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Irish Terrier Temperament, Personality and What You Need to Know o Bring One Home

The Irish Terrier temperament earned this breed the nickname “Daredevil.”

He thinks nothing of running at his adversaries head-on. Literally.

The Irish Terrier's dominant, take charge, lively temperament means this dog rarely backs down from a challenge. He's also quite intelligent.

Irish Terrier Temperament and Personality

When you’re interested in a particular breed of dog, you must research their temperament first. This is the only way to know whether that breed is going to be a perfect match for you and your family.

For instance, the three must-know traits of the Irish Terrier temperament are that he is:

  1. Intelligent –Ironically, while you would think his daredevil attitude may make him a horror to train, the Irish Red Terrier is pretty trainable. This is thanks to his high level of intelligence.
  2. Dominant– He is fearless, which makes him dominant to a fault.
  3. Lively – He will happily take as much exercise as you want to give him. He has an energy level that lasts for hours.

Here are some additional traits and behaviors you need to know about the Irish Terrier temperament before you make your decision.

He Can Take or Leave Strangers

The Irish Terrier’s personality when it comes to strangers can vary. He can either be polite as a punch or aloof and suspicious.

Even the Irish Terriers who are more agreeable to strangers still tend to be fantastic watchdogs. And that's because of their protective temperament.

He Can Be a Take-Charge Kind of Dog

The Irish Red Terrier’s protective tendency can make him feel dominant. This is a nightmare when you’re trying to train him.

As his owner, you need to stay strong and persistent to keep him in check.

Demonstrating that you, not he, is the leader of the pack is especially true when you’re trying to housebreak him.

Otherwise, he picks and chooses his moments to listen…and then you have puddles to clean up around the house.

Photo of an Irish Terrier Dog Outside In Fenced Yard

He Likes to Be Busy

The more active an Irish Terrier is, the happier the both of you will be.

Keep him running, jumping, chasing, and exploring as much as possible to reduce his boredom indoors.

Remember, boredom leads to trouble. If you don’t challenge him, he’ll seek out other opportunities, like knocking over plants or chewing furniture.

Just make sure you have a sturdy fence. This rambunctious breed can easily dig under or jump over a fence that you have not secured.

He Likes Kids Because He Is One

Irish Red Terriers can be great with kids. They both have boundless energy and can keep each other entertained and engaged for hours.

However, you may need to socialize him early to help him feel more comfortable with kids.

And, as with any dog, be sure to supervise the Irish Terrier when he’s playing with the kids.

Neither the kids nor the dog may mean to hurt each other, but accidents can happen, especially if there’s a misunderstanding.

He Can Be Aggressive with Other Animals

Because the Irish Terrier has a hunting streak, he can act more aggressive with other dogs and smaller animals, like cats.

He’ll even fight another dog to the point of injury – especially one of the same gender as him.

Therefore, you’ll always want to keep him on a leash while on walks or at the dog park.

You may be able to train him out of this behavior at an early age through continued socialization.

However, you definitely want to keep him away from rodents, like hamsters, mice, and gerbils, as well as rabbits.

Smaller “prey” does not last long around an Irish Terrier.

If you’re finding training to be ineffective, enroll him in obedience classes. Do what you must do now to prevent problems in the future.

He’s a Digger

This is a dog who likes to dig. This can be a major problem if he decides to dig under the fence and get out.

You may be able to train him out of digging, or, failing that, to dig in only one approved spot in the yard.

However, you should still supervise him when he’s outside. Because this dog is so much like a kid, you’ll know he’s getting into trouble when he’s quiet.

And one of the things he may be doing while quiet is digging up your flowerbed.

Let’s put it this way: if you have an underground pest, like moles or voles, you’ll know it. (As if this dog needed any more encouragement to dig!)

He Can Be a Barker

The Irish Terrier is great at barking to let you know when trouble may be afoot.

The problem, however, is when he allows his barking to take over.

He may enjoy barking so much that it’s impossible to shut him up, much to the chagrin of your neighbors.

Train him to understand that barking has a place and a purpose. He should not use his bark unless the situation absolutely calls for it.

One way to do this is to praise him and thank him for warning you of the “danger.” Then, divert his attention to something else.

Once you refocus his attention, he’ll realize that he has done his job, that no threat is imminent, and that he no longer needs to bark.

He Hates to Be Alone

Do not get an Irish Terrier if you have a busy schedule that keeps you away from home a lot.

These dogs are people dogs and, as such, they need their people around often.

Ideally, you should only get this dog if you know someone can be home all day with him.

He Loves the Water

If you want a dog you can take swimming, the Irish Terrier is a great choice!

Part of what makes him such a great hunter is his love of the water. He has no issue whatsoever with retrieving waterfowl.

In fact, he’s just as good at hunting in the water as he is on land.

Did You Know?

Some rather interesting facts about the Irish Terrier include:

  • Disney’s animators drew the character of “Tramp” from the film Lady and the Tramp  to resemble an Irish Terrier. Ironically, the animators chose to color Tramp grey, while the Irish Terrier is actually the only Terrier who is all red!
  • During World War I, Irish Red Terrier breeds acted as messengers for military soldiers. In fact, Lt. Col. E. H. Richardson credited the breed with saving many soldiers’ lives!

Irish Terrier dogs have remarkable sniffers and can quickly detect the scents of humans and blood.

Photo of an Irish Terrier Dog Outside | Lively Irish Terrier Temperament

What Does an Irish Terrier Look Like?

A healthy Irish Terrier’s lifespan is, on average, between 12 and 15 years.

As for the Irish Terrier’s body type, he is a mid-size dog. His height is, on average, about 18 inches tall.

A healthy weight for this breed falls between 25 and 27 pounds.

There aren’t a lot of choices in the color department, as this breed only comes in red, wheaten, or red wheaten.

A Brief History of the Irish Terrier Dog Breed

Interestingly, the origin of the Irish Terrier breed remains unknown.

The best experts can figure is that he originated from the Terriers who lived in England and Ireland.

They do know, however, that the Irish Terrier is more than likely one of the oldest Terriers breeds in existence.

The Irish Terriers were on top of the world in the 1880s – specifically the UK.

During that decade, Irish Terriers were the fourth most popular dog in all of Britain!

The first Irish Terriers came to the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. From there, it was love at first sight, and the breed became an instant hit stateside.

Today however, popularity for the breed has since waned. The Irish Terrier ranks at number 123 out of the 155 breeds the AKC has officially recognized.

How Do You Train an Irish Terrier?

Training an Irish Terrier is an experience for sure.

He is smart and relatively easy to train…when he wants to be.

He also has a strong will and an independent streak. These traits can make training a challenge, especially when he’s moody.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

How Do You Groom an Irish Terrier?

Thanks to his hard, double coat, which rarely sheds, it is a breeze to groom an Irish Terrier.

Also, thanks to his coat, he is what you might call “hypoallergenic.”

This doesn’t mean that no one can have an allergic reaction to him. No dog is allergen-free.

However, if you tend to suffer from dog allergies, your chances are lower with this breed. Spend some time with the individual dog you’d like to bring home to be truly sure. 

You don’t need to bathe him often, only when necessary.

One thing to note about his coat is that you must hand-strip him twice a year.

If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, then you should bring him to a professional groomer. That’s how important it is.


The Irish Terrier has a great deal of energy, so exercise is a must.

A fenced-in yard is ideal so that he can run around and get out all his “zoomies.”

Failing that, walk him several times a day to keep him both fit and satisfied.

Because the Irish Terrier temperament makes him so eager to please, he also makes a good performance dog.

If you are a runner, the Irish Terrier can make for a good companion. His long legs and body make him a more adept runner than his Terrier cousins. 

Staying Healthy

Some of the more common diseases that can affect the Irish Terrier include eye issues, like cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.

Irish Terriers can also suffer from muscular dystrophy, though this is not as common.

Hyperkeratosis, which is a thickening of the pads of the feet, can also be a problem for this breed.

This condition used to be more common, though it is now thankfully rare in Irish Terriers.

The Irish Terrier is also prone to getting kidney stones more than other breeds do.

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Finding Irish Terrier Puppies for Sale

When you’re in the market for Irish Terrier puppies, one thing you’ll surely want to know is, “how much do Irish Terrier puppies cost?”

On average, you should expect to spend between $600 and $800.

This price makes the Irish Terrier one of the more affordable dogs out there.

Irish Terrier Rescue and Adoption

If you’re looking into Irish Terriers for adoption, AdoptaPet.com lets you search for Irish setters that are available within your area.

You may want to consider adopting an adult dog to avoid behavioral problems, like chewing and digging.

However, fair warning: adopting an adult dog means that you may adopt a dog who has not received proper training.

You may, therefore, experience great difficulty trying to get him to overcome bad habits.

Click here to learn more before you adopt an Irish Terrier from a shelter.

If you’re interested in supporting an Irish Terrier rescue, consider the Irish Terrier Rescue Network.

This organization specializes in finding new homes for Irish Terriers whose families can no longer support them because they fell on hard times.

Note that these dogs are hard to find in the U.S. Therefore, you may have to remain on a waiting list until one of these pups comes in.

Irish Terrier Breeders

Only about 300 Irish Terrier puppies are born every year.

Because of their rarity, Irish Terrier breeders may charge higher prices for these puppies.

When it comes to buying an Irish Terrier puppy, or any dog for that matter, from a breeder, please do your homework.

Always double-check the American Kennel Club (AKC) Puppyfinder to find a reputable breeder.

Reputable breeders who have Irish Terriers for sale are likely to be forthcoming about their dogs’ health conditions.

Therefore, you should buy an Irish Terrier who suffers from hyperkeratosis or any other genetic health condition. A reputable breeder won’t even offer up such a puppy for sale.

Though, of course, you may buy a puppy from a breeder who will later succumb to one of the other diseases that affect the breed. No one can predict the future.

Irish Terrier Mixes

If a mixed breed is what you’re after, then you’ll be happy to know there are a few different Irish Terrier mixes out there.

For instance, you may be interested in the Irish Aussie Terrier, which is an Australian Shepherd mix.

You might also like the Irish Troodle – a Poodle mix.

Or you can opt for the Irish Saint Terrier, a Saint Bernard mix.

If you’re looking for a mixed breed, you’ll have better luck at an animal shelter or rescue organization.

This is because people are less likely to abandon purebreds than they are mixed breed dogs.

Irish Terrier vs. Airedale

If you’re in the market for a Terrier, you may be considering how the Irish Terrier compares to the Airedale Terrier.

They’re both medium-sized dogs, though the Airedale is bigger in both height and weight.

Airedales also tend to shed more than Irish Terriers do.

As for their temperaments, which is more important, the Airedale is more outgoing and friendly than the Irish Terrier. Airedales are also easier to train.

Irish Terriers are more affectionate than Airedales. They’re also better watchdogs than Airedales, though both dogs make fantastic guard dogs.

Irish Terriers are also better if you’d rather not get a “nippy” dog. Airedales tend to nip and “herd”, especially with other, smaller animals or young children.

A Final Word about the Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier temperament makes him a lovable little scamp.

He thinks nothing of heading into what could be a dangerous situation.

This is because he does not consider the consequences of his actions before he makes his move.

Despite this, however, he is still rather trainable when he wants to be.

He has a great deal of energy, so you must exercise him often. Multiple walks a day should suffice.

He’s great with kids and other dogs if you socialize him early.

He can be protective and dominant, which may make training him a challenge. Remain persistent and firm to show him who’s the boss.