Leaping over a broad jump, hopping through a hoop, and digging furiously underground to find rats. Add in a sniff-out session, some snappy switchbacks around poles, and a 100-yard dash in tizzy time and it looks like a dog in supersonic shenanigans.
If this sounds like a flashy, popular breed who always stands in the winner’s circle, guess again.
Irish Dog in Running Shoes
Meet Winston and Griffin, two Glen of Imaal Terriers, owned by Kelli Whitfield and Mark Brown of Pensacola, Fla.
“At 32 to 40 pounds, Glens are muscular, working terriers with big dog attitudes,” says Whitfield. “I call them cinder blocks with legs, and they aren’t your usual fussy, aloof terriers.”
Originating in Ireland, this medium-sized breed takes its name from a valley, the Glen of Imaal, in County Wicklow. The longest of its four Irish Terrier cousins–the Kerry Blue, the Soft Coated Wheaten, and the Irish Terrier, the Glen’s great substance on short legs gives him an edge in the most unique canine category.
“The Glen’s big head and height to length ratio of 3 to 5 gives him a clown-like appearance, but the dog’s need to please his owners makes him so appealing,” says Mary McDaniel, DVM, and past president of the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America.
Glen of Imaal Terriers seldom compete in a variety of dog sports, but 9-year-old Winston, Finnabair Winston O’Reilly, and his housemate, 6-year-old Griffin, Ch. Ber-D-Mar Ballygriffin Of Greystone, serve as the scruffy exceptions.
Currently Winston is the first and only Glen to earn Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Graduate Novice (GN), and Versatile Companion Dog 1 (VCD1) titles. At the top of the canine sports game, he’s achieved 21 performance distinctions. The long list includes: Junior Earthdog (JE), Trick Dog Elite Performer (TKE), Beginner Novice (BN), Companion Dog (CD), Tracking Dog (TD), Novice Agility Jumper Preferred (NJP), and Novice Agility Preferred (NAP).
Along the way to racking up initials, Winston added Novice Interiors (SIN), Novice Exteriors (SEN), Novice Buried (SBN), Novice Containers (SCN), Scent Work Novice (SWN), Advanced Container (SCA), and Scent Work Interior Advanced (SIA).
The dog keeps busy by adding Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA), Coursing Ability Test (CA), Barn Hunt (RATM), Stunt Dog Professional (SDPRO), Canine Good Citizen (CGC), Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA), and Canine Good Citizen Urban Community (CGCU) titles.
Griffin is no second string player. Currently, he’s the first Glen to claim a Coursing Agility Excellent title (CAX), and he earned a champion (CH) designation at the beginning of his name and tacked 20 titles at the end. His accomplishments include: Rally Excellent (RE), Beginner Novice Obedience (BN), Novice Agility Jumper Preferred (NJP), Open Agility Jumper Preferred (OJP), Excellent Agility Jumper Preferred (AJP), Novice Agility Preferred (NAP), Novice Agility FAST Preferred (NFP), Scent Work Novice Interiors (SIN), Scent Work Novice Containers (SCN), Scent Work Novice Buried (SBN).
Other titles include: Trick Dog Elite Performer (TKE), Stunt Dog Open (OSD), Junior Earthdog (JE), Coursing Ability Title (CA), Coursing Ability Advanced (CAA), FAST CAT (BCAT), Barn Hunt Open (RATO), Canine Good Citizen (CGC), Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA), and Canine Good Citizen Urban Community (CGCU).
The Glen is an ancient breed, with 16th-century literature mentioning sturdy Terriers existing more than two hundred years ago. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the breed came close to extinction but survived.
According to Dr. McDaniel, less than 2,000 Glens are registered in the U.S. today. Considering the breed’s low numbers, Winston and Griffin’s athletic successes loom large.
With a registration ranking of 180 of 193 breeds and a limited number of Glen of Imaal puppies born each year, Glens are recognized as a rare breed who don’t usually compete in most performance events.
“The breed is intelligent and quite capable of competing in versatile canine sports, but many Glen owners tend to pursue the typical terrier trials, such as Earthdog and Barn Hunt,” emphasizes Dr. McDaniel.
As all-around farm dogs working in a harsh, rocky landscape, Glens know their way around a task. Originally bred to keep the house vermin-free, they chased fox and the European badger. These Terriers needed great prowess and agility to go down a nine-inch tunnel and negotiate right-angle turns to pursue their quarry.
“At a maximum of 14 inches at the withers, the Glen is about the same height as his prey, so the breed’s strength and athleticism makes a difference,” Dr. McDaniel says.
If the legend about this Terrier as a turnspit dog, or canine-powered rotisserie, is true, the Glen’s stamina, short and bowed front legs, powerful hindquarters, and wide, deep chest made him a perfect chef.
How did this four-footed slow roasting method work? When harnessed into a turnspit, or large hamster-type wheel, the dog’s movement turned roasting meat over a fire
Someone Above Loves a Terrier
Whitfield and Brown didn’t go looking for a dog to cook dinner for them, but why did they choose a rare breed like the Glen of Imaal to join their household?
“We had West Highland White Terriers and always loved Terriers, but we wanted a sturdier and bigger Terrier than a Westie,” remembers Whitfield. “My husband enjoys the outdoors and hunting and he thought it would be cool to take a dog along to help track deer.”
After researching different Terrier breeds, the couple narrowed down their choices. Based on the Glenn of Imaal’s diverse characteristics, they identified this Irish long and low body as their pick.
To see this breed up close they went to a dog show and an earth trial, but they didn’t find any Glens, so Whitfield contacted several breeders.
“We and didn’t realize how rare Glens are,” Whitfield recalls. “Since we wanted a male puppy from a breeder who health tested her stock, it wasn’t easy finding the right match,” she says. “Luckily we found a breeder with a new litter who also owned the sire.”
Love at First Sight
In 2010, the couple drove seven hours and made several visits to meet the breeder and the dogs.
“It was an interesting experience to finally see Glens,” remembers Whitfield. “When we saw them for the first time we instantly fell in love.”
The breed’s overall substance surprised the couple. “At first glance, you think a Glen of Imaal weighs 20 pounds, but with all that bone density the dog actually weighs 35 to 40 pounds.”
The breed’s size mattered, too. After living with 11-inch male and 10-inch female Westies, Whitfield and Brown expected the Glen, who is only an inch to two inches taller than a Westie, to appear about the same size.
“We were surprised the two breeds are so different. And the Glen’s big skull—wow! If he accidentally head butts you in the shin, you sure know it.”
A year after living with Winston, the couple went looking for a second Glen of Imaal. It took two years for the right litter to come along, but in 2013, they flew from their home in Florida to the breeder in Pennsylvania and picked up 14-week-old Griffin.
From Pups to Pros
How did Whitfield and Brown go from teaching their Glen puppies a few household manners to prepping them for superstar status?
The couple wanted well-behaved dogs and began by taking Winston through the Canine Good Citizen program. “I figured if we could earn a CGC, we could go on with obedience, rally and earthdog,” remembers Whitfield. “From there the training for other performance titles took over our lives and opened up a whole new world for us.”
To build a strong connection with her dogs, Whitfield does some type of training every day. “People may think this breed is stubborn, but they under-estimate them. We use a routine to earn his meals and it works like a charm.”
Many Glen of Imaal owners enjoy running agility with their dogs. “I like it too, but I realized this wasn’t Winston’s favorite sport, so we focused on other activities. I only train the dogs for activities they like doing.”
With Griffin, Whitfield wanted to prove beauty and brains, with titles at both ends of his name so she entered the dog in conformation. “I put his CH title on myself, but because of our low breed numbers it was hard to find majors,” says Whitfield. “The show ring looks easier than it is and is way out of my comfort zone, but we did it.”
Perhaps sensing his owner could use some comic relief in the ring, Griffin liked to sit up on his bottom. “This always gets attention,” she says. “Both dogs do it at home, too and they look like little meerkats.”
Griffin’s passion was all about the FAST CAT. “He runs halfway across the field to cut the corner and tries to find where the bag turns so he can catch it. He doesn’t enjoy running the straight track.”
What’s it like to train Terriers? “If you make learning fun, they enjoy it and figure it out,” suggests Whitfield. “They don’t like to be drilled and harsh cues don’t work.”
It’s no wonder that people on the street are always surprised at how well- behaved these Glens seem.
“With all these activity titles, you would think our dogs are hyperactive, but at home, they’re perfectly content to sit on the couch with us and just hang out.”
Purchasing and Registering a Glen of Imaal Terrier Puppy
If you think this rare bred might be for you, learn more and check out available puppies at the AKC Marketplace.
After becoming the owner of a Glen, it is important to register your dog. Why? The AKC is the only purebred dog registry in the United States that maintains an investigation and inspection effort. The AKC conducts thousands of inspections each year to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of dogs and the environments in which they live.
You can register your dog here, and you will receive your official AKC certificate in the mail. There are many other benefits, including a complimentary first vet visit, 30 days of pet insurance, and eligibility to compete in AKC events and sports.