Australian Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Australian Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013
The AKC Standard calls him "spirited, alert, courageous, and self-confident, with the natural aggressiveness of a ratter and hedge hunter."
One of the most sensible and least demanding of the terriers, the Australian is nonetheless as hardy and spunky as the rest.
He is so adaptable that he's easy to live with in any home that understands the dynamic terrier temperament and provides enough companionship, outdoor walks, and vigorous play sessions.
Though small, the Australian Terrier is an alert watchdog with keen senses, reserved but polite with strangers.
Though he can be scrappy with other dogs of the same sex, most Australian Terriers are willing to coexist peacefully with other pets. But they can be bossy and they are chasers, bred to pursue anything that runs.
Quick to learn and usually eager to please (though he definitely has his independent moments and must be taught who is in charge), he responds well to obedience training that utilizes food and praise more than jerking around.
As befits their heritage, some Australian Terriers are born diggers. Some can be barky, though in general this breed is quieter than most terriers.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small, yet tough and sturdy -- not a delicate lapdog
- Has a natural appearance
- Is one of the healthiest breeds, with fewer genetic defects than most other terriers
- Needs only moderate exercise (but definitely a fenced yard)
- Makes a keen watchdog
- Doesn't shed too much (but is not "hypoallergenic")
- Co-exists with other pets more willingly than some other terriers
An Australian Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
- Providing enough exercise and activities to keep them busy
- Aggression toward other animals -- chasing instincts
- Digging holes
- Regular brushing and clipping of the wiry coat
- Waiting lists (hard to find)
An Australian Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Australian Terrier
If I was considering an Australian Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Australian Terriers are active go-getters. They MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. I strongly recommend that you get your Australian Terrier involved in regular obedience classes at the intermediate or advanced level (not just one 8-week course at Petsmart), or in ongoing agility classes (an obstacle course for dogs). Or join an earth dog club, where terriers are encouraged to dig and tunnel after small critters (which are secured in a sturdy cage so they can't be harmed).
- Animal aggression. Australian Terriers are less scrappy toward strange dogs than many other terrier breeds, but they are still a determined force to reckon with if they decide to initiate or accept a challenge to fight. Most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
- Fence security. Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs. They need a fenced yard in which to stretch their legs, but many terriers are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their small size. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks.
- Barking. Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. If you work all day and have close neighbors, terriers are not the best choice for you. For the same reason, terriers should NEVER be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. To make matters worse, some terriers have high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
- Mind of their own. Though more amenable to training than many other terriers, Australian Terriers must be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. Terriers can be stubborn and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your terrier to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Australian Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Defensive reactions. If you need to physically chastise a terrier, and you go beyond what THEY believe is a fair correction, terriers (as a group) are more likely than other breeds to growl or snap. As an obedience instructor, I'm always extra careful when putting my hands on any terrier for a correction.
I do NOT recommend terriers for small children. Many terriers will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
- Grooming. To keep their wiry coat free of mats, Australian Terriers require regular brushing, and also clipping and trimming every few months.
- Finding one. In the United States, fewer than 500 new Australian Terrier puppies are registered each year. Compare that to over 60,000 new Golden Retriever puppies!
To learn more about training Australian Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Australian Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Australian Terrier. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Australian Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Australian Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Australian Terrier...
When you're acquiring an Australian Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Australian Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2013 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
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