Kerry Blue Terriers

The Kerry Blue Terrier, known in his home country as the Irish Blue Terrier, has been around for more than 100 years. He was originally a multipurpose dog, used for hunting, herding and other chores, and was prized for his gameness, intelligence and adaptability. The Kerry is a medium-size dog weighing 33 to 40 pounds; females are smaller. He has a muscular body covered with a soft, dense, wavy coat of blue gray. Puppies are born black, and the coat should reach its mature color by the time the dog is 18 months old. Here is what you need to know if you’re interested in acquiring a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Kerry Blue Terrier is smart, but like any dog with a working background, he is an independent thinker. It's important to give him a job to do, from his daily training exercises to participating in a dog sport such as agility, obedience, rally or tracking. Kerry Blue Terriers are active and athletic, and they enjoy long walks, jogging and hiking, always on leash unless you're in a safe, traffic-free area. Plan to take yours for at least a 20-minute walk each day.

Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent a Kerry Blue Terrier from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Kerry Blue Terrier puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Kerry Blue Terrier throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses.

Begin training as soon as you bring your Kerry Blue Terrier puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, combined with a nothing-in-life-is-free program that requires him to "work" for food, treats, toys and playtime by first performing a command such as sit or down. The Kerry Blue Terrier thinks for himself, but he learns quickly and will respond to kind, firm, consistent training. Don't make him repeat the same action over and over again. He's smart and becomes bored easily, so keep training sessions short and interesting.

Be aware that a Kerry Blue Terrier can be messy to keep. His beard will drip water after he drinks and will need to be cleaned after meals. His coat picks up leaves and other debris, which are then distributed throughout your home. Plan to comb his coat twice a week to prevent or remove any mats or tangles. The shape of the coat must be maintained with regular scissoring, which you can have done professionally or learn to do yourself. Other grooming requirements include cleaning the ears and trimming the nails as needed, and bathing him when he's dirty.

The Kerry Blue Terrier is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won't let it deter him from leaving the yard if that's what he wants to do.

Kerry Blue Terriers have a high prey drive and will chase small furry animals, but if they are brought up with them, they can learn to live peaceably with indoor cats or smaller dogs. Typical terriers, they may be aggressive toward other dogs. The Kerry Blue is a good playmate for older children.

While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Kerry Blue Terriers are devoted to their people. A Kerry Blue Terrier should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them.

Health Issues Common to Kerry Blue Terriers

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Kerry Blue Terriers have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include a neurological disease called cerebellar abiotrophy, a progressive disease that affects movement and has no treatment; eye problems such as entropion and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), which are treatable with surgery or medication; and hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, both of which can range from mild to severe.

The United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Kerry to achieve CHIC certification, he must have an OFA or PennHIP evaluation for hips and an evaluation from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Tests that are recommended but not required are DNA tests for von Willebrand's disease, factor VI deficiency and degenerative myelopathy. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

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.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion Medium $300-$1,500
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Degenerative Myelopathy High $2,000-$4,000
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) High $200-$1,000
Patent Ductus Arteriosus High $2,500-$5,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Kerry Blue Terrier Puppy

A list of breeders can be found on the website of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club. Choose a breeder who follows the USKBTC's Code of Ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and outlines the responsibilities of member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them. Be patient. The Kerry Blue Terrier is an uncommon breed, so you may experience a wait of six months or more before a puppy is available.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Kerry Blue Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Kerry Blue Terrier can live to be 12 to 15 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Kerry Blue 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.

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.

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 Kerry Blue Terriers

Pet insurance for Kerry Blue Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Kerry Blue 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 Kerry Blue Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Kerry Blue 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.