Irish Terriers are elegant, medium-sized dogs with stiff, short, wiry outer coats that lie close to the body. The coat comes in golden red, bright red, red wheaten, or wheaten, and the undercoat is finer and softer and a bit lighter in color than the outer coat. Puppies may be born with black hair, but this coat color disappears before adulthood. Irish Terriers have small, dark brown eyes and V-shaped ears. They measure 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 25 to 27 pounds.
Training should work on establishing boundaries, channeling energy, and reinforcing rules.
Smart, spirited, and adaptable dogs, Irish Terriers make great companion animals. They are deeply loyal to their family, get along great with children they're raised with, and are excellent watchdogs. They are fun and affectionate, form strong bonds with their families, but need lots of physical activity to keep their high energy levels in check.
The Irish Terrier has been given many nicknames. One is Daredevil, a nod to the breed's total disregard for danger. These dogs have also been called the d'Artagnan of the show ring for their style, confidence, and winning ways.
Irish Terriers are loyal, affectionate, and playful, but they are also independent, reckless, and brash. These traits make the breed a fun, but sometimes challenging, companion animal. These dogs are good-natured and get along with most people, including children, but their relationship with other animals depends on whether they were raised together or not. Because these dogs were bred to hunt vermin, small animals may not be safe in their presence. Irish Terriers are tender with and protective of family members, and these dogs make excellent watchdogs.
To keep the Irish Terrier happy and to ensure the best behavior possible, plenty of exercise is necessary to provide an outlet for excess energy. These dogs are always ready for adventure and action and benefit from time exploring and hunting. Daily walks or jogs, when combined with sufficient free play and time in a securely fenced yard, will keep these terriers happy, healthy, and out of trouble.
Purchasing or adopting an Irish Terrier can be very rewarding, but the breed's high energy level, daredevil attitude, and tendency toward mischief may make it a poor choice for families with little patience or free time.
A relatively healthy breed, Irish Terriers are known to be affected by a condition called urolithiasis, which occurs when stones or crystals develop in the urinary tract and cause symptoms. Additionally, these dogs are more prone than other breeds to develop muscular dystrophy, a heredity condition that eventually results in death. Cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and some other eye conditions are also seen in Irish Terriers.
Another condition known to affect Irish Terriers is hyperkeratosis, which is a thickening of the pads of the feet. It may also affect the nose. This condition can be very painful and leads to the development of erosions, fissures, ulcers, and cracks in the edges of the paw pads. Walking may be difficult. Dogs known to have this condition should not be bred.
Routine veterinary care, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and timely vaccinations help ensure Irish Terriers live a long and active life of up to 14 years.
Intelligent and fairly easy to train, Irish Terriers respond well to consistency, fairness, and positive reinforcement. The breed can be very independent-minded and stubborn, so all training attempts must involve time and patience. Without early training, Irish Terriers may not grow into the respectful adults they can and should be.
Always active and busy, these dogs can't help but get into trouble unless they are tired out with plenty of exercise and trained to seek out positive outlets for their energy. A bored, lonely, or untrained Irish Terrier is likely to steal food, shred paper, bark excessively, dig up the yard, chase other animals, or otherwise misbehave. Training should work on establishing boundaries, channeling energy, and reinforcing rules. Additionally, this breed is known to act out when left alone for long periods. If a family member cannot be around most of the time, a dog sitter should be considered.
Early socialization is just as important for Irish Terriers as early training. Without exposure to different sights, sounds, smells, and animals early in life, the Irish Terrier may fail to develop the tolerance necessary for family life. These dogs tend to be aggressive toward dogs of the same sex, but training and socialization can minimize that.
Irish Terriers are fairly easy to groom and shed very little. Their wire coats need combing a few times weekly with a slicker brush to remove dead hair, and they should be scissored or shaped every few months to improve their appearance. This can be done at home or by a professional groomer. Stripping is best done by a professional.
These dogs rarely need bathing, but a gentle canine shampoo can wash away harmful or sticky substances from the coat when necessary. Occasional bathing may also help reduce shedding, if ever it becomes a problem. Using a pH-balanced shampoo will prevent skin irritation and dryness and enable more frequent bathing.
The nails need trimming every few weeks, and the teeth require regular brushing to promote dental health, prevent periodontal disease, and keep the breath smelling fresh. About once weekly, the ears should be checked for excess wax accumulation and cleaned with a veterinarian-approved otic cleanser and cotton ball, if necessary. Any signs of ear infection, such as redness, odor, discharge, swelling, or pain, should be reported to a veterinarian right away.
Irish Terriers are one of the oldest terriers, and the breed was originally used in its native Ireland to hunt small game, herd sheep, and guard personal property. The dogs were beloved for their intelligence and protectiveness. Irish Terriers are the only terriers with a solid red coat, although they may not have originally come in this color. Until the end of the 19th century, the dogs were primarily colored gray, brindle, and black and tan.
The first of the breed with the name Irish Terrier appeared in a dog show in 1875 in Glasgow. Four years after the show, dogs named Erin and Killney Boy were bred and produced many champions, thus becoming the official "mother" and "father" of the breed. From this point on, the breed increased in popularity and in number.
During World War I, the Irish Terrier served as a sentinel and messenger, once again proving its usefulness. In America, these dogs are primarily kept as companion animals due to their playful, independent, and affectionate personalities.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Irish Terrier in 1885.