Irish Terrier

  • Irish Terrier Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Irish Terrier Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Irish Terrier Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Irish Terrier dog

    Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

  • Breed Group: Terrier
  • Height: Average of 18 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 25 to 27 pounds
  • Life Span: 12 to 16 years

The Irish Terrier lives life to the fullest. He adores people and can be good with the family kids. This fearless terrier is intelligent and stubborn, requiring consistent training and a tall fence. Full of beans, he wants to run, play and chase a few rodents and squirrels.

Breed Characteristics

Adaptability 5 stars Dog Friendly 2 stars Shedding Level 2 stars
Affection Level 5 stars Exercise Needs 4 stars Social Needs 4 stars
Apartment Friendly 3 stars Health & Grooming 3 stars Stranger Friendly 2 stars
Barking Tendencies 4 stars Health Issues 4 stars Territorial 5 stars
Cat Friendly 2 stars Intelligence 4 stars Trainability 2 stars
Child Friendly 4 stars Playfulness 4 stars Watchdog Ability 5 stars

Did You Know?

Intrepid and stylish, the Irish Terrier has been nicknamed the d’Artagnan of the show ring for his smooth confidence and winning ways. His other nickname is Daredevil, a nod to his utter contempt for danger.

With a spring in his step, a twinkle in his eye, and attitude in every fiber of his being, the Irish Terrier is a fiery a little dog. He may be almost exclusively a companion today, but that won’t stop him from behaving like the fearless, rat-killing farm dog he once was in his country of origin. The Irish Terrier is no laid-back lap dog. This is a dog who loves to run, chase and play, and woe to the squirrel who’s not a half-step faster than him. You’d better have a sense of humor and a lot of patience for dealing with the endless independence and antics of a dog whose stylish appearance is merely a veneer over the heart of a rogue.

The Irish Terrier usually weighs somewhere under 30 pounds, but carries himself like a much larger dog. He's intelligent and fairly easy to train, as long as he's trained with fairness, consistency, and a healthy appreciation for the little jokes some people might call "stubbornness." Be particularly careful to nip any inappropriate barking in the bud.

Irish Terriers are very people-oriented dogs and they generally like children – at least those of their own family. Keep in mind, however, that adult supervision of playtime, along with training and socializing of the dog, is still required.

With other dogs and small furry creatures, it's a very different story. The Irish was developed to work on the extinction of vermin, and he's not likely to make a distinction when it comes to smaller pets, especially rodents. Cats may not fare well either.

While the show dogs require more careful attention to their coats, the grooming needs of pet Irish Terriers are modest: the rare bath, weekly combing or brushing to get rid of his dead hair, and the occasional professional or home clipping are all that's required. A bonus: they shed very little.

Irish Terriers don't do well if they're left alone for long periods, and are not happy as backyard dogs. Let him live as a member of your family or you might find yourself with a lonely, bored, noisy, and destructive nuisance instead of a happy, well-behaved companion.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Irish Terrier has a longer body and longer legs than other terriers.
  • The Irish Terrier has a long head with strong jaws; dark brown eyes full of fire and intelligence; small V-shaped ears that drop forward; and a docked tail. His dense, wiry coat hugs the body and can be bright red, golden red, red wheaten or wheaten.

Next: History ›

The History of the Irish Terrier

This red-headed son of Ireland — the only terrier with an all-red coat — is thought to be one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, although little is known of his origins. One writer referred to him as “the poor man’s sentinel, the farmer’s friend, and the gentleman’s favorite.”

A dog show in Glasgow in 1875 was the first known appearance of the breed under the name Irish Terrier. Four years later, Erin and Killney Boy were bred and produced a large number of champions, securing for themselves the titles “mother” and “father” of the Irish Terrier. The breed quickly rose in popularity and in the 1880s was the fourth most popular breed in England.

Those early Irish Terriers came in several colors, including black and tan, gray, and brindle, but by the end of the 19th century the solid-red color seen today had won out.

The Irish Terrier soon became popular in the United States as well. There was a class for the breed at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1881, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1885. The Irish Terrier Club of America was founded in 1896.

The breed proved its usefulness during World War I, serving as a messenger and sentinel. Afterward, he continued to be popular. In 1929, the Irish Terrier ranked 13th among the 79 breeds then recognized by the American Kennel Club. His place has fallen somewhat since then; today he ranks 128th, but those who love him consider him a well-kept secret.

‹ Previous: Overview

Irish Terrier Temperament and Personality

The Irish Terrier is a bold, intelligent dog with a personality reflective of his heritage as a companion, protector, and hunter. He is a devoted family friend, watchdog, and tireless worker. He is independent and can seem fearless.

The Irish Terrier is a busy dog and he has a mind of his own, which means that he oftentimes chooses activities you may not appreciate. Don’t be surprised when you see your Irish Terrier shred paper, steal food from kitchen counters, attack the laundry basket, bark, dig, and chase anything small and furry. With him around, you will have no worries about mice, rats, moles, or woodchucks, and he can hunt anything you want him to find, from rabbits to big game. The Irish Terrier loves water as if he were a retriever, and some people have indeed trained him to retrieve from water. Early Irish Terrier breeder William Graham said that Noah did not take a pair of Irish Terriers on the ark because they could just as easily swim alongside.

The Irish Terrier is no cream puff with other dogs. He can be aggressive, especially toward dogs of the same sex. With training and boundaries, however, you can usually depend on this feisty breed to behave politely.

This adaptable breed is good with children when raised with them, and he is very loyal to his human pack. He is at home in any climate or setting, country or city. To meet the exercise needs of this active breed, take him jogging (health permitting), give him long daily on-leash walks, or opportunities to run free in securely fenced areas.

Training should begin right away for the Irish Terrier puppy. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of learning good manners. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a bigger, more headstrong dog to handle. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and continue training as he grows up to keep him mentally and physically active. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Socialization is very important for an Irish Terrier puppy, so once your vet gives the green light for public places, begin introducing your puppy to new people, situations and experiences in his first few months of puppyhood.  These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.

Talk with a reputable, experienced Irish Terrier breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.

‹ Previous: History
Next: Health ›

What You Need To Know About Irish Terrier Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Irish terriers (rarely) can develop muscular dystrophy. They can also suffer from eye problems like cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. Another condition that affects the Irish Terrier is hyperkeratosis, a thickening of the pads of the feet sometimes called "corny feet." Hyperkeratosis was once common but is now rare, and affected dogs should not be bred. Your puppy's breeder should be willing – in fact eager – to go over the health histories of his parents and their close relatives and to discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Irish Terrier at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

‹ Previous: Personality
Next: Grooming ›

The Basics of Irish Terrier Grooming

The Irish Terrier doesn’t require a lot of grooming. Weekly brushing with a slicker brush keeps the coat in good condition. Bathe him only if he gets dirty. Trimming isn’t necessary, but many owners have their Irish Terriers groomed professionally three to four times a year for a neat appearance. The coat is trimmed with clippers or by stripping, a process by which coat is thinned and shortened with a stripping knife, a sharp, comb-like tool, or a combination of both. The Irish Terrier Club of America has a helpful guide to grooming the coat.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.

Even though his grooming requirements are minimal, it is important to begin grooming the Irish Terrier when he is very young. An early introduction teaches him to accept grooming without any fuss. 

‹ Previous: Health
Next: Finding ›

Finding an Irish Terrier

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing an Irish Terrier Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.

Look for more information about the Irish Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Irish Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ITCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.

Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of a Irish Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.

Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Irish Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog from Irish Terrier Rescue or a Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Irish Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Irish Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Irish Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Irish Terriers love all Irish Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Irish Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Irish Terrier rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an Irish Terrier home with you to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Irish Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, take your Irish Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

‹ Previous: Grooming

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