Irish Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

The Irish Terrier is among the boldest and most animated of the terriers. These loyal, spirited dogs are always ready for action and adventure. Energetic and intense, they have been nicknamed “Daredevils” by their fanciers because they are feisty, impulsive, and fearless with no regard for the consequences of their actions. As a result, they frequently need protection from themselves. The intense Irish Terrier plays hard and can be a good companion for active, older children but is too rough for younger children. Although they are affectionate with those they know, they are somewhat distrusting of strangers, ready to let you know immediately upon their arrival. Most are protective and make an unusually good guardian, especially for their size. They are aggressive with dogs that try to assert their dominance; some are aggressive with all dogs. Hunters of nuisance mammals, they will likely attack small pets. Irish Terriers need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. They move swiftly and are light on their feet. Leashes and secure fences at least six feet high are a necessity to contain them. But make sure you check the fences often, Irish Terriers are great diggers. Stubborn and self-assured, they will need to be reminded of their place in the family on a regular basis. They can be problem barkers.

Physical Characteristics

The medium-sized Irish Terrier has a slender but muscular build. They stand about 18 inches tall and weigh 25-27 pounds. They have a hard, wiry coat that comes in the colors of red, golden, or wheaten. Their shedding is virtually non-existent when brushed and combed once a week. They do well at any reasonable temperature.

Trainer's Notes

Irish Terriers should be thoroughly socialized at an early age to encourage a stable temperament. Terriers can be stubborn, dominant, and manipulative. Thus, training is more difficult with this breed than others that have a stronger desire to please people. But, they are intelligent and learn new things easily when motivated to do so. Training should be firm and consistent from the beginning. Housebreaking can be a challenge. Terriers in general and the Irish Terrier, in particular, makes a poor choice for a first-time dog owner.

Photo © by Anne Sollerud available under the CCSA
Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier


Although there are few statistics collected for the breed, The Irish Terrier appears to be a healthy breed that is not prone to any of the frequently seen hereditary disorders. They sometimes have problems with Urolithiasis as a result of having an elevated level of cystine in their urine. Their average life expectancy is 12-15 years.


The Irish Terrier ranks 117th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds. There are about 300 dogs registered annually with the AKC. As they are difficult to find, their price tends to be high.

Breed History

The creation of the Irish Terrier is undocumented, but many believe it is some combination of the old black and tan terrier, the wheaten-colored terrier and perhaps the Irish Wolfhound. In any event, it is thought to be one of the oldest terrier breeds. Previously a much more popular breed than it is today, in the 1880’s it was the 4th most popular breed in England. Originally bred to hunt fox and vermin, they have also been used as a retriever and wartime messenger. The United States breed club began in 1896. Experiencing a burst of popularity in the United States, he was the 13th most popular breed in the 1920’s. But today the Irish is one of the most difficult to find terriers.

Additional Information

Edward VII, King of England and playwright Eugene O’Neill kept Irish Terriers. The National (US) Breed Club is the Irish Terrier Club of America.

Is An Irish Terrier THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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