The Irish Terrier is a small-sized dog that belongs to the Terrier group and is one of the native breeds of Ireland. It has a medium length coat known for its bright red colour but the original Irish Terriers were black and tan, black, grey and brindle. The Irish Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds but the earliest of the breed were only shown in the ring in 1870. Compact in size and very active, the Irish Terrier is characterised by a typical terrier attitude: active, lively, unmindful, reckless, yappy, and will not back down from other dogs. Among the notable physical characteristics of the breed are: the typical long terrier head with a hardly visible stop, relatively small dark eyes, small v-shaped ears that drop forward closely to the cheek, muscular body, straight front legs and a very highly set tail that is carried gaily but not over the back.
The coat of the Irish Terrier is harsh and wiry with a broken look, neither soft nor silky. The ideal height for dogs is 48cms while the ideal height for bitches is 46cms.
The exact origin and history of the Irish Terrier is not known but it is widely believed that this dog might have been a descendant of black and tan terrier-type hunting dogs of ancient Britain and Ireland just like the other terrier breeds of Irish and Scottish origins. The word “terrier” is derived from the Latin word terra which means “earth”, and the old terrier-type dogs of varying sizes hunted by digging into the ground to catch wild mammals and birds that were harmful to crops or farm animals such as rodents, foxes, rabbits, moles, and similar animals. The ancient wire-coated black and tan terrier that was described by Greek writers eventually evolved into the breed developed in Ireland with similar qualities to the modern Irish Terrier we know today – hardy, courageous, a skilled vermin hunter, people lover but with a reckless and yappy attitude. There is also an opinion that the Irish Terrier may be related to the Irish Wolfhound because the two have a strong resemblance in coat, colour and outline.
The Irish Terrier is a typical terrier that packs a lot of attitude in a small package. It is active, lively, unmindful, reckless, yappy, loves to hear his own bark, very good with children and quick to posture around other canines and will not back down when challenged. It is an active dog that needs constant physical and mental stimulation to stay happy. A bored terrier is a destructive terrier. It is loyal to its family and tends to bond strong relationship with a single member, often the pack leader whom it has a natural reverence of. Like most terriers, the Irish Terrier is often dominant with other dogs, which can pose a problem if the dog lives with other household canines. Early and proper socialisation is necessary to limit or reduce dominance. This breed also has a strong guarding instincts so it makes an excellent watchdog.
This terrier enjoys learning new things and loves being mentally stimulated. It can easily master new tasks and commands especially if reinforced with food and other positive reinforcement methods such as toys. It may be less eager to please other people unlike other breeds but the Irish Terrier enjoys being challenged mentally and loves solving difficult tasks. Firm, consistent and gentle handling is the best training from a handler who knows terriers. A lot of Irish Terriers can be trained to excel in dog agility, tracking, lure coursing, and obedience training.
Grooming, when done properly will help protect the dog from any weather condition. The harsh and wiry coat is fairly easy to groom. If kept as a pet, as opposed to a show dog, the Irish Terrier’s coat only needs hand-stripping once or twice a year to retain its weather-proof qualities. The wiry coat should not be clipped or it will lose its colour (lighten) and will become softer which will lose its weather-resistant property. Bathing is on an as-needed basis because water and shampoo/soap takes away the natural skin oils which help protect the breed.
Like most terriers, the Irish Terrier is a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Although very rare (thanks to its small stature), there are still some Irish Terriers that are affected by hip dysplasia. It has no known allergies to food unlike other dogs but it is prone to hypothyroidism and eye problems such as cataracts. Some Irish Terriers are known to be affected by elbow dysplasia and Von Willebrand’s disease.
The Irish Terrier, though a small breed is a very active one and requires plenty of exercises. The recommended physical activities for this breed are daily long walks and the chance to run and play off-lead in order to burst its enormous amount of reserve energy. However, caution must be taken when letting the dog outside as it can chase small animals and could get into a fight with other dogs. It is best to let the dog loose in a secured garden with a high fence where it can play ball with the children. It is an adaptable breed and can live in an apartment or condominium, provided that it is exercised on a daily basis.
An Irish Terrier is good with people and loves children. It can tolerate a rough-and-tumble play up to a certain extent. It is an ideal pet for a family with older children. However, it has that typical terrier attitude where it can quickly posture around other dogs and won’t even think twice of backing down when challenged. In that sense, early and proper socialisation is the key to raising an adult Irish Terrier that can get along well with other household pets.