Traits, Personality and Behavior
The shaggy-coated Australian -- about 15 pounds of spunk in all -- is an independent, somewhat stubborn breed. 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?"
These little dogs are also very alert watchdogs, or, as the neighbors would describe it, nuisance barkers. They're 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.
The Australian Terrier is a very happy dog by nature, known for his clever sense of humor and his affection for people. Not a backyard dog by any means, the Australian Terrier needs to live indoors as a member of the family.
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.
Health Issues Common to Australian Terriers
Many small dog breeds, including the Australian Terrier, suffer from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (LCPD), a bone disorder that requires surgery. The breed also has problems with allergies, itching, and ear infections. There are no screening tests for these conditions.
The Australian Terrier also has a very 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.
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.
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7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Australian Terrier Puppy
Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Australian Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
Ask your puppy's breeder for written documentation from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her breeding dogs have had their eyes tested within the last year, along with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearances on their thyroid glands and knees.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Australian Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Australian Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since an Australian Terrier can live to be 12 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
Puppy or adult, take your Australian Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Pet Insurance for Australian Terriers
Pet insurance for Australian Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Australian Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat. Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Australian Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Australian Terrier is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.