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Irish Terrier Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Irish Terrier

Height: 18 – 20 inches
Weight: 24 – 26 pounds
Lifespan: 13 – 15 years
Colors: Red, wheaten
Suitable for: Active families and individuals, those with no other pets, those looking for a companion
Temperament: Intelligent, Energetic, Lively, Respectful

The Irish Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds in the world. He was bred to catch rats and other vermin. He retains his prey drive, which means that he may instinctively chase small animals including cats. He also tends to be aggressive towards other dogs, so he may not be suited to life with other canines.

However, he is very affectionate with his human owners, and with early and continued socialization, his aggressiveness towards dogs can be tempered. Such is the bond he forms with his human owner, and his need for mental stimulation, that he does not tend to do well on his own, and separation anxiety can lead to destructive activity. He is a very agile, energetic, and watchful dog, which makes him the perfect guard dog for your home and family.

Unfortunately, he can be a challenge to train, but if you can convince him that training is his idea, then it will go a lot more smoothly and you should enjoy a good level of success.

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Irish Terrier Puppies

irish terrier puppy
Image Credit: Mariya Kuzema, Shutterstock


The Irish Terrier breed is a purebred breed. This means that their price is higher than hybrids and unknown mixes. However, he is not as popular as a lot of other breeds in the US. While this means he can be more difficult to find, and you may need to put your name on a waiting list for the arrival of a puppy, it also means that they do not attract as high a price as other breeds.

Although the Irish Terrier is a purebred, some examples of this breed are found in shelters. If you are considering adopting, rather than buying, you must find out the reason they were put up for adoption. These dogs can be aggressive towards other dogs and animals. They can also be quite vocal. It is very rare for them to be aggressive towards humans, and the most likely cause of their being left at the shelter is that they were destructive or required more training and exercise than their previous owner could provide.

If you are looking to buy an Irish Terrier puppy, you should do your research. Get a list of recognized breeders from the kennel club. Join breed clubs and groups. Ask other owners and watch breed and class shows to find those breeders that do specialize in this terrier. Visit breeders that you are considering using. Ensure that the puppy’s parents have been properly screened for common illnesses and other conditions. Ask any questions you have about the breed and try to meet at least one of the parents. You should also ensure that you receive any kennel club registration papers, especially if you want to show or breed the dog yourself.

When visiting a breeder, be prepared for them to ask as many questions as you do. They have a reputation to upkeep, and this means that they want to match their dogs to the right owners.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Terrier

1. They Can Be Aggressive Towards Other Dogs

The Irish Terrier is one of several breeds that are known to be aggressive towards other dogs, especially those of the same sex. This can include dogs in the same household who they will want to dominate.

More commonly, though, it means that they will become aggressive when meeting other dogs out in the park or on the street. Early socialization and steady training will help to combat some of this tendency, but it is a natural trait and it is virtually impossible to train out completely. As such, you should always be alert to the potential danger that this poses. It may be necessary to muzzle your dog while walking, especially if he has shown aggression towards other dogs in the past.

It is almost impossible to completely avoid other dogs, and you will need to learn how to behave when walking your dog and you do meet other canines. The Irish Terrier does not back down from a fight, even if he is losing, which is why he has earned the nickname of the “daredevil”.

2. They Have A Tendency To Dig

Terriers were not only bred to catch vermin above the surface, but they were used to dig down to catch burrowing animals like rats and rabbits. Even if your dog is not a working Terrier, he may retain some of this innate sense.

If you have moles or rats living under the surface of your garden, expect your new pet to dig to try and find them. They may also try and dig under fences and walls if they know there is potential prey on the other side. In fact, thanks to their skill at jumping, it can be difficult to pen this breed in. If they are determined, they will find a way around, over, or under any obstacle that stands in their way.

3. Irish Terriers Are Known To Be Barkers

Not all Terriers are barkers, but the Irish Terrier is. This makes him a great guard dog who will alert you to strangers and anybody else approaching your property. While this can be a desirable trait in some instances, it can also be annoying for you, your family, your neighbors, and the people you meet in the street.

The best approach to curb this trait is to congratulate or praise them for their initial barking, when warning you of a potential threat, before moving on to a new activity that will get their attention away from it and stop them barking. If you consistently do this, they will eventually learn to give a short burst of barking before stopping.

Irish soft coated wheaten terrier_dien_shutterstock
Image Credit: Dien, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Terrier🧠

Some breeds are named Terriers because they look like a Terrier breed. The Irish Terrier is so-called because he is a Terrier. This means that he will have all the attributes associated with this type of working dog. He will be alert, active, and ready for action. He will need regular exercise, will want to hunt animals that are smaller than him, and he will dig and jump to catch his quarry.

His need for space and desire for physical and mental stimulation means that this breed will not usually adapt well to living in an apartment. If you do try and keep an Irish Terrier in a property with no yard, you should expect to take him on three good walks a day to provide the stimulation he needs.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?🏡

The Irish Terrier can make a wonderful family pet. He will get along with all family members, including children. He may be a companion for kids and will get on especially well with those that are old and mature enough to play. You should always monitor contact between very small children and Terriers. No matter how understanding and loving the dog is, they can react badly to children grabbing, poking, and prodding at them. This may mean barking, but it can also mean nipping.

Irish Terriers do not do well when left alone for long periods. If he will be left alone for several hours a day, every day, you should consider getting a different breed. A lonely Irish Terrier can very easily become a destructive Irish Terrier, which means that nothing in the house will be safe from his chewing.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?🐶 😽

While the breed is a good choice for families, it is not the best choice for families with pets. The Terrier is known for being aggressive with other dogs, and especially those of the same sex. He will want to assert his dominance as the pack leader, and he can become aggressive with any other dog that he believes is challenging this position. What’s more, he won’t back down from a challenge or a fight.

The Terrier was bred to catch rats, rabbits, and vermin. As such, his instincts are to chase animals that are smaller than him. Although it is possible to house an Irish Terrier with a cat, if they are introduced when he is a puppy, there is always a danger. He will always see the cat as being a challenge and will chase him even if it is only for fun.

If you have smaller pets, like rats or guinea pigs, you should never leave them alone with your Irish Terrier. You may also find that the dog becomes obsessed with watching them through cage bars, which can lead to stress and distress for your smaller pets.

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Things to Know When Owning an Irish Terrier:

It is important, when choosing any family pet, that you find the one that best matches your lifestyle and your requirements, and that will fit in with your family. Below are some of the most important factors when considering buying an Irish Terrier for your home.

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

The exact amount, and even type, of food that you give your dog depends on many factors. His age, weight, activity level, and any illness that he might suffer from should be taken into account, but you can expect to feed your Irish Terrier between 1 and 1.5 cups per day. This should be separated into two meals each day. Feeding in separate meals not only reduces the chance of your dog wolfing every bite down in one sitting, but it makes it easier for you to accurately measure and monitor his intake. Free feeding can lead to overfeeding which, in turn, can lead to obesity and weight-related illnesses. It takes a lot longer, and much more work, for your dog to lose weight than to put it on.

Irish Terrier
Image By: congerdesign, pixabay


As a rat-catcher and even a herder, your Irish Terrier would have been used to work the fields for several hours a day, every day. He would have worked tirelessly throughout this time, with a single-minded and goal-oriented drive. Even though he is often kept as a companion dog today, he still has high exercise requirements and seemingly boundless energy. Be prepared to put a lot of time into walking your Irish Terrier, especially if you are expecting to wear him out. He may require three walks a day, usually between 30 minutes and an hour each walk. He would definitely benefit from being given jobs to do, will take capably to agility classes, and he can easily cope with other agility based and high-octane exercises.


The Irish Terrier is considered a very intelligent dog, and there is no doubting his dedication to his owner and family. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to be easy to train. They are very independent and if they don’t like the idea of training, they simply won’t do it. This means that the most effective way of training this breed is to make them think that something was their idea.

No matter how much training you give this breed, he can be quite reckless and this may come across as disobedience or even stupidity. For example, if he is chasing something that he believes to be prey, he will not be swayed by your recall efforts or even approaching cars.

If you can convince your Irish Terrier to embark on a training regime with you, his intelligence means that he will pick things up quickly and should not need too many repetitions before he understands what you expect of him.

Socialization should be considered an important component in training the breed. Socialization teaches a dog that he does not need to be afraid of new situations or new people when he meets them, and it can control this aggression to some degree. No matter how much socialization your Irish Terrier enjoys, you should always be prepared for the fact that he may still try to attack other dogs.

irish terrier
Image by: PxHere

Grooming ✂️

The Irish Terrier has dense and wiry hair. It is very difficult to see the dog’s skin under the fur because it grows so tightly. The breed has a double coat which helps to keep him warm and dry. This breed is sometimes described as being hypoallergenic. While there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog breed, owners with allergies can sometimes cope with the Irish Terrier breed because of his short hair.

Use a natural bristle brush and brush your Terrier once a week. This helps remove dead and dying hair and it prevents your dog from getting matted and knotted, which is uncomfortable and can lead to further complaints. You should only bathe a dog when it is absolutely necessary because it can strip the natural protective oil in your dog’s coat and leave them susceptible to skin complaints.

You will also need to brush your dog’s teeth. This should be done two or three times a week, daily if your dog will tolerate it. This helps to protect against decay, tartar, and other dental hygiene problems. Start when he is a puppy because not all dogs are comfortable having you brush their teeth or put your hand in their mouth.

It is also a good idea to start clipping their nails when they are a puppy. Many dogs do not like having their feet touched, and it is very difficult to accurately and successfully clip a wriggling dog’s claws. You will usually need to clip a dog’s claws every month, but it might be necessary more often if they do not walk on abrasive surfaces like concrete.

Some Irish Terriers have their ears taped at the age of around 6 months. This involves gluing and taping their ears to their head to ensure that they fall in the right position to meet breed standards. If you are showing your dog, speak to a professional groomer to ensure that this is done properly.

Health and Conditions❤️

The Irish Terrier is a hardy breed with a long average lifespan, and he has very few health conditions. With that said, there are some conditions that you should keep an eye out for. Look for symptoms of the following conditions and seek veterinarian help if you spot any.

Minor Conditions
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Myelopathy
  • Hyperkeratosis
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia

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Male vs Female

The male Irish Terrier will usually grow one or two inches taller and weigh one or two pounds more than the female. The male might also be more aggressive, especially around other males, and if he has not been neutered. With that said, socialization and training, as well as the attributes of the individual dog, are far more likely to determine traits like these.

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The Irish Terrier is an ancient breed from Ireland. He is a Terrier by nature, having been bred to chase and catch animals like rats and rabbits. He can burrow and dig, as well as jump, and although he will make an excellent companion for humans and a great family pet, he will not usually do well with other dogs, cats, or other animals because of his prey drive.

Expect to provide plenty of exercise and ensure that your Irish Terrier is not left for several hours at a time, every day. A bored or lonely Irish Terrier is likely to become destructive and may develop a host of behavioral issues that are very difficult to correct.

We hope that after reading you’re able to determine if an Irish Terrier is the right pup for you and your family!

Featured Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

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