Photo by Anne Sollerud

Irish Terrier - Breed Profile:

Origin: Ireland
Colors: Red, golden red, red-wheaten, wheaten
Size: Medium
Type of Owner: Experienced
Exercise: Moderate
Grooming: Little
Trainability: Easy to train
Combativeness: Very dog-aggressive
Dominance: High
Noise: Average barker

Physical characteristics

The Irish Terrier looks very much the same as the Wire Fox Terrier but is slightly longer and taller. The Irish Terrier has a flat skull that gives this breed one of its most unique features. It's rather narrow between the ears, free from wrinkles, with a barely noticeable stop. The foreface and the skull from the occiput to the stop should be approximately the same length. The jaws are powerful and strong. The teeth should meet in a level bite. The nose is black. The small eyes are dark brown, full of life and intelligence. They are shielded with bushy eyebrows. The beard is also very distinct. The small V-shaped ears fold forward. The front legs are long, straight and muscular. The tail is docked to 3/4 its original length. Note: docking tails is illegal in most parts of Europe.
The weight of Irish Terriers averages 26 pounds. The height is about 18 inches.


Hot-tempered, reckless and exceptionally brave. Bold, inquisitive, always ready for action and adventure. Can be dare-devil. A good companion for children that are as active and energetic. Although this breed is intelligent and quite trainable, it can be stubborn. Firm, consistent training and calm, confident human leadership are necessary from the very beginning. A dog that has no boundaries and doesn't recognize the owner as a pack leader will be a real handful and is very likely to develop a lot of behaviour problems. The Irish Terrier should be socialized with both people and other animals at an early age to avoid over-protective and over-combative issues. An inborn hunter, this dog loves to dig, explore and chase things. Keep on leash except in a safe, enclosed area. Since Irish Terriers were bred for active work, they need plenty of regular exercise. A well-balanced and happy Irish Terrier is a very affectionate companion that can be quite entertaining and sweet.

Coat and grooming

The double coat is dense, wiry, with a broken appearance. The outer hair is rough and harsh, especially on the back and quarters. The undercoat is soft and extremely thick: when you try to part the hair with fingers, the skin cannot be seen. Irish Terriers come in solid red, golden red, red wheaten, or wheaten colours. Sometimes, small white spots on the chest are present. Regular brushing with a stiff bristle brush is recommended. Show dogs need more extensive grooming. It's also recommended to hand-pluck the dog twice a year.


A very healthy breed, prone to no serious hereditary disorders. The lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

Other interesting facts

Even though the dog's origin has been debated, it is thought to be one of the oldest terrier breeds. Early Irish Terriers came in a variety of colours, including black and tan, grey, and brindle. It was only near the end of the 19th century that the solid red colour became a fixture of the breed. The Irish Terrier was used to hunt den animals.