Irish Terrier

Other names: Irish Red Terrier

Irish Terrier

The Irish terrier is an active, compact working dog that has become a popular choice as a household pet. Like most working dogs, the Irish Terrier is a lively, high-energy breed. They’re also very healthy and robust and are resistant to many diseases and other health complications. The Irish Terrier was bred as a pack animal, and so they're well known for their social dispositions and fondness for other dogs and small children.

Key facts about the Irish Terrier

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Playful Hunter

Size :

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Origins and history

Experts believe that the Irish Terrier descended from the black and tan hunting breeds, and that it shares a common ancestry with the much larger Irish Wolfhound. The first breeding club was set up in Dublin in 1879. Shortly after, Irish Terriers were recognised as an official terrier breed by the English Kennel Club. They soon became a popular choice for farmers and hunters, gaining a reception for being excellent trackers and fearsome hunters halfway through the 20th century, Irish Terriers become a popular family pet, primarily for its fondness of young children.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 3 - Terriers


Section 1 : Large and medium sized Terriers

Physical characteristics of the Irish Terrier

  • Irish Terrier
    Irish Terrier

    Adult size

    Female : Between 17 and 19 in

    Male : Between 17 and 19 in


    Female : Between 24 and 29 lb

    Male : Between 24 and 29 lb

    Coat colour


    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    Irish Terriers have stocky frames with a deep chest. Their legs are much longer than most terriers, and they also have long necks and a high head carriage. This gives them a proud, elegant posture that is always ready for action. Irish Terriers have short, folded ears and longs muzzles covered with patches of long hair.

    Good to know

    Irish Terriers are not a naturally obedient breed. Without the right training and socialisation, they will be very difficult to handle. An unsocialised terrier will be destructive, stubborn, and aggressive toward other dogs and family pets. 

    Terriers were bred to hunt foxes, badgers, and other den-dwelling animals, meaning they love to dig. If you don’t want them digging up your flowerbeds, you’ll need to create some space where your Terrier can satisfy this instinctual behaviour.


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      The Irish Terrier will certainly show its family lots of affection, but don't expect these high-energy dogs to spend too much time cuddling up on your lap. They're far too independent and active to be treated like a lapdog.

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      Like most terrier breeds, the Irish Terrier is very playful. These working dogs are eager to please and find reward-based games and training extremely stimulating. They also like having fun and will happily keep their owners entertained for hours at a time.

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      Irish Terriers are not known for being one of the calmer breeds! These dogs are full of energy, have a low tolerance for boredom, and will likely chase after anything that moves. They can also be very territorial, meaning they're likely to start barking and yapping when “strangers” come to visit.

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      A highly-intelligent breed with a willingness to learn, the Irish Terrier requires an experienced handler who understands positive reinforcement training techniques. Like many intelligent breeds, these dogs can be a bit stubborn and independent. So you’ll need to keep them engaged in the right way.

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      These dogs were bred to hunt. As with many terrier breeds, they were first used to hunt small vermin and later became valuable hunting companions in the search for bigger game. Today's Irish terrier retains many of these hunting instincts.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      Irish terriers aren’t fearful or wary of much, and when they are, they tend to go on the offensive. Rather than avoiding or hiding from strangers, an Irish Terrier is much more likely to start barking and yapping at them. This is their way of saying “who are you? And what are you doing in my space?"

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      Irish Terriers are very social animals and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. If they are, they do have a tendency towards destructive behaviour. That being said, these dogs are very independent minded. This requires a skilled handler, especially when it comes to training.

      Behaviour of the Irish Terrier

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        Tolerates solitude

        Irish Terriers are pack dogs who need plenty of company. Leaving an Irish terrier alone for long periods of time will have a very negative effect on its mental health. This will result in a host of behavioural issues including destructive behaviour and separation anxiety.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Providing you understand the fundamental principles of positive training methods, the Irish Terrier is very easy to train. Without such techniques, the Irish Terriers independent streak can take over, and you'll have a very stubborn and disobedient dog on your hands. If you've never owned a dog before, then do plenty of research on reward-based training methods before adopting an Irish terrier. You may even want to invest in some professional help from a certified dog trainer.

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        He never barks without reason.

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        Tendency to run away

        His hunting instinct and exceptional sense of smell push the Irish Terrier to follow tracks as soon as he gets the chance.

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        This depends. As long as their needs are being met, an Irish Terrier will rarely become destructive. However, if they're bored or lonely, this breed will destroy anything they can get their teeth into. And they’ll probably cause a lot of expensive damage. They have powerful jaws designed for tearing things apart.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        Irish Terriers are not particularly greedy or glutinous. However, like most breeds, they will over-eat if you let them. So make sure you feed them within the recommended guidelines; obesity can lead to many serious health problems.

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        Guard dog

        Irish Terriers are alert, loyal, territorial and very vocal. They make excellent watchdogs.

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        First dog

        It is a good choice for a first adoption but it is preferable that it is initiated by a hunter or a particularly dynamic owner.

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          Irish Terrier in a flat

          He can live both inside and out. Apartment life can be considered but he needs a lot of exercise.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          All Irish Terriers need plenty of exercise and stimulation. A short morning walk is enough to start the day, but they'll also need a much longer (and more interesting) walk in the afternoon. These dogs like to explore and need plenty of time off the leash to be truly happy. It's also a good idea to let them have access to a garden or fenced of open space throughout the rest of the day.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          They’re not the easiest dogs to travel with. This is because of their energetic and lively nature.


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            Irish Terrier and cats

            Although he is a very good hunter, if he grows up with cats, a nice friendship can be born. Be careful however to "foreign" cats that pass in the garden.

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            Irish Terrier and dogs

            Irish Terriers are social creatures, but they're also quite dominant. This can be a problem when they come into contact with other stubborn breeds.

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            Irish Terrier and children

            Irish Terriers are great with children of all ages. Their loving and playful characters makes them a perfect addition to families with younger children. But Irish Terriers can be very boisterous; they should always be supervised around toddlers.

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            Irish Terrier and the elderly

            Some elderly people might be a bit intimidated or unnerved by the Irish Terriers boisterous nature, which can easily be misinterpreted as aggressive. Other might just find it annoying.



            The average cost of a purebred Irish Terrier puppy is somewhere between £570-£1020.

            You'll also need to budget around £30-40 a month for feeding costs, and the average cost of a basic insurance policy is around £20,00 per month, although this varies from dog to dog. Yearly health checks, vaccinations, and other costs will add to an annual expense of around £900.


            A weekly brush will keep their coats clean and healthy. However, they will need a few trips to the dog groomer. Their thick undercoat must be hand-stripped by an expert and the hair between their paw pads will also need trimming. If left alone, this will soon become matted and dirty.


            Irish Terriers are not prone to air loss, although they will shed quite heavily during warmer times of the year.

            Nutrition of the Irish Terrier

            An averaged sized Irish Terrier requires around two cups of high-quality dog food twice a day. They will also need access to fresh clean drinking water.

            Health of the Irish Terrier

            Life expectancy

            The average lifespan for an Irish Terrier is between 13-15 years.

            Strong / robust

            He is a very strong dog but can suffer from health problems despite his resistance and his courage.

            Withstand heat

            Most terriers were bred in cold, harsh environments, hence their thick insulating undercoat. This will shed during summer and spring, although it's still good to give it an additional trim during hot periods of weather. This will reduce the risk of overheating.

            Withstand cold

            Because of their double coat, Irish Terriers are highly resistant to cold weather. Their thick underlayer is extremely insulting, while the wiry topcoat protects them from rain and snow. Many Terriers were bred in the Scottish Highlands, so these dogs will have no problems surviving a standard British winter.

            Tendency to put on weight

            Like any dog, Irish Terriers will overeat if you let them. That being said, their naturally high energy levels and active nature means they’re unlikely to become obese. Still, it's important to feed them within the recommended guidelines.

            Common illnesses

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