Irish Terrier

This Feisty Little Dog has Fire in its Eyes, Burning with Intelligence

Irish Terrier

True to its Terrier Heritage, This Feisty Little Dog has Fire in its Eyes, Burning with Intelligence

One of the oldest of dog breeds, the Irish Terrier is extremely intelligent, a trait which is clearly evident in its eyes. Defined by both courage and loyalty, this is definitely not a dog with a relaxed attitude. In fact, if you don't know how to handle such an energetic dog, you may find yourself in for quite a surprise! With an expression that has been called "fierce," but not in a threatening way, the Irish Terrier is so smart and alert that its gaze misses nothing. This sweet dog is exceedingly trainable but very protective, and can become defiant if it believes you have not established yourself as its commander-inchief.


The origin of the Irish Terrier is unknown, but many believe it descended from Ireland and Britain's black-and-tan terrier dogs. This may be one of the oldest of Terrier breeds dating back as far as 2000 years. Irish Terriers were first recorded as a breed in 1875, at a show held in Glasgow. In 1879, champions Kilney Boy and Erin were introduced to the world and subsequently bred. Their offspring produced a significant number of champions and have become known as the mother and father of this breed. Subsequently, the Irish Terrier also became popular in England, ultimately making it the fourth most popular dog in the 1880s.

The United States experienced the introduction of the Irish Terrier dog when Westminster held a class for it in 1881. In 1896, the Irish Terrier Club of America was formed, first adopting the British standard for the breed. In 1929, the breed was 13th among the 79 in existence by that year. A breed standard in the US was formally adopted by the American Kennel Club in 1968 and today the dog is classified within its Terrier Group.


The Irish Terrier dog’s breed standards are comprised of the “3R's:” "Racy, red and rectangular." "Racy" means that the Irish Terrier is trim and powerful but not cumbersome or heavy. The Irish Terrier's body shape is rectangular, and its coat color is red – either wheaten, red wheaten, or golden red. A small patch of white may appear on the chest, but nowhere else. Of course, as Terriers get older, they may sport gray hairs just as humans do.

The most arresting thing about the Irish Terrier is its eyes. Piercing with intelligence, they are almost "fiery" – glowing brightly with enthusiasm, exuberance, alertness and love few other breeds convey.

These are smallish dogs, usually only weighing about 25 to 27 pounds, and standing 18 inches at the shoulder.


Characterized by abundant energy, this dog is so fearless and rambunctious that some have called it the "Tasmanian Devil." However, this "devil" can be angelic in personality. Exceedingly sweet and loving, your new pet will be very protective of you and will do anything to make sure you're okay – which is quite astonishing, considering its small size.

Your inquisitive, bold pet needs strong direction, delivered gently with affection. A very intelligent dog, it will learn quickly with proper training as long as it respects you as the boss. If it doesn’t, your dog will try to become your boss instead. This can leave you with a stubborn pet that doesn't listen well. With proper socialization from puppyhood, however, the Irish Terrier is an exceedingly obedient and trainable pet that will abide by your rules, as long as you maintain the dominant upper hand. When you discipline, however, do so with a commanding voice, never with physical punishments which will simply crush its valiant spirit. Crate training (especially useful for housebreaking purposes) can be quite effective, and these dogs can respond to this very well.

Proper Environment

True to the feisty Terrier personality, this dog will need strong owner dominance at all times. Initially bred for hunting small "den" game like water rats, your pet cannot be trusted with small pets. Ideally, the Irish Terrier is best kept in a household with other dogs only, although it relates very well to children, especially active children, since the Irish Terrier needs to be active at all times. This breed likes to dig – and explore – which means you can lose track of your dog if not on leash. Unless securely fenced or somewhere safe like a dog park, your dog should never run free.

If you give your pet enough mental and physical stimulation with plenty of daily outdoor activity, it can tolerate life in a small space and will be generally inactive indoors. Irish Terriers love a good snuggle at the end of the day, after a good romp outside.

If exposed to lots of love and attention, this dog will equally adore a multiple-member family or a single owner. The key to success with this dog is a willingness to provide plenty of time, patience and devotion.


Exceptionally healthy, this dog has a good, long life span ahead, usually about 12 to 15 years. Unlike many other purebred dog breeds, Irish Terriers have no specific health problems. Of course, regular veterinary care is still a must, with regular checkups called for.


Your "red devil's" beautiful coat needs very little care. It will shed very little, and a regular brushing with a stiff-bristled brush and fine-toothed comb should be all that's usually necessary, along with regular trims. If necessary, you can bathe your pet, but as rarely as possible. If your dog is going to be shown formally, it should be hand-stripped or plucked twice a year, just as other similar breeds are. If you're simply going to keep it as a house pet, though, this is not necessary and regular trims should suffice.

Many Irish Terrier owners simply cut their pets' coats short every few months, let them grow out, and then brush relatively regularly to keep the coat free of tangles and to stimulate blood flow for healthy skin. Irish Terrier puppies are considered hypoallergenic, meaning that because they shed very little, even people with allergies can often keep an Irish Terrier puppy as a pet when other dog breeds that shed more heavily may cause allergic reactions.

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