Irish Terriers

With a spring in his step, a twinkle in his eye and attitude in every fiber of his being, the Irish Terrier is a fiery a little dog. He may be almost exclusively a companion today, but that won't stop him from behaving like the fearless, rat-killing farm dog he once was in his country of origin. He is no laid-back lap dog: This is a dog who loves to run, chase and play, and woe be the squirrel who's not a half-step faster than him. You'd better have a sense of humor and a lot of patience for dealing with the endless independence and antics of a dog whose stylish appearance is merely a veneer over the heart of a rogue.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Irish Terrier usually weighs somewhere under 30 pounds, but carries himself like a much larger dog. He's intelligent and fairly easy to train, as long as he's trained with fairness, consistency and a healthy appreciation for the little jokes some people might call "stubbornness." Be particularly careful to nip any inappropriate barking in the bud.

Irish Terriers are very people-oriented dogs, and they generally like children -- at least those of their own family. Keep in mind, however, that adult supervision of playtime, along with training and socializing of the dog, is still required.

With other dogs and small furry creatures, it's a very different story. The Irish was developed to work on the extinction of vermin, and he's not likely to make a distinction when it comes to smaller pets, especially rodents.

While the show dogs require more careful attention to their coats, the grooming needs of pet Irish Terriers are modest: the rare bath, weekly combing or brushing to get rid of his dead hair and the occasional professional or home clipping are all that's required. An added bonus: they shed very little.

Irish Terriers don't do well if they're left alone for long periods, and are not happy as backyard dogs. Let him live as a member of your family or you might find yourself with a lonely, bored, noisy, and destructive nuisance instead of a happy, well-behaved companion.

Health Issues Common to Irish Terriers

One condition that affects the Irish Terrier is hyperkeratosis, a thickening of the pads of the feet sometimes called "corny feet." Hyperkeratosis was once common but is now rare, and affected dogs should not be bred.

Irish terriers also have a few dental problems that can be of concern. There are no screening tests for these conditions, but your puppy's breeder should be willing -- in fact eager -- to go over the health histories of his parents and their close relatives and to discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Cataracts Medium $1,000-$5,000

8 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Irish Terrier Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Irish Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.

Ask your puppy's breeder for written documentation from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her breeding dogs have had their eyes tested within the last year, along with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) clearances on their thyroid glands and hips.

Because a breed survey conducted in 1999 found an unexpected number of reports of aggression, look for a breeder who has American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems or that they're not a concern is either lying or knows almost nothing about Irish Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Irish Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since an Irish Terrier can live to be 13 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Irish Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues and in particular to watch out for the early signs of the dental problems.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Irish Terriers

Pet insurance for Irish Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Irish Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Irish Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Irish Terrier is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.