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irish terrier dog in park

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 18-20 inches
  • Weight — 25-28 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Dense, wiry, and medium-length
  • Coat color — Purebred dogs have solid colors of red, golden red, wheaten, or red-wheaten. Markings aren’t typical and aren’t part of the breed standard with the AKC.
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-16 years
  • Temperament —Trainable, dominant, protective, and family-friendly
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Ireland

Irish terrier fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Irish Terriers Buddy; Roscoe is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Irish Terriers love Molly, then Maggie.

  • One dog household. While each dog is different, Irish terriers typically do best when they are the only (and thus, top) dog in the home.
  • Irish terriers have energy. In addition to mental stimulation, Irish terriers also need the chance to burn off excess energy with playtime and/or training.
  • Prepare for a battle of wills. Because Irish terriers are a blend of stubborn and intelligent, they may try to take over the home; owners should be consistent yet firm.

Irish terrier temperament and characteristics 

Ideal as a family pet, the Irish terrier is social and playful with enough energy to run and play with every family member. Their protective nature also makes them great watchdogs, alerting family members to strangers and guests that may stop by for a visit. Because of this, Irish terriers must receive consistent training to prevent unwanted behaviors.

While affectionate towards people, early socialization is essential for homes with multiple pets. Irish terriers tend to prefer the company of people, and while every pup is unique, it’s good to remember that they may need that extra attention.

Common Irish terrier health problems 

While an overall healthy breed, Irish terriers tend to have a few health issues that owners should be aware of when they bring home this medium-sized dog.

  • Hyperkeratosis. While it isn’t as common today due to responsible breeding and genetic testing, Irish terriers can still develop hyperkeratosis, particularly around the nose and paws.
  • Cataracts. Like many other dog breeds, Irish terriers are susceptible to cataracts , in which the eye’s lens becomes cloudy due to illness or age.
  • Cystinuria. While rare, this painful urinary disease is more common in Irish terriers than in most other breeds. When cystinuria occurs, painful cystine stones form in the kidney, bladder, and ureter (tubes that connect the kidneys and bladder).

Cost of caring for Irish terriers

The month-to-month cost of caring for an Irish terrier can vary depending on their needs. For healthy dogs that don’t need prescription medication or ongoing medical care, owners should expect to pay around $900 a year, or about $80 a month. This includes annual vet visits, vaccines, high-quality dog food, and flea, tick, and heartworm medication (like Simparica Trio).

Bulk purchases and unexpected events can come up, so creating a pet budget and considering health insurance is important. While health insurance may not help with grooming or routine vet visits, it’s invaluable when dogs get sick unexpectedly or when accidents occur while your pup is adventuring with you.

History of the Irish terrier

Just as their name suggests, Irish terriers are part of the larger family of terrier breeds. Every terrier can trace its ancestry back to the British Isles, where they were bred to control pests. Irish terriers are no different. The breed first made a notable appearance in the late 1800s, and at that time, was only seen as a red terrier. An offshoot of the now extinct black and tan terrier, Irish terriers were popular because of their varied skillset, exceptional work ethic, trainability, and bravery.

Farmers loved these dogs because of their skills at pest control, but they also made exceptionally loyal guard dogs and family dogs. They grew in popularity so much that by World  War I, they were delivering messages during the war. While their popularity waned after World War II, they are still popular dogs today with numerous clubs, including the Irish Terrier Club of America.

Irish terrier outdoors

Caring for your Irish terrier

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to Irish terriers.


Perfect for energetic owners and families, the Irish terrier loves to be an active companion. Pet parents to Irish terriers should be prepared for long walks, hikes, or other vigorous activities every day. Because of their trainability and energy, Irish terriers are excellent choices for dog sports.

Owners should prepare to provide dog booties to protect their dog’s feet and prevent blisters, and jackets during the winter. While these pups are well suited to harsh weather, it’s still important to be mindful of the outdoors’ impact.

Irish terrier lying on grass in a garden


Compared to many other purebred breeds, the Irish terrier is low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Brushing out their coat once a week is enough to keep shedding down, while hand-stripping a few times a year removes dead hair. For new pet owners, it’s best to seek the aid of a groomer for hand-stripping.

In addition to the typical needs, like nail trimming or ear cleaning, pet owners should be prepared to brush their dog’s teeth on a regular basis.

No breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

Like other dog breeds, a balanced, high-quality diet is the key to helping your Irish terrier stay healthy throughout their life. It’s best to follow your veterinarian’s guidance on how much food to feed your dog as well as choosing the right dog food. In general, medium-sized dogs like Irish terriers should be fed around 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of dog food a day. Consider a brand like Purina Pro Plan High Protein dry dog food for a quality food that doesn’t have a lot of filler.

Training your Irish terrier

As we’ve mentioned above, Irish terriers are very intelligent, but also very stubborn. Consistency and patience is key when it comes to training an Irish terrier. When training at home, it’s important to research training tips from the experts. Or, find a dog trainer that can help train your Irish terrier early on. In the meantime, here are a few tips.

Keep sessions short — Training sessions should be brief, fun, and varied. This allows your pup to stay engaged and interested.

Work on recall — Initially, having your Irish terrier off-leash may not be a great plan. Irish terriers can have a high prey drive, so it’s important to keep them close at first.

Use positive reinforcement — Irish terriers, like any other dog breed, respond best to positive reinforcement while training.

In the strictest sense, ‘positive’ reinforcement is actually the ‘addition’ of something in training, while ‘negative’ reinforcement is the removal of something. Nowadays, we tend to think of positive as a benevolent type of training (‘good job’) and negative as something bad (hitting with a newspaper, yelling, etc). But regardless of training type, all dogs tend to learn better with patient and kind attitudes from their trainers.

Dr. Erica Irish
Irish terrier side profile

Breeds similar to the Irish terrier

Not quite sure that an Irish terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Standard schnauzer. While not a terrier, schnauzers of any size have a wiry coat like Irish terriers, and they are known for their bravery and loyalty.
  • Scottish terrier. Smaller and with more color variety, Scottish terriers are brave watch dogs. These pups are a great option if you’re looking for a smaller version of an Irish terrier.
  • Irish wolfhound. Gigantic compared to almost every other dog breed, the Irish wolfhound is a gentle giant and ideal for protecting livestock and cuddling with their people.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of environment is best suitable for an Irish terrier?

An Irish terrier thrives in an active environment and enjoys plenty of outdoor exercise. A home with a yard is ideal, but they can also adjust to apartment living as long as they’re given regular walks and mental stimulation. They also appreciate a social environment as they are very sociable dogs.

How should I groom my Irish terrier and how frequently?

Irish terriers require regular brushing at least once a week to remove dead hair and to keep their coat healthy. Professional grooming, which includes trimming and hand-stripping to maintain their unique coat texture and color, should be done every few months, or as necessary depending on the dog’s activities and lifestyle.

What are the key characteristics of an Irish terrier?

Irish terriers are known for their lively, spirited personality and their intense loyalty towards their owners. They have a rugged and wiry red coat, along with a distinct beard around their muzzle. This breed is also typically intelligent, adaptable, and full of energy, making them excellent companions and watchdogs.

What are the common health issues associated with Irish terriers?

Irish terriers are generally healthy dogs, but they can be susceptible to conditions like cataracts, cystinuria, and hyperkeratosis. Regular health screenings, a balanced diet, and appropriate exercise can help prevent these issues and ensure the overall well-being of the dog.