs are sturdy and always vigilant, making them excellent watchdogs. And unlike other terriers, Australians can easily coexist with other pets.
Though Australian Terriers are small dogs, they require regular exercise. They were originally bred to be herders and hunters of small pests, so they are happy in a yard with room to run and chase toys or birds. Apartment dwellers can raise a happy terrier if they commit to walking their dog regularly, taking trips to the dog park and engaging in plenty of games of fetch.
Australians do well in families of all sizes and ages, so long as they are active. Children can help exercise Australian Terriers by playing fetch, or hiding toys for them to find in the yard.
Once firm leadership is established, Australian Terriers can excel in training. Though small and generally possessing the desire to please, Australian Terriers are also independent and like to be the boss. Early training and a confident air can teach the Australian who is really in charge of the home. Positive reinforcement and rewards are the best method to train this breed.
Like other breeds of terrier, Australians are quick to bark and quick to take a chase. Though they may listen to you one-on-one, if an Australian Terrier takes off after a small animal, he probably won't obey your commands to come home. For this reason they should be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in yard at all times.
Australian Terriers were developed in Tasmania to be cattle herders and hunters of pests like snakes and rodents. Their small size made them excellent ratters, and their boundless energy and fearless nature made them excellent herders. These same drives to run and hunt are still found in modern Australians. If left to their own devices outdoors, they will dig and dig some more. They can exert dominance over small children, but proper training at an early age can prevent bad behavior.
Like other breeds of terrier, the Australian will bark early and often. But they tend to bark less than other breeds. They can be a bit reserved when introduced to a stranger, but generally maintain good manners.
They will coexist pleasantly with other pets, but like other breeds of terriers, the Australian can become aggressive toward dogs of the same sex.
A small, sturdy, medium-boned working terrier, rather long in proportion to height with pricked ears and docked tail. Blue and tan, solid sandy or solid red in color, with harsh-textured outer coat, a distinctive ruff and apron, and a soft, silky topknot. As befits their heritage as versatile workers, Australian Terriers are sound and free moving with good reach and drive. Their expression keen and intelligent; their manner spirited and self-assured.
The following description is that of the ideal Australian Terrier. Any deviation from this description must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size - Height 10-11 inches at the withers. Deviation in either direction is to be discouraged. Proportion - The body is long in proportion to the height of the dog. The length of back from withers to the front of the tail is approximately 1-1½ inches longer than from withers to the ground. Substance - Good working condition, medium bone, correct body proportions, symmetry and balance determine proper weight.
The head is long and strong. The length of the muzzle is equal to the length of the skull. Expression - Keen and intelligent. Eyes - Small, dark brown to black (the darker the better), keen in expression, set well apart. Rims are black, oval in shape. Faults: Light-colored or protruding eyes. Ears - Small, erect and pointed; set high on the skull yet well apart, carried erect without any tendency to flare obliquely off the skull. Skull - Viewed from the front or side is long and flat, slightly longer than it is wide and full between the eyes, with slight but definite stop. Muzzle - Strong and powerful with slight fill under the eyes. The jaws are powerful. Nose - Black. A desirable breed characteristic is an inverted V-shaped area free of hair extending from the nose up the bridge of the muzzle, varying in length in the mature dog. Lips - Tight and dark brown- or black-rimmed. Bite - Scissors with teeth of good size.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck - Long, slightly arched and strong, blending smoothly into well laid back shoulders. Topline - Level and firm. Body - The body is of sturdy structure with ribs well-sprung but not rounded, forming a chest reaching slightly below the elbows with a distinct keel. The loin is strong and fairly short with slight tuck-up. Faults: Cobbiness, too long in loin. Tail - Set on high and carried erect at a twelve to one o'clock position, docked in balance with the overall dog leaving slightly less than one half, a good hand-hold when mature.
Shoulders - Long blades, well laid back with only slight space between the shoulder blades at the withers. The length of the upper arm is comparable to the length of the shoulder blade. The angle between the shoulder and the upper arm is 90 degrees. Faults: Straight, loose and loaded shoulders. Elbows - Close to the chest. Forelegs - Straight, parallel when viewed from the front; the bone is round and medium in size. They should be set well under the body, with definite body overhang (keel) before them when viewed from the side. Pasterns - Strong, with only slight slope. Fault: Down on pasterns. Dewclaws - Removed. Feet - Small, clean, catlike; toes arched and compact, nicely padded turning neither inward nor outward. Nails - Short, black and strong.
Strong; legs well angulated at the stifles and hocks, short and perpendicular from the hocks to the ground. Upper and lower thighs are well muscled. Viewed from behind the rear legs are straight from the hip joints to the ground and in the same plane as the forelegs. Faults: Lack of muscular development or excessive muscularity. Feet - (See under Forequarters.)
Outer Coat - Harsh and straight; 2½ inches all over the body except the tail, pasterns, rear legs from the hocks down, and the feet which are kept free of long hair. Hair on the ears is kept very short. Undercoat - Short and soft. Furnishings - Softer than body coat. The neck is well furnished with hair, which forms a protective ruff blending into the apron. The forelegs are slightly feathered to the pasterns. Topknot - Covering only the top of the skull; of finer and softer texture than the rest of the coat.
Color and Markings
Colors: Blue and tan, solid sandy and solid red. Blue and tan - Blue: dark blue, steel-blue, dark gray-blue, or silver-blue. In silver-blues, each hair carries blue and silver alternating with the darker color at the tips. Tan markings (not sandy or red), as rich as possible, on face, ears, underbody, lower legs and feet, and around vent. The richer the color and more clearly defined the better. Topknot - Silver or a lighter shade than head color. Sandy or Red - Any shade of solid sandy or solid red, the clearer the better. Topknot - Silver or a lighter shade of body coat. Faults: All black body coat in the adult dog. Tan smut in the blue portion of the coat, or dark smut in sandy/red coated dogs. In any color, white markings on chest or feet are to be penalized.
As seen from the front and from the rear, the legs are straight from the shoulder and hip joints to the pads, and move in planes parallel to the centerline of travel. The rear legs move in the same planes as the front legs. As the dog moves at a faster trot, the front and rear legs and feet may tend to converge toward the centerline of travel, but the legs remain straight even as they flex or extend. Viewed from the side, the legs move in a ground-covering stride. The rear feet should meet the ground in the same prints as left by the front feet, with no gap between them. Topline remains firm and level, without bounce.
The Australian Terrier is spirited, alert, courageous, and self-confident, with the natural aggressiveness of a ratter and hedge hunter; as a companion, friendly and affectionate. Faults: Shyness or aggressiveness toward people.
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Sources: American Kennel Club