The Furry Critter Network

Irish Red Terrier Breed Description

Back to Canine Breed Menu

Breed Organization

Irish Terrier Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Irish Terrier, Daredevil, Red Devil

Life Expectancy
Approximately 13-14 Years

Litter Size
Average 4-6 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

They are small to medium sized dogs, once ranging greatly in size and appearance, but now a consistent square looking, bushy-bearded breed. They have short, small drop ears, and fiery brown eyes. They have ruffling in their fur on their legs and a small beard. They come in red to wheaten red colors. Irish Terriers make excellent companions whether they are playmates, hikers, watchdogs or just footwarmers. Despite their size, their guarding abilities are high. They are fierce to other dogs and threatening beings, and were once used for fighting, giving them the spirit they have today. They have been described to have “heedless, reckless pluck”, which contributed to their nickname of “Daredevil”. Irish Terriers, fierce as they are to mice, are affectionate and good tempered with people. Loyal to every member of the family, these Daredevils are a top-notch terrier known for their fighting spirit.

Breed Standard

Head: Long. Flat, fairly narrow skull. Stop hardly visible. Strong jaws. Close, well-fitting lips.
Ears: Small, v-shaped, falling forward along the cheeks.
Eyes: Small. Dark color.
Body: Neither too long nor too short. No dewlap on neck. Deep, muscular chest. Muscular, very slightly arched loin. Strong, straight back
Tail: Set on fairly high. Carried gaily but not over the back or curled. Typically docked to three-quarters its normal length.
Hair: Dense, very compact, wiry, with broken appearance but still lying close to the body. Must not be curly or form tufts. Hair on the face is short (0.6 cm). The only long hair that is acceptable is a slight beard.
Coat: Whole-colored. Preferred colors are bright red, red wheaten, and golden red. White markings on the forechest and feet are permissible.
Size: Approx. 45 cm (18 in).
Weight: Dog: 12.2 kg (27 lb).Bitch: 11.4 kg (25 lb).


The breed's origin is not known. It is believed to have descended from the black and tan terrier-type dogs of Britain and Ireland, just like the Kerry Blue and Irish Soft-haired Wheaten Terriers in Ireland or the Welsh, Lakeland and Scottish Terriers in Great Britain. There is also conjecture that the breed may share bloodlines with the Irish Wolfhound.

They are described by an old Irish writer as being the poor man's sentinel, the farmer's friend, and the gentleman's favorite. These dogs were originally bred not so much for their looks as for their working qualities and gameness, the Irish Terrier being by instinct, a thorough vermin killer. They were formerly of all types and of all colors – black-and-tan, grey-and-brindle, wheaten of all shades, and red being the predominant colors. Color or size evidently did not matter if they were hardy and game."

The proper selection process of the breed began only in the latter 19th century. They were shown now and then, sometimes in one class, sometimes in separate classes for dogs under and over 9 pounds.

The first breed club was set up in Dublin in 1879. Irish Terriers were the first members of the terrier group to be recognised by the English Kennel Club as a native Irish Breed – this happened just before the end of the 19th century. The first Irish Terriers were taken to the US in the late nineteenth century and quickly became somewhat popular.

There used to be big influential kennels in Ireland, the Great Britain and US up to the 1960s. The breed is increasingly "fashionable" as a family pet because of its fondness for children. There is ambitious breeding in many continents, including Africa (South Africa), North America, (Northern) Europe and Australia.


Irish Terriers are active dogs and need and enjoy consistent mental and physical challenges; well-trained Irish Terriers may do well at a variety of dog sports, such as dog agility. The Irish Terrier is full of life, but not hyperactive; it should be able to relax inside the house and be roused to full activity level quickly.

Irish Terriers are good with people. They have a highly developed sense of loyalty and it is important that they have a strong responsible leader, for whom they have natural respect. Most Irish Terriers love children and tolerate rough-housing to a certain extent. Irish terriers need exercise; do not get one if you are not prepared to walk it. They enjoy training, new tasks are easily mastered with food and toys working equally well as motivation. Irish terriers have less of an eagerness to please people than some other breeds but have mental ability and enjoy puzzle solving. They respond best to consistent, reward based training from a relaxed, authoritative person. As with all dog breeds, violence should never be used – instead use distraction and reward the behaviour you want. It is always best to outwit and lure. When seeking a trainer, one should look for a person who has experience with terriers.

Irish Terriers are often dominant with other dogs. As with any dog, poorly socialised individuals can start fights and early socialisation is a necessity. Most have strong guarding instincts and when these instincts are controlled, make excellent alarming watchdogs.

There are more people joining organized dog sports with their terriers. The obedience training required at a certain level in most dog sports is fairly easy, though the precision and long-lasting drive needed in the higher levels may be hard to achieve. Many Irish Terriers excel in dog agility, even though it may be hard to balance the speed, independence and precision needed in the higher levels. To date there is one Agility Champion in the US, and a handful of Finnish and Swedish Irish terriers compete at the most difficult classes.

Irish Terriers have a good nose and can learn to track either animal or human scent. Many Irish Terriers enjoy Lure Coursing, although they are not eligible for competition as sight hounds are. In Finland one Irish Terrier is a qualified Rescue Dog specialising at Sea Rescue.

This dog can adapt to life as a house dog, but he requires considerable space and exercise. Brushing once or twice per week is required. This breed should be groomed two times per year.


Hunting Dog (shooting and with hounds), Guard Dog, Pet.


Most Irish Terriers do not show signs of allergies towards foods. As they are small dogs, the breed has a very low incidence of hip dysplasia.

In the 1960s and 1970s there were problems with hyperkeratosis, a disease causing corny pads and severe pain. Today it is widely known which dogs carried the disease and respectable breeders do not use those bloodlines any more. A health study conducted by the Irish Terrier Club of America showed a greater-than-expected incidence of hypothyroidism and cataracts. There are not enough eye-checked individuals to draw any conclusions.

When groomed properly, the Irish Terrier coat will protect the dog from rain and cold. A properly cared-for Irish Terrier does not shed either. The wiry coat is fairly easy to groom, pet dogs (rather than show dogs) needing stripping only once or twice a year.

The coat must be stripped by hand or a non-cutting knife to retain its weather-resistant qualities. This does not hurt the dog when done properly. Keeping the skin above the stripped section taut with the other hand helps especially where the skin is looser, i.e. belly and chest. Never cut the coat – use your fingers or a non-cutting knife. If the coat is clipped, it loses colour and becomes softer, thus losing its weather-resistant characteristics. For the same reason the coat should not be washed too often, as detergents take away the natural skin oils. Most Irish terriers only need washing when dirty.

When stripping, the coat may be "taken down" entirely to leave the dog in the undercoat until a new coat grows in. For a pet, this should be done at least twice a year. When a show-quality coat is required, it can be achieved in many ways. One is by "rolling the coat", i.e. stripping the dog every X weeks to remove any dead hair. Before a show an expert trimmer is needed to mould especially the head and legs.

Some Irish Terriers need to have their ears trained when young. (The ears are trained by gluing them to the skull for months on end. A setting can last up to 3 or 4 weeks, depending on how well it was done, and how diligent your puppy is at prying them loose! Training ears requires a real commitment on your part; meaning time, patience, and persistence! Even with this, there is no guarantee that your dog will end up with "absolutely perfect" ears.)

Back to Canine Breed Menu

Featured Rescues

"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"

laptop pro


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.

Our organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are proud to boast more than 2 million supporters across the country.

The ASPCA’s mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

laptop pro


If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

laptop pro

Rescue Me

Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network

Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.