The Irish Terrier is a regal dog with a striking red coat and a long history as a purposeful working companion. Admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1885, the Irish Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds. Famed in its home country, the Irish Terrier is not hugely popular outside of Ireland and the UK, holding its place as the 116th most popular breed of 193 AKC dogs. Used in World War I as messenger and sentry for Ireland, the Irish Terrier is intelligent and adaptable, and has been serving people faithfully for well over a century.
Irish Terrier Appearance
The Irish Terrier is easily identified by the fact that it is the only all-red terrier breed. The Irish Terrier is also quite fast as a result of its long legs and lean muscle. Rather leggy in its appearance, the Irish Terrier stands 18 inches in height, sporting a slender, yet sturdy build. Expected weights for an Irish Terrier fall in the range of 25 to 27 pounds.
A thick coat of wiry hair comes in three colors, all of which are AKC standard. These include red, red wheaten, and wheaten, and marking are not present in the coat of an Irish Terrier. The Irish Terrier’s head, like the rest of its body, is fairly long, yet proportionate. Its folded ears sit forward on a flat skull, and the breed has a strong, straight back, and a deep chest with sprung ribs.
The Irish Terrier has a reputation for toughness and a relentless work ethic. Throughout the breed’s 13 to 15-year life expectancy, the Irish Terrier is glad to stay active and work faithfully beside its owner. Irish Terriers are excellent farmhands and can prove useful in several different tasks from guarding and ratting to hunting.
For all its fearlessness and courage, the Irish Terrier has a soft spot for its family. The Irish Terrier will love to spend time with and express affection toward all members of its family. But don’t be fooled, the Irish Terrier is always on guard, particularly when it comes to its home turf. Irish Terriers have a tendency to be territorial and can be expected to bark or show signs of hostility toward unfamiliar guests. The Irish Terrier is great with children in its family, though it may be hesitant when it comes to young strangers.
As a member of the terrier family, it should come as no surprise that the Irish Terrier does not take well to cats and other smaller mammals. This breed is instinctually drawn to the chase and has spent much of its history hunting rats and chasing away small animals. Given its proficiency as a sentry, the Irish Terrier can also be territorial and may butt heads with other dogs, particularly of the same sex. The Irish Terrier is certainly not shy, and will often be heard barking at anything out of the ordinary, making it a great watchdog, but a potential nuisance for apartment dwellers.
Caring for an Irish Terrier
The Irish Terrier is an intelligent, strong-willed dog, and owners should take care to educate themselves on some of this breed’s habits and particular needs.
Irish Terriers are an active breed that depend on a food with a strong nutritional profile to help fuel its body through a hard day’s work. A natural, high-quality protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, or rabbit should be the backbone of the Irish Terrier’s diet. Since Irish Terriers may have allergic reactions to certain types of grain, a grain free dog food may be a great choice for this breed. In other cases, a dry dog food will be ideal for its higher caloric content. Speak to a veterinary professional to determine which food and feeding schedule is best for your Irish Terrier.
The Irish Terrier is an athletic dog breed that requires plenty of daily exercise in order to maintain its health, both physical and mental. Since this breed’s intelligence and energy are best put to use when working, it can be helpful to give the Irish Terrier a meaningful job. For more domestic Irish Terriers, several walks of moderate length and some time in a fenced-in backyard should be adequate. An electronic dog door and an electric dog fence can go a long way in keeping the Irish Terrier well-exercised. Unfortunately, Irish Terriers that don’t find a proper outlet for their energy will often turn destructive if left to their own devices.
Intelligent and happy to please its owner, the Irish Terrier is a fine student for training. In order to ensure a smooth training process, Irish Terriers should be enrolled in a puppy training course or obedience classes to help form good habits early on. Since the Irish Terrier is such an independent breed, establishing a hierarchy and strict boundaries is of the utmost importance. The Irish Terrier may be a bit stubborn at times, and it is imperative that owners take the time to bond with this breed and forge a connection based on mutual trust, respect, and positive encouragement.
Irish Terriers generally live full, healthy lives, but there are a couple of conditions that this breed may be more prone to. Owners should be aware of the potential risks and maintain a watchful eye for any symptoms of these health conditions.
Irish Terriers of European descent are known to be at greater risk for hyperkeratosis than their North American-bred counterparts. Hyperkeratosis is a condition that involves an increase in keratin on a dog’s foot, causing pads to become hardened and cracked. Since hyperkeratosis can be inherited, a dog DNA test can help reveal if a particular Irish Terrier is at higher risk for this condition. The Irish Terrier may also be predisposed to Cystinuria, an inherited disorder that causes kidney stones. Unfortunately, no genetic testing is yet available for detecting Cystinuria in Irish Terriers.
In rare cases, Irish Terriers can suffer from muscular dystrophy, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and other eye problems common in nearly all dog breeds, Owners should always make sure to bring the Irish Terrier, or any dog, to a veterinary professional for regular wellness checkups, and to clean the dog’s ears and teeth, checking for any signs of infection.