The Kerry Blue Terrier (also known as the Irish Blue Terrier) is a sturdy working dog that originated from County Kerry, Ireland. There he was bred to hunt small game and birds, kill rodents, and herd farm animals such as sheep and cattle. He has an abundance of intelligence and is very brave. He is also a grand, cherished companion who will display fierce devotion to his family. However, he is still not a particularly well-known dog breed. Today he is more of an interest to dog breed fancier groups and used as a show dog.
Vital Statistics of the Kerry Blue Terrier
- Dog Breed Group: Terrier Dogs
- Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 7 inches (43.18cm to 48.26cm) tall at the shoulder
- Weight: 33 to 40 pounds (14.97kg to 18.14kg)
- Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Kerry Blue Terrier FAQs
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers adapt well to apartment living?
- The Kerry Blue Terrier is moderate when it comes to adapting to life in an apartment. If you can provide the proper amount of daily exercise then his energy levels should remain steady and he will probable do very well in an apartment. However, it is probably better if they live in the country where they can run around and get more exercise than most people can, or are will to, give. (See List of Dogs Not Well Suited to Apartment Living.)
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers a good dog for novice dog owners?
- If you have never had a dog before, or this is your second dog, you should be able to hand it. Being quite obedient and eager to please they can adapt well to most types of dog owners.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers sensitive to being disciplined?
- This breed of dog can withstand a moderate level of discipline. However, overdoing it can cause your dog to go into a depression as they will not be sure as to what it takes to please you and do well. All what a dog really wants is to be able to please its owner. The point here is to be consistent with the discipline.
- Do Kerry Blue Terrier dogs tolerate being alone?
- If you and other members of your family work or go out during the day and the dog is left alone for several hours at a time there should be no problems. These dogs can usually amuse themselves while they are alone.
- Can Kerry Blue Terriers tolerate cold weather?
- These dogs have a very thick coat and originate from a cold climate area of Ireland. They do fairly well in cold climates but should not be housed outside without a place where they can get out of the wind. It is not recommended, however, to keep any dog housed outside throughout the year. Through many centuries of domestication most dogs have lost much of their abilities to tolerate extreme environments and will succumb to the elements.
- How well does the Kerry Blue Terrier tolerate hot weather?
- Even though these dogs have a thick coat to protect them from the elements they do quite well in hot weather. They do require a cool, shady place to retreat to if they need so that they can get out of the direct heat and sun.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers affectionate with other members of the family?
- These dogs love to be around their family members and show equal affection towards all members of the family. By considering the family as his pack he will be very loyal and protecting of his pack.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers a kid-friendly type of dog?
- These dogs are quite tolerant of the heavy-handed pets and hugs that children can dish out and tend to have a rather blasé attitude toward all the running and screaming that children do. They also tend to be very protective of the children preventing any harm coming to them.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers friendly toward other dogs?
- Kerry Blue Terriers can be trained to tolerate other dogs but their territorial nature tends to make them aggressive toward another dog. These dogs have a very strong territorial pack instinct which will make them want to dominate any dog within range. Proper dog socialization can go a long way in preventing dog fights and other incidents with dogs.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers friendly toward strangers?
- These dogs are indifferent toward strangers. They will keep a watchful eye on strangers as a way of protecting their family. They may even go to see a stranger for a quick pet on the head before wandering off to be with their family.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers heavy shedders?
- If you are looking for minimal shedding then this dog is probably not for you. The Kerry Blue Terrier is a not constant shedder throughout the year but a very heavy shedder twice a year when they drop their coats. If you are a neat freak this dog is definitely not the one for you because their hair tends to stick on materials where they lay down. With the proper care and grooming your house should remain relatively free of dog hair.
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers drool a lot?
- Most dogs drool. Some a little. Some a lot. The Kerry Blue Terrier is moderate in this respect. For these dogs it is important that you keep their faces clean with occasional washing with a damp cloth because their drool will mat the hair around their muzzles. Even though they are moderate droolers you can rest assured that your furniture is safe if you keep them off the couch and bed.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers easy to groom?
- These dogs are considered to be high maintenance when it comes to grooming. They should have a daily twenty-minute brushing. If this is not possible they must have a good brushing weekly. If you are a busy person and can't afford the time this dog is probably not for you unless you hire a professional groomer on a weekly basis.
- How is the general health of the Kerry Blue Terrier?
- As with every dog there are health risks. Due to the in-breeding practices during the domestication process over the past thousand years or so genetic problems have become a problem in all dogs. Some dogs are at a higher risk than others and the Kerry Blue Terrier is moderate in this area. That is why it is important that when buying a puppy you need to go to a recognized breeder. He will be able to provide you with all the necessary medical clearances of your puppies' parents for you to make an informed decision when purchasing a puppy to avoid costly medical expenses.
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers gain weight easily?
- All dogs can gain weight. Especially if they don't get the required exercise. The Kerry Blue Terrier is no exception. Being a normally active dog that is used to working, they will gain weight if their level of activity is too low or given too much food. Always make sure that your dog is properly fed and exercised for their energy level.
- Compared to other dogs are the Kerry Blue Terriers a big-sized dog?
- Compared to all other breeds of dog the Kerry Blue Terrier is somewhere in the middle when it comes to size.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers easy to train?
- If you are looking for a dog to train then the Kerry Blue Terrier will fit the bill quite nicely. These dogs are eager to please and love to learn new stuff. With patience you will be amazed at what this breed of dog can learn.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers intelligent dogs?
- Because of their eagerness to please they can learn new stuff quickly. Because they are hunting dogs they can quickly change their approach to chasing game based on the game's behavior. Whether they are in training or hunting prey they can take the situation into consideration and come up with their own solution without human intervention. If you've ever had the chance to watch one of these dogs heard cattle or other livestock you can see that they are constantly thinking about the situation. For this reason you need to provide them the opportunity to exercise their brain as often as possible.
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers have a high potential for mouthiness?
- In this respect mouthiness refers to tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite. A mouthy dog is more likely to use their mouths to accomplish daily tasks like herding and playing. The Kerry Blue Terrier is not considered to be a mouthy dog in this respect.
- Are Kerry Blue Terriers barkers or howlers?
- Hunting dogs tend to bark to alert their people that they are on to prey and to let them know where they are. Most herding dogs tend to be quieter so as to not spoke the livestock. The Kerry Blue Terrier falls in between these two ends. This makes them average in the area of being noisy. With a little patience you can train your dog to be as quiet as possible. Especially if you live in close proximity of others or in an area that has a no bark law.
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers have a high wanderlust potential?
- Any dog given the chance to wander off will do so no matter how well trained they are. The Kerry Blue Terrier is no exception so it is best to keep these dogs on a leash when walking and hiking so that they won't get themselves into trouble.
- What is the energy level of the Kerry Blue Terrier?
- The Kerry Blue Terrier was developed as a working dog so it has a high energy level and needs something to do to keep itself occupied. Taking these dogs on long vigorous walks and playing games such as fetch will help to keep their energy levels at an adequate level.
- What is the intensity level of the Kerry Blue Terrier?
- Some dogs regardless of how much energy they have do everything with plenty of vigor. The Kerry Blue Terrier is no exception here. This is the type of dog that when he does something he will put his all into it and make sure that whatever he is doing is done right according to him. It is highly recommended that you keep these dogs busy and entertained or they may become destructive and they can do a lot of damage in a short time.
- Do Kerry Blue Terriers require a lot of exercise?
- Because these dogs are high energy and high intensity dogs they will require at least two twenty minute periods of vigorous exercise per day. If you are not an active person yourself then this dog is not recommended for you.
- Is the Kerry Blue Terrier a playful dog?
- The Kerry Blue Terrier has a large amount of energy and loves to play games with his human counterparts. This dog will continue to play long after he has worn out his humans.
This working-class dog is definitely all terrier meaning that he is an alert, resourceful, muscular, and always ready for action type of dog. His defining characteristic, however, is his coat: blue, with a gray tint (though it doesn't start out that way). Puppies are often born black, transitioning through dark blue, brown, gray, and combinations of these colors until they reach a mature blue-gray color at about 18 months of age. His V-shaped ears, black nose, and the mop of hair that falls over his eyes further distinguish his look.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is typically a good-natured dog with people of all ages, including children. He is an excellent family dog who enjoys participating in all family activities and he is happiest when he is with those he loves. He makes a good watchdog too, ready to warn his family of intruders or anything out of the ordinary. The Kerry Blue is not especially vocal, but when he barks, he sounds intimidating.
The Kerry Blue does not usually get along with other dogs. This dog is prone to dog aggression (fighting with other dogs), especially if he's not been neutered. Early Kerry Blue Terriers were even more aggressive than those found today. Conscientious breeders have worked hard to retain the liveliness of the breed while toning down their natural inclination to aggression.
Good breeding, combined with proper socialization (the process by which puppies or adults dogs learn how to be friendly and get along with other dogs and people) and training, helps prevent dog aggression, but watch out. This is not a dog to back down from a fight.
The Kerry Blue is loyal and affectionate toward his family, but he is a strong willed breed of dog. He needs an equally strong-willed owner, one who can kindly and consistently show leadership. The Kerry Blue will walk all over a wishy-washy human, which is why he is not always recommended for first-time dog owners.
Not surprisingly, the working Kerry Blue is an active dog who needs a great deal of exercise every day. (If he is trained and socialized not to fight with other dogs, he makes an excellent jogging, hiking, and bicycling companion.) Grooming is another daily activity. Although the Kerry Blue doesn't shed and is relatively odor-free, he must be brushed every day to prevent matting and to keep his coat neat and clean.
It's not difficult to be captivated by this proud dog from Ireland with the blue-gray coat. However, in considering a Kerry Blue, it's important to realize he has many traits similar to all terriers: the love of digging, a bit of an attitude, and a high prey drive. These traits must be taken in account when considering adding him to the family.
Highlights of the Kerry Blue Terrier
The following highlights are what makes the Kerry Blue Terrier the type of dog he is:
- The Kerry Blue Terry is a quick study, though he can be strong willed at times. You'll need a lot of patience and firmness, plus a good sense of humor, when training this breed.
- The Kerry Blue is friendly to people, but his distaste for other dogs is well known. He can be aggressive and quarrelsome. Owners must be vigilant when taking the Kerry Blue in public. If he's socialized and well trained, he probably won't pick a fight, but he might try to end it if he's taunted.
- Keeping your Kerry Blue groomed is expensive and, if you do it yourself, it's hard work.
- Like all terriers, the Kerry Blue can be feisty. He loves to dig, chase, chew, and sometimes bark.
- This is an active breed. He needs plenty of exercise, every day. A yard to play in is best, combined with daily walks.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
History of the Kerry Blue Terrier
The birthplace of the Kerry Blue Terrier is Ireland in the mountainous area of County Kerry. Bred to be a working terrier, he was used to hunt small game and birds, kill rodents, and guard his homestead. He was also a very successful herder who was used for herding sheep and cattle. Eventually, the breed was shown in conformation and highly favored. English fanciers saw potential, too, and the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club.
The aggressive nature of this dog was originally bred into them. The Irish Kennel Club required that these dogs pass a "gameness" test before they could be judged in early dog shows. The tests included catching rabbits and bringing a badger to bay. It was from these tests that the Kerry Blue earned the nickname "Blue Devil."
It is still unknown who brought the first Kerry Blue Terrier to the United States. He was thought to have appeared at the Westminster show in 1922, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924. During the Westminster show of 1926, a group of fanciers met at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and organized the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America.
In the early 1900s, Irish patriot Michael Collins introduced legislation to name the Kerry Blue the National Dog of Ireland. His own Kerry Blue was named Convict 225. Collins was murdered, however, before the legislation could be passed, and after his death, interest in the initiative was lost.
Male Kerry Blue Terriers stand 18 to 19.5 inches (45.7 to 49.5 centimeters) tall while females stand 17.5 to 19 inches (44.5 to 48.3 centimeters) tall. Both males and females weigh between 33 to 40 pounds (14.97 to 18.14 kilograms).
Personality Traits of the Kerry Blue Terrier
The Kerry Blue Terrier is a hard-working, independent, and athletic dog that has plenty of energy and stamina. Like most terriers this dog is prone to digging, chasing, and occasionally barking. If you are considering a Kerry Blue, think about whether or not you are willing to live with his propensity toward these behaviors. If so, you will be delighted with the Kerry Blue's fun-loving, even silly, attitude.
This is an active breed which needs plenty of exercise, both mental and physical. Don't leave him alone for long periods of time, or he is likely to become bored which will lead to destructive behavior. Training is an essential daily activity to teach him proper canine manners. And although a delightful breed of dog, the Kerry Blue does not get along well with other dogs. This breed of dog tends to fight with other dogs as well as chase small animals that he will perceive as prey.
The temperament of this dog breed is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them.
When choosing a puppy you should choose the middle-of-the-road puppy. In other words do not choose the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. You want to choose a dog that has an evenly balanced temperament.
When getting a puppy you should always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Just like every dog, the Kerry Blue Terrier needs early socialization so that they can be exposed to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences while they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Kerry Blue puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog and not a problematic one.
It is always a good idea to enroll him in a puppy kindergarten class to get the socialization ball rolling. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Kerry Blue are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Kerry Blue will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you all health clearances for both your puppy's parents. These health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Kerry Blue, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org). Dogs sold in other countries by reputable breeders will have similar clearances from their local health organizations.
The following list is indicative of the common diseases and ailments that the Kerry Blue Terrier is susceptible to:
- Entropion: Entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelid, usually the lower one, and found in both eyes. It causes vision loss and irritation, and generally occurs before a dog turns a year old. Corrective surgery when the dog reaches adulthood is an effective treatment.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It's thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma ,and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Skin Cysts: It's not unusual for the Kerry Blue to develop lumps and bumps, usually epidermal cysts or sebaceous gland cysts that don't cause a problem. If a cyst ruptures, however, it can become infected.
- Cancer: Symptoms include abnormal swelling of a sore or bump, sores that do not heal, bleeding from any body opening, and difficulty with breathing or elimination. Treatments for cancer include chemotherapy, surgery, and medications.
- Keratoses: Keratoses (of the nose and foot) is the development of corns, warts, and calluses on the feet or nose. Often painful, corns can be inherited and are associated with thin pads or flat feet. Keratoses can be removed surgically or treated with antibiotics and corticosteroids.
- Cataracts: Cataracts cause opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog's eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision.
- Dry Eye: Keratoconjunctivitis sicca and pigmentary keratitis are two conditions seen in Kerry Blues and can occur at the same time, or individually. Dry eye is caused when the eyes don't produce enough tears to stay moist. Your vet can perform tests to determine if this is the cause, which can be controlled with medication and special care. Pigmentary keratits is a condition that causes black spots on the cornea, especially in the corner near the nose. If the pigment covers the eye, it can cause blindness. Your vet can prescribe medication that will help keep the eyes moist and dissolve the pigment. Both of these eye conditions require life-long therapy and care.
- Chronic Otitis Externa: This is a chronic infection of the outer ear canal, often caused by excessive hair in the ear that fosters bacterial and fungal growth. The Kerry Blue can be prone to infection. Treatment includes cleaning the ears and plucking the hair growing inside the canal.
- Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (PNA): This is a rare, inherited nerve disorder. Symptoms usually appear when the dog is between 2 and 6 months of age. By the time the dog is a year old, he can't stand up. There is no treatment, nor are there any tests that determine if breeding dogs are carriers of the condition. Research is underway to create testing for breeding stock.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
- Factor Xl Deficiency (Plasma Thromboplastin Antecedent Deficiency): This is a rare inherited blood clotting abnormality that is characterized by severe bleeding after surgery or trauma. As the name implies, it's caused by a deficiency of the factor XI in the blood-clotting mechanism.
Kerry Blue Terrier Care
The Kerry Blue Terrier is a dog that is powerful, agile, and athletic. He requires regular exercise. While some Kerry Blues will exercise themselves in a securely fenced back yard, others do not.
A daily walk will help to maintain muscle tone and keep a Kerry Blue Terrier fit and trim and will provide also the necessary stimulation and socialization necessary to keep him mentally alert. A Kerry Blue Terrier that lives in an apartment or condo requires at least three daily walks, even if it's raining or the temperature is below freezing.
Training and socialization are essential for the Kerry Blue Terrier and should begin with puppy classes. Incorporate socialization with training by taking your Kerry Blue with you to many different places so that he will have a lot of people to meet and sights to see.
Remember, though, that he has a tendency to quarrel with other dogs. Also: if you don't have children, but may in the next few years, the Kerry Blue must be socialized early to them.
And remember that the Kerry Blue Terrier has a mind of his own and requires a firm but loving hand to show him what is expected from him. He instinctively wants to please, and with positive reinforcement and praise, learns quickly. Harsher techniques aren't useful with this type of dog because, despite his toughness, he is surprisingly sensitive.
The recommended daily amount for this type of dog is between 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats will depend on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. All dogs are individuals and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference. The better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Kerry Blue in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Grooming and Coat Color
The Kerry Blue coat is soft, dense and wavy, and though considered non-shedding, the coat is high maintenance. He needs daily brushing, plus trimming and bathing every four to six weeks.
Most owners opt to hire a professional groomer to trim the Kerry Blue. However, finding one who knows the correct Kerry trim can be difficult. Being an uncommon breed, the average groomer doesn't have much experience with it; you might end up with your Kerry Blue looking more like a Schnauzer or a Poodle when they finish.
Your best option is to choose a groomer who is certified with a national certifying agency. While certification is not mandated legally (like kennel licensing), it does show ongoing education. Kerry Blue Terrier owners in the United States can find a state-by-state listing of experienced groomers at The Kerry Blue Foundation website.
Brush your Kerry Blue's teeth at least two or three times a week. This will help to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside your dog's mouth. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. The rule-of-thumb here is If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding which usually means that your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. If you're not experienced at trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Kerry Blue Terrier to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently because dogs are touchy about their feet. And look inside his mouth. Doing this will make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and Other Pets
The Kerry Blue Terrier loves kids, and because he is a sturdy dog, he can take a few knocks if the play gets rough. He is good-natured, and isn't normally grouchy with children.
Children should always be taught how to approach and touch dogs and you should always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach the child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
He is grouchy, even aggressive, with other dogs, though with socialization and training, as well as neutering, this tendency can be minimized. Never let your guard down when the Kerry Blue Terrier is around other dogs, especially those unfamiliar to him.
The Kerry Blue isn't especially fond of small animals either, given his strong prey drive. His instinct tells him to chase. It is best to keep him leashed in public. The best way to ensure he'll get along with cats or small mammals in his home is to raise him with them and introduce them properly. Following that, close supervision is advised.
Kerry Blues are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. These dogs often end up in need of adoption and fostering. The following is a list of rescue groups that cater to the rescue of Kerry Blue Terriers:
Kerry Blue Terrier Puppy Pics
Kerry Blue Terrier Puppy Pics