If you are presently in the process of researching different breeds, and "think" you may want an Irish Terrier, please take a few minutes to carefully read the following. Unfortunately, most books, articles, and breeders only tell the "positive" side of owning one of these dogs. Since you're already aware of THOSE facts, I'll go ahead and finish the story. Please read on....as I'm going to give you a totally unbiased education.
As with all breeds, Irish Terriers have their own unique qualities: some quite wonderful, and others that you might find impossible to live with! These dogs are definitely NOT for everyone!! I can't begin to tell you the amount of inquiries that I receive (from people wanting to purchase a puppy) who know nothing about the breed other than having read that "these dogs are good with children," and "are so cute!" For starters, many reputable breeders will NOT place a puppy with: people who haven't had experience with terriers before, or families who have children under the age of 7, which is considered the "age of reason." There are numerous reasons for this. BRINGING AN IRISH TERRIER PUPPY INTO YOUR HOME IS GOING TO BE SIMILAR TO ADDING A TODDLER TO YOUR FAMILY!! AND I DO MEAN THIS SERIOUSLY!! They need your full time, undivided attention, and require training from day one. Because they have "minds of their own" and "selective hearing," it is important that ALL family members treat the puppy in the same manner, and give the same commands. This is something that very young children are unable to comprehend. If an Irish Terrier puppy is abused by a young child (such as ear or tail pulling, having feet stepped on, etc.), it is NOT going to forget it, and therefore is NOT going to like children! On the other hand, if a young child is knocked down by a strong, playful pup, and naturally runs away screaming and crying, the puppy is not going to understand. IT IS GOING TO GET VERY WOUND UP, AND CONSIDER THIS PLAYTIME!! AND MOST LIKELY, THE PUPPY WILL LOOK FOR REPEAT PERFORMANCES!! Although not hyper, these puppies are quite spirited, stronger than they appear, and love to chew on fingers and toes (with very sharp teeth) during the teething stage. Please be honest with yourself.....do you have the experience and capability to handle the above mentioned possible situations? If not, please don't consider bringing an Irish Terrier into your home until your children are at an age where they are old enough to treat a dog responsibly.
Irish Terriers are usually not recommended for the "first time dog owner," because they are a lot of work and really do best with experienced people. Obedience classes are DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED as soon as the puppy inoculations have been completed. It is not unusual for them to have to repeat the classes. (Do YOU have time for this???) They are strong willed, and are so intelligent that they get bored with repetition. Classes not only teach the puppies, but the owners alike. (This is VERY important!!) These dogs need to learn (in the correct manner) that YOU are alpha....otherwise "they" will take over the show, and run your life! I kid you not!!!! Although these dogs are truly a handful, they do NOT train well with a heavy hand! Hitting or yelling at an Irish Terrier will only make them more defiant!! Locating an instructor who is familiar with training terriers is a BIG PLUS! These dogs are smart enough to figure out how to "get out of what you want" (independent thinkers), and clever enough to pretend they didn't hear you (selective hearing). Please keep in mind that although we can educate these dogs, they will ALWAYS have minds of their own!!! They will NEVER become well behaved robots, or couch potatoes, like so many other breeds do! An uneducated Irish Terrier is impossible to live with! Training will be ongoing and life long. They will present a challenge to your life and will always keep you on your toes. These dogs will try your patience to the umpteenth degree at times. They will steal and hide your socks, take control of your kids' toys (especially dolls and stuffed animals), shred your daily newspaper, your grocery list, toilet paper, every magazine they can sink their teeth into, empty every waste basket within reach, eat your TV remote control, the pair of glasses left within reach, steal the roast that you have defrosting on your counter top, unplant your garden, and may even decide to take a swim in your toilet. And God forbid they should find out where you store "their cookies!" They are typical terriers, and love to dig, chew, chase and tease. They are also very territorial, and it's not unusual for females to "mark their territory" as much as the males do. They can never be left off lead, as they will bolt after anything that moves, and may not return when called! They have enormous natural energy and do best with a fenced yard or an owner who has plenty of time in his daily routine to exercise his canine companion. If their daily exercise needs aren't met, they are likely to become bored and destructive. A bored or lonely dog will make his own entertainment, and there's no telling what he may get into!! Some Irish Terriers are notorious escape artists, i.e. opening gate latches with their noses. Yards must be kept secure, and dogs should not be left unattended for long periods of time. Also. ADULT Irish Terriers RARELY get along with same sex dogs. This is the true nature of the breed, not a "hormonal thing," so spaying / neutering has NO EFFECT on this....NEITHER DOES RAISING TWO SAME SEX DOGS TOGETHER!! Young puppies are very amiable, but this CHANGES WITH MATURITY!!! Dogs that have been VERY WELL SOCIALIZED from a young age have a "better" chance of "tolerating" others of the same sex, but this is something that is NOT TO BE COUNTED ON!!! THIS IS A FACT THAT YOU NEED TO BE VERY AWARE OF IF YOU'RE CONTEMPLATING BRINGING AN IRISH TERRIER INTO YOUR HOME!! SOME BREEDERS SIMPLY GLOSS OVER THIS, OR FAIL TO MENTION IT AT ALL! Also, Irish Terriers want to be "the top dog." If you presently own an alpha dog that is not willing to step down in rank, then an Irish Terrier isn't for you!
This is not the type of dog that you can let your 10 year old walk unattended. A young child or novice dog owner, for that matter, does not have the logical capability to anticipate a potential problem, such as a loose same sex dog approaching (assuming that you spot it) or a rabbit jumping out in front of you. These dogs are much stronger than they appear to be!! Life is NEVER dull with an Irish Terrier!!! If you aren't prepared for the antics that make them so endearing to some of us, then this dog isn't for you! YOU MUST HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR TO OWN ONE!!!
Relatively speaking, very few Irish Terriers end up in shelters or the Irish Terrier Club rescue program. But unfortunately, this number is starting to increase. Part of this is due to the fact that many breeders don't take the time to fully describe the true nature of this dog to potential owners.
Many of the dogs that come into rescue originate from puppy mills. I want to make you aware that ALL Irish Terriers found in pet stores are from puppy mills, no matter what the sales people or owner of the store tells you! Period!! Reputable Irish Terrier breeders DO NOT wholesale their litters nor do they place their pups in pet stores. Although it's absolutely heartbreaking seeing that "doggy in the window," purchasing one of them only promotes the sales from puppy mills. The more Irish Terriers sold through pet stores, the more the mills are going to produce. Puppy mill Irish Terriers are known to have numerous health and temperament problems that this breed is not normally prone to. Most of this is due to the fact that many of their dogs are very inbred and kept in horribly unsanitary conditions. Unfortunately, many of these health problems don't appear until the dog is close to one year of age or older, so when it comes right down to it, the "health guarantee" that the pet stores offer aren't worth the paper that they're written on. Many of their dogs can no longer be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), and come with "pedigrees" registered with small unknown mom and pop registries. If you are dead set on purchasing one of these dogs, then be prepared to set aside some money for possible future vet bills. Also keep in mind that it's impossible for a potential buyer to accurately assess the temperament of a very young puppy, especially not knowing the lines he came from or his true background. That darling, sweet, playful, affectionate pet store puppy may have you facing major problems down the road. A sick or ill-tempered Irish Terrier is NOT easy or fun to live with!!!
At present, WELL BRED Irish Terriers have very few genetic problems. They are actually one of the healthiest of all pure bred dogs. A good part of this is due to very devoted breeders, who, over the years, practiced selective breeding. Even today, selective breeding is an absolute must in order to maintain the excellent health and quality of this breed.
Irish Terriers vary somewhat in appearance and temperament according to their ancestral lines. It takes time and a "trained eye" to see their differences. They are whole colored, but may have a small patch of white on the chest. Colors range from different shades of red, to red wheaten, to wheaten. Many puppies have black hair mixed in at birth, which will disappear as the coat matures. Black on the tail is usually the last to go. Be aware that some of the vibrant colored dogs in show or pictures may actually be "color-enhanced." Irish Terriers have a double coat: a dense thick undercoat, and a harsh outer coat. COATS DO VARY IN TEXTURE, THOUGH, and can range from "soft" to very "wiry." According to the Irish Terrier standard, the "broken coat" is the only "correct" coat. There are also smooth, flat, open, curly, wavy, and the least undesirable, the pick out coat.
The preferred method of grooming is called stripping. "To strip" means plucking out the dead hair of the outer coat. Irish Terriers don't shed, so you are actually manually shedding the coat. This is not difficult to learn, and is not painful to the dog. It's done with the use of the forefinger and the thumb, or a dull stripping knife. There are also some new tools on the market now, such as the Mars Coat King, that strips the hair out in a matter of minutes when you comb it through the coat. This tool does tend to also cut some of the hair, so it is recommended for pet grooming only. Clipping a coat (which some pet owners prefer to do) causes the loss of the red tips of the hair shaft, consequently diminishing the rich vibrant color. Clipping also causes the coat to lose much of its natural waterproofing quality, and to grow in softer. Please read my commentary on grooming for more information. The coarser the coat, the easier it is to strip, and the less often it has to be done. Stripping should be done approximately 3 times a year (depending on the type of coat), starting at approximately 5 months of age. Brushing and some maintenance is needed in between the times the coat is stripped.
In the United States, approximately 1/4 of the Irish Terriers' tails are docked at approximately 3 days of age. The dew claws are also removed at that time. Docking is illegal in many European countries.
The vast majority of puppies must have their ears trained in order to attain proper ear carriage. The ears are trained by gluing them to the skull for months on end. This takes time, patience, and persistence, so the choice to do this or not is strictly up to you. If you don't train your puppy's ears, "what you see after approximately 8 months of age is what you get." Unfortunately, diligent ear gluing doesn't always produce perfect results. Many of those perfect ears that you see on show dogs have been surgically altered. Yes, show rules prohibit this, but unfortunately it is all too common. As a breeder and mentor, I will gladly offer instructions on ear training, etc., and will be happy to glue your puppy's ears for the first time, whether you purchased him from me or not. Please read my commentary on ear training for more information.
According to the IRISH TERRIER STANDARD, the height of an adult dog should be approximately 18 inches, or just below the average person's knee. The desired weight for a male should be 27 pounds, and 25 pounds for a female. THIS DOES VARY TO A CERTAIN EXTENT THOUGH, AND MANY OF TODAY'S DOGS TEND TO BE SLIGHTLY LARGER AND HEAVIER THAN THE STANDARD.
From the beginning, Irish Terriers have always lived as an integral part of the family. They are HAPPIEST WHEN LIVING IN THE HOME, AND ARE ACCEPTED AS A FAMILY MEMBER, RATHER THAN BEING A FULL TIME YARD OR KENNEL DOG!!! They are loyal, devoted, sensitive, good hunters, love water, and are protective of those they love. They are not a "one person dog," and love all members of their family equally. They are good natured with people, especially with children, but "can be" aggressive toward other dogs.
Reputable breeders are interested in placing their puppies in quality, loving, and life long homes with responsible people who are educated in this breed. They place their puppies with American Kennel Club (AKC) "limited" registrations, as a protection for the breed. A "limited" registration means that your dog is registered, but that no litters produced by your dog can be registered (the dog was not sold to you for breeding purposes). A dog with a limited registration is also ineligible to be entered in AKC conformation shows (it was not sold to you as a show dog), but CAN be entered in other events such as obedience, tracking, field trials, hunting tests, herding, lure coursing, agility, and earthdog trials. They take the time to screen potential owners, so don't be offended if you are asked "what you can provide in the way of a home," among other questions. They also offer legitimate health guarantees, and are more willing to mentor you for as long as you wish. If you are declined a puppy, try not to take it personally. It's possible that the breeder, with his/her knowledge and experience, feels that this is not the right dog for you.
Well bred Irish Terriers from reputable breeders are rare and hard to come by. Although they are not classified as a rare breed, they ARE rare. There are only approximately 300 of them born a year in the U.S.A., and they are on the pricey side. Breeders set their own prices within a certain range. A higher priced puppy does not necessarily mean a "better quality" dog. A very low priced puppy is most likely coming from a puppy mill. Consider the cost of your puppy as a long term investment. Spreading the cost over the period of 10-15 years that your dog will be with you, and knowing that this is known to be a very healthy breed, makes the cost reasonable.
Beware of breeders who tell you that their
entire litter is show quality, or charge high prices (involving
very young puppies) for "show" versus "pet"
quality. The quality of a very young puppy is extremely difficult
to establish, even for the most experienced breeder! Quality can
better be determined when a puppy is 6 to 8 months of age or older.
Irish Terriers are one of those breeds that changed rapidly with
age, so an 8 or 10 week old puppy with "show" potential
may NOT have that quality at 8 to 10 months of age.
Many publications (and breeders, for that matter) state that Irish Terriers are hypo-allergenic. Please understand that this blanket statement cannot be taken at face value. There is NO breed that is truly non-allergenic. All dogs produce saliva, urine, and dander (shed skin cells). You can be allergic (or become allergic) to one or all three. Irish Terriers produce less dander than many other breeds, and some people with low to mild allergies to dogs can tolerate them, BUT THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES!! Please do not purchase an Irish Terrier if you or one of your family members have pet allergies and have not ever been physically exposed to this breed! Take the time to visit as many breeders as possible (who have Irish Terriers exclusively) to find out how you react. Also be aware that coats that have been stripped (rather than clippered) tend to collect less dander, dust, and pollen. It would be advisable to groom your dog in this manner if you or someone in your household has allergies.
Believe me, you can't really learn all about Irish Terriers by reading a couple of books! Go to dog shows, talk to groomers, handlers, breeders, and other owners of Irish Terriers. It is important that you find a breeder that you're comfortable with and trust. A good breeder will insist on staying in touch with you, will answer all of your questions, will offer a health guarantee, and will offer follow up in the way of advice on training, ear setting, grooming, etc. Once that puppy is in your hands, you ARE going to have questions. YOUR breeder is the best qualified person to answer your concerns because they KNOW THEIR LINE OF DOGS and YOUR puppy. Unfortunately, I receive lots of e-mail and calls from people who are unable to make contact with their breeder. It's always sad to hear about the breeders who "take the money and run." When contemplating the purchase of a puppy, it's very important to first research the breeder! I suggest purchasing a puppy (only) from a member of the Irish Terrier Club of America (of which I am a long time member), or one of the local Irish Terrier Clubs, if you live in the United States. Members have a strict code of ethics to abide by, and they stand behind the dogs they place. It's a relatively small group of people throughout the country, and most members either "know" or "know of" each other. Although you may find a breeder in your local area (which is always preferable), you may not be comfortable with them for one reason or another. Don't settle for a breeder "just because they are local" and have puppies available. Do your research!!! You may end up deciding to travel a distance to pick up your puppy, or having one delivered to you. Be aware that, in most cases, shipping charges, cost of the airline approved crate, and the health certificate are above and beyond the cost of the puppy. Check out the options and decide carefully. Many people prefer to take turn around flights rather than driving a distance and putting their puppy through the stress of a long trip. Several airlines will allow a young puppy, in a soft sided crate, to fly under the seat in the cabin of the plane with the new owner. Many breeders will ship puppies alone via priority air, especially if there are non stop flights available. For those unable to come to my home to pick up their puppy, depending upon destination, we can occasionally hand deliver your puppy to you for the same price that it would cost to ship.
Well, now you've heard the negative side of owning one of these dogs. If you haven't yet scratched off "Irish Terrier" on your research list, then this might possibly be the dog for you.
If you have any questions about Irish Terriers, please feel free to call (evenings preferred) or E-mail! I am always happy to answer questions or offer advice no matter who you purchased your dog from.
|Irish Terriers Home Page||Ear Training Information|
|Photo Gallery||Genetic Diseases|
|Grooming Charts||Sign My Guestbook|