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  • Temperament: Bold, Dashing, Tenderhearted
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 115 of 194
  • Height: 18 inches
  • Weight: 27 pounds (male), 25 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
  • Group: Terrier Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Irish Terrier lying in three-quarter view
Irish Terrier head facing left
Irish Terrier standing in three-quarter view
Irish Terrier sitting in three-quarter view
Irish Terrier coat detail
Irish Terrier

Find a Puppy: Irish Terrier

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The over-all appearance of the Irish Terrier is important. In conformation he must be more than a sum of his parts. He must be all-of-a piece, a balanced vital picture of symmetry, proportion and harmony. Furthermore, he must convey character. This terrier must be active, lithe and wiry in movement, with great animation; sturdy and strong in substance and bone structure, but at the same time free from clumsiness, for speed, power and endurance are most essential. The Irish Terrier must be neither “cobby” nor “cloddy,” but should be built on lines of speed with a graceful, racing outline.

HEAD

Long, but in nice proportion to the rest of the body; the skull flat, rather narrow between the ears, and narrowing slightly toward the eyes; free from wrinkle, with the stop hardly noticeable except in profile. The foreface must not fall away appreciably between or below the eyes; instead, the modeling should be delicate. An exaggerated foreface, or a noticeably short foreface, disturbs the proper balance of the head and is not desirable. The foreface and the skull from occiput to stop should be approximately equal in length.

NECK, SHOULDERS, CHEST

Neck-Should be of fair length and gradually widening toward the shoulders; well and proudly carried, and free from throatiness. Generally there is a slight frill in the hair at each side of the neck, extending almost to the corner of the ear. Shoulders & Chest -Shoulders must be fine, long, and sloping well into the back. The chest should be deep and muscular, but neither full nor wide. Body – The body should be moderately long. The short back is not characteristic of the Irish Terrier, and is extremely objectionable. The back must be strong and straight, and free from an appearance of slackness or “dip” behind the shoulders. The loin should be strong and muscular, and slightly arched, the ribs fairly sprung, deep rather than round, reaching to the level of the elbow. The bitch may be slightly longer than the dog.

HINDQUARTERS

Should be strong and muscular; thighs powerful; hocks near the ground; stifles moderately bent.

COAT

Should be dense and wiry in texture, rich in quality, having a broken appearance, but still lying fairly close to the body, the hairs growing so closely and strongly together that when parted with the fingers the skin is hardly visible; free of softness or silkiness, and not so long as to alter the outline of the body, particularly in the hindquarters. On the sides of the body the coat is never as harsh as on the back and quarters, but it should be plentiful and of good texture. At the base of the stiff outer coat there should be a growth of finer and softer hair, lighter in color, termed the undercoat. Single coats, which are without any undercoat, and wavy coats are undesirable; the curly and the kinky coats are most objectionable.

FEET AND LEGS

The feet should be strong, tolerably round, and moderately small; toes arched and turned neither out nor in, with dark toenails. The pads should be deep, and must be perfectly sound and free from corns. Cracks alone do not necessarily indicate unsound feet. In fact, all breeds have cracked pads occasionally, from various causes.Legs moderately long, well set from the shoulders, perfectly straight, with plenty of bone and muscle; the elbows working clear of the sides; pasterns short, straight, and hardly noticeable.

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About the Irish Terrier

Irish Terriers are the prototype of a long-legged terrier. Standing about 18 inches at the shoulder, they’re sturdy but lithe and graceful. Every line of the body is eye-catching, and the overall picture is beautifully balanced. The tight red coat is as fiery as the breed’s temperament. ITs are a dog lover’s delight: If your heart doesn’t go pitty-pat at the sight of this Technicolor terrier framed against the vivid greens of the Irish countryside, forget dogs and buy a goldfish.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Irish Terrier

Find a Puppy: Irish Terrier

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Irish Terrier Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Irish Terrier should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet or the dog’s breeder if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should always be available.

GROOMING

The Irish Terrier’s short coat requires regular brushing, stripping, and trimming to keep it in good condition. His dense and wiry broken coat hugs the body and creates a tight, water-resistant jacket. Underneath the stiff outer coat, a dense undercoat of softer, finer hair traps body heat on a cool, damp day. Ideally the outer coat should be hand-stripped rather than clipped. Weekly brushing will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. The nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Occasional Bath/Brush

EXERCISE

The Irish Terrier is lively, playful, and outgoing, possessing abundant energy. Irish Terriers are great athletes and need regular exercise, so a fenced backyard is ideal. Failing this, they require walking—always on a leash—several times a day to maintain mental and physical fitness. Although willful, the Irish Terrier wants to please his owner and excels as a show and performance dog. Obedienceagilityrallyearthdog, and flyball events provide an outlet for the breed’s energy, natural athleticism, and intelligence.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

The Irish Terrier is very smart and willing to please, though he also tends to be strong-willed, independent, and challenging. Early and consistent socialization and basic obedience training help to ensure he will be a well-mannered member of your household who is comfortable with family and friends. Training quickly establishes a bond between you and your Irish that will last a lifetime. Consistent use and reinforcement of early training should be a lifelong process. The Irish Terrier is a smart, quick dog who quickly adapts to new situations. This breed is great with children when raised with them and is deeply loyal to his owner. Pups require firm boundaries so they will grow into respectful adults.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

Irish Terriers are generally healthy dogs, but there are some issues that the breed can be prone to. Hyperkeratosis (hardened, cracked footpads) is rare in North America but may be carried in dogs from European lines. A genetic test has recently been developed for this condition. Cystinuria (resulting in bladder stones) is also uncommon, but there is no genetic test for Irish Terriers. Prospective owners should ask about these two diseases and only work with reputable breeders. As with all breeds, the Irish Terrier’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

No recommended health tests

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier History - from Tom Gately archive
Irish Terrier History - from Tom Gately archive
Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier

History

For hundreds of years the Irish Terrier has been a fixture of rural Ireland—the very model of an all-purpose farm dog. A tenacious ratter, of course, but a dog with this much spirit and cleverness can’t be contained by a single job description. ITs have earned their feed as watchdogs, flock and family guardians, and hunting companions on land and lake. The breed’s type as we know it was set sometime in the 1870s, and ITs joined the AKC in 1885.

Did You Know?

In World War I the Irish Terrier was used as a messenger and sentinel.
Early Irish terriers came in a variety of colors, including black and tan, gray and bridle; only near the end of the 19th century did the solid red color become a fixture of the breed.
First record of the Irish Terrier being shown as a recognized breed dates back to 1875 in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Irish terrier is the raciest member of the terrier group, with a longer body and longer legs than the other terriers.
The Irish Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds.
The Irish Terrier has the distinction of being the only all-red terrier.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The over-all appearance of the Irish Terrier is important. In conformation he must be more than a sum of his parts. He must be all-of-a piece, a balanced vital picture of symmetry, proportion and harmony. Furthermore, he must convey character. This terrier must be active, lithe and wiry in movement, with great animation; sturdy and strong in substance and bone structure, but at the same time free from clumsiness, for speed, power and endurance are most essential. The Irish Terrier must be neither “cobby” nor “cloddy,” but should be built on lines of speed with a graceful, racing outline.

HEAD

Long, but in nice proportion to the rest of the body; the skull flat, rather narrow between the ears, and narrowing slightly toward the eyes; free from wrinkle, with the stop hardly noticeable except in profile. The foreface must not fall away appreciably between or below the eyes; instead, the modeling should be delicate. An exaggerated foreface, or a noticeably short foreface, disturbs the proper balance of the head and is not desirable. The foreface and the skull from occiput to stop should be approximately equal in length.

NECK, SHOULDERS, CHEST

Neck-Should be of fair length and gradually widening toward the shoulders; well and proudly carried, and free from throatiness. Generally there is a slight frill in the hair at each side of the neck, extending almost to the corner of the ear. Shoulders & Chest -Shoulders must be fine, long, and sloping well into the back. The chest should be deep and muscular, but neither full nor wide. Body – The body should be moderately long. The short back is not characteristic of the Irish Terrier, and is extremely objectionable. The back must be strong and straight, and free from an appearance of slackness or “dip” behind the shoulders. The loin should be strong and muscular, and slightly arched, the ribs fairly sprung, deep rather than round, reaching to the level of the elbow. The bitch may be slightly longer than the dog.

HINDQUARTERS

Should be strong and muscular; thighs powerful; hocks near the ground; stifles moderately bent.

COAT

Should be dense and wiry in texture, rich in quality, having a broken appearance, but still lying fairly close to the body, the hairs growing so closely and strongly together that when parted with the fingers the skin is hardly visible; free of softness or silkiness, and not so long as to alter the outline of the body, particularly in the hindquarters. On the sides of the body the coat is never as harsh as on the back and quarters, but it should be plentiful and of good texture. At the base of the stiff outer coat there should be a growth of finer and softer hair, lighter in color, termed the undercoat. Single coats, which are without any undercoat, and wavy coats are undesirable; the curly and the kinky coats are most objectionable.

FEET AND LEGS

The feet should be strong, tolerably round, and moderately small; toes arched and turned neither out nor in, with dark toenails. The pads should be deep, and must be perfectly sound and free from corns. Cracks alone do not necessarily indicate unsound feet. In fact, all breeds have cracked pads occasionally, from various causes.Legs moderately long, well set from the shoulders, perfectly straight, with plenty of bone and muscle; the elbows working clear of the sides; pasterns short, straight, and hardly noticeable.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140
Red Wheaten Check Mark For Standard Color 156
Wheaten Check Mark For Standard Color 224

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