Kerry Blue Terrier – Everything You Need To Know

The national Terrier of Ireland, the Kerry Blue Terrier, also called the Irish Blue Terrier, is an aggressive, spirited working dog used as a police dog, hunter, water and land retriever, and sheep cattle herder. Originating in County Kerry, Ireland, Kerry has a boxy appearance like the Airedale Terrier, characterized as hardy, lively, demonstrative, gentle, and long-lived. These versatile and adaptable farm dogs are as happy to hang out at home as they do any complex work. These puppies are best for an active family and need an experienced pet parent willing to train consistently and have enough grooming time. A home without any other cats and dogs is ideal. 

Kerry is one of the largest AKC-recognized terrier dogs born and bred to work. Also, they have all the typical terrier tenacities, making them effective hunters but occasionally challenging companions. Kerry has the build to perform various tasks, all demanding athletic ability, and they can herd, run, retrieve, swim, trail, and protect your property from rodents. Known for their loyalty, intelligence, and sometimes funny playtime antics, Kerry is a dog of medium build but is quite solid and muscular and requires supervision during playtime, especially around young children. However, they respond best to reward and praise rather than strict, harsh training. Kerry must be kept on a leash as their hunting instincts are powerful, and they will chase small animals as they see fit. These breeds can also be aggressive with other hounds, always wanting to maintain dominance. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Overview

Kerry Blue Terriers are lively, independent, hardworking, and tenacious, with a typical terrier slant on life. Kerry is an all-rounder combining agility, endurance, upbeat, speed, and capability to perform various jobs. They are loyal companions and protect their owners with extraordinary watchdog abilities. Kerry dogs are typically good-natured with people of all ages, including children. However, this working dog needs a great deal of exercise every day. Even though Kerry doesn’t shed and is relatively odor-free, they must be brushed daily to prevent matting and maintain their coat neat and clean.

Kerry’s defining characteristic is its blue coat with a gray tint. Pups are often born black, transitioning through dark brown, gray, blue, and blends of these colors until they reach a mature blue-gray at about 18 to 20 months. Also, their V-shaped ears, black nose, and the mop of hair that falls over the eyes further distinguish Kerry’s look. However, being true to their Terrier roots, Kerry Blue dogs are suspicious of strangers and bark at unfamiliar sounds. Hence, considering your neighbors, it’s essential to tone down their unhappiness and train them on when and when not to bark.

Kerry Blue Terrier Pros and Cons

Loyal and alertHigh prey drive
It doesn’t shed muchCan be dog-aggressive
Intelligent and eager to pleaseIt needs more than essential grooming

Kerry Blue Terrier Basic Information

  • Name: Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Origin: Ireland
  • Group: Terrier group
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 18 – 19.5 inches (male); 17.5 – 19 inches (female)
  • Weight: 33 – 40 pounds 
  • Coat: Soft and wavy short coat
  • Color: Black, blue, silver, blue and silver, blue and black, blue and gray, slate blue
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Agility, conformity, field trials, hunting tests, watchdog, obedience, rally, and farm dogs.
  • Barking Level: Medium
  • Shedding Level: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Litter Size: 6 puppies
  • Other Names: Irish Blue Terrier, Kerry, KBT
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Ratters
  • Life Span: 12 – 15 years
  • Club Recognition: The American Kennel Club (AKC), the Irish Kennel Club (IKC)

History of Kerry Blue Terrier

Developed in County Kerry, Ireland, the Kerry Blue Terrier’s exact origins are a mystery, but myths abound. Some consider that Irish laborers bred the Kerry dog in response to the much larger Irish Wolfhounds favored by the noble class. While the Wolfhounds were assigned with holding illicit hunters off of their masters’ property, the more stealth, small Kerry breed allowed those laborers to poach game on these same noble grounds. However, others speculate that the Kerry breed was created by crossing the Irish Wolfhound with a typical Terrier breed (an English or Irish Terrier).

Another story proposes that Kerry dogs are the offspring of a Russian Blue breed that swam ashore when a Russian ship was destroyed in Tralee Bay in southwest Ireland. The Russian Blue Dog is supposedly bred with regional Terriers to produce the Kerry breed. However, the Kerry Blue Terrier dog has a patriotic streak as a mascot for those who strove for Irish independence. 

  • The Kerry breed first appeared in a dog show in 1916. 
  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1924.

Kerry Blue Terrier Highlights

  • Kerry dog is a quick study, a strong-willed breed requiring a lot of patience and firmness.
  • Kerry is friendly to people, but their hatred for other dogs is well known. 
  • Kerry can be aggressive and quarrelsome. Therefore, pet owners must be alert when taking them outside. 
  • Kerry dogs require significant grooming, and their coats should be clipped several times yearly.
  • Initially bred for hunting and tracking prey, Kerry dogs are designed to dig and still have that drive today. 

Kerry Blue Terrier Personality

Kerry Blue Terriers are renowned for their deep chest, wavy blue coat, and muscular frame. In addition, this working dog’s sporty keen eyes and compact, erect tail gave them an alert readiness for all life’s adventures. These medium-sized dogs are lively and boisterous and can be self-confident and stubborn without regular and consistent training. However, they are challenging to train as they are stubborn. Therefore, a skilled hand with plenty of creativity is required to bring out their best. 

Friendliness Overview

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

Adaptability Overview

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

Kerry Blue Terrier Physical Features

Head: Powerful and long head with a well-balanced body, small dark eyes, V-shaped ears, flat skull, well-made-up foreface, deep muscular jaws, clean and level cheeks, large, black nose, and strong teeth. 

Neck, Topline, and Body: Moderately long neck with strong and straight back, deep chest, well-sprung ribs, and shot loins. 

Tail: The tail should be set high and carried erect.

Forequarters: Long and sloping with well-laid-back and well-knit shoulders. They have hanging elbows perpendicularly to the body with straight forelegs, short pasterns, tiny compact feet, and arched toes with good pad depth.

Hindquarters: Their thighs are long and powerful for the dog’s size, with the stifles bent and straight legs from hock to heel. 

Coat: Kerry dogs have a soft, wavy, and dense coat. 

Color: A matured Kerry has shades of gray-blue to light blue gray. Their color passes through one or more evolutions involving a very dark blue, shades or tinges of brown, and mixes of these, together with a progressive infiltration of the correct mature color. 

Gait: Their gait is free, smooth, effortless, and agile, with a strong drive from the rear and good reach in front.

Disqualifications (AKC Standards)

  • A black dog 18 months of age or older.
  • White markings on a black dog 18 months of age or older cannot be considered a clear or mature color.

Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament

A versatile terrier, Kerry’s trait is many-faceted, from hunting and herding to being a fun-loving companion. They require mental and physical activity daily in a safe area. Kerry can be protective of outsiders and may be fierce toward other dogs and small animals, yet they enthusiastically welcome verified companions. They are ingenious and independent, and some Kerry dogs may tend to bark. Typical demeanors to be aware of are chasing wildlife, digging, and barking. However, due to their working backgrounds, Kerry dogs can be challenging to distract once they’re engaged in an activity.

Kerry Blue Terriers have exceptional hunting skills and a strong desire to strive out and destroy vermin. Hence, a fenced yard and leashed walks are essential for their safety. They’ll hunt rapidly, dragging objects without attention to where the chase leads them. They represent boldness and are good watchdogs who adore their family. With a do-it-all attitude and a keen cleverness, Kerry dogs discover and become adaptable, taking on any role you throw at them.

Kerry Blue Terrier Training

While approaching the puppy’s training, you’ll appreciate Kerry’s innate intelligence. An exemplary Kerry Blue strategy is maintaining your training methods consistently. Sometimes, training a Kerry dog can be challenging, given its headstrong perspective and agile build. However, you can use their brilliance, eagerness to please, and charming nature to ease the training method. It is best to offer constant training for your Kerry to harness their full potential. Similarly, their training sessions must contain a combination to encourage their attention until the end. You can teach them complicated tricks and positively reinforce their learning with praise, treats, and special playtime. Here are some of the training activities that you need to do with your Kerry Blue Terrier:

Here are a few dog interactive toys and products that you can use while training:

Dog Extendable Teaser Wand
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Tug Dog Toy
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Dog Puzzle Toys
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Milk-Bone Soft & Chewy Dog Treats
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Blue Buffalo Health Bars
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BAAPET 2/4/5/6 FT Dog Leash
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Basics Foldable Metal Exercise Pet Playpen
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Trainability Overview

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

Kerry Blue Terrier Exercise Needs

Kerry Blue Terriers require a lot of space and time to spend their high energy levels. You don’t have to take them for a long walk or jog if you have a yard where they can play and run effortlessly. If you don’t have a backyard, invest your time in the dog’s park with a leash. Kerries will thrive with a vigorous walk of at least 30 minutes of daily exercise blended with training lessons, play sessions, or activities like agility sports, and swimming. Similarly, early socialization and proper exercise can avoid unnecessary guarding instincts and timidness. Hence, it is essential to encourage them to be occupied mentally. You can meet your Kerry’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 
  • Swimming
  • Dog park

Here are a few puzzles and dog toys to keep your pet engaged:

XiaZ Dog Agility Equipments
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Classic Ball Launcher
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Dog Disc Toy
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Dog Treat Ball
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Exercise Needs Overview

Energy level Medium to high
Exercise needs High
Intensity Medium to high
Playfulness Medium to high

Kerry Blue Terrier Grooming

A Kerry’s coat maintenance is considered high compared to other dog breeds, which signifies a potential Kerry owner will need to set aside some time every week to brush and comb their coat nicely to prevent mats and tangles from forming. Kerries are hypoallergenic, low-shedder dogs with soft and wavy short coats. Generally, every six weeks is enough to keep their coat in check.

Kerry’s grooming needs are as follows:

  • Bathe whenever it’s required.  
  • Brush their teeth twice or thrice weekly.  
  • Brush their coat regularly and maintain facial hygiene. 
  • Trim their nails once or twice a week using a grinder. 
  • Clean their eyes and ears weekly.

Here are a few products and equipment to meet your Kerry Blue Terrier grooming needs:

Earth Rated Dog Wipes
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Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste 
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Arm & Hammer for Pets Tartar Control Kit for Dogs
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Virbac EPIOTIC Advanced Ear Cleanser
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OPULA Dog Eye Wipes
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Dudi Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmers
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Pet Union Professional Dog Grooming Kit
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Grooming Overview 

Easy to groomLow to medium
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Low

Kerry Blue Terrier Health

Kerry Blue Terriers are generally healthy, but like other dog breeds, they’re prone to certain conditions and diseases. Therefore, to keep them healthy, you must take your dog to the vet for regular health check-ups and ensure they are updated with vaccinations.

Health Overview

Overall health Medium
Weight gain tendencies Medium
Size Medium

Patellar Luxation: This painful disorder is the falling of the knee cap from its spot in the legs. Signs include dogs feeling uncomfortable while hiking or running and kicking their legs to set the kneecap in its position.

Allergies: Kerries can be allergic to various substances, ranging from food to pollen. If your dog licks their paws or rubs its face a great deal, get them checked by your veterinarian. 

Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition occurring when the thigh bones fail to fit aptly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint.

Other reasons:

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 


  • Pain  
  • Lameness

Eye problems: Kerries are inclined to these eye conditions: 

  • Glaucoma 
  • Cataract
  • Cherry eye 
  • Entropion 
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis) 
  • Eyelid mass 
  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) 
  • Corneal damage 

Hypothyroidism: A condition that occurs in Kerry dogs when their thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormones. This situation slows down your puppy’s metabolism leading to hair loss, lethargy, dark patches on the skin, obesity, epilepsy, and other skin conditions.

Epilepsy: The most prevalent neurological condition in dogs, affecting about 0.75 percent of the population. This disorder is a broad name for diseases indicated by repeated, uncontrollable seizures generated by a brain defect.

Degenerative Myelopathy: A condition also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) is a spinal cord disorder that causes weakening and paralysis in the hind limbs.

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA): A condition in which Kerry’s immune system strikes its blood cells. Symptoms include pale gums, fatigue, and occasionally jaundice. A swollen abdomen is also signifying since it signals an enlarged liver. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: IBD is an immune condition affecting the intestinal lining, causing vomiting and chronic diarrhea. While it may flare and subside, medicine and special diets can treat IBD.

Skin Cysts: It’s not uncommon for Kerry dogs to develop lumps and bumps, usually epidermal cysts or sebaceous gland cysts that don’t cause concern. However, if a cyst ruptures, it can become infected.

Keratosis is the development of warts, corns, and calluses on the feet or nose. It can be removed surgically or treated with antibiotics and corticosteroids.

Chronic Otitis Externa: A chronic infection of the outer ear canal, often caused by excessive hair in the ear that fosters bacterial and fungal growth. Kerry can be prone to infection. Therapy includes cleaning the ears and plucking the hair growing inside the canal.

Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (PNA): PNA is a rare, inherited nerve disorder. Signs usually appear when your dog is between 2 and 6 months of age. When the dog is a year old, he can’t stand up. Unfortunately, no treatment or tests determine whether breeding dogs are carriers of the condition.  

Factor XI Deficiency (Plasma Thromboplastin Antecedent Deficiency): A rare inherited blood clotting abnormality indicated by severe bleeding after surgery or trauma. As the name suggests, it’s caused by a deficiency of factor XI in the blood-clotting mechanism.

Dental Issues: Dental issues like bleeding gums, gum inflammation, tartar buildup, bad breath, and cavities are common in KBTs. Regularly brushing their teeth can prevent oral infections, gum diseases, and other dental problems. 

Infections: KBT is prone to certain bacterial and viral infections such as rabies, parvo, and distemper. Viral infection can be prevented by vaccination based on the dog’s age. 

Obesity: Obesity is a common health disease in Kerry Blue Terriers. Excess weight can result in back pain, digestive disorders, joint problems, and heart diseases. The ideal way to control this disorder is by maintaining a healthy diet and doing routine exercise.  

Cancer can be cured by surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy. However, it is essential not to ignore the symptoms and diagnose them earlier. Various cancer types affecting your pet are:  

  • Lymphoma: A severe illness that affects lymphocyte cells. 
  • Hemangiosarcoma: This is a hazardous form of cancer that originates in the lining of blood vessels and the spleen. It most commonly happens in middle-aged and elderly dogs.   
  • Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is a malignant bone cancer common in large and giant breeds.  

Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It eliminates the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancer. 

Recommended Health Tests

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Kerry Blue Terrier Diet and Nutrition

It is recommended to provide 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality, dry food to your Kerry Blue Terrier twice a day rather than letting the food on the plate all day to eat. Since these dogs are potential weight gainers, it is better to watch the quantity of food you offer. However, ensure the diet you feed is measured and tailored to your dog’s size, age, activity level, and weight. Similarly, limit the treats you give your dog, particularly while training.

Here are the best dry dog foods and supplements to meet your Terrier’s nutrition needs:

Purina ONE Natural Dry Dog Food
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Pedigree Healthy Weight Adult Dry Dog Food
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Blue Buffalo Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
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VetIQ Hip & Joint Supplement
Buy at Amazon

Nutramax Cosequin Joint Health Supplement
Buy at Amazon

Milk-Bone Hip & Joint Dog Supplement
Buy at Amazon

Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil
Buy at Amazon

Multifunctional Supplements for Dogs
Buy at Amazon

Kerry Blue Terrier Living Condition

Kerry dogs 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. Also, they are ideal dogs for active families who can provide these puppies with intellectually and physically stimulating tasks. However, they may locate an unwanted medium to keep themselves engaged when bored or lonely. Hence, they should not be left alone for extended periods, mostly without toys to keep them equipped.

Did You Know?

  • The 1st Kerry in North America were five pets imported in 1918 – 1919. They first appeared at shows in the very early 1920s.
  • The Kerry Blue Terrier is an all-rounder working and utility Terrier. 
  • Irish national leader Michael Collins had a Kerry named Convict 225. 
  • Kerry dogs are born black and have the prevalent gene for coat fading. As a result, their color began to fade to gray and gained its solid adult slate gray color by 18 months.

Rescue Groups


Adding a Kerry Blue Terrier to Your Family

Things to Remember Before Adding a Kerry Blue Terrier

Getting a Kerry Blue Terrier from a reliable breeder is best to prevent inevitable situations like health disorders and provide you with vaccination records. Also, checking with the puppy’s parents is best to ensure their health and happiness. 

Cost of a Kerry Blue Terrier

A Kerry Blue Terrier puppy may cost around $1500 to $2500, not including miscellaneous expenses.

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