Irish Terrier

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The Irish Terrier breed has tons of energy and loves to dig, play fetch, hide and seek and other highly active outdoor games.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
13 to 15 years
Size:

Medium

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Low

Temperament:
High-energyLoyalAffectionate
Coat Color:
RedRed WheatenWheaten

Best For

The Irish Terrier breed is best suited for active pet parents and families with kids since they require plenty of exercise and love to be around people. Their craving for attention, strong prey drive and protective nature means they're a better fit for single pet households. These energetic pups can live in apartments or homes of any size provided they're equipped with a fenced yard or have access to recreational outdoor spaces.

Irish Terrier Traits

What makes the Irish Terrier an Irish Terrier? Let's find out how they stack up.

Irish Terrier Temperament

Irish Terriers are rural-bred, country-fed go-getters who have successfully transitioned into fun-loving family pets over the years. They’re a bold and curious breed who embrace every new challenge like a champ. Dog sports such as agility obstacle courses and interactive puzzle toys will be a hit with this pup, whose ancestors worked multiple jobs—from hunting small game to standing guard—with ease.

This friendly pooch craves recognition for good work and responds well to rewards, whether in the form of treats or a new toy. Irish Terriers are friendly and playful, making them great dogs for families with children, and while they can sometimes get a little rowdy, they aren’t prone to biting. They tend to be barkers and diggers, though, particularly if they don’t get enough stimulation in the form of play sessions and walks. So for a well-behaved dog, it’s totally worth it to take an extra couple of spins around the block to burn off that high energy.

While Irish Terriers are exceptionally compatible with kids, they’re not as thrilled with dogs and cats in the house. In fact, they may be aggressive toward other dogs or people they feel are invading their territory. On the plus side, their alert and observant qualities make them natural-born watchdogs with a powerful bark that would make any intruder think twice. And, like a true canine BFF, this bearded beauty likes to be the center of your world and will happily monopolize all your attention if you let them. All things considered, Irish Terriers are full of personality and are an even-tempered, manageable breed.

How to Care for a Irish Terrier

Activity, both physical and mental, may be priority No. 1 for busy bee Irish Terriers, but their intelligence, eagerness to please, moderate grooming needs and affectionate nature make them relatively easy to care for. Though they thrive in active family homes with kids but no other pets, their playful ways will fill your home—big or small—with love and laughter.

Irish Terrier Health

The life expectancy of an Irish Terrier is 13 to 15 years. This is a strong, ancient breed and is generally healthy, though they are prone to a few health issues. With regular vet check-ups and your knowledge of what to watch out for, your pet can live a long and happy life.

  • Obesity: Weight gain can be a problem for terriers, including the Irish Terrier, and it can lead to digestive issues, joint problems and heart disease. Leading an active lifestyle, limiting treats and following your vet’s recommendations when choosing a commercial dog food can help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Bladder Stones: Bladder stones are genetic, and Irish Terriers are more prone to them than other breeds. Stones can be painful and make it difficult for your dog to urinate regularly. Symptoms include blood in your dog’s urine or straining to pee. Depending on the type of stones, treatments can range from a special diet aimed at dissolving the stones to surgical or non-surgical procedures.
  • Dry Skin: While Irish Terriers generally have fewer skin issues than other terriers—for example, the West Highland Terrier—some do develop a severe flaky and itchy skin condition called ichthyosis. While there is no cure, limiting baths and using prescription shampoos offer varying degrees of relief. There is a genetic test to help breeders prevent this condition in future generations.
  • Hyperkeratosis: This is a relatively rare condition in which a dog’s footpads become hardened and can crack. Aside from a crusty and dry appearance, symptoms include limping, reduced activity and bleeding paw pads. A genetic test has recently been developed to detect this condition, and although there is no cure, vets can prescribe ointments or suggest hair trimming around the pads to ease discomfort.

Irish Terrier History

In the rolling green fields of Ireland back in the late 1800s, Irish Terriers were as common as three-leaf clovers—and with that dense and wiry coat, even a couple hundred drizzly days a year never rained on this breed’s parade. Originally bred as farm dogs, Irish Terriers quickly proved they had the brains and versatility to expand their resume, which they did in a big way by acting as watchdogs, hunting dogs and even transporting messages for the military and working as sentinels during World War I.

Irish Terriers are one of the oldest terrier breeds and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. The name “terrier” comes from the Latin word “terra,” or earth, because these dogs love to burrow and dig up rabbits and moles (but hopefully not your flower bed).

Curious about their origin? Rumor has it the Irish Terrier may be a descendent of the Black and Tan Terrier, which is now extinct. Today, Irish Terriers have the trademark red coat that makes this breed so unique. While they originated in Ireland, these dogs were pretty popular in America in the 1920s, when they became the mascot of the University of Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” football team, a title the terriers held all the way until the ’60s. No wonder this breed looks so proud!

If interested in having an Irish Terrier in your life, where do you start? You can find information on reputable breeders at the American Kennel Club’s website. The average price of an Irish Terrier ranges from $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the breeder. Buying from a reputable breeder means you’re more likely to be getting a pup with pedigree papers and who has likely been screened for health and temperament issues. You can also get in touch with Irish Terrier rescue organizations to adopt one of these distinctive dogs or get in touch with your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Do Irish Terriers shed?

Irish Terriers shed very little but do require brushing two to three times a week to remove the dead hair from their wiry coats.

Are Irish Terrier good family dogs?

Irish Terriers make excellent family dogs! They’re energetic and playful, and they love to play tag and fetch with humans of all ages.

Are Irish Terriers aggressive?

Irish Terriers are bold and daring and have been known to get aggressive towards other dogs, particularly larger breeds. It’s a good idea to socialize your Irish Terrier puppy at a young age so they learn to play nice.

How big do Irish Terriers get?

Male Irish Terrier dogs can be up to 27 pounds, while females are usually around 25 pounds. Both males and females are typically about 18 inches tall at the shoulder.

Do Irish Terriers bark a lot?

Irish Terriers are quite vocal and will often bark to alert their owners of visitors or to communicate needs like going outside. Excessive barking can typically be controlled, particularly if training begins at a young age.

What are the most popular Irish Terrier names?

The most popular Irish Terrier names are often related to their native Ireland, including names like Finn, Lucky, Molly, Murphy, and Paddy. Other popular names include Beau, Bella, Buddy, Charlie, Chloe, Coco, Dexter, Dixie, Jack, Lola, Maya, Nala, Sasha, Sophie, Tucker and Zeus. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Irish Terrier dog mixes?

The most common Irish Terrier mixes are:

  • Irish Terrier-Poodle mix (Irish Troodle)
  • Irish Terrier-Schnauzer mix
  • Irish Terrier-Labrador Retriever mix (Irish Terrier Lab)
  • Irish Terrier-Chihuahua mix
  • Irish Terrier-Jack Russell mix
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Top Takeaways

High on life and ready to take on the world—which they could do with one paw tied behind their backs—Irish Terriers are a bold, courageous breed with deep Irish roots. These dynamic dogs may require lots of exercise, but their big personalities make spending time with them a ton of fun. And don’t worry if you get a digger or barker. With a little training and loving patience, these clever pups will rarely step out of line.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. John Brandy, DVM with Village Veterinary Hospital in Canastota, N.Y., and Connecticut-based Jennifer Dematteo, owner of training and dog-walking service Jenny Walks the Block.

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