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rec.pets.dogs: Australian Terrier Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/aus-terriers
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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                            Australian Terriers

   Susan Saulvester, Ruth Gladfelter and Sabine Baker.
   Originally written April 1996.
   Copyright 1996 by the authors, all rights reserved. You may download
   and print a copy for your personal use; for further distribution you
   must have the written permission of the authors.
Table of Contents

     * History
     * Description
     * Care
     * Training
     * Health and Medical Problems
     * Frequently Asked Questions
     * Resources

   The Australian Terrier has been recognized by the American Kennel Club
   since 1960, and it ranks in popularity about halfway down the list of
   AKC breeds. It is not, however, one of the better known breeds of
   Terriers, and an Aussie owner walking his dog may expect to hear such
   remarks as "What kind of dog is that?" or "Is that a Cairn?" ..."a
   Norwich?" ...A big Yorkie?"
   These remarks are not far from the truth, for the Aussie shares a
   common ancestry with all of those breeds, and with most of the other
   short-legged terriers of Great Britain. The Aussie harks back to that
   progenitor of the short-legged terriers, the old Scotch Terrier, a
   rough-coated black and tan dog not to be confused with today's
   As the name indicates, the Australian Terrier was developed in the
   land down under sometime during the 19th century, perhaps as early as
   1830, the only terrier breed other than the Schnauzer not originating
   in the British Isles. Small, rough-coated terriers were used to keep
   rats and other vermin under control on ships, and the Aussie's
   ancestors may have been smuggled ashore from ships taking settlers to
   Australia. Tasmanian settlers also found these dogs invaluable, as
   they warned of marauding aborigines and escaped prisoners, two real
   dangers in the early settlements.
   The terriers were extremely useful as vermin and snake exterminators
   and were prized for their watchdog abilities - traits still apparent
   in the present-day Aussie. These rough-coated little terriers were
   later crossed with other terrier breeds from Great Britain: the Dandie
   Dinmont, the Cairn, the Yorkshire, possibly the Manchester and the
   Irish, although no one knows with absolute certainty.
   Whatever its ancestry, the Aussie has emerged as a spunky little
   terrier: game, high-spirited and courageous, yet possessing an
   enormous amount of sensitivity. Because he was developed in close
   association with man under often stressful conditions, he has a strong
   sense of devotion to his household.
   The Australian Terrier is a genuine charmer and, once hooked, few
   Aussie owners ever switch breeds. What's more, many find they can't
   own just one. However, not all Aussies are generous enough to be
   willing to share their owners, and two males generally will not be
   able to live together peacefully.
   Most are good with children as well as senior citizens, so they make
   excellent family pets. As with any small dog, supervision with
   toddlers is essential, for the dog's protection as well as the
   child's. Aussies are equally suited for town or country living as long
   as provision is made for safe exercise. An Aussie should NEVER run
   loose! The instinct to hunt is so strong that he will not stop to
   check traffic if he sees a squirrel or strange cat.

   The Standard describes the physical properties of the ideal Australian
   Terrier. Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all
   Standards at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are
   not typically included in the breed faqs. The National Breed Club can
   provide the reader with a copy of the Standard. The Australian Terrier
   Club of America has a nice book available, complete with
   illustrations, that is helpful in understanding the standard.
   The Australian Terrier is a sturdy, low set little dog somewhat longer
   in relation to height, alert and strong in terrier personality, and a
   very active little dog. A mature Australian Terrier should measure 10
   to 11 inches at the shoulder and weigh approximately 14 to 16 lbs.
   However many of today's Aussies are considerably larger. His coat is
   harsh to the touch, with a softer undercoat, and it comes in two
   colors: blue/tan or sandy/red. The body coat is 2 to 2 1/2" inches in
   length with longer hair on the chest, called the apron. There is a
   ruff around the neck (said to offer protection against snakes and
   rodents) and a longer, softer (and lighter in color) topknot. The
   topknot is the gift of the Dandie Dinmont ancestry. The eyes are
   small, dark and almond shaped: They reflect a world of love, loyalty
   and devotion to their people.

   The Aussie is an easy keeper. Compared with many of the sculptured,
   barbered breeds of the terrier group, a pet Aussie is relatively easy
   to groom: Use your fingers to pluck the long hairs growing in front of
   and between the eyes. If left, these can irritate the eyes. Also pluck
   any long hairs protruding beyond the edges of the ears. Trim around
   the feet and tail with scissors. An occasional bath and regular
   brushing will keep insect pests down and shedding to a minimum. Many
   of the herbal extracts and perfumes used in shampoos can irritate
   sensitive skin. Some Aussies do better with a mild, hypoallergenic
   shampoo. Nail trimming is needed regularly and should be started early
   and with gentle restraint. The pet Aussie can be maintained adequately
   with regular combing and brushing and an occasional bath and nail
   clipping. Flea control is vital, since some Aussies are prone to
   flea-bite dermatitis. Show dogs require considerably more hand
   plucking and shaping to give them the elegant profile needed in the
   show ring. A detailed grooming chart is available from the ATCA.
   Most Australian Terriers have hearty appetites; they are not fussy
   eaters. They are adaptable dogs and travel well. A healthy breed with
   few genetic problems, Aussies are noted for longevity, with many
   living into their teens.

   The Australian Terrier is an intelligent, inquisitive little dog with
   an innovative outlook on life that carries over into its learning
   experiences. The Aussie is a quick learner, and quite a crowd pleaser,
   but easily bored by repetition, and does not respond positively to
   harsh training methods or severe corrections.
   Since all the Terriers tend to be very dominant and somewhat
   dog-aggressive, proper socialization of the puppy is a must. A puppy
   training class is recommended and these are often offered by a local
   dog club or recreation department. An introductory obedience class
   serves to socialize the puppy by getting it out around other people
   and dogs, teaches it car manners, and how to behave on a leash. It
   also gives you, the owner, a support group for help with problems such
   as chewing and housebreaking.
   Motivation is an important key in training the Australian Terrier. The
   task at hand must be made challenging and fun, and the trainer should
   find some kind of incentive, in the form of treats, toys, or verbal
   praise that the dog best responds to. Australian Terriers do not work
   for nothing!
   Crate training is recommended, starting with puppyhood. This aids in
   housebreaking and provides a "den" or refuge for the dog later in
   life, as well as a means of safe travel in the car. Australian
   Terriers are considered "house dogs" and should not be kenneled or
   confined outside of the household.
   Australian Terriers are easily bored with routine, so short training
   sessions with lots of rewards are most successful. An Aussie may do an
   exercise enthusiastically but not always correctly about twice, then
   announce it is time to go play with the tennis ball! To keep the dog
   focused on you, the trainer, YOU must become the most interesting
   object in the training session.
   Terriers in general can be willful and stubborn, and terrier
   adolescence can be a very trying experience for the novice owner. A
   firm, consistent approach to what is and what is not acceptable
   behavior will prevent the Aussie from becoming a household tyrant. A
   well-trained and well-socialized dog is a pleasure to be around.
   Australian Terriers have been trained successfully in all levels of
   obedience, agility, earthdog, and tracking, and have competed in
   national obedience events. They should not, however, be compared to
   other breeds of dogs such as Golden Retrievers or Border Collies, or
   even the family pet you owned as a child. Expect the unexpected as you
   train or exhibit, and maintain your sense of humor. (Your dog will
   certainly always have his!)
Health and Medical Problems

   Australian Terriers are fortunate in that they do not yet have many of
   the genetic health problems that affect other breeds. This breed does
   seem to have a predisposition for diabetes and thyroid disorders.
   These conditions can easily be managed by a committed owner and
   veterinarian. On rare occasions, epilepsy has been reported. Like
   other members of the terrier group, Australian Terriers seem prone to
   itchy skin and allergies, particularly in warmer climates. These skin
   conditions may occasionally be caused by an easily corrected imbalance
   in the thyroid function but are often environmental. Flea and parasite
   control are essential.. A change to a premium lamb and rice food often
   helps, as does supplementation with fatty acids. Sometimes itchy skin
   conditions can be caused by perfumes and harsh chemicals used in
   shampoos and flea sprays.
   As with other small, active breeds, the Aussie can be affected by a
   condition called luxating patellas, where the knee cap of the rear
   legs slips in and out of its groove. This can cause pain and lameness
   and may require surgical intervention. Although the Aussie does not
   have hip displasia, it can be affected by a similar condition called
   Legg-Calve Perthes disease (aseptic necrosis). This disease causes the
   bone of the femoral head to die and to be gradually resorbed,
   resulting in collapse of the bone and deformation of the hip joint.
   The condition leads to degenerative changes in the hip and development
   of arthritis. Age of onset 5-9 months. The cause is not known. It is
   diagnosed via x-ray and can be surgically corrected. The prognosis is
   generally good.
   Both luxating patellas and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are thought to
   be inherited conditions. Both conditions are aggravated by excessive
   weight. Some breeders of Australian Terriers are currently having
   their breeding stock x-rayed and rated by Orthopedic Foundation of
   America (OFA) and their eyes tested by a veterinary ophthalmologist
   In general the Aussie is a very sturdy, healthy breed, prone to a long
   life with few and relatively minor health problems.
Frequently Asked Questions

   _What is it like to live with an Australian Terrier? _
     Sometimes exasperating, frequently lively, never dull and nearly
     always fun. Although the Aussie will sympathize with your sad
     moods, its temperament is basically upbeat. Many sport a puckish
     sense of humor, and they tend to be clowns. They are clever and
     crafty. As with any breed, this one is not for everyone. Although
     Aussies are not snappy or aggressive, neither are they docile
     gladhanders. And while not yappy, they are watchdogs at heart,
     quick to sound the alarm if something or someone strange enters
     their territory. Their voices are loud and sharp. Born to be
     hunters, they will chase squirrels, rabbits, and lizards. And yes,
     they will chase cats - with enthusiasm! But many Aussie owners are
     also cat owners, so the dogs can be discriminating.
     If landscape gardening is your hobby, you will be wise to choose
     another breed. These dogs are diggers, and just a hint of mole or
     shrew will set those front paws into motion and earth flying. In
     addition, they are - like other terriers - impulsive. Don't even
     consider owning one if your yard is unfenced, because these eager
     little hunters won't stop to watch for cars. But if you would like
     a handy, small-sized dog with a lion's heart, a dog that is
     lovable, loyal, hardy and entertaining, then an Australian Terrier
     may be in your future.
   _Where can I find an Australian Terrier? _
     The Australian Terrier Club of America maintains a breeder
     referral, coordinated by Sabine Baker, P.O. Box 30, Cobbs Creek, VA
     23035; phone (804)725-9439. Referral by the breed club does not
     mean the club endorses the breeder. You must personally screen the
     breeder. Please read Cindy Tittle Moore's FAQ "Getting A Dog".
     Before you put down any deposit, make sure the breeder gives you a
     written sales agreement to review. It should contain the names,
     addresses and telephone numbers of the buyer and seller, as well as
     the names and registration numbers of the sire and dam, a brief
     description of the puppy and some form of health guarantee. The
     health guarantee should allow you a minimum of 48 hours to have the
     puppy checked by your veterinarian and to return it, should he find
     a health problem. If an advance deposit is required, be sure to get
     the terms, such as refund policy or other conditions, in writing.
     Australian Terrier Rescue, listed below, can often provide those
     who do not wish to cope with a puppy with a nice adult dog.

     * "The Complete Book of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" by Dr.
     * "Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence" by Carol Lea Benjamin
   The following items are available from the "Aussie Store".
     * New Owner's Booklet
     * Illustrated Clarification of the Standard
     * Grooming Chart
  On-line Resources
   The Terrier-L mailing list. Send e-mail to with a blank subject line and SUBSCRIBE
   TERRIER-L firstname lastname in the body of the message. This mailing
   list is for all people interested in any of the terrier breeds and a
   good source for advice in dealing with some of the behavior patterns
   unique to terriers.
   The Earthdog/Squirrel Dog Hunting Home Page.
   Australian Terrier Homepage:
   The American Kennel Club Web Site
   _Australian Terrier Club of America_
          Corresponding Secretary: Marilyn Harban, 1515 Davon Lane,
          Nassau Bay, TX 77058
          The corresponding secretary can provide information on the
          following regional clubs:
          + Australian Terrier Club of Greater Chicago
          + Australian Terrier Club of Colorado
          + Copperstate Australian Terrier Club
          + Raritan Valley Australian Terrier club
   Australian Terrier Rescue, Inc. is always available to assist in the
   foster care and placement of any Australian Terrier in need. It has
   worked with shelters and animal control units around the country. It
   receives abandoned pets as well as pets from people who are no longer
   able to take care of them. Perhaps an older dog or a special needs dog
   would suit your situation. All rescue dogs are vet checked, spayed or
   neutered and placed in a foster home while awaiting placement. The
   rescue coordinator is Barbara Curtis,1005 Mt. Simon Dr., Livermore, CO
   80536, 970-482-9163
    Australian Terrier FAQ
    Susan Saulvester, Ruth Gladfelter and Sabine Baker:

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