Irish Terrier

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Irish Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Irish Terrier

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #130 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Irish Terrier breed is also commonly known by the names Irish Red Terrier.
13 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Terrier Group
Males 46 - 48 cm
Females 46 - 46 cm at the withers
Males 11 - 15 kg
Females 11 - 12 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£882 for KC Registered
£587 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Irish Terrier is a lively, alert yet gentle character and one that boasts a fun-loving side to their nature. These charming long legged terriers seem to have an affinity with children which makes them the perfect family pet. They also seem to be able to read a person's mood which is another of their endearing traits. However, Irish Terriers are classed as being a vulnerable native breed with very few puppies being bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year even though they make such wonderful companions and family pets.


The Irish Terrier is thought to be the oldest of all Irish terrier breeds. They were once referred to as Irish Red Terriers in order to set them apart from other breeds. In 1875, the first dog was exhibited at a dog show held in Ireland after which time the breed was the first of the Irish Terriers to be officially recognised by The Kennel Club.

Irish Terriers were first bred to hunt vermin and to guard their families and their properties which they proved themselves to be extremely good at. The actual origins of the breed remain a bit of a mystery although there are some people who believe they were created by crossing Irish Wolfhounds with black and tan terrier type dogs that were around at the time. This particular theory is supported by the fact that Irish Terriers do resemble a smaller version of the Irish Wolfhound.

It is thought the breed was originally created in Cork, Southern Ireland although another theory is that these charming long legged terriers were created by crossing Black and Tans with Wheaten Terriers. What is known for certain is that a breed club was established in 1879 and a standard was established at this time. Thanks to their courage and determination, Irish Terriers were used as messengers during World War I taking vital messages to troops on the front proving they were extremely courageous and loyal.

Sadly, the breed has fallen out of favour with less breeders producing and registering puppies with The Kennel Club every year, even though they are charming dogs that get on with everyone and are super well behaved around children. As such anyone wishing to share a home with an Irish Terrier would need to find a breeder and agree to be put on a waiting list because puppies are so rare.


Height at the withers: Males 46 - 48 cm, Females 46 - 46 cm

Average weight: Males 11 - 15 kg, Females 11 - 12 kg

Irish Terriers are longer in the leg than most terriers which gives them a very elegant appearance. They boast having a wiry coat and charmingly alert expression. Their heads are long being flat and rather narrow between the ears although narrower still towards a dog's eyes. Their stop can only be seen when looking at their profile. Their jaws are strong with their forefaces being nicely chiselled. Lips are tight and black in colour and their noses are black too.

They have quite small eyes and their ears are V-shaped being small in size and set well on a dog's head. They are quite thick to the touch and drop forwards, lying close to a dog’s cheeks with the very top of the ear folded neatly forward. The hair on an Irish Terrier's ears is darker and shorter than on the rest of their body. They have a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.

Their necks are quite long and widen at a dog's shoulders which allows them to hold their heads high. Dogs have a fringe on each side of their necks which almost reaches the corner of their ears. Their shoulders are long, well laid back and fine with dogs having longer legs than a lot of other terrier breeds. Their legs are straight, well-muscled showing a good amount of bone.

They have muscular, deep chests and nice strong, long and straight backs. Loins are slightly arched and well-muscled with dogs having nicely laid back well sprung ribs which are deep rather than round. Back legs are strong with powerful thighs with the hair being thick and crisp to the touch. Their feet are strong and quite round in shape being on the smallish side with nicely arched toes and strong, black toe nails. Tails are set quite high which dogs carry gaily. They are well covered with hair, but no fringe or feathering.

When it comes to their coat, the Irish Terrier boasts having a wiry, harsh, flat and straight top coat and a much softer, finer undercoat. The hair on their forefaces is crisp being slightly longer than it is on the rest of the body. The hair on a dog's legs is thick and much crisper to the touch. The accepted breed colours are as follows:

  • Red
  • Red wheaten
  • Rust
  • Wheaten
  • Wheaten red


The Irish Terrier is a bold little dog and one that is often referred to as being a little "foolhardy and reckless". However, with this they are known to be one of the gentlest of all terriers around. They are renowned for being exceptionally good with children and seem to have a real affinity with them. They are also known to be able to "read" an owner's mood which is another of their endearing traits and why they make such wonderful family pets and companion dogs. They form extremely strong bonds with their owners and their families which can be a bit of a problem when an Irish Terrier is left on their own for any length of time. As such they are best suited to families where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house.

They are intelligent and as such need to be given a heap of mental stimulation every day for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. If they are left to their own devices for longer periods of time, they can become hyperactive and quite destructive around the house thanks to the fact an Irish Terrier will quickly find new ways to amuse themselves. They are quick witted and exceptionally good at "problem solving" which means they can get up to a bit of mischief when the mood takes them especially if they are not given enough exercise and boredom sets in.

They are naturally very protective of their families and property which means they are excellent watch dogs and will quickly let an owner know when there any strangers are about or when there is something happening that makes these little terriers nervous. Because they are so protective, puppies have to be well socialised from a young enough age so that this particular trait can be gently curbed otherwise it could turn into a real problem later in a dog's life. Early socialisation also helps these terriers accept being around other dogs they meet. When they are not properly socialised, Irish Terriers can be a little on the aggressive side when they are around other dogs.

Intelligence / Trainability

Irish Terriers are very intelligent little dogs and they have a real desire to please which in short means in the right hands and environment, they are easy to train. The bonus being they thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given during a training session. They excel at all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience.

The key to successfully training an Irish Terrier is to keep each session as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. Lots of shorter training sessions are better than a few long ones because it keeps these smart little terriers more focussed on what they are being asked to do. Having a dog’s full attention is half the battle when training them.

Their training has to start early and it has to be consistent throughout a dog’s life. It also has to fair in order to bring the best out of these little terriers. They respond extremely well to positive reinforcement, but being sensitive by nature, they do not answer well to any short of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods which could result in dogs becoming shy, withdrawn and timid.

Children and Other Pets

Irish Terriers are always on their best behaviour when they are around children and seem to have a real affinity with them. However, they can be a little feisty and boisterous at times which means they might accidentally knock a toddler over. As such any interaction between younger children and a dog should always be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too rough which could end up frightening or injuring a child.

Even when an Irish Terrier has been well socialised from a young age, they can be a little aggressive around other dogs, which is especially true of male dogs. If they feel threatened in any way, an Irish Terrier will take on another dog and rarely would they back down from a fight no matter how big or small the other dog happens to be. As such care has to be taken when out on a walk where other dogs are usually being exercised.

If they have grown up with a family cat in the home, they generally get on well together, however, an Irish Terrier would soon see off any other cat they come across. Because of their high prey drive, care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets just in case. In short any contact is best avoided.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Irish Terrier Health

The average life expectancy of an Irish Terrier is between 13 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Irish Terrier is known to be a robust dog and one that does not seem to suffer from many hereditary health issues that so often plague other breeds. With this said, the one condition that seems to affect them although it is quite rare is as follows:

Caring for a Irish Terrier

As with any other breed, Irish Terriers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Irish Terriers boast having a wiry outer coats and a much softer, denser undercoat which is quite easy maintenance. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats tidy and to remove any dead and loose hair. They shed throughout the year although more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to keep on top of things. Their coats need to be hand stripped several times a year which makes it easier to keep it tidy in between visits to a grooming parlour. The hair between a dog's paw pads also needs to be trimmed when it gets too long to prevent it from balling up which can make walking painful.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


The Irish Terrier is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given anything from 40 to 60 minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, an Irish Terrier would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble. They are also known to be exceptionally good at digging their way out of gardens which is something owners need to bear in mind.

With this said, Irish Terrier puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.


If you get an Irish Terrier puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean you can give them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Irish Terrier

If you are looking to buy an Irish Terrier, you would need to register your interest with a breeder and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Irish Terrier in northern England would be £18.35 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Irish Terrier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Irish Terrier would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.

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