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Glen of Imaal Terrier standing in profile in the grass.
©Radomir Rezny / Capture Light -

The Glen of Imaal is a remote valley in Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, and also the origin of this hardy, intelligent, and friendly terrier. Legend has it that the breed is the result of crossing native Irish dogs with the hounds of Flemish and lowland soldiers sent to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570s.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the Glen of Imaal Terrier:

The Glen of Imaal Terrier Was First Bred as a Working Dog

They were bred to hunt small prey, such as rats, as well as larger targets, such as foxes and badgers (which could weigh more than the dogs, at up to 40 lbs). According to legend, Glens also had a role in the kitchen, turning a specially designed meat-cooking device called a turnspit—think of a dog-operated rotisserie. Today, they remain strong, fast-learning, game dogs.

Glens Are Known for Their Hardy, Gentle Character

Glens don’t tend to bark much—perhaps because they were bred to be silent while working. They’re also known for being gentler in disposition than most other terriers. Some people describe them as “stoic.”

Glen of Imaal Terrier standing in profile in the grass.
©Radomir Rezny / Capture Light -

“Small, but Strong” Is an Oft-used Description of the Glen of Imaal Terrier

They only stand up to 14 inches tall and weigh up to 40 pounds, but Glens have surprisingly muscular hindquarters. In fact, Glen lovers sometimes call them “big dogs on short legs.”

They Tend to Excel at Earthdog Trials

Like most terriers, Glens love to dig and catch whatever they can find in the ground—and no wonder, since they were bred to hunt household pests. This makes Earthdog the perfect sport for a Glen, allowing them to find a scent, follow it, enter a den, and work with a quarry.

Glens Have a Rough Double Coat

Glens have a wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. They need to be brushed two to three times a week to avoid matting, especially around the ears, neck, legs, and belly. They should also be stripped two or three times a year. Though they do shed seasonally, shedding will be minimal as long as they receive this care.

Moderate Exercise Is Required for Glen of Imaal Terriers

With their little legs, these dogs won’t be good jogging partners. They do enjoy walks at a pace that suits them—though they’re just as happy playing around in a house, apartment, or yard. They’re independent-minded and able to make their own entertainment.

Glen of Imaal Terrier running outdoors.
@Hans Surfer via Getty Images

They’re Intelligent and Fast-Learning

They’re naturally suited for Earthdog, but with some training they can also be excellent at agility, obedience, and even AKC Rally—though like all terriers, their independence can be a challenge when it comes to taking orders. Early puppy and obedience training can keep those stubborn tendencies in check.

Glens Are Generally Healthy Dogs, But Have Some Health Considerations

Glen of Imaal Terriers can be prone to hip and elbow dyspalsia, as well as eye disorders, such as cone rod definiency. Responsible breeders will screen for these disorders before breeding—and you can ask to see the proof of screening. It’s important to ensure you dog avoids placing unnecessary stress on their front legs during their first nine months of life.

They Don’t Always Get Along With Other Dogs

As independent-minded dogs, some Glens show dog-aggressive tendencies as they get older. Buying from a reputable breeder who socializes puppies properly, as well as committing to ample training early in your dog’s life, should help nip any aggressive tendencies in the bud. 

Glen of Imaal Terriers Generally Love Children

Glens love to play, so they’re well suited to life with children. But don’t be deceived by their diminutive size. These are powerful, muscular dogs who might play too rough for small children.

Related article: Glen of Imaal Terrier History: The Emerald Isle Terrier
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