- Height: 17.5 to 19.5 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 33 to 40 pounds; females are smaller
The Kerry Blue Terrier (known in his home country as the Irish Blue Terrier) has been around for more than a hundred years. He was originally a multipurpose dog, used for hunting, herding, and other chores, and was prized for his gameness, intelligence, and adaptability. The Kerry is a medium-size dog weighing 33 to 40 pounds; females are smaller. He has a muscular body covered with a soft, dense, wavy coat of blue-gray. Puppies are born black, and the coat should reach its mature color by the time the dog is 18 months old.
Be aware that a Kerry Blue Terrier can be messy to keep. His beard will drip water after he drinks and will need to be cleaned after meals. His coat picks up leaves and other debris. Plan to comb his coat twice a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. The shape of the coat must be maintained with regular scissoring, which you can have done professionally or learn to do yourself. Other grooming requirements include cleaning the ears and trimming the nails as needed and bathing him when he’s dirty.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides won’t deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Kerry Blue Terriers are devoted to their people. A Kerry Blue Terrier should have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them.
More Quick Facts:
- The Kerry Blue has a long head, dark eyes with a keen expression, small V-shaped ears that fold forward, a squarish body, and a medium-length tail carried up.
- Coat and color are the Kerry’s defining characteristics. A proper Kerry coat is soft, dense, and wavy in any shade of blue gray, or gray blue. Those shades can range from deep slate to light blue gray, with darker to black areas on the muzzle, head, ears, tail, and feet.
The History of the Kerry Blue Terrier
The Terrier with the striking blue coat hails from, you guessed it, Ireland’s County Kerry, where he was developed a bit more than a century ago to be an all-around farm hand and hunting dog. The Kerry did it all, from herding sheep and cattle to hunting and retrieving small game and birds on land and from water.
Kerries began to be shown in Ireland and Britain in the early 20th century. The breed made its first appearance at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1922, and the American Kennel Club gave it formal breed recognition in 1924. Two years later the Kerry Blue Terrier Club was born at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The goals of the members were to write a breed standard, encourage the breeding of the dogs, and promote their participation in dog shows and field trials. Today the Kerry ranks 120th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament and Personality
The Kerry Blue Terrier is smart but, like any dog with a working background, he is an independent thinker. It’s important to give him a job to do, from his daily training exercises to participating in a dog sport such as agility, obedience, rally, or tracking. Kerry Blue Terriers are active and athletic, and they enjoy long walks, jogging, and hiking on leash, unless you’re in a safe, traffic-free area. Plan to take yours for at least a couple of 20-minute walks each day.
Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent a Kerry Blue Terrier from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Kerry Blue Terrier puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Kerry Blue Terrier throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, on visits to friends and neighbors, and for outings to local shops and businesses. 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 and "open" socialization, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Kerry Blue Terrier puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards, combined with a nothing-in-life-is-free program that requires him to “work” for food, treats, toys, and playtime by first performing a command. The Kerry Blue Terrier thinks for himself but he learns quickly and will respond to kind, firm, consistent training. Don’t make him repeat the same action over and over again. He’s smart and becomes bored easily, so keep training sessions short and interesting.
Kerry Blue Terriers have a high prey drive and will chase small furry animals, but if they are brought up with them, they can learn to live peaceably with indoor cats or smaller dogs. Typical Terriers, they may be aggressive toward other dogs. The Kerry Blue is a good playmate for older children.
What You Should Know About Kerry Blue Terrier Health
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies 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.
Health conditions that have been seen in Kerry Blue Terriers include a neurological disease called cerebellar abiotrophy (or cerebellar degeneration), a disease that affects puppies and can progress to paralysis. Another neurologic condition, degenerative myelopathy, also occurs in the breed. Eye problems such as entropion and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) have been reported, as well as blood clotting disorders (vonWillebrand's disease and Factor XI deficiency); and hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, both of which can range from mild to severe.
The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Kerry to achieve CHIC certification, he must have a hip evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) and eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Tests that are recommended but not required are DNA tests for von Willebrand’s disease, factor XI deficiency, and degenerative myelopathy.
Breeders must agree to have all test results — positive or negative — published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
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.
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 a Kerry 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.
How to Care For a Kerry Blue
Though he doesn't shed much, the Kerry Blue's coat is high maintenance. It must be brushed daily and trimmed and shampooed every four to six weeks. Plan to comb a Kerry’s coat twice a week to prevent or remove any mats or tangles. The shape of the coat must be maintained with regular scissoring, usually monthly, which you can have done professionally or learn to do yourself.
It is important to begin grooming the Kerry Blue when he is very young. An early introduction teaches the Kerry Blue that grooming is a normal part of his life and teaches him to accept the handling and fuss of grooming patiently.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually 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.
Finding a Kerry Blue 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 a Kerry Blue Terrier Breeder
Finding a quality breeder is a great way find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will 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 plan to provide. 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 were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Kerry Blue Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the USKBTC’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 clear. 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 over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a 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 an Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blue Terrier might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. 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 Kerry Blue 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 a Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blues 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 a Kerry Blue 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
Most people who love Kerry Blue Terriers love all Kerry Blue Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blue 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 a Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blue 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.