The diminutive Australian Terrier


  1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
  2. In popularity, The Australian Terrier is currently ranked #139 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do you hope this will change or are you comfortable with his placement? Do these numbers help or hurt the breed?
  3. Does the average person on the street recognize him for what he is?
  4. An energetic dog—of any size—requires a special household to be a perfect fit. What about the breed makes him an ideal companion? Drawbacks?
  5. Are there any misconceptions about the breed you’d like to dispel?
  6. What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate?
  7. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
  8. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind?
  9. What’s the best way to attract newcomers to your breed and to the sport?
  10. What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
  11. What is your favorite dog show memory?
  12. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

Susan Duncan

I am privileged to have enjoyed the companionship of Australian terriers for 30 years. My breeding program has produced many AKC and foreign Champions, along with performance titleholders and champions of the heart. My dogs are found in the pedigrees of many successful dogs.

I currently live in southern Ohio. I enjoy working to develop myself as an artist, and have done some sculptures in the past. The Australian Terrier is my favorite subject. I am currently working in ceramics.

Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the placement? We were ranked #124 not too many years ago, and I would like to see the breed climb in popularity to this level or slightly higher. Falling towards the bottom of that list is a slippery slope as breed visibility falls as well. If the public doesn’t know the amazing features of this breed they won’t search for one for their next companion.

Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Sadly, probably not. They are commonly confused with Yorkie mixes.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? This is a very resilient breed that thrives on human companionship. They can do well in a variety of situations, from apartments to country settings, and are successful with seniors as well as families with children. That said, they are wild as puppies, and take consistent training. It should also be noted that they’re proficient people trainers, and can be manipulative.

Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Because they’re in the terrier group people assume that they’re independent and difficult to train. Nothing could be further from the truth. They want to be with their people and will do anything for a treat.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It has become difficult to breed on many levels. The proliferation of anti-breeder legislation, complications due to low numbers that affect the actual mating, and the lack of breed visibility are all factors that make breeding difficult.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I evaluate at eight weeks. I may keep one a bit longer if I’m not sure, but the really good ones usually stand out.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Judge the dog, not the handler. Read the standard.

The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? I think we need to improve our visibility. I favor advertising and social media provides a good platform for that.

My ultimate goal for the breed? I fear that over the next 20 years the breeds at the bottom of the popularity list are going to start disappearing. My goal is that Australian Terriers won’t be one of them.

My favorite dog show memory? I have so many. I’ve had so much fun, made so many friends and traveled the country and abroad. It’s hard to pick just one memory.

Kerrie Bryan

Kerrie Bryan owned her first Australian Terrier as a pet in australia in 1950. In 1991, in the America, she joined the Wismiss Kennel established in 1970 by Carol Sazama. She continues to breed and co-own with Carol Sazama and shows as an owner, breeder and handler.

I live in Colorado. Outside of dogs, I am very involved in the sustainability of the natural environment in Colorado, specifically Boulder County. I monitor raptors for the County and work with a number of nature organizations. I have an extensive garden and spend many hours with the dogs there.

Australian Terriers are not alone in facing decreasing litter registrations. I do not believe that the decreasing litter registrations are caused only by a lack of pet owners interested in Australian Terriers as to the best of my knowledge, breeders have not had a problem placing their puppies recently. In a changing society, many interests (and breeds and novel cross breeds) vie for people’s attention and demands on their spare time. Breeding purebred dogs is a serious and sometimes arduous hobby and demands an apprenticeship on not only the actual breeding process but on the nature of pedigrees and how best to preserve the structure and temperament of Australian Terriers through a planned breeding program.

The traditional role of dog shows was as a vehicle for choosing the dogs that best portrayed the innate traits of the breed. To some extent that remains a subsidiary object of dogs shows but the overall nature of shows has changed, and the competitive nature of shows is in the ascendency. That can be daunting for new owners and would-be breeders.

A small number of dedicated breeders are committed to breeding Australian Terriers exhibiting the structure and temperament innate in those terriers. Before Australian Terrier were show dogs, they were working dogs. Uniquely, because of the topography of Australia they were also bred as a companion to the far-flung homesteaders. Australian Terriers are well suited to being companion dogs and performance dogs. They love a job. I do believe that most of our breeders ai for well-rounded dogs.

The biggest concern I have about the breed is a decreasing gene pool.

The biggest problem facing me as a breeder is finding the time to devote to a long-term serious breeding program as one ages.

A new breeder should discuss the breed with a number of experienced breeders. Mentoring is so important for new breeders. Take the time to observe not only your breed but other breeds, movement and structure. Go over a lot of dogs with experienced breeders who will be honest about their dogs- both Australian Terriers and
other breeds.

Judges should reward the innate qualities of the breed and above all terrier temperament. Terriers were not meant to be judged only as a pretty picture. What are the characteristics that make an Australian Terrier essentially and Australian Terrier rather than a generic dog ? There is a point to that topknot and ruff—defense against the snakes they were bred to kill.

The most common fault I see when traveling around the country: if you mean in Australian Terriers, I would say that it would be too long in loin, lack of keel and length of jaw—all qualities essential to this working terrier. Often grooming has depleted the topknot and ruff which are the essential characteristics of an
Australian Terrier.

Another point I’d like to make is that breeding happy, well-structured Australian Terriers is a serious task and that one must aim for a well-rounded dog as well as for a winning dog in the show ring.

My young male had won Winners Dog and was competing in Breed. We were all lined up in front of the judge when his sister (held—or not held—by a friend), dashed into the ring and went straight to her brother. I was mortified. The judge laughed and said, “Good choice. He is my Best of Winners.”

Claudia Coleman

Claudia Coleman is an an American artist from North Carolina who has specialized in champion horses and dogs for more than 50 years. Her paintings hang around the world in private collections, the Museum of Hounds and Hunting North America, the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Duke Hospital, BB&T to name a few. The daughter of an artist, her love of horses and dogs shaped her talents allowing her to live the life of her dreams. She has recently added the mastery of old world classic portraits to her stable. She can be found off the beaten path with her horse, her Australian Terriers and her music.

I co-own Aussies with Alexa Samarotto and her Samabel Kennel.

I live in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Outside of dogs, I am a sporting artist specializing in dogs, horses and their owners (, Facebook) I own and ride horses, and fox-hunting is my passionate activity.

Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the placement? We are a rare breed now, and I would hope more people will be introduced to this breed and become contributors to their preservation and growth. We have lost several breeders from the past that have not been replaced by a next generation of devotees—that is not good.

Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Rarely, but they most often say “what a cute dog” and ask questions. I am always ready to educate them, and the dog does the rest!

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? Aussies are a size and temperament that will fit in a wide variety of households. That is what appealed to me in the beginning. They are big enough you don’t trip over them, small enough you can pick them up easily, easy going temperament or ready to chase the squirrel, and shed very little. You can groom a lot if you like, or just brush and love. On the scale of zip and hardbitten—I would say they fall between a Westie and a Welsh.

Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? There are none that I know of.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Many—economic, animal rights activists pushing destructive legislation, loss of gene pools in the rare breeds.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I can see lots early on, but my co-owner, Alexa Samarotto, and I find 12 weeks is a nice plateau that will tell you what you have.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Learn and judge to the standard, ask breeders lots of questions.

The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? Encourage people to go to dog shows, take the family to meet the breeds events, read all you can find about the dogs. The national club, the Australian Terrier Club of America, has wonderful history on its web site.

My ultimate goal for the breed? Preservation and growth in numbers.

My favorite dog show memory? First win!

I’d also like to share that not every breed is for every person. I, for one, know there are many breeds that I would not be comfortable with. They say people look like their dogs and I know I have the perfect fit, and “do” LOL! I am kind of like a Terrier myself.

Mary Freeman

My family are animal lovers. I was the one who had to the responsibility of choosing a small breed for our kennel. At that time my parents bred Kuvaszok and Irish Wolfhounds. I did much research on several small breeds and in 1970 chose the Australian Terrier. At that time I purchased a pregnant champion and Ginny had seven puppies. And yes no one knew what the breed was. Finding homes for these beautiful puppies was a challenge. This comping September I have been involved with this intelligent, fun breed for 50 years.

I live in Sturgis, South Dakota. Outside of dogs I work as a Registered Dietitian and a certified Diabetes Educator. Finding out what is important and what matters to people is vital to education. Lately I have been working on watercolor landscapes and flowers in the spare time. Actually it has been very therapeutic. The abstract watercolors with flowers has been fun to do. I also enjoy photography of my dogs and photos of flowers and when I go for a hikes. Dog obedience is another hobby I enjoy. I enjoy trying new recipes as well. The other interest is getting education on essential oils and in process of doing 20 case studies for the class.

Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the placement? There are negatives with being too popular. It appears that when you are popular people want to make more money breeding more puppies without consideration of temperament and health of the breed and thus the breed cannot be as strong in the future. The rarity of the breed makes it more difficult to sell, since no one really knows the good qualities of this breed until they have had one.

The average person usually does not recognize the breed. I have been told that I am wrong about what breed I have. That what I have are Yorkshire Terriers. This happened when I live in Miles City, Montana. These people were from out of state and told me I did not know what I was talking about.

I would have to say that the qualities that make him a special companion are as follows: loyalty, patience, sturdy, empathy, intuitive, intelligent, and the ability to solve problems.

The drawback is some can get so close to their owners, that they have withdrawals, being so smart can get you into trouble since you manipulate your owners, and your problem solving sills can get you into trouble if you are an escape artist. Loving to play with one’s owner can be difficult if it is time for the owner to go to work.

Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Some people don’t always realize that the breed can be quite energetic. Some buyers of the breed need to realize that if their dog has a behavior concern that they don’t rid of the dog, but that they work with the dog to solve the problem. Also I find that many owners seem to have their Australian Terrier jump to excess when they find out that this breed loves to jump but this in turn can cause weakened patellas and surgery in the future. The size of the dog warrants restriction of jumping due to the stress on ligaments as veterinarians state at the seminars I have attended. So when problems arise in the breed the new owners don’t want the dog anymore.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Our society appears to have become a society where people expect instant gratification. If the animal has a problem they don’t want to take time and work through the problem. They often don’t want the animal anymore. They appear not to want to make an investment in working through the problems. So as a breeder you take the animal back rather than have it get in the pound or abused. The designer breeds seem to be very popular and they have been sold that this “new breed” will not have any health problems and the owner now ends up with the animal having a liver problem at a very young age which becomes very costly—not to mention the high price for this “designer breed”.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? At 10-12 weeks I can see show worthiness but even with feedback from unbiased dog owners what you thought was going to materialize into a “good” head may not happen. Things can definitely change like picking the puppy with outstanding movement but not being able to breed it since structurally there is a high probability that you would end up having c-sections for a successful delivery of the puppies.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? I have more than just one thing to comment on for new judges. One is: Can you find the truly good dog in the ring that has not been groomed in the fashion cut of the day. The fashionable style may not be the best dog in the ring. I realize that your time is limited. I see I value movement since the dog will not be able to do its job if it cannot move. The second point is I have seen judges choose dogs that have temperament concerns. They believe they are choosing the right dog but they are choosing the dog that has an aggressive temperament. I see this when the judge wants our breed to “spar” and in the process they are choosing the dog with the bad temperament and if this dog is used extensively in the breeding program it can take many generations to rectify this problem. So the judge may believe they are choosing the right dog in the sparring set up but inadvertently they pick the dog with the poor temperament.

The best way to attract newcomers to the breed is kindness. Too often I have seen very hard criticism of new people showing their dogs. Owners can be nervous and this goes down the lead to their beautiful dog which can often alter movement and behavior. I had seen a judge withhold ribbons from a newcomer in the breed and the dog was a good representation of the breed, and this newcomer to the breed never ever showed again. Also I believe that the showing of dogs gets so serious that people don’t want to continue in the sport. Are we getting so competitive that we don’t want to help anyone to the detriment of entries in our breed?

My ultimate goal for the breed is to have a dog that can compete in conformation as well as performance exercises. There is no sense in having a dog who cannot work through problems. A dog that can bounce back from adversity because of good temperament is my goal for the breed. Like my Herald, who was attacked by a dog who was loose in the neighborhood and if it had not been for Herald keeping close to me, he would have been killed, and two months later he competed in obedience and I was more nervous for him that he was around the other dogs. He did not become aggressive to any of the dogs even though he had been attacked two months prior and had medical attention that day of the attack. So to speak I want a dog with a brain to be able to do the work he was bred to do.

My favorite dog show memory? I would have to say the the ATCA national Show in 1991 in California where Heartbeat went Best Of Opposite Sex under an Australian Judge. This Australian Terrier was in sync with me and flowed with ease when I showed her. She was always a special dog; she got her CDX and this was the dog who if you tried to reward her with treats she would stop working for you. She will always be fondly remembered since she was such a special dog. She would talk to you, which made her extra special.

I’d like to say that like with most breeds it appears that our breed has gotten oversized. Too often the correct size dog is not awarded for their quality and what I have found that it is often a judge from another country other than the United Sates that awards the correct size over the oversized dog in the ring.

Theresa Goiffon

Theresa A. Goiffon and two of her daughters, Lydia and Ellie Goiffon began Dunham Lake Australian Terriers in 2007. They breed and have shown multiple #1 and top ranked, Best in Show, Best of Breed at Westminster, Best of Breed at Montgomery County among some of their top awards they have achieved with their Australian Terriers. They currently live with 11 Australian Terriers, of which most sleep in their beds, but all live among them. According to Theresa, they need a bigger bed.

I live in Siren, Wisconsin which is located in Northwestern, Wisconsin. It is a rural area, and our home is situated on many acres providing lots of places for our terriers to explore.

After retiring from a career as a VP of Commercial Lending, having raised three daughters, my most important role right now is watching my one-year-old grandson four days a week. I also serve as the President of a local Not for Profit Veterinary clinic in our community. I am a website designer part-time, often working on my next book to publish and in my free time I enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter and gardening in the summer.

Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the placement? Our breed numbers are incredibly low and we as a breed are concerned about the sustainability of the Australian Terrier. It is of great concern to me and has been since I first discovered this wonderful breed years ago. This is not a new issue, it is however, one that just recently has raised concern to our breed club. In 2018, Dr. Jerold Bell presented an informative seminar, at our National Specialty, in which he expressed how serious of a matter this truly is, with respect to the sustainability of our breed.

Our gene pool is small and dwindling. I have personally discussed this concern with long time breeders in their native Australia and this is of concern to them as well. It is imperative that breeders encourage and mentor new people in our breed and it is also equally as imperative that breeders work together with other reputable breeders to increase the gene pool.

What does that look like you might ask? How do we work at increasing our numbers responsibly? It starts by looking at dogs within your own country, but also inevitably, one must look at importing and exporting outside of the USA to expand our rapidly declining gene pool. We need to breed but we need to breed wisely and avoid the overuse of the same sire. To be careful and not fall into “Popular Sire Syndrome”, which in a small gene pool as ours could have a devastating impact on the future of our breed.

Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Actually, very few people have seen an Australian Terrier in person and even less people have ever heard of them. Many times, when we are out and about with our dogs, people will stop us and ask us what breed are they? Often people think they are an oversized Yorkie or some kind of Cairn.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? Without sounding too bias, they truly are the perfect family dog for most families. They are moderately energetic, they love to go on adventures, they are very devoted to their people too. But they are a terrier and their instinct to chase a squirrel or keep the vermin out of “their” yard is very strong, which can reflect not only a self-assured dog but one with their own agenda.

Mostly, they are fun loving, should always be wonderful with children and adults of all ages. They want to be with you always and you will realize quickly, if you have an Aussie Terrier, you will never have the bathroom to yourself again.

I think this applies to most breeds but the Australian Terrier in particular, is not a dog to be kept for hours on end alone at home or in a crate or kennel. They are highly intelligent and the need to be with their family is important for their happiness.

Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? They are not a yappy breed, they generally get along well with other animals, dogs as well as cats and they are very easy to train.

What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? To breed properly and responsibly to me that means at the minimum you must health test, socialize and keep the puppies until they are 12 weeks old. It is expensive to breed properly and it is time consuming to not only raise the puppies but to provide attention and devotion to your adults as well.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I start to evaluate my puppies starting at four weeks, then every two weeks and generally make a decision on those show prospects by 11 or 12 weeks of age. Sometimes during their early months, they can go a bit off, but generally based on my experience if they had potential at 11 weeks they will mirror that image once they
reach adulthood.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Judges need to judge the “whole” dog without prejudice with respect to cosmetic alternations, specifically tail docking verses natural tails. That is key particularly in a small gene pool breed like ours in which we must work together with our European counter parts who are not allowed to alter their dogs.

Overall, I am pleased to say our breed has many good qualities such as not many genetic health concerns, good temperaments overall and for the most part we are keeping our “type”. Sometimes “type” appears to be in the eye of the beholder, but most breeders follow the standard and strive to maintain and improve our breed.

What strikes me worthy of mentioning particularly to a new judge, is to understand our breed is not big boned nor small boned, they are to be medium boned. Neither are they square in body. The standard states 1 to 1½ inches longer than tall and their shoulders should be nicely laid back, with a nice strong keel.

When viewing the side movement, they should cover ground with a nice smooth reach and drive motion with little to no space between where the front and rear feet meet at the ground. If the front assembly is solid, the topline should be firm and not bounce when in motion.

The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? I have mentored dozens of new people in our breed. Some in conformation, others have chosen to participate in performance activities. Making new exhibitors feel welcome and supported is key. To be willing to help and teach new people everything from entering a show on line, to grooming and everything in between.

My personal goal for the breed is to continue to breed healthy, sound tempered Australian Terriers. To educate others in our breed, always be a resource for others and continue to promote breeder choice with respect to docking or not docking our breed.

Continue to show and breed hopefully more best in show dogs, but most of all, my ultimate goal is to continue to help sustain the breed for many more generations to come.

My favorite dog show memory? We have made so many great memories over the years. We have traveled the country and even made a trip to the world show in Finland where we exhibited with two of our dogs.

Our multiple Best in Show wins handled by two of my young daughters will always be a highlight and blessing to our family.

But I guess if I have to pick one memory it would be, watching my daughter Lydia at Madison Square Garden, show her bred by and owner handled Australian Terrier, Jake, that won the breed, we were so proud. But what made that extra special was Lydia at that time, worked at a nursing home as a CNA and we had taken Jake to the nursing home many times to visit with her elderly patients. When the residents found out they were going to be on television the entire nursing home was a buzz and those wonderful elderly residents stayed up very late to watch their favorite CNA and their friend Jake live. It truly was extra special and meant to so much to Lydia.

This sport is about enjoying your dogs, in addition for us it was about making family memories and sharing and promoting our dogs. It is also important to recognize these special moments and realize the positive impact this sport and pure-bred dogs have on others. 


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