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Irish Terrier Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 18 inches
Weight: 25-27 pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Coloring: Solid color golden red, red, red-wheaten or wheaten. While white on the chest is allowed, it is not ideal.
Area of Origin: Ireland
Similar Breeds: Airedale Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier.

History and Origin:

The Irish Terrier is noted as one of, if not the oldest breed of terrier in the world. These dogs were bred for the unpredictable and often inhospitable weather of Ireland prior to modern conveniences. These dogs were bred by the common people to help dispatch the rodents that were multiplying at alarming rates destroying food stores and carrying disease as they spread from town to town. These dogs, while effective and vicious when dispatching rodents, were also bred to be gentle with their families and are often noted for their gentle nature with children.

The Irish Terrier has not changed excessively from their forefathers and are still boisterous, hardy and fond of children. These dogs also have retained their dislike of rodents and other small animals and in a rural environment an owner would be hard pressed to find any sign of rodents anywhere on their property.

The breed itself was first recorded by name in England in 1875 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1881.

Personality and Temperament:

The Irish Terrier is a loyal, alert and uncompromising protector of their family. They do not tolerate rodents or other potential threats anywhere near their people and will defend their home with their lives. These dogs are highly sought after not only for their personality but for their appearance as well as they are a very strong, majestic dog that holds an air of importance about them.

These dogs, when properly socialized, are amazing dogs for families with children of all ages. These dogs are very gentle and have an incredible amount of patience when dealing with small, rowdy children. It is important that, like all dogs, children are not left unattended with dogs as accidents can happen.

While these dogs are good with other larger dogs with proper socialization, smaller dogs, cats and especially rodents such as guinea pigs, hamsters and rats are often seen as vermin and this can often cause the Irish Terrier to view these animals as prey. While small dogs and cats can often cohabitate with an Irish Terrier after careful introduction, the Irish Terrier should never be trusted around rodents or rabbits as this dog was bred for their extermination and instinct will often take over.

These dogs have made wonderful dogs for tasks where their independence, intelligence and steady nature are required. This includes guarding, hunting, vermin removal and even police work as both a service dog as well as for narcotics detection.

Overall, the Irish Terrier is a terrier. They can be stubborn, aloof and aggressive towards rodents yet to their family they are a loyal and sturdy companion and protector. These dogs should not be purchased by families who are timid or afraid to be the leader of the house as this dog can and will assume a dominant role if there is no leader present which can cause many issues.

Exercise & Training:

While the Irish Terrier is not a large dog, their exercise requirements are quite significant. Like most terriers, the Irish Terrier is a very active dog both in and out of the house and while they can live in an apartment, a house with a large back yard is prefered.

These dogs require two long walks/runs a day and also require time playing off leash in a safe, contained area to allow them to fully stretch their legs and run. If their family has children, these dogs will happily play with them for hours on end with fetch and other games.

One thing to keep in mind with these dogs is that they do like to chase down small animals so training them to come when called without question is very important. Squirrels, mice, groundhogs and other small, furry animals will all be very large temptations for these dogs and it is important to know that the dog will come when called so that they do not cause grievous harm to these animals.

These dogs, while stubborn, are very trainable and very intelligent. Once you have assumed the role as the leader, these dogs will put forth tremendous effort to complete all jobs to the best of their ability. This stubbornness also has a positive aspect, however, as these dogs remain loyal when on guard duty and can not be fooled by prospective thieves.

When working with the Irish Terrier, it is important to remember to be firm yet gentle. This dog will take a mile if they are permitted an inch and therefore it is important to remain consistent and firm. These dogs do have the potential, in the wrong hands, to become quite dangerous and aggressive. If they are not properly exercised, trained and socialized these dogs can be quite a handful and should not be taken on by first-time dog owners without a qualified trainer to work with them. This aggression may not become apparent through the usual channels such as biting of their families or other animals, these dogs are often still loyal to their family regardless of aggression issues.

Aggression will often manifest itself in destruction of property, barking excessively and possibly even guarding “their space” such as your couch or your bed. As no owner wants to live like that, it is important to make sure that your personality is right for this breed and talking to Irish Terrier breeders can certainly help with that as once they get to know you, they will be able to either match you with a dog to fit your personality or tell you that the Irish Terrier may not be the correct breed choice.


The Irish Terrier is a very low maintenance dog as far as grooming goes. With a short, wiry coat that is resistant to water these dogs only require minimal grooming. This consists of a brief weekly brushing and bathing only when they are dirty.

Bathing these dogs is detrimental to the waterproof qualities of their coats as is cutting their hair. Grooming these dogs is accomplished by stripping the dog one to two times a year. This can be done either by hand or by a special knife that does not cut the hair. When stripping the Irish Terrier’s coat, all the top coat can be removed although this should be left to an experienced groomer as if this is done incorrectly it may cause pain to your dog.

The dog’s nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks and teeth brushed at least weekly to maintain good dental health.

Many Irish Terriers need their ears trained for them to be carried in the characteristic style of the breed. This is because not all dogs have the proper amount of cartilage in the ears to maintain the ears in the upright and forward position. This can be accomplished during the puppy’s early life while they are between 5 and 13 weeks. There are many different ways this is accomplished and most breeders will have their own preferred methods.

Health and Wellness:

Overall the Irish Terrier is a robust and healthy breed. While they are an overall healthy dog, there are a few issues that one must be aware of prior to purchasing an Irish Terrier puppy.

The issues most commonly seen in this breed are:

  • Central Core Myopathy
    • This is caused by a gene mutation and is a hereditary condition. This is usually only seen in male Irish Terriers and can cause stiffness and weakness which can be quite debilitating. There is no treatment and once the dog has been afflicted by this condition it is often recommended to keep the dog comfortable until there is a quality of life issue.
  • Hyperkeratosis
    • This is a condition where the dog’s paw pads are covered in corns and this is very painful for the dogs. This has been greatly reduced with the use of DNA testing and responsible breeding and breeders should show that their dogs have all been tested for this prior to breeding.
  • Urolithiasis
    • This is a condition that affects quite a few Irish Terriers causing them to develop Cystine stones. These stones are incredibly painful and can be prevented by dietary supplements which can be monitored by your veterinarian.

The overall health of this dog is largely thanks to the collaboration of ethical breeders. The Irish Terrier was not always as healthy as its current incarnation. At one point, not so long ago, the Irish Terrier was plagued with several ailments which, due to this collaboration and DNA testing, has brought this breed back to a long-lived, healthy dog proving that when breeders work together to better the breed that they are fully capable of accomplishing this task.

Interesting Facts About the Irish Terrier

  1. The Irish Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds known to exist today.
  2. Fiercely loyal to their family, the well-socialized Irish Terrier is wonderful with children of all ages and is a versatile family member and companion.
  3. Always willing to give their all, the Irish Terrier is full of energy and requires plenty of hard exercise daily.
  4. These dogs are surprisingly healthy with very few ailments proving that selective ethical breeding can and will improve the dogs the breeders have fallen in love with.
  5. While no dog is truly hypoallergenic or non-shedding, the Irish Terrier’s minimal shedding makes them generally well tolerated by allergy sufferers.

Organizations Dedicated to the Irish Terrier

Breeds Similar to Irish Terrier Dogs:

Dog Breed Info Irish Terrier

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