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Nick Ridley, Animal Photography
The Australian Terrier is a happy dog by nature, known for his clever sense of humor and his affection for people. The shaggy-coated Australian — about 15 pounds of spunk in all – is an independent, somewhat stubborn breed. He is a tireless ratter and excellent watchdog with an easy-care coat that sheds little.
Australian Terriers first came to the United States in the late 1940s from Britain and Ireland. The Australian Terrier Club of America was formed in 1957.
The cute factor of the Australian Terrier helps him to worm his way into many a heart before owner knows just how clever and active a little dog he is. For the people who love this breed, the attitude of this Down Under original becomes even more appealing over time. Live with an Australian Terrier and you’ll need a sense of humor since he finds typical terrier hobbies — digging, barking, and terrorizing the family cat — extremely amusing. With proper guidance and an owner who understands that “small” doesn’t mean “mellow,” the Australian can fit into many kinds of families and homes from city loft to country acreage.
As with virtually all terriers, consistent training should start young to channel this breed’s inquisitive nature and on-the-go attitude into activities that won’t involve noise or destructiveness. The American Kennel Club’s Earthdog events offer one such possibility; agility or other active sports are others.
A bored Australian Terrier with energy to burn will create his own competitive event, known as “Just how many holes can I dig in the backyard before they notice?” Or another perennial favorite: “Exactly how high a fence can one bored determined dog jump anyway?”
The Australian Terrier is the perfect size for apartment or condo living, but only if you can train him to control his barking or be there to keep it to a low roar. These little dogs are very alert watchdogs or, as the neighbors would describe it, nuisance barkers.
Australian Terriers are not a great choice if you have cats, and they don’t tend to get along with other dogs, particularly if both are males. Marking behavior can also be a problem, and belly bands to block the pee from hitting the furniture are not uncommon in these confident little leg-lifters.
While the show dogs get more careful grooming, pet Australian Terriers have easy-care coats in a variety of colors; an occasional bath and weekly combing or brushing to keep shedding to a minimum are all that’s necessary. Not a backyard dog by any means, the Australian Terrier needs to live indoors as a member of the family.
The Australian Terrier is a dog of many firsts. He was the first breed developed in Australia to be recognized and shown in that country as well as the first Australian breed to be recognized by the kennel clubs of other countries. He is also one of the smallest of the Terriers, but he was built to be a tough working dog who could survive in Australia’s harsh Outback.
The Australian Terrier was developed from the rough-coated Terrier, which had emigrated to Tasmania with colonists from Britain. There they were crossed with various other Terriers, including the ancestors of the Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Yorkshire, and Manchester Terriers. Other Terrier breeds that may have contributed to his makeup are the Irish and Cairn Terriers. The result was a little dog who was fast, fearless, sturdy, and impervious to weather. He killed rodents and snakes, helped tend sheep, and served as a watchdog and companion.
The dogs were first shown in Melbourne, Australia, in 1868 and began to be referred to in shows by the name Australian Terrier in 1899. England’s Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1933, followed by the American Kennel Club in 1960. Today the Australian Terrier ranks 123rd among the dogs registered by the AKC.
The Australian Terrier is good-natured, upbeat dog, with a love for life and fun. He is clever, adaptable, and lively. He is also independent, scrappy, and alert. He is a natural hunter with a strong prey drive. Count on him to chase small animals — cats, squirrels, rabbits — if given the chance. He is a good watchdog, and will bark to let you know if anything is amiss in his territory. He can be assertive and sometimes bossy, but he is not overly aggressive.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don't wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.
Take him to a puppy kindergarten class at 10 to 12 weeks (after beginning his puppy shots), and continue training as he grows up to keep him mentally and physically active. Digging, chasing, and barking are this Terrier’s favorite activities, so it is wise to keep him busy to prevent him from these undesirable behaviors. Always keep him on leash if he’s not in the house or securely fenced yard. Training an Australian Terrier can be challenging due to his stubbornness and the fact that he bores easily. Keep training sessions short and sweet, and be very patient. A firm, consistent approach will yield results.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog. Keep in mind, though, that this feisty Terrier can be quarrelsome with other dogs. Be careful with introductions.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Australian breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Many small dog breeds, including the Australian Terrier, suffer from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (LCPD), a bone disorder that requires surgery. Another common problem in small dogs is a knee malfunction called luxating patellas, in which the kneecaps easily slip out of place.
The Australian Terrier also has a high incidence of diabetes, for reasons that are currently not understood. Research into the disease is being pursued, but no Australian Terrier with the condition should be bred.
The Australian Terrier Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Australian Terriers can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit patella (knee) and thyroid evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Australian Terrier visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Some Australian Terriers have issues with allergies, itching, and ear infections. There are no screening tests for these conditions. Even though those problems can’t be prevented at this time, your puppy’s breeder should be willing — eager, in fact — to go over the health histories of his parents and their close relatives, and discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Australian Terrier at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
There is nothing complicated about grooming an Australian Terrier. Brush his coat once a week with a soft slicker brush, trim his toenails once a month, and bathe him in mild shampoo as needed every three months or so. Check the ears once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection, then wipe out weekly using a cotton ball dampened with gentle ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian to prevent problems.
Regular tooth brushing with a soft toothbrush and doggie toothpaste will help keep the Australian Terrier’s teeth and gums healthy and his breath fresh. Introduce him to grooming when he is young so he learns to accept the fuss and handling of grooming graciously.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Australian Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Australian Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ATCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Australian Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Australian Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Australian Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Australian Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Australian Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Australian Terriers love all Australian Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Australian Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Australian Terrier rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Bulldog home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Australian Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Australian Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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