Irish Terrier: Discover the Lovable, Spirited Family Companion

August 26, 2023

Welcome to our guide on the Irish Terrier, a beloved breed known for their loyalty, intelligence, and spirited nature. Originally bred as farm and hunting dogs in Ireland, Irish Terriers have found a new role as active and affectionate family companions. Their bright red or wheaten coat, medium-sized build, and friendly personality make them a great addition to any American household.

In this article, we will delve into the history and characteristics of the Irish Terrier breed, explore their temperament and unique traits, and provide practical tips on their care and training. Whether you're a first-time owner or an experienced dog lover, we hope this guide will help you better understand and appreciate the wonderful world of Irish Terriers.

Irish Terrier on a trail

Key Takeaways:

  • Irish Terriers are active and affectionate family companions, well-suited for American households.
  • The breed originated in Ireland as farm and hunting dogs.
  • Irish Terriers have a distinctive red or wheaten coat and medium-sized build.
  • They are known for their loyalty, intelligence, and fearless disposition.
  • Irish Terriers require regular grooming, moderate exercise, and mental stimulation.

History of the Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier breed has been around since the 1700s, originating in Ireland as a versatile farm and hunting dog. They were often used for hunting small game, such as foxes and rats, as well as for guarding the farm and serving as loyal companions.

The Irish Terrier was first recognized as a breed in the late 19th century, with the Irish Terrier Club being formed in 1879. They quickly gained popularity, especially among the working class, and were known for their fearless and tenacious nature.

1879The Irish Terrier Club is formed
1885The Irish Terrier is recognized by the American Kennel Club
1918The Irish Terrier is used as a messenger dog during World War I

During World War I, the Irish Terrier was even used as a messenger dog due to their intelligence and loyalty. Despite the war's devastation, the breed survived and remained popular throughout the 20th century.

History of the Irish Terrier Conclusion

The Irish Terrier has a rich history that dates back centuries in Ireland. They were originally bred for hunting and guarding purposes but quickly became beloved family companions due to their loyal and affectionate nature. While their roles have evolved over time, their spirit and tenacity remain a defining characteristic of the breed.

Irish Terrier Characteristics

The Irish Terrier is a medium-sized breed that typically weighs between 25-27 pounds and stands 18-19 inches tall. They have a distinctive wiry coat that comes in shades of red or wheaten.

One of the most notable characteristics of the Irish Terrier is their intelligent and loyal nature. They are known for being affectionate and playful with their families, while also having a fearless and energetic disposition. They are an excellent choice of breed for active American households as they thrive on physical exercise.

Despite their medium size, Irish Terriers are known for their protective nature. They have a natural instinct to protect their family and territory, making them excellent watch dogs.

Overall, the Irish Terrier is a spirited and lovable breed that makes for an excellent family companion. With their high energy levels, intelligence, and loyalty, they are well-suited to an active American lifestyle.

Irish Terrier Temperament

The Irish Terrier has a temperament that is friendly, outgoing, and affectionate towards their family. They are known to be playful and cheerful, making them an ideal companion for active American households. However, their energetic and fearless disposition requires proper training and socialization to ensure they behave appropriately in different situations.

Irish Terriers have a natural instinct to protect their family and territory, making them excellent watchdogs. They are also intelligent and loyal, making them a great choice for those seeking a devoted and trainable pet.

It is important to note that Irish Terriers require a lot of attention and human companionship, as they are prone to separation anxiety when left alone for long periods.

With proper training and socialization, the Irish Terrier can be an excellent addition to any family, forming strong bonds with their owners and becoming a lovable and spirited family companion.

Irish Terrier Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are essential for keeping your Irish Terrier happy and healthy. Here are some tips to help you ensure your furry friend stays in top form.

GroomingIrish Terriers have a wiry, water-resistant coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its texture and color. Brushing your dog's coat at least once a week and stripping its dead hair twice a year will help keep its coat healthy. Bathing should be limited to once every three months or so unless your dog gets particularly dirty or smelly.
ExerciseIrish Terriers are spirited and energetic dogs that require plenty of exercise. Regular walks, runs, or playtime at the park will help keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated. Without enough exercise, your dog may become bored and destructive.
DietA well-balanced diet is essential for keeping your dog healthy. Choose high-quality dog food that meets your dog's nutritional needs and avoid overfeeding. Treats should be given in moderation and should not make up a significant portion of your dog's diet.
Veterinary CareRegular veterinary check-ups are essential for keeping your Irish Terrier healthy. Annual exams, vaccinations, and heartworm prevention are important preventative measures. You should also be on the lookout for any signs of illness or injury and seek veterinary care as needed.

In addition to the above care and maintenance tips, it's important to provide your Irish Terrier with plenty of love, attention, and training. By doing so, you'll ensure that your furry friend remains a happy and healthy member of your family for years to come.

Training an Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier is a highly intelligent and trainable breed. However, training requires consistency and positive reinforcement methods. Harsh training techniques may lead to the development of negative behaviors and aggression in this breed.

When training an Irish Terrier, it's important to establish yourself as the pack leader and provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. This breed thrives on human interaction and should never be left alone for extended periods. Early socialization is also crucial to ensure that they get along with other dogs and animals.

Obedience Training

Obedience training is essential for any dog, and the Irish Terrier is no exception. Start with basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. Use positive reinforcement methods such as treats and praise when they obey commands. Keep training sessions short and frequent to maintain the dog's interest.

Once the basics are mastered, consider enrolling your Irish Terrier in an obedience class. It's an excellent way to socialize them and further their training.


Socialization is key to ensuring that your Irish Terrier gets along with other dogs and animals. Start socializing them early with other dogs and people. Introduce them to different environments and experiences, such as parks, dog-friendly cafes, and trips to the vet.

When socializing your Irish Terrier, always supervise their interactions with other dogs and animals. If conflicts arise, remove your dog from the situation immediately.

Potty Training

Potty training your Irish Terrier requires patience and consistency. Use a crate or confined area to prevent accidents, and take them outside frequently to their designated potty area. Use a command such as "go potty" and reward them with praise and treats when they go in the right place.

When accidents happen (and they will), clean up the mess using an enzymatic cleaner to remove all traces of scent. Never punish your Irish Terrier for accidents, as it will only prolong the potty training process.

With consistency and patience, your Irish Terrier can become a well-behaved and obedient family companion.

Irish Terrier and Family Life

The Irish Terrier is an affectionate and playful breed that adapts well to family life. These energetic dogs love to be around their humans and thrive when given plenty of attention and affection.

Irish Terriers are well-suited for households with children, as they are patient and gentle with kids. When properly socialized, they can also get along well with other pets in the home.

However, due to their natural instinct to protect their family and territory, Irish Terriers may become wary of strangers. Early socialization and training can help to curb any aggressive tendencies and mold them into a well-behaved family companion.

close up Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier Health Concerns

While the Irish Terrier is generally a healthy breed, there are a few health concerns that potential owners should be aware of. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet can help to ensure your Irish Terrier stays healthy and happy.

Health ConcernDescription
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)PRA is a genetic condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in dogs. Irish Terriers are one of the breeds that can be affected. A DNA test is available to determine if a dog carries the gene for PRA.
HypothyroidismHypothyroidism is a common condition in dogs that can cause weight gain, lethargy, and other symptoms. Irish Terriers may be more prone to this condition, so it's important to watch for signs and symptoms.
AllergiesIrish Terriers can develop allergies to certain food or environmental triggers. These allergies can cause skin irritation, itching, and other symptoms that can be managed with medication and dietary changes.

As with any breed, it's important to choose a reputable breeder who screens their dogs for health issues and provides documentation of testing. By doing your research and staying on top of your Irish Terrier's health, you can help to ensure that they live a happy and healthy life.

Choosing an Irish Terrier

Bringing a new dog into your home is an exciting decision, but choosing the right one for your family can feel overwhelming. When considering an Irish Terrier, here are some factors to keep in mind:

ReputationLook for a reputable breeder with a history of producing healthy Irish Terrier puppies. Consider asking for references or referrals from other Irish Terrier owners, as well as checking with national or regional clubs and organizations.
Temperament and PersonalityIrish Terriers are known for their loyal, outgoing, and playful nature. Make sure to meet the parents and observe their temperament to get a sense of what the puppy might be like.
Activity LevelIrish Terriers are an energetic breed and need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Consider your family's lifestyle and ability to provide daily walks, playtime, and training sessions.
Grooming NeedsIrish Terriers have a wiry coat that needs regular brushing and stripping to maintain its texture and appearance. If you're not up for the grooming commitment, this might not be the breed for you.
Adoption OptionsIf you're interested in rescuing an Irish Terrier, check with local shelters and breed-specific rescues. Keep in mind that the dog's background and history may be unknown, so be prepared for potential challenges.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision about whether an Irish Terrier is the right fit for your family and lifestyle.

Irish Terrier as Working Dogs

The Irish Terrier was originally bred to work on farms and as hunting dogs. Their small size, strong build, and fearless personality made them valuable in tracking and controlling vermin such as rats and foxes. In addition to their vermin-hunting abilities, Irish Terriers are also talented in earthdog trials, which test their ability to locate underground quarry.

As working dogs, Irish Terriers display traits such as independence, resilience, and resourcefulness. Their intelligence and quick learning ability make them adaptable to various tasks, while their loyalty and protective instincts make them excellent companions and guardians.

Despite their impressive working abilities, Irish Terriers are also well-suited for family life. Their playful and affectionate nature make them perfect for active households, and with proper socialization, they get along well with children and other pets.

Irish Terrier in Pop Culture

The Irish Terrier breed has made its mark in popular culture, appearing in various books, movies, and even as companions of famous individuals.

In the literary world, the famous author, Agatha Christie, featured an Irish Terrier in her book, "Dumb Witness." The dog, Bob, helped solve the crime of the story. In addition, the children's book "The Poky Little Puppy" featured an Irish Terrier as one of the main characters, making the breed well-known among children.

Irish Terriers have also made their way into movies, including the 1938 film "The Adventures of Marco Polo," in which a pack of Irish Terriers were used to hunt leopards. In the 1955 film "Lady and the Tramp," an Irish Terrier named Jock provided loyal support to Lady and Tramp throughout their adventures.

Many famous individuals have also owned Irish Terriers, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and his beloved dog, Fala. Television host, Rachel Maddow, also has an Irish Terrier named Poppy, who can frequently be seen on her show.

"Irish Terriers were once a symbol of Ireland and the Irish, often appearing in political cartoons and even Irish coat of arms. Today, they continue to be a beloved companion breed with a rich history and presence in popular culture."

Irish Terrier Clubs and Organizations

If you're interested in connecting with fellow Irish Terrier enthusiasts, there are numerous clubs and organizations dedicated to the breed. Here are a few that you might want to check out:

American Kennel Club (AKC)The AKC is the largest purebred dog registry in the United States, and provides information on breed standards, upcoming events, and breeders.https://www.akc.org/
Irish Terrier Club of America (ITCA)The ITCA is the official AKC parent club for the Irish Terrier breed. They provide breed information, health resources, and a breeder referral service.https://www.irishterrierclubofamerica.org/
Irish Terrier Club of ChicagoThis club is dedicated to promoting the Irish Terrier breed in the Chicago area. They hold events, participate in parades, and provide resources for owners.http://www.irishterrierclubofchicago.com/

By joining a club or organization, you can connect with fellow owners and breeders, attend events and shows, and learn more about your Irish Terrier. Whether you're a seasoned owner or a first-time puppy parent, these resources can provide you with a wealth of information and support.

Exploring Irish Terrier Mixes

Irish Terrier mixes, or crossbreeds, are becoming increasingly popular among dog lovers. These mixes often inherit some of the Irish Terrier's positive traits, such as loyalty, intelligence, and playfulness. However, it's important to keep in mind that mixed-breed dogs can also inherit negative traits or health issues from their other parent breeds.

One popular Irish Terrier mix is the Irish Wolf Terrier, a cross between an Irish Terrier and an Irish Wolfhound. These gentle giants can weigh up to 120 pounds and are known for their loyalty, calmness, and affectionate nature.

Another mix to consider is the Irish Staffy, a combination of an Irish Terrier and an American Staffordshire Terrier. These dogs are often smaller than the Irish Wolf Terrier but can still weigh up to 70 pounds. They are known for their intelligence, energy, and playfulness, making them great companions for active families.

The Cairn Terrier is another breed that can be mixed with the Irish Terrier, creating a hybrid known as the Irish Cairn. These dogs are charming, outgoing, and intelligent, but they may inherit the Cairn Terrier's tendency to chase small animals.

While these mixes can be wonderful pets, it's important to do your research and consider the temperament and health of both parent breeds before making a decision. Always meet the puppy's parents and ask the breeder about any potential health issues.

Pros and Cons of Owning an Irish Terrier

When considering adding an Irish Terrier to your family, it's important to weigh the pros and cons to ensure that this breed is the right fit for your lifestyle and expectations.


  • Loyalty: Irish Terriers are known for their unwavering loyalty to their family. They are devoted companions who will always be by your side.
  • Intelligence: These dogs are highly intelligent and thrive on mental stimulation. They are quick learners and enjoy training sessions that challenge their minds.
  • Energetic nature: If you have an active lifestyle, an Irish Terrier will fit right in. They love to play and need plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
  • Family-friendly: Irish Terriers are great with children and can make wonderful family pets. They are also compatible with other pets when properly socialized.
  • Fearless disposition: Irish Terriers are confident and outgoing, making them great watchdogs. They will protect their family and territory with unwavering devotion.


  • Mental and physical stimulation: As mentioned before, Irish Terriers need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. This may be a challenge for owners who don't have the time or energy to keep up with their needs.
  • Grooming: Their wiry coats need to be brushed regularly and stripped a few times a year to maintain their appearance. This can be a time-consuming process and may require professional help.
  • Stubbornness: While Irish Terriers are intelligent, they can also be stubborn at times. Training needs to be consistent and positive to ensure success.
  • Health concerns: Like all breeds, Irish Terriers have some potential health issues, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism, and allergies. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet can help prevent or manage these conditions.

Overall, the Irish Terrier is a lively and loving breed that can make a wonderful addition to the right family. However, it's important to consider their needs and potential challenges before making a decision.

Irish Terrier Versus Other Terrier Breeds

While the Irish Terrier is a unique breed, it's helpful to compare its characteristics to other terrier breeds. Here's how the Irish Terrier stacks up against some of its close cousins:

BreedTemperamentAppearanceCare RequirementsSuitability for Different Lifestyles
Jack Russell TerrierHigh-energy and feistySmall and muscular, short coatRegular exercise and groomingBest for active households with experienced dog owners
Scottish TerrierIndependent and loyalSmall and sturdy, long coatRegular grooming, moderate exerciseBest for families with older children and a relaxed lifestyle
West Highland White TerrierConfident and friendlySmall and compact, white coatRegular grooming, moderate exerciseBest for families with children and a somewhat active lifestyle

As you can see, the Irish Terrier shares many traits with other terrier breeds. However, its medium build and distinctive red or wheaten coat set it apart from some of its smaller cousins. When comparing different terrier breeds, it's important to consider your own lifestyle and preferences to determine which breed is the best fit for you and your family.


By now, you should have a clear understanding of the lovable and spirited Irish Terrier breed. They are well-suited for active households and make great family companions. As a medium-sized dog with a wiry coat and distinctive red or wheaten color, they are intelligent, loyal, and fearless.

If you are considering an Irish Terrier as a pet, it's important to understand their history, characteristics, temperament, and care requirements. With proper training, socialization, and care, an Irish Terrier can become a well-behaved and loving member of your family.

It's also important to be aware of any potential health concerns associated with the breed and to choose a reputable breeder or rescue organization when selecting a puppy or adult dog.

Overall, the Irish Terrier is a fantastic choice for those who are looking for an energetic and affectionate companion to share their active American lifestyle. So if you're ready for a lovable addition to your household, consider the spirited Irish Terrier.


Q: What is the temperament of an Irish Terrier?

A: Irish Terriers are known for their friendly and outgoing nature. They are affectionate and playful, making them great family pets.

Q: How often should I groom my Irish Terrier?

A: Irish Terriers have a wiry coat that requires regular brushing and stripping. Aim to groom them at least once a week to keep their coat healthy.

Q: Are Irish Terriers good with children and other pets?

A: When properly socialized, Irish Terriers can be excellent companions for children and get along well with other pets. It's important to introduce them to different situations and animals from a young age.

Q: What are common health concerns for Irish Terriers?

A: Irish Terriers may be prone to health issues such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism, and allergies. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet are essential for maintaining their overall health.

Q: How can I choose the right Irish Terrier for my family?

A: When choosing an Irish Terrier, it's important to find a reputable breeder, consider the puppy's temperament and health records, and if possible, meet the parents. There are also adoption options available for those interested in rescuing an Irish Terrier.

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