Irish Terrier - getting to know this intelligent breed

Get to know Irish Terriers

Irish Terriers are lively, strong willed and inquisitive. A perfect sized terrier for modern living, the Irish Terrier has a long-standing position in the history of working breeds

Developed in Ireland, the breed was honed to have the qualities of hardiness, courage and unsurpassed skills as a ratter.

Importantly, their temperament was bred to be suited to living closely with people. The coat of an Irish Terrier has resemblances to the Wolfhound in texture and colour and suggests a blood line with that most ancient breed.


The online sources I’ve found all say that male Irish Terriers weigh around 11-12kg, but I’ve found that the ones I’ve met are a bit bigger than this, coming in more around 14-15kg.

What do you think? How much does your Irish Terrier weigh? Let us know in comments!





11-12kg (according to Kennel Club)







‘An active, lively and wiry appearance; plenty of substance but free of clumsiness. Neither cloddy nor cobby but showing a graceful racy outline.’ [source: Kennel Club, UK]

I’m not sure what cloddy or cobby is!! What is the temperament of your Irish Terrier? Let us know in comments!

Other sources call them ‘bold, dashing, and courageous, lively, strong willed and inquisitive. Don’t they just sound the most fabulous of companions!

irish terrier


The Irish Terrier, as the name suggests, is a terrier dog hailing from Ireland.

Apparently, the Irish Terrier is considered one of the oldest terrier breeds. Online research tells me that The Dublin dog show in 1873 was the first to provide a separate class for Irish Terriers and that by the 1880s, Irish Terriers were the fourth most popular breed in Ireland and Britain.

Isn’t it fascinating how dog breeds go in and out of ‘fashion’. Although, dogs in the 1880s were not kept as pets, they were working members of the farm.

From being the fourth most popular, to being a delight to see on relatively few occasions, sadly the Irish Terrier is no longer even in the top 40 breeds owned in the UK and are classed as a ‘heritage breed’.

‘Over the centuries the breed was perceived as the perfect all-round, all purpose terrier… sturdy and strong enough ‘to protect the potato patch. but unlikely to eat you out of house and home’, courageous, indomitable, swift enough to catch small game but loyal and loving with children.’ [source: History - We Love Irish Terriers]

General Health

In general, Irish Terriers are a healthy breed.

However, there are a couple of things to be mindful of with your dog’s health. The below list includes things that you would keep an eye on in any breed, so don’t worry that Irish Terriers are particularly at risk.

[source: All About Irish Terriers (]

  • Bladder and kidney stones. These are painful deposits that form in your dog’s organs. Look for signs like blood in their urine or difficulty urinating. These are emergencies, so get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. With treatment, your pet will recover.
  • Cataracts. These make the lenses in your dog’s eyes opaque. They eventually lead to blindness. You can choose to have them treated with surgery. Keep in mind that older dogs typically adjust to the vision loss with few problems. 
  • Hyperkeratosis. This is a condition that causes the pads on your dog’s feet to thicken. It’s also called “corny feet”. It’s becoming more rare in the breed and is more common when the dog comes from a European line.   
  • Hip dysplasia. This is where the ball and socket of your dog's hip joint don’t develop properly as they grow. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other, wearing down and eventually making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog’s joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life.
  • Patellar luxation. This is a common cause of lameness in dogs that’s due to problems with your pet’s knee joint. They could be born with it or develop the problem from an injury. The treatment will depend on how severe your dog’s condition is but could include surgery.
  • PyometraThis is a uterine infection that can be dangerous for your dog. It only affects females that still have their uterus in place. The most effective solution is to remove the uterus.  
  • Thyroid problemsA common problem is hypothyroidism, where your dog’s body can’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin, hair loss, and behavioural problems. Your veterinarian should screen for this condition on an annual basis. Treatment is usually in the form of a pill to replace the hormones.

irish terrier agility 

Exercise requirements

One to two hours a day and they greatly benefit from brain games and can be good at agility.  See owner Ola's tips below on how to entertain an Irish Terrier.

Grooming and coat health

The Irish Terrier has a harsh wiry coat will benefit from a brush. Some owners choose to hand stripping to maintain the harsh outer coat whilst others ask the groomer to clip cut.

See Ola’s opinion below, she owns an IT and believes they should be stripped.

Irish Terriers do not shed as a rule, or very little, they are classed as a wire hair breed with a double coat.

They need bathing as much or as little as any dog.  Have you had the best adventure and got really muddy? Then a bath it is for you!

The North of England Irish Terrier Club have more useful information about coat health and maintenance - Grooming your Irish Terrier - The North of England Irish Terrier Club (


Owner’s guide – meet Pebble!

We asked our fabulous friends Ola and Seb to give us an owner’s view of what it’s like to share your life with an Irish Terrier.

 irish terrier pebble


Hi Ola, can you tell us what is it like to own an Irish Terrier puppy? e.g. levels of energy, challenges etc

Playful, curious, no separation anxiety, high level of energy, love collecting trophies - Pebble would find an item, a shoe, piece of clothing, my glasses etui, empty plastic bottle, really anything and proudly parade with it in front of us to the garden to chew on it.

Mind you, he never destroyed anything, it was more like an invitation to play, making sure that we will chase him was for him a lot of fun.

The best way to get the item back was luring him with a squeaky toy or a treat and fair-trade exchange for something else (good opportunity to learn 'swap').

 Let us know your experiences in comments!

How would you describe the personality of an IT?

Inquisitive, alert, resolute, plucky, friendly, affectionate, INDEPENDENT, easy-going but wilful, adaptable.

Very social - they like to be with humans and there where things are happening but will rarely seek attention - your presence is enough.

Active outdoors, but if they have enough exercise (physical and mental) they are relaxed and calm indoors.

What games do they like to play?

Tug – always

Ball - after Pebble finished 7 months before ball was not interesting, but the ball must bounce and roll. If it lands in the deep sand, high grass or bushes the fun is over

Hide & seek - with us

Treasure hunt/ scent work - hiding treats (at home or garden) and letting him find them (great training opportunity)


 Let us know what games you like to play in comments!

Are they good with other dogs?

Generally, yes.

Can be rowdy with the same sex.

Before his 2nd birthday Pebble loved all dogs, with no exceptions. Once he has finished 2 he started to growl/ bark at other intact dogs (still, some of his best palls are intact, it is mostly about meeting new ones) but he is good with ladies, neutered dogs and puppies

Are they good with people?

Pebble is great with people! And very careful and reasonable.

He lets everybody to pet him, but unless they are his friends, he will not jump at them or try to lick their faces*.

He will be more frivolous when he knows people (whole body wiggle and occasional jump) but he is never 'too much', he does not seek attention and will settle nicely after initial joy of meeting them.

He is great with children. He will happily (and carefully!) play with them if they want to, but also go about his own business if they are not interested. As hard as it is for me to imagine it and accept it, but not all kids are keen on dogs!

Pebble is fine with every number of guests (ages across the board) at home, and is easy going when we take him for family visits or parties (where he is most likely to be found in the kitchen...)

 * ITs are not licky. They do not drool (unless exposed to food directly in front of them which they are not allowed to have) and never ever have an urge to lick you, least your face. The highest level of IT affection is a transient touch of your ear with their tongue, blink-and-you-will-miss-it. It happens very rarely and I love when it does :)

 bob and pebble irish terrier

What challenges do they present and how have you worked through them?

Problem: Strong hunting drive. Pebble will chase deer, bunnies, cats, squirrels, or a plastic bag floating in the wind.

Squirrels are least problem, as soon as they are up the tree they are not interesting.

The persistence in chasing other creatures is worrying, problematic. Pebble will eventually come back but in the chase mode he has no sense for a road traffic etc.

Solution: environmental management - in places where I expect deer, cat etc. Pebble is always on the lead. Long lead if we are hiking in the woods. And Pebble wear a tracker, just in case.

Do they have any particular dislikes (e.g. loud noises)

Rain. Most of ITs dislike rain to the extent of not going out when it rains, alternatively galloping to next possible shelter if the rain catches them on the walk. 

Before getting an IT I strongly recommend purchasing rain jackets and dog robes from a friendly shoppy known as Be More Bob :)

Do they bark a lot?

No. Pebble barks when we play (chasing the ball in silence is no fun!), he will bark at the cat or at the things he is afraid of (as a puppy he was afraid of shapeshifters, like banners, bags or any fabric rustled by the wind, now no longer).

He will bark when someone rings the doorbell, and stop as soon as the door is open :)

Anything else you think could be useful to people reading about the breed...


ITs are hypoallergic breed - they almost do not shed.

Coat maintenance low, brushing once or twice a week to remove the dead hair and grooming 3-4 times a year (hand stripping not clipping!)

Health issues:




Like with most independent and spirited breads, training is a very good idea (I would even say a necessity). Well-trained dogs will obey you. Well-trained Irish Terriers might obey you (if it fits into their plans) but at least they will know what you want from them :) 


Home is where you are (and their favourite blanky). They are great travellers.

Tips for ownership:

I repeat myself here, depending on where one goes for a walk (ITs do not differentiate between vermin, cats or deer) having an IT on a lead/ long lead is a good idea.

IT will not trot next to you or go for a quick sniff and come back (well... in 50% of the cases it will, but in other 50% something will smell just so much better... and off he goes!). And always watch your dog. An unattended IT is very likely to get himself into trouble.

ITs enjoy challenges - physical and mental. And unlike some breads who adore you because you are there, in ITs case you must earn their affection - mostly by goofing around.

Playing games (ball, hide & seek, puzzles) is a great opportunity for training and bonding, but it takes time, energy and calls for some creativity.

And like with any other dog breed consequence is a key. Goofing around is great fun and great option to teach certain behaviours (all sorts of recall, drop, swap, stop recognising objects) but it is important to let your IT now when play is over.

ITs are great explorers/ reckless adventurers - discovering new places (often on a long lead) and sniffaris off beaten daily-walkies paths are great fun!

Summarising - IT are great dogs who demand to be a part of your life. They will reward your investment thousand times - but you must have energy and time to invest. If you are an active person who is ready to share your dogs adventures an IT is a perfect breed for you!

Thank you so much Pebble, Seb and Ola for letting us know what it's like to share your life with an Irish Terrier!

Pebble's favourite Be More Bob loot

Pebble's favourite bed is an Earthbound Morland rectangular bed. It's a British made bed, super plump with three pockets of filling and covered in upholstery fabric for a durable finish. It's washable, comfortable and durable - perfect!

Click here for Pebble's favourite bed - Rectangular Morland Bed - Breton Blue – Be More Bob

pebble irish terrier in earthbound bed

Pebble loves JR Pet natural chews, he particularly likes a beef tail, a lamb braid and a pizzle.

Click here to see Pebble's favourite JR Pet - JR Pet Products – Be More Bob

Pebble doesn't like getting wet and he wears a Ruffwear fully waterproof coat to keep dry, and look amazingly stylish! Click here to see Pebble's coat - Ruffwear Sun Shower Jacket - Midnight Blue / Hibiscus Pink / Blue Dusk – Be More Bob

ruffwear sun shower dog coat


pebble irish terrier dog robe

He also likes to wear a snuggly dry robe when he gets home. Click here to see Pebble's robe - Dogrobes – Be More Bob

Pebble loves to play tug, bouncy ball and 'find it'.  We've put together a page full of toys that would fit the bill! Click here to see our suggestions for an Irish Terrier - Pebble the Irish Terrier's favourite items – Be More Bob

Pebble wears a Ruffwear Flagline harness. The perfect harness for his shape with the added benefit that you cannot back out of a Flagline, so it's great for 'flighty' dogs.

He also uses a Ruffwear Switchbak lead (double ended) and owns a super cool Ruffwear Front Range harness Day Pack, which has pockets on the side.  Perfect for longer walks, hiking, adventures and such.

ruffwear front range day pack harness

Other sources

When researching the breed I came across this great website for fans and owners of the breed. There is a brilliant more in-depth history section on this site, with fascinating facts about how the Irish Terrier has evolved from working breed to fabulous family dog.

‘They are much more biddable today and many excel in ‘Obedience and Agility’ competitions. But the flame in their eyes is still the same – their intelligence and courage is intact and their deep affection for people is unaltered.’ [source: we love Irish Terriers]

We Love Irish Terriers - We Love Irish Terriers

Please let us know about your Irish Terrier in comments!

irish terrier


  • Great article. Our IT Jasper is always ready for (and seeks out) cuddles and fusses. He wants to be involved with everything. He hates the rain. Is a master of the splash and dash in bad weather and has cloth ears when being called in from the garden. He has a a strong hunting instinct and has caught and sadly dispatched rabbits when he gets the chance. He’s always walked on a lead. He’s fabulous with people, gentle with children and friendly with other dogs. He stops and waits for dogs to approach him which means he sometimes stops for a long time on walks until the other dog gets near. He’s a mischievous counter surfer and will pinch things for attention but give anything up for a treat. We get stopped multiple times on every walk to be complimented on his handsome looks – we are often told he’s a picture book dog.

    Joanne Melling
  • They are wonderful dogs.
    Nice article.
    Just one thing…ideally they aren’t meant to be clipped at all because one layer of their double coat grows back differently after clipping and is no longer water resistant.
    Our Milo is like Odin and Astra and is less than keen on the rain.
    Both our Irish terriers have had unusual barks – as if their voice hasn’t broken but I don’t remember family ones in the past being like that.
    I wonder has anyone else experienced that? I’ve had IT owners say they mature later than other dogs.
    I’m not sure they’re ever fully trustworthy off the lead and as they can jump really high so decent height fencing is advised.

  • We have two Irish terriers, a father and daughter duo- Odin and Astra. Odin is 6 and Astra is 3. They are wonderful, entertaining and charming dogs. Odin ranges between 13kg to 14kg, while Astra tips in at 12-13kg. They are great companions for each other. Odin has a calm and mild temperament, gentle with other dogs. Astra is a a bit more raucous and stands her ground a lot more with other more boisterous dogs. They really enjoy meeting people are very good with children. Both love the outdoors, though hate the rain! Odin has his own approach to recall and will return when he is sure there isn’t a better option, while Astra really is very good at coming back. They get great fun from hide and seek games and are crafty- they have been known to steal some food items from the kitchen counter! I could not recommend Irish terriers highly enough. They are loving, smart dogs and great companions.

  • Hi all, just to add – once Pebble is wet, because maybe your daily Dreich changes suddenly to a Lashing, he is fine with that and won’t mind. But dare you trying to pull him out into a Mizzle directly from the doorstep! 😜


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