Kerry Blue Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Kerry Blue Terrier originated in the mountainous regions of County Kerry, from which his name is derived. These dogs have been purebred in this part of Ireland for at least 180 years. The Kerry is the national terrier of Ireland (under the name Irish Blue Terrier) and has become a symbol of Ireland. The name comes from the skin color, not the coat color. No one knows for certain which breeds were used to develop the Kerry Blue, but many believe the Portuguese Water Dog contributed the silky, wavy, single coat. The Kerry Blue has been used as a small game hunter, retriever, herd and farm dog, house guardian, and family companion, and even in police work. The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, the national breed club, was founded in 1922, and the breed was recognized by the AKC two years later. Today the Kerry Blue is primarily a companion and home guardian.


The Kerry Blue Terrier is a well-built, muscular, medium-sized dog with true terrier style and character. The distinctive thick, wavy, blue-gray coat is silky and soft to the touch. Puppies are usually born black with a blue cast to the skin color. The coat color gradually goes through transition phases that may even include shades of brown, but the correct adult coat should eventually range from a dark slate gray to a light blue gray. The color is fairly uniform except for possible darker points on the head, muzzle, and extremities. If the coat has not lightened by the time the dog is 18 months old, he cannot be shown in an AKC show until the lightening occurs. Some adults never lighten properly, lacking the correct gene. The long, well-balanced head sports abundant whiskers, beard, and eyebrows. In show dogs, the eyebrows reach all the way to the bridge of the nose. The ears are V-shaped and crease above the skull to fall toward the outside corners of the small, keen, dark eyes. The ears are pasted while the puppy is of teething age to create the necessary crease. The nose is black. The back is short, and the dog is never low-slung. The tail is docked and carried upright, the straighter the better.

Key Facts

  • Height:  18 to 19-1/2 in. (male); 17-1/2 to 19 in. (female)
  • Size:  Medium
  • Weight:  33 to 40 lbs.
  • Availability:  Difficult to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, guarding, police work, and performing tricks


The distinctive blue coat is not only beautiful, but practical as well. It does not shed and is odorless, even when wet. Pet dogs need a weekly brushing plus professional trimming about five times per year. Pet Kerries can be trimmed in a Poodle puppy clip. Grooming techniques require some training. Groomers or breeders can show you how to do it right. Very specialized and extensive grooming is necessary for show dogs. Prone to cysts and tumors, which may need to be removed. The Kerry retains his youthfulness well into his late years.


Vivacious and playful. Determined and alert. Boisterous and unrepressed. Enjoys roughhousing. Intelligent and spirited, but somewhat willful. Needs firm obedience training. This breed is protective and should be extensively socialized, especially with other dogs, or he may be quite a handful. A good watchdog, but will not attack without real provocation. A loving family dog. Likes to be with his people, and is affectionate with friends of the family. Good at helping people laugh and have fun. Generally gets along well with other pets if properly introduced and supervised.


  • Children:  Good with children
  • Friendliness:  Moderately protective
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Fairly active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Professional trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Medium coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Docking:  The tail is customarily docked.
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Good for apartment living
  • Outdoor Space:  A small yard is sufficient.
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Standard

Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier Gifts