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The Irish Terrier

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer


Beneath its bushy eyebrows, the Irish Terrier has deep dark brown eyes, a black nose, and a sweet, inquisitive, endearing expression.

The Irish Terrier is one or the oldest terrier breeds. It originated in Country Cork, Ireland, about 2000 years ago. The Irish Terrier was first shown as a separate class in 1873 at the Dublin, Ireland dog show. It's popularity peaked in the late 1800's when it was the fourth most popular breed in Ireland and England. It's popularity extended to the United States and in 1881 the Westminster Kennel Club held its first class for the breed. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885 and the Irish Terrier Club of America was founded in 1897.

By 1929 Irish Terriers ranked 13th among the 79 breeds then recognized by the AKC. They are now one of the more rare terriers, ranking at 112 among 150 breeds of dogs recognized by the AKC today. The AKC describes the Irish terrier as - "a loyal and friendly dog. This dog can't be beat as an overall pal. He'll hardily adapt to any situation, which proves his deep loyalty to his owner. Not only will he be an enthusiastic playmate for children, he'll guard them and the home with fierce determination and pluck."

Like many terrier breeds, the Irish Terrier was originally developed to exterminate vermin such as rats and otter. Today's Irish Terrier retains that feistiness and vermin hunting prowess and they cannot be trusted around small pets. They love to chase things and will attack small animals. They're usually aggressive with cats and often with other dogs as well, especially dogs of the same sex. When going for walks they must always be on a leash and under firm control, to prevent to squirrel, rabbit and cat adventures or confrontations with other dogs.

They are extremely friendly, affectionate and loyal to their human companions. The Irish Terrier is entertaining and energetic, but not hyperactive. They are wonderful pets for children. They're sturdy, tolerant, forgiving playmates and devoted, dependable guardians.

Irish Terriers are natural born watchdogs who will protect their home and family with fierce determination. They are bold, fearless, courageous dogs, affectionately referred to as "the dare-devils of the dog world" by fanciers of the breed.

These versatile medium size terriers have been used for police and military work. During World War I, they served as messengers and sentinels. As sporting dogs, they can be used to retrieve on land or in water.


The average height of a mature Irish Terrier is is about 18 inches and average weight is 25 to 30 pounds. Puppies have a lot more black coloring on their face than adults. This fades as they mature. Soon after birth, their tails are docked to 3/4 of the original length and dew claws are removed.

Their ears have a natural fold, but a majority of puppies must have their ears "trained" to attain the proper carriage. Because of varying factors, it's difficult to recommend one method for training their ears. New puppy owners should follow the breeders advice. See the links below for a webpage with an illustrated guide to Irish Terrier ear training, with tips, suggestions, and directions from a variety of breeders.

Their solid reddish to golden color coat is non-shedding, dense and wiry, with a softer undercoat. They need at least a weekly brushing along with some combing of longer hair around the face and legs and bathing only when necessary. Too frequent baths will make the skin and coat overly dry. Whenever an Irish Terrier's coat does get wet, it should be brushed and combed as soon as possible, including the undercoat, to prevent tangles and mats.

Proper grooming of an Irish Terrier also incudes "stripping" the coat a few times a year to remove dead hair, maintain the shape, and give it a trimmed look. Trimming with a standard electric dog clippers will cut away the bright colored coarse hair tips, leaving only lighter colored soft hair. This is not recommended. Stripping involves either plucking the dead hair by hand using your thumb and forefinger, or using a special grooming tool called a "stripping knife" - a grooming utensil with a dull serrated edge blade.

Irish Terriers are generally very healthy dogs, remarkably free of major hereditary disorders, with a life expectancy of about 12 to 16 years. Two genetic diseases, Digital Hyperkeratosis - a painful disease of the foot pads and Cystinuria - a serious disease of the urinary tract, have been associtated with the breed, but both are rare. Even with this healthy breed, always plan on expenses for annual vaccinations and regular veterinary care.

Irish Terriers are intelligent, highly trainable dogs but they're also high spirited and sometimes quite willful. From an early age, training must be consistent and handled with firm determination and lots of praise. They prefer being clean and are usually, though not always, easy to housetrain. They're den animals and they welcome the the safety of their crate when left home alone.

In the company of the people they love, and with adequate exercise, they can be calm and content living in the country or in the city. If you live in small house or an apartment, regular daily walks can provide sufficient exercise for the typical Irish Terrier. Whether your have very small back yard, or an acre in the country, if you plan to let your dog outside to run and play, it needs boundaries - a fenced yard or at least a fenced run.

Irish Terriers are popular in the show ring with a style all their own.

As with any purebred, if you are looking for an Irish Terrier puppy, do your homework and choose a reputable breeder. Look for one who is a member of The Irish Terrier Club of America. Check the national and regional clubs. Ask lots of questions questions about the breed and the breeder and expect to answer questions about you, and your home and family.




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Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.

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