History & Overview
The Irish Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds in the world. It was developed in the 18th century to hunt rats, game and as a land and water retriever. Crossings involving the old Black and Tan and Wheaten Terriers may have laid the foundation of this breed, which originated in County Cork, Ireland. The breed club and the standard were established in 1879.
The Irish Terrier belongs to terrier dog group. Early terriers were bred to fight to the death, to never back down even in the face of a physically superior competitor. These traits are still evident in the scrappy, high-energy terriers of today. As a group, terriers are the most difficult dogs to obedience train, and they require daily aerobic exercise. Litters usually contain 4 to 7 puppies.
This is not a breed for the timid, the weak-willed or those who merely wish to pamper a pet and be pampered in return. The Irish Terrier is not aggressive toward people, and even appears a bit cautious or reserved when meeting strangers.
Loyal to the extreme, he is a natural watchdog. Nicknamed as “daredevil”, the Irish Terrier is one of the most fearless of all dogs and perhaps the premier guard dog of the terrier breed. On the other hand, he is an affectionate, loyal and devoted companion. The Irish Terrier is always eager to play with children and can be trusted to be sensible in its reactions to unintentional rough treatment.
They are tolerant of other pets in the home, but can easily be fired up if another animal shows any sign of dominance. Some Irish have been known to live compatibly with cats if raised with them. Small creatures such as pet mice or guinea pigs don’t stand a chance under the same roof as an Irish.
The young may have a darker coat due to some black hairs that will disappear as the dog matures. The average lifespan is 10 to 13 years. Many terriers do not shed but need to be hand-stripped or clipped to rid them of dead hair. Often this makes them a good choice for people who have mild canine allergies.
Intelligence in any terrier is a challenge to the pet owner as well as to many dog trainers because it conflicts with the way most other breeds are taught and the way in which they learn. Once your terrier has correctly performed the lesson you are teaching him, he will not repeat it over and over again just for the joy of pleasing you. His logical mind tells him that there is more to life than six perfect sits. One must never, ever, be physically harsh in training these dogs. Simply put: Don’t mess with those teeth! A sharp tone of voice is enough evidence of your disapproval. Gentle, but firm, is the appropriate course of action in training a terrier.