Breed Type: Terrier
Country of Origin: Ireland
Also known as: Irish Red Terrier
Males: Height: 45cm cm Weight: 12 kg
Females: Height: 44cm Weight: 11kg
Exercise Requirements: Mild to Moderate
Care Requirements: Moderate
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Best Suited as: Guard, Work, and Hunting Dogs
The Irish Terrier is a breed of dog long known for their skills for working around a farm. The terrier’s main purpose on a farm was for controlling vermin while also guarding the farm as a whole throughout the Irish countryside. Not only did they excel at guarding the farm and getting rid of rats and other vermin, they were very skilled at hunting both on land and in water. The Irish Terrier is the only type of terrier that is always red in color thus easily identified as the Irish Terrier when compared to other terriers.
Irish Terriers have the afore-mentioned red coat that is so easily identifiable and the coat is also why they are so well suited to farm life. Their hair is wiry and short and very well insulating which makes the Terriers able to tolerate adverse weather conditions since the coat is also cold- and water-resistant. Their coats are so dense that it takes concerted effort to reach their skin directly through fingers or by water, etc. Although the coat of an Irish Terrier is always red, it does come in various shades of red from bright, vivid reds to golden or wheat red and various shades in between. These terriers will occasionally have a small blotch of white on the chest but that isn’t seen very often on purebred Irish Terriers.
The medium-sized build of the Terrier allows them to appear strong without looking heavy or slow. Their cute whiskers are one of physical traits that is most enjoyed with Irish Terriers. When those whiskers are combined with lively dark eyes, folded over ears, and bushy eyebrows, the face of an Irish Terrier is hard to resist and always brings a smile.
Irish Terriers do not differ from other terrier breeds in terms of personality in that they have a lot of it packed into their small bodies. They are very active and love to run and play. Irish Terriers also love to entertain themselves with their own barking which can be both amusing and annoying at times.
They are very confident animals and will quickly assert their “in-charge” role with any other dogs that venture into their space. If other dogs try to challenge that authority, Terriers refuse to back down or submit.
These sassy dogs overflowing with personality are easily the center of attention in any room which they absolutely love. If they believe they are not getting enough attention in appropriate ways, Irish Terriers don’t mind turning to mischief in order to get attention. Many owners of these spunky dogs are sure that they are quite capable of “talking back” and arguing with their owners is fun to them.
In general, Irish Terriers are tolerant and patient with children and they love playing with them – especially if they are willing to chase the Terrier as that is one of their favorite games to play with anyone willing to engage in that way. Irish Terriers eventually wind down each evening after being a whirlwind of activity throughout the day, and they are more than willing to cuddle and relax with their beloved owners.
The exact origins of the Irish Terrier breed is not completely clear, but these terriers have been mentioned in ancient writings for hundreds of years. They are known to be one of the oldest types of terrier breeds and are thought to possibly be descendants of the black-and-tan terriers from Great Britain as well as descendants of Wheaten Terriers.
Irish Terriers were purposely bred for skills needed with farming and hunting endeavors on the Irish countryside. Their loyalty and hard-working characteristics made them quite the valuable farming asset for both protection and working tasks. When threatened or the family is being threatened, Irish Terriers were aggressively protective and would fight to the death if need be regardless of the consequences and they retain that protective loyalty to this day.
Another historical fact worth mentioning with the Irish Terriers is that they were used extensively during World War I to carry messages back and forth from the front lines of the war. Their valiant bravery for this task is documented with well-earned praise.
Care and Grooming:
The short and wiry-haired coat of the Irish Terriers needs moderate regular grooming including weekly brushing in order to keep the coat clean and healthy. They shed very little and only need occasional bathing when dirty. Their coat should be hand-stripped 2-3 times a year in order to keep it show-ready and well groomed in appearance year-round. Owners can choose to trim their Terriers instead of hand stripping because it is cheaper and easier than the stripping that is necessary for a show dog.
Irish Terriers ears need to be regularly cleaned with cotton balls and any liquid cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. While cleaning the ears they should be checked for signs of infection as their folding ears limit air circulation and encourage wax build-up. It is recommended that their teeth be brushed once a week to promote tooth and gum health as well as prevent bad breath. If Irish Terriers don’t have enough outdoor activity to wear down their nails naturally, their nails should be trimmed once a month.
Irish Terriers usually live between 12 and 14 years on average, and are known as a very healthy breed with very few genetically inherited health conditions. While relatively uncommon, the few conditions thought to be genetic to the terriers are problems with footpad health, cataracts, thyroid issues, and melanoma.
Suitability as a Pet:
Irish Terriers do not need a lot of vigorous exercise and are smaller sized so they work well in apartment environments but will adapt to just about any environment. Their personalities pop out and work with whatever environment they are in – on the farm Irish Terriers love to hunt rodents and get rid of vermin around the farm while in the city they quite enjoy their short walks around the neighborhood that allow them to “survey their domain” and assert ownership while doing so.
They should get a short walk everyday or some roughhousing playtime in the yard and they need a chance to run about once a week. Any outdoor activities trigger the Terriers strong inclination to chase so playing ball or running off steam with children playing are usually a great option for them. Even indoor games of rolling around a ball or playing tug-of-war work well to get the Terrier enough exercise and entertainment.
Irish Terriers must be on a leash at all times because of their strong desire to chase anything including cars, kids, or other dogs. Because their personalities are dominant, they work best in homes where there are no other pets. They will treat other dogs with aggression and will chase any small pet in the home including dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. Even when playing in yards that are fenced, Terriers still need to be monitored because they are quite willing to dig under fences if they are bored and looking for entertainment.
In terms of training, Irish Terriers are like other terriers in that they can be a bit challenging to train so are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. Because they are so sassy and tend to believe that they are the ones in charge, training of these Terriers must be completely consistent at all times. Any time you allow them to act inappropriately gives them a green light to continue to do what they want which doesn’t work well for obedience results.
It is best to train Irish Terriers using treats and positive praise and patience while at the same time asserting your own authority calmly. If you mistreat or respond harshly and punitively with an Irish Terrier, it will just ignore you all together and training efforts will be unsuccessful. They do tend to respond to harsh treatment defensively and will bite or snap at anyone if they don’t care for how they are being treated.
Once an Irish Terrier understands and accepts the trainer’s authority and leadership, they then are easily trained for complicated tricks and agility skills that will help in keeping their very intelligent and active brains busy with appropriate activities.
Irish Terrier Organisations in Australia
Irish Terrier Club
Irish Terrier Organisations in the UK
The North of England Irish Terrier Club
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