Irish Terrier

"The Lucky Leprechaun Dog"

Photo of Irish Terrier


Terriers have been around for a long time, but throughout most of their history they were bred for function, and little care was taken to document their breeding, or even their existence. We know the Irish Terrier originated in Ireland, perhaps descending from a cross of the old Black and Tan Terrier to a racier solid-colored red or wheaten terrier. Some people even think the breed has some Irish Wolfhound behind it. At first Irish Terriers came in a variety of colors, including black and tan, gray, and brindle, but by the late 1800s they were known for their solid red color. Irish Terriers were bred to hunt fox, otter, and other unwanted small mammals, and they were extremely good at it. In World War I, they also proved they were adept at serving as sentries and messengers. The breed was also a formidable competitor in the show ring in those early years. In the 1880s, Irish Terriers were the fourth most popular of any dog breed in England. The breed also became popular in America, where it ranked 13th among all breeds in the 1920s. Now the Irish Terrier ranks 123rd among the 155 breeds registered by the AKC.


The Irish Terrier is fearless and fun-loving, with a mind of his own. This combination makes for some interesting predicaments unless you take care to prevent whatever mischief and mayhem he may have planned for the day. Given a chance to exercise and play, he's surprisingly well-mannered indoors. He does not tend to play well with others, so may do best as the only dog. He loves to hunt and chase, and may include your cat as a target unless raised with cats.


The Irish is the quintessential long-legged terrier, actually the raciest member of the terrier group. He does not have the short back so many long-legged terriers have, but instead is more evenly proportioned. His coat is dense, wiry, and broken (that is, neither straight nor curly, but kind of crooked), and ranges in color from red to wheaten. His head is long and fairly narrow, with small eyes and an intense expression. His small, V-shaped ears fold forward. His tail is set high, with the last quarter of it traditionally docked in America.


The Irish Terrier is smart – so smart he makes training a challenge. But he must be trained, and he responds best to positive rewards since he will always win a battle of the wills. Once you convince him that training pays off, he's a quick study. However, he still doesn't tend to listen if he's off-leash and something more entertaining comes into view. He is a terrier, after all!

Grooming & Care

The greatest challenge with an Irish Terrier is occupying his active mind. He needs lots of toys and games, as well as a good walk or romp every day. Coat care is not difficult, requiring combing once or twice a week. To look his best, he needs to be stripped or clipped two to four times a year. Stripping (pulling out the longer dead hairs) maintains the coat's harsh texture, and is how show dogs are groomed. Clipping is much easier, but leaves the coat too soft for the show ring.

Health Concerns

The Irish Terrier has no major health concerns, but some have been known to suffer from urinary stones.

Famous Irish Terrier

Rexxx, the title canine character in the 2007 movie "Firehouse Dog" was played by four different Irish Terriers.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 5
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 54
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 14
Challenges Barks a lot; will chase small animals.
Height 18 to 20 inches
Weight 25 to 36 pounds
Life 13 to 16 years
Home Alone 83
With Kids 86
With Strangers 113
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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