Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Kerry Blue Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Kerry Blue Terrier
Kerry Blue Terriers are very distinctive looking with their gorgeous astrakhan-type coats and heavily coated muzzles. Puppies are born with black coats, but as they mature this changes to a lovely blue. They are compact, lively yet determined dogs with all the usual terrier traits. However, they are highly adaptable being just at home in an apartment as they are living in a country mansion. Although once a popular choice both as companion and family pet, the numbers of Kerry Blue Terriers has declined over the years resulting in the breed being placed on The Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable native breeds.
Although the Kerry Blue is thought to originate from County Kerry, some experts think the breed is descended from terrier type dogs local to Tipperary. Irish folklore and legend tells of a 'blue dog' swimming ashore after surviving a ship wreck off the coast of Southern Ireland. The locals were so impressed by the dog's distinctive blue coat that they mated them with all the female terriers in the vicinity giving rise to the founding offspring of the Kerry Blue breed. They are however, thought to be from the same gene pool as the Soft-Coated Wheaten and the Irish Terrier.
Another theory is that H D Richardson, a famous Irish author wrote about a dog called the "Harlequin Terrier" at the turn of the 19th/20th century. He describes the dog as being a slate colour with lighter or darker patches and having a tan muzzle. Many experts now believe that the author was referring to the forerunners of today's Kerry Blue Terrier, especially given that Kerry pups are born with a reddish or black tinge to their coats before it turns a steely colour as they mature.
Whatever the true origins of the Kerry Blue, these charming dogs were bred to hunt and as ratters, they were excellent. They were highly prized for their courage, guarding and herding instincts too. By the mid 1900's Kerries had become so popular they started to be shown at exhibitions and dog shows including 'Crufts'. The breed was standardised and introduced to Britain in 1922 and proved popular. However, these lovely terriers have been placed on the vulnerable native breeds list by The Kennel Club with very few dogs being registered every year.
Height at the withers: Males 46 - 48 cm, Females 44 - 46 cm
Average weight: Males 12 - 15 kg, Females 10 - 13 kg
Puppies are born black, and their coats can take up to 18 months for the colour to turn blue. They are very handsome terriers with coats that are more like astrakhan than hair and their muzzles are heavily covered which adds to their overall charming appeal. Their heads are well-balanced and long although nicely in proportion with the rest of the body. Their heads are flat on top with dogs boasting a slight stop. Their forefaces are very strong as are their jaws and noses are black. Eyes are dark and medium in size with dogs boasting a keen and very typical "terrier" expression in them. Their ears are moderately small and V-shaped which dogs carry forward. The Kerry Blue has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones and the roof of their mouths and gums are dark in colour.
Necks are strong and slope neatly into a dog's shoulders which are flat and their legs are straight, showing a lot of bone. These terriers have nicely proportioned bodies with a deep brisket and well sprung ribs. Chest are deep and toplines level. They have powerful, well-developed hindquarters with strong and well-muscled back legs. Feet are small and round with black nails. Tails are set high and are moderately long which adds to a dog's overall well balanced look. It is thicker at the base, but tapers neatly to the tip and dogs hold their tails straight although when excited they carry it gaily.
When it comes to their coat, the Kerry Blue Terrier has a soft, silky, dense and wavy coat. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
Kerry Blues are allowed to have a small patch of white hair on their chests and would not be penalised for it in the show ring.
Kerries are known to be outgoing and confident terriers. They can be strong-willed when they want to be which can make them harder to train. Male dogs, in particular can be a little aggressive if they find themselves in any situations that might stress them out. They need to know their place in the "pack" and who is alpha dog in a household to prevent them from showing a more dominant side to their natures.
It's really important for Kerries to be well socialised from a young age which has to include introducing them to as many new situations, people, dogs and other animals as soon as they are fully vaccinated as possible. They are renowned for their stamina and endurance which means these terriers need to be given lots of mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in. Kerries do get easily bored which can lead to them developing all sorts of unwanted behaviours and this includes being destructive around the home. Kerry Blues are not the best choice for first time owners because they really do need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the breed or this type of strong willed and intelligent dog.
Kerry Blue Terriers are known to be intelligent, they are also very outgoing and confident characters which means they need to be handled and trained with a firm, fair and gentle hand in order to get the best results. They do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training, but they do respond very well to positive reinforcement, but because they are so intelligent these terriers must not be allowed to pick up any bad habits which they can learn as fast as they learn the "good" things. These little dogs are never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who to look up to for direction and guidance.
The Kerry Blue is a great choice as a family pet where the children in a household are older and therefore know how to behave around dogs. They are not the best choice for people with toddlers or small children because Kerries can be a little boisterous at times which could result in them knocking a child over and scaring them.
Care should be taken when Kerries are around small pets and other animals because of their high prey drive therefore any contact should really be avoided and this includes when they are around cats. They can be aggressive when they meet other dogs with Kerries often wanting to play a little too boisterously with them.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Kerry Blue Terrier is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Kerry is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Kerries 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.
Kerries are high maintenance in the grooming department and ideally, their coats need a daily brush paying particular attention to the hair around a dog's muzzle which tends to get quite dirty after a dog has eaten. They do not shed like many other breeds, but their coats need to be clipped or scissored every 6 to 8 weeks to keep things tidy. The hair between a dog's pads needs to be checked on a regular basis and trimmed if it is too long.
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.
Kerry Blues are high energy terriers 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 characters. Without the right levels of exercise, they can quickly develop some unwanted behaviours around the home which includes separation anxiety. As such a minimum of one hour's exercise is essential, but more would be better because it is hard to tire these terriers out.
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 lively dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Kerry Blue Terrier puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get a Kerry Blue 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 or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed 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.
If you are looking to buy a Kerry Blue Terrier you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything from £400 to over £900 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier in northern England would be £18.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £49.42 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Kerry and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Kerry Blue Terrier would be between £30 to £40 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 puppy.
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