Irish Terrier – Everything You Need To Know

Irish Terriers, nicknamed ‘Daredevils’ of the Emerald Isle, is one of the oldest terrier dog breeds and have earned the reputation of being loyal, spirited, adaptable, and recklessly fearless. They served as messenger and sentinel dogs in World War I and have been used for hunting and retrieving games. These breeds are sturdily built dogs with racier lines than other terriers. Known for their fiery red coat and disposition to match, the Irish Terrier is courageous at work and gentle at home. They are the prototype of a long-legged terrier.

The Irish Terrier’s privilege as a brawler is undeserved because they can be aggressive when needed. But, on the other hand, they are easy to train and gentle companions, warranting an early portrayal as “a poor man’s guardian, the farmer’s companion, and gentleman’s favorite.” 

If you are looking for a canine with boundless energy and an all-rounder who is playful, adaptable, and devoted to their family, you will see your ideal partner in an Irish terrier.

Irish Terrier Overview

The Irish Terrier is an all-rounder combining agility, speed, endurance, and capability to perform various jobs. They are highly loyal companions and can protect their owners with an extraordinary guard dog and watchdog abilities. However, they may prefer to be the solo pet in the house. In addition, their intelligence and high energy help them respond well to training. Early socialization can aid them in warming up to other canines and pets. They adore kids and are great playmates, significantly when raised with them. Apartment dwellers and those who must leave the house for long hours daily may have difficulty meeting the Irish Terrier’s physical necessities. But if you can provide plenty of patience, attention, and space to move, you’ll have a devoted, lifelong companion.

Irish Terrier Pros and Cons

Loyal and people-orientedHigh prey drive
Clever and courageousStrong-willed and stubborn
Athletic, well-suited to an active ownerDoesn’t always get along with other dogs

Irish Terrier Basic Information 

  • Name: Irish Terrier
  • Origin: Ireland
  • Group: Terrier group
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 18 – 20 inches
  • Weight: 25 – 27 pounds 
  • Coat: Dense, wiry, close-lying topcoat with a soft undercoat
  • Color: Red, red/wheaten, or yellow/red
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Agility, confirmation, field trials, hunting tests, watchdog, obedience, rally, farm dogs, companions, guard dogs, and gun dogs.
  • Barking Level: Occasional
  • Shedding Level: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Litter Size: 6 puppies
  • Other Names: Daredevil, Red Devil
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Retrieving and land games
  • Life Span: 13 – 15 years

History of Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier, also called the quintessential long-legged Terrier, is one of the four Irish terrier breeds initially used as a guard dog and for pest control in the Cork region. Their exact origin is unknown, but it’s believed that Irish Terriers may have descended from the Black and Tan Terrier and the wheaten-colored Terrier; both were found in Ireland and utilized for hunting otters, foxes, and other small animals. 

The Irish Terrier was shown first in 1881 at the Westminster Kennel Club show, and the first Irish Terrier registered with the AKC was Aileen in 1885. They distinguished themselves in World War I as messenger dogs and sentinels, receiving many accolades for courage and loyalty. But, even with their pleasing personalities, it’s surprising that the Irish Terrier has slowly faded from popularity. A tenacious ratter, of course, but a single job description can’t contain a dog with this much spirit and cleverness. They have achieved their feed as guard dogs, watchdogs, flocks, and hunting companions on lakes and land. 

Irish Terrier Highlights

  • Irish Terriers will not quickly get along with other dogs. 
  • They can be stubborn.
  • They will dig if your yard has moles or rodents.
  • Obedience training is highly recommended. The “come” command can be challenging to teach.
  • They comply with the traits of the terrier group and are often fond of chewing, digging, and barking.
  • They are known for being expert escape artists. 

Irish Terrier Personality

Despite the nickname “the Daredevil,” the Irish Terrier is a fun, good-tempered, and devoted companion who is brave, energetic, affectionate, and highly bonded to its owners. The sight of an Irish Terrier is a scene of striking beauty. Their compact, well-proportioned body helps them to strike a balance between speed, power, and endurance. However, they are challenging to train as they are stubborn. A skilled hand with plenty of creativity is required to bring out their best. They can be serious barkers and tend to be diggers with their sturdy nails and feet.

Friendliness Overview

Affection level High
Family-friendly High
Kid-friendly Medium to high
Pet-friendly Low
Stranger -friendly Medium

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment living Medium
Good to new owners Medium
Sensitivity level Medium
Tolerates being alone Low
Cold-tolerance Medium to high
Heat-tolerance Medium to high

Irish Terrier Physical Features

Head: The long and narrow head boasts a flat skull. A long-whiskered, bearded muzzle conceals a powerful jaw. Small dark eyes and bushy eyebrows give an intense expression. Their V-shaped ears are folded forward, and they have darker, shorter hair than the rest of their body. 

Neck: Well and proudly carried neck widening towards the shoulders. The neck has slight frills on either side carried to the corner of the Irish Terrier’s ears. 

Topline and Body: A short topline is not the characteristic feature of an Irish Terrier. Instead, the shoulders of an Irish Terrier would be slender, moderately sloping well at the back. The body should be strong, straight, moderately long, and free from an impression of slackness or “dip” behind the shoulders. The body bears a sturdy, robust, somewhat arched loin, deep, and relatively well-sprung ribs. 

Tail:  The tail is set high and is carried erect. 

Forequarters and Hindquarters: Both forequarters and hindquarters are straight to enable free forward treading. The forelegs are long, laid well from the dog’s shoulders, enveloped superfluously with bones and muscles. They bear strong and muscled hindquarters with powerful thighs.

Coat: The coat is composed of wiry, dense hair on the exterior and is often referred to as broken, i.e., neither curly nor straight. Underneath the coat hides a silky lining of fur. 

Color: The Irish Terrier is generally seen in golden red, bright red, red wheaten, or wheaten.

Gait: Their gait is free, smooth, effortless, and agile.

Irish Terrier Temperament

The Irish Terrier is a bold, assertive, playful, energetic gundog that is also perceived as strong-willed, friendly, and hyperactive. These breeds are sportive, excel in any canine game, and are ready for action and adventure. They are affectionate, prefer to be around human families, and make perfect companions. They will quickly get along with children, provided they are socialized as puppies and were raised with them. They can do well in rallies and obedience and are excellent show dogs.

The Irish Terrier has excellent hunting skills and a strong desire to strive out and destroy vermin. Therefore, a fenced yard and leashed walks are essential for their safety. They’ll hunt rapidly moving objects without paying attention to where the chase is guiding them. As they have herding instincts, they might attempt to herd smaller animals. So, sharing a house with a pet bird is not typically an ideal option.

Irish Terrier Training

Training is the most significant aspect while domesticating an Irish Terrier. This is because these breeds are pretty stubborn. Hence, it is good to enroll them in advanced obedience training sessions. They can take obedience training to a higher level. Without this training, they tend to become bold, detrimental, and challenging to manage. However, they are stubborn, so successful training relies on finding a firm positive trainer to boost their confidence. It is essential to use positive reinforcement, and an ideal way is to break their routine training into shorter daily sessions to maintain their attention span higher. Enrolling your Irish Terrier in training activities at a very young age is advised to challenge their minds to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. In addition, leash training is essential due to their high prey drive. These are some of the training exercises that you need to do with your Irish Terrier:

Trainability Overview

Easy to train Low
Intelligence High
Mouthiness tendencies Low 
Barking and howling tendencies Medium to high
Prey drive Medium
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium

Irish Terrier Exercise Needs

Irish Terrier is a highly energetic, lively, and outgoing jogging partner who needs lots of daily exercises and activities to aid with physical and mental stimulation. They will thrive with a vigorous daily walk of at least 30 minutes or one hour of daily exercise combined with training lessons, play sessions, or activities like agility sports to keep their mind occupied. Irish Terriers are great athletes and need routine practice, so a fenced backyard is ideal. Also, a tall fence around the yard is suitable, as these breeds are agile and known to climb. You can meet your Irish Terrier’s daily exercise essentials by:

  • Teaching new tricks 
  • Walking 
  • Fetching 
  • Chasing 
  • Playing with puzzle toys 
  • Playing tug of war 
  • Schutzhund 
  • Frisbee 
  • Herding trials 
  • Flyball 
  • Agility training 
  • Hiking 
  • Dog park

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy level High
Exercise needs High
Intensity High
Playfulness High

Irish Terrier Grooming

The Irish Terrier is a hypoallergenic low-shedder that requires minimal grooming and is jacketed with dense, wiry hair. Their short coat requires regular brushing, stripping, and trimming to keep it in good condition. The hairs grow so closely together that it’s hard to see the skin even if you part them with your fingers. However, it’s short enough to see the body’s outline. The underneath of the stiff outer coat is softer hair, lighter in color, which is the undercoat. The double coat shields the Irish Terrier from wild underbrush and cold or wet climate when they are outdoors. Irish Terrier’s grooming needs are as follows:

  • Bathe whenever it’s required.  
  • Brush their teeth twice or thrice weekly.  
  • Brush their coat weekly with a bristle brush.
  • Trim their nails once or twice a week using a grinder. 
  • Clean their eyes and ears weekly.

Grooming Overview 

Easy to groom Low to medium
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Medium to high

Irish Terrier Health

Irish Terriers are relatively healthy breeds. However, like other dogs, they are prone to health ailments stemming from their lineage. Thus, to keep them healthy, it is essential to take your canine to the vet for regular health check-ups and ensure that they are updated with vaccinations.

Health Overview

Overall health High
Weight gain tendencies Medium
Size Medium

Hyperkeratosis: A disorder caused by excess keratin, and your dog can suffer from skin thickening around the paws and nose. 

Cystinuria: Cystinuria results from the extreme release of cystine through urination. This disorder is more common in male Irish Terriers and can further lead to the formation of stones.

Hip Dysplasia: A heritable condition occurring when the thigh bones don’t fit aptly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint.

Other Causes:

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 


  • Pain  
  • Lameness

Elbow dysplasia: When canines go lame later in life, elbow dysplasia is the most common reason. It’s a malformation of the elbow joint, driving it to deviate, resulting in pain, loss of motion, and, finally, lameness. This disorder most generally concerns large-breed dogs such as Irish Terriers.

Cataract: An infection seen as cloudy spots on the lens of your dog’s eye that grow slowly. This disorder can grow at any age and often doesn’t affect sight; however, rare cases cause vision loss.

Hypothyroidism: This disorder occurs in canines when their thyroid glands fail to produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition slows down your pup’s metabolism leading to hair loss, obesity, epilepsy, lethargy, dark patches on the skin, and other skin conditions.

Von Willebrand’s Disease: This is a genetically transmitted blood disorder characterized by an inability to clot. 


  • Excessive bleeding post-surgery or injury  
  • Nosebleeds 
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bleeding in the stomach or intestines.

Recommended Tests for the Irish Terrier

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation

Irish Terrier Diet and Nutrition

An Irish Terrier will consume 1 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food daily, split into two meals, depending on their build, age, activity level, size, and metabolism. Hence, you can provide them with a well-balanced protein diet for proper growth and body maintenance. If you find your dog overweight or obese, visit your veterinarian and get a mealtime and exercise schedule to help them lose those extra flabs.

Irish Terrier Living Condition 

Irish Terriers are adaptable and can thrive in any environment. However, they prefer human companionship, who can value and fulfill the necessities of these affectionate, caring breeds. In addition, they may discover an unwanted medium to keep themselves engaged when bored or lonely. Therefore, they should not be left alone for long periods, mostly without toys to keep them equipped. 

Did You Know?

  • The Irish Terrier has the honor of being the only all-red terrier.
  • The first record of the Irish Terrier being portrayed as a recognized breed dates back to 1875 in Scotland.
  • Four Irish terriers—Arwen, Frodo, Rohan, and Stryder—all starred as “Rex” in the 2007 movie Firehouse Dog.
  • The Irish terrier’s nickname is “Daredevil” due to her reputation for being loyal, passionate, and recklessly courageous.

Irish Terrier Club Recognition

  • Irish Terrier Club of America
  • Club flyer

Adding an Irish Terrier to Your Family

Getting an Irish Terrier puppy from a reputable breeder is best to prevent inevitable circumstances like health diseases and provide you with vaccination certificates. In addition, it is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure their health and happiness. 

An Irish Terrier puppy may cost around $800 to $3700, not including miscellaneous costs.

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