INTRODUCTION: The Irish Terrier originated in Ireland, but how the breed was created remains for speculation. It might have come from the wire-haired Black and Tan terrier which was known in Britain since the 17th century. Some point out its resemblance to the Irish Wolfhound. It was first introduced to the public at a show in either Glasgow or Dublin (the history is obscure), in 1875. Soon after, a breed standard was drafted which has changed very little to this day. (See Breed Standard).
Temperament: The Irish Terrier has an excellent temperament, is very good natured with people, and especially good with little children. Rugged, but gentle and very forgiving with those he loves, he is totally devoted and loyal to his family. He will guard them with unflinching courage and utter contempt of danger or injury. His life is one continuous eager offering of loyal and faithful companionship and service. He is ever on guard, and stands between his family and all that threatens. The merriment reflected in his dark eye is his special gift from the Emerald Isle.
Characteristics: The Irish Terrier has a majestic appearance. He is a very proud and self assured looking dog. Unlike many terriers, he is long in the body and about eighteen inches (46cm) tall at the top of the shoulder. He is large enough to take care of himself when out and about, but small enough to pick up with one arm and easily fit into the car. He is a good traveler, and makes an excellent family pet.
Puppy Registration: In Canada, all puppies sold as Purebred Dogs must be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). First, every litter must be registered. Each puppy must then be identified by means of a tattoo number, registered to the breeder, or by means of a registered micro chip, implanted near the top of the shoulders. The breeder must then prepare the papers, pay for and send them to the CKC. The Registration Certificate must be forwarded to the new owner, within six months of the purchase date. The cost of registration is the responsibility of the breeder. It must be included in the sale price. That is Federal Statute Law.
In the United States, all Purebred Litters must be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The breeder must prepare the papers and pay for this litter registration. The breeder must give the purchaser all registered names and numbers of the Dam and Sire. It is then the option of the purchaser whether or not to register the puppy.
Because registration with the CKC or the AKC is no guarantee of quality, it is strongly recommended that you only buy from a breeder who belongs to one of the Irish Terrier Clubs. In Canada there is one club, the National Club, known as the "Irish Terrier Association of Canada" (ITAC). In the United States, the National Club is the "Irish Terrier Club of America" (ITCA). Also, there are several AKC recognized Regional Irish Terrier Clubs in America, and all are affiliated with the National Club, ITCA.
If a breeder is a Club Member and competes at National and International Irish Terrier Specialty Shows, you can be sure that they are dedicated to maintaining True Type and Temperament of the Irish Terrier breed, and that they are not an unscrupulous breeder whose only incentive is money, giving little thought to the quality of the bitch and dog mated. There are many fine breeders, both in Canada and the United States. Again, it is recommended that you only deal with Club Members. That goes for other countries too! It is possible that there are ethical breeders, devoted to the Irish Terrier, who do not belong to any clubs for personal reasons. As in all things, "A word to the wise is sufficient." Do your homework!
Importing a Puppy: Importing an Irish Terrier into Canada: There are no known Import Duties on dogs or puppies. Whether there are any taxes to be paid, is uncertain. There is a possibility of HST, Goods & Services Taxes (13%). We suggest the importer check with Canada Border Service Agency Call 1-800-461-9999 (Calls from within Canada are Toll Free.) According to the U.S. Custom & Border Protection Agency, Duty does not apply to dogs entering the U.S. International Callers: 1-202-325-8000. Calls from within the U.S. 1-877-227-5511.
Any breeder, or any puppy is as close as your local airport. Check with the breeder for the preferred Airline. The puppy must be shipped in an airline approved crate. Open wire crates are not permitted. The puppy must be accompanied with its duly signed medical certificate showing that their inoculations are current. If the puppy is three months or older, proof of rabies inoculation is required.
Irish Terrier puppies travel very well and do not need sedation.
The Breeder: An Irish Terrier breeder should show a great deal of interest in you, your family and how and where you intend to keep your prospective puppy. He/she should be willing to give advice on all matters, grooming, ear training, food, and health care. He/she should answer all questions, including a discussion of the pedigree.
Quality: Whether an Irish Terrier puppy is "show or pet quality" is very difficult to determine for the experienced breeder, until the puppy is six to eight months old. Physical characteristics change rapidly in a growing pup. At best, a breeder can only say, about a puppy eight weeks old, that it has "show potential". The old adage "Like begets like" is a good guideline. If the bitch and dog are top quality and have good temperaments, then chances are the puppies will also be good. Does the puppy appear healthy and outgoing, or is he shy and introverted? Sometimes with terriers, a smaller puppy will be picked on by the larger pups, and so appears shy. Often when that pup is separated from the others and taken to the new home it develops normally and gains its self confidence.
Upkeep: The purchase of your Irish Terrier puppy should be considered a long term proposition. The initial cost will vary from breeder to breeder. Veterinary expenses can be quite high for some breeds. Fortunately the Irish Terrier breed is generally very healthy, but it does require checkups and yearly inoculations.
Inspection: After purchasing your Irish Terrier puppy, it is recommended that you take it to your Veterinarian along with the health certificate provided by the breeder showing all inoculations received to date. If the puppy is due for additional shots, get them done. Do not allow the Veterinarian to give extra shots "for good measure". Today, it is believed that too many inoculations could harm the immune system in a young puppy.
Food: Ask your breeder what kind of food the puppy has been eating, the amount and the frequency of feeding per day. It is best that you continue that regime. Puppies need Puppy Food which has a higher protein content. There are many commercial Puppy Foods on the market. Pick a good quality one. Will the puppy be eating meat protein or Soya substitutes? Is it meat, or meat by-products? Read the labels. What kind of preservatives are used, chemicals or natural preservatives like vitamin E and/or vitamin C. Choose carefully. Usually a good quality food is also more palatable. As the puppy grows, it will need more and more food. Read the label on the food package for a guideline.
Fenced Yards: A fenced yard is the safest place to let your dog romp and exercise. Check the fence line for tempting holes. They are fond of digging, and prefer to go under a fence than jump over it. Use long heavy 4x4s well fastened to the bottom of the fencing to fill any gaps. Gates should be strong and only open inward, and be spring loaded to self-close and with a proper self-locking latch.
Keep a supply of fresh water available at all times for your dog. Puppies will play with their water dish and often upset it. Use a tip-proof dish or pail well secured, and check it frequently. Warning: Birds will bathe and defecate in the water dish if given the chance. This is dangerous because birds can cause coccidiosus, a serious disease caused by a class of protozoan parasites, transmitted by means of the feces.
Make sure that there is a constant source of shade at all times for your dog when he is outside. Do not leave your dog outside unattended for long periods of time. Check on him often. It is safer to leave your dog inside than outside. No one can steal him if he is inside. Overheating can cause death, so NEVER leave your dog in a car unattended.
If children come over to see your puppy, and that's a good idea, never allow them to play ball in the puppy's yard. Running around trying to catch a ball, and all too soon forgetting about the puppy under foot, that's a sure road to disaster. The puppy will end up with a broken leg for sure.
Vaccination: If the dam has been properly inoculated, then the puppies will receive antibodies from the mother's milk, and are generally protected from some of the more common diseases until the age of seven to eight weeks, at which time the puppies are ready to receive their first set of shots. Contact with strange dogs, and strange unsanitary environments, streets, fields and the like, where the puppy could come into contact with fecal material, urine etc. should be avoided until the puppy has received all three sets of inoculations. It is thought that Parvovirus can live for up to one year in grassy areas. The second set of shots is due at eleven to twelve weeks at which time it receives Distemper, Hepatitis, perhaps Leptospirosis and Parvovirus vaccines. Note that Leptospirosis vaccine can be very dangerous with immediate consequences, so unless there is strong reason to use it in your area, it is best not to have that shot. Four weeks following the second set of shots, the puppy should receive its third set of shots. Some Vets suggest that the puppy should have an additional booster shot for Parvovirus. At six months of age, he should be inoculated for Rabies and perhaps given a blood test for Heartworm (take the advice of your Vet in your area) and started on Heartworm preventative medicine. The once a month chewable pill or bar is a good convenient choice and are readily eaten. The inoculations should be repeated once a year, and if you cross the border between Canada and the United States, remember that you must have proof of inoculations including rabies, for that current year.
Never leave the vet's office for at least 20 - 30 minutes following any inoculations, just to be sure that there won't be any adverse reactions to those shots. It doesn't happen very often, but if/when it does, it's best to be at the vet's for immediate attention.
Ear Carriage: Irish Terrier puppies usually begin to pull their ears up to the correct position between six and twelve weeks. If this has not happened by fourteen weeks, contact your breeder for advice and help on how to train the ears. At about four months, puppies begin to get their adult teeth. The teething stage continues for several months. It is a period of stress and the puppy might be tempted to chew anything handy including your furniture. The cartilage of the ears is also affected at this time, often adversely altering the position of the ear carriage. If you are interested in showing your dog, or if you care about the dog's permanent appearance, ear training is required, and repeated until they stay in proper position. Some puppies require more corrective measures than others. One thing is certain, this training, or ear gluing, is harder on the owners than on the puppy.
Coat Care: The dense double coat is wiry and impermeable, protecting him well in every kind of weather. Because the coat is so durable, the Irish Terrier rarely needs a bath. Bathing often, with shampoos and conditioners is not recommended because they remove the natural protective oils, and soften the hair.
He is less inclined to shed than long or smooth coated dogs. His coat is easy to brush out and groom. It should be plucked or stripped out once or twice a year. This is relatively easy by means of a stripping knife, and can be done in an afternoon. Another way of keeping the dog looking neat and trim all year, is by rubbing the body coat once a week for about 10 minutes, with a porous pumice stone and/or combing the body coat with a medium coarse stripping knife. This is an easy method of pulling out the long dead hairs, leaving the denser and darker colored ones lying close to the body. It is a good thing to get a young puppy used to being handled and experience some grooming regularly, from a young age and while he is maturing.
Cutting the hair is not recommended, except for older dogs, because it cuts off all the thick wiry colorful part of the hair, leaving the thin wispy ends which will be more inclined to mat and tangle and become smelly as they grow longer. An adjustable grooming arm and a table of dimensions 2 feet by 3 feet by 29 inches in height (60x90x74 cm), and covered with non-skid rubber matting is highly recommended. Folding legs make it easy to store.
Stripping Coat: Stripping Knives are made for the right or left hand, and come in various sizes, extra fine, fine, medium coarse, and very coarse. A fine, and a coarse knife will be sufficient for most grooming. The coarser knife is more forgiving than the fine knife, because it doesn't grab as many hairs per pull and therefore is less likely to make "a hole" in the coat. Hold the knife in your grooming hand and with the other hand, push forward on the skin directly in front of the area you are going to strip. This will keep the skin taught and prevent it from rolling and jerking while you are pulling out the long dead hairs. Always pull in the same direction that the hairs are growing. Grab some hair between your thumb and the blade of the knife. Using your arm, pull straight back from the elbow, keeping the wrist locked. Do not pull by snapping your wrist. This will tend to cut or break the hairs. With a little practice, you will become proficient at stripping, and it will go much faster. Dipping your fingers into powdered grooming chalk, obtained from a dog supply store, will help prevent blisters and aid in grabbing the hairs. Shaping the dogs features, especially the head, is a bit of an art, and takes practice. Use the fine knife for shaping around the head. Thumb and finger work well on the leg furnishings. If you pull out too much hair and make a bare spot, "a hole", don't worry, it will grow back quickly. A book on grooming terriers is recommended.
Allergies: The Irish Terrier has very little dander, making him an excellent choice for those who suffer from allergies, especially asthma. If you are an asthmatic and are thinking about getting a puppy, first, visit an Irish Terrier household, preferably with more than one Irish, and no other breeds, and no cats which would ruin the test. Stay indoors with the dogs for a sufficient time period. Prove to yourself, before you buy, that they will not provoke an asthma attack. Many asthmatics, including the author of this article who has four Irish Terriers, have reported that their condition is never aggravated by their Irish.
As for the dog, they rarely suffer from any kind of allergies. The dreaded skin allergies found in other breeds, are not found in the Irish Terrier.
Early Training: It is a good idea to pick up your puppy daily and roll him over onto his back and caress his belly. This is a submissive position, so he might not like it at first, although most breeders should have exposed him to this already. It is very important that your puppy understands that you are Alpha, Number One, The Boss.
In the evenings, when the puppy is tired, hold him in your arms and gently pluck a few hairs from his body, chest and backside. Use the comb and brush too. It is important that he get used to being groomed. Get him used to the grooming table if you have one, but never leave him unattended. He could fall off and injure a leg or worse. If you ignore this training, he will be very difficult to handle later on when it is necessary to trim toe nails etc.
It is recommended that from age seven weeks, preferably after the first set of inoculations, you begin to expose your puppy to the outside world and to all the strange noises like cars, trucks, children, bicycles, lawn mowers etc. To be on the safe side, avoid fraternizing with strange dogs until after the second set of shots. It is probably a good idea to carry a walking stick or cane for protection against aggressive strange dogs.
Dental Hygiene: If there is an Achilles heel for the Irish Terrier, or for many other breeds too, it might be the teeth. The Irish Terrier is blessed with very strong, beautiful, big white teeth and a good scissors bite. At about age two years, plaque can begin to build up, especially on the outside faces of the teeth, next to the cheeks, where it is difficult for the dog to lick and clean with their tongue. If it occurs, you must either scrape the teeth yourself, with a dental scraper and fine dental pick, or have them cleaned by your Veterinarian. The Vet. can do a more thorough job using an ultra sonic cleaning machine, but it requires a general anesthetic and is more expensive. If left unattended however, eventually the gums will become infected, then teeth may loosen and fall out, or need extraction. A more serious complication could lead to blood infection, perhaps followed by kidney failure, resulting in the death of your dog.
If the plaque build up is chronic from long neglect, and the gums appear to be inflamed, it is very important to take precautions against blood infection. Start the dog on a treatment of antibiotics three days in advance of cleaning, and continue the treatment daily until finished as per the Vet's instructions. Bear in mind that the over using of antibiotics is unwise and should not be done. Consult with your Vet on this matter. If you decide to do the cleaning yourself, the antibiotic treatment should still be considered as a necessary precaution, if your Vet agrees. If the decision is made not to use antibiotics, you can use a cotton ball soaked with hydrogen peroxide. It's a good disinfectant and it also whitens the teeth. Use only a properly designed tool for this scraping procedure. Be cautious with a dental pick! Ask your Vet to show you the proper tool. Improper use of the scraper can do harm. Make sure you pull the plaque in the direction away from the gums, never towards the gums. Accidentally pushing plaque up under the gums could cause infection. Don't try to clean all of the teeth in one day. It is stressful for you and the dog.
For routine cleaning, you can use a toothbrush. Brushing regularly using Dog Toothpaste (never toothpaste for humans) containing plaque fighting enzymes, should prevent plaque build up. Your dog and pocketbook will be healthier. In the "Old Days", when dogs were allowed to eat bones, they rarely, if ever, got plaque build up. Because "one dog in a million" choked on a bone splinter, it is now considered unsafe to give your dog bones. One has to wonder if this was a wise decision, remembering that dogs ate bones for thousands of years.
Never, Never, Never: Never leave your young puppy unattended in your fenced backyard, thinking that they are safe, while you make a quick trip to the store. There are thieves around who patrol neighborhoods, looking for the chance to steal puppies and/or young dogs. Make no mistake about it. It happens all too frequently. You could come home and find that all your dogs have been stolen, - gone forever!
- By David Carscadden