Irish Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Irish Terrier, originally from County Cork, Ireland, is probably one of the oldest terrier breeds. He is a feisty hunter and exterminator of den animals, otter, and water rats. The breed has also been used as a retriever and wartime messenger. The Irish Terrier became very popular in England during the late 1800s. The U.S. breed club was started in 1896. Today the Irish Terrier serves mainly as a companion dog and sturdy, loyal guardian of home and family, though he still retains his vermin hunting prowess.


The medium-sized, well-proportioned Irish Terrier looks very similar to the Wirehaired Fox Terrier, though somewhat longer and taller, and of a solid color with fewer furnishings. He has a flat skull and a long, whiskered, and bearded muzzle with powerful jaws. The stop is only really noticeable in profile. The nose is black. The ears are V shaped and fold forward. The hair on the ears is shorter and often darker than on the rest of the dog. The small, dark, fiery eyes are topped by bushy eyebrows. The front legs are long, straight, and muscular. The tail is docked to three-quarters its original length. The rough-looking wiry outer jacket is lined with a softer undercoat. The Irish Terrier is solid colored and might be red, golden red, or wheaten.

Key Facts

  • Height:  Averages 18 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  Averages 27 lbs. (male); 25 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Difficult to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, guarding, police work, and military work


The coat needs quite a bit of attention. Can be difficult to housebreak. This is a very healthy breed, prone to no major hereditary disorders. Likes to explore and chase things. Keep on leash except in a safe, enclosed space. Likes to dig.


Hot tempered, reckless, and exceptionally courageous. Animated, spirited, and loyal. Gentlemanly and yet a daredevil. Plays hard. A good friend for active children. Intelligent and trainable, but somewhat willful. Can be quite a handful. Train firmly right from the beginning. Very affectionate and kind with humans, but quite combative with other dogs. The Irish Terrier has a strong protective instinct, so he should be socialized well with people at an early age.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Not particularly dependent or independent
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Not generally trustworthy with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Very dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Fairly active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Professional trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Wiry coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Docking:  The tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  A small yard is sufficient
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Irish Terrier Breed Standard

Irish Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier Gifts