Spirited and strong-willed Kerry Blue Terriers are lively companions who are devoted to their family. Though tenacious, they’re intelligent and hard-working—they just need the right motivation. Kerries aren’t ideal for Pro Tips: Are You Ready for a Dog? due to their stubborn nature. A Kerry needs a consistent owner who won’t be walked all over. Kerries are energetic dogs who were bred for hard work—their intelligence and energy makes them ideal for agility, herding, and other high-impact activities. An only-dog residence is often best for this occasionally scrappy breed. Though an act in Parliament worked to recognize the Irish Blue Terrier as the national dog of Ireland, the bill was never enacted. Legends about the breed are still shared throughout Ireland and elsewhere.
The Kerry Blue Terrier may also be called the Irish Blue Terrier or simply Kerry Blue or Kerry. In Ireland, they're referred to as the Blue Terrier, or Brocaire Gorm.
The wavy, single coat of the Kerry Blue Terrier is soft and wooly in texture—not wiry—and does not shed. The coat is black at birth and becomes a blue or gray color as the dog ages, with a full transition by two years of age.
Average Height: 17.5-19.5 inches
Average Weight: 33-40 pounds, with females weighing proportionately less than males.
Breed Standard & History
The muscular Kerry Blue Terrier should appear balanced. His head is long, but in proportion with the rest of the body. A Kerry’s legs are long and muscular, with strong feet. The tail is high set and carried erect. The coat is the hallmark of the breed—it should be soft and wavy, not wiry. The coat should be trimmed, with whiskers left on the chin. Color should be any shade of blue-gray, and uniform in color. The blue shade appears as the dog ages; dogs over 18 months who are black are disqualified. – AKC Breed Standards
Kerry Blue Terriers are named for the county where they were developed. Legend holds that the Kerry’s ancestors are shipwrecked water dogs. As the story goes, in the 1500s, a ship encountered a hurricane while sailing near the Irish coast. The hurricane sank the ship, but a single dog swam to shore. There, he mated with the terriers of Ireland to produce blue-colored offspring.
The legend may have one thing right—one of the types that may have contributed to the Kerry Blue is the Portuguese Water Dog. Yet another origin story claims the Kerry Blue is descended from a now-extinct sheep herding dog called the Gadher. The Kerry doesn’t have a clear history, but has been used as a farm and hunting dog for centuries before its debut in the show ring in the 20th century.
The AKC recognized the Kerry Blue Terrier in 1922.
AKC Breed Category
The spirited Kerry Blue Terrier is friendly and affectionate but needs an experienced dog owner, as they can be strong-willed and stubborn. They may be suspicious or territorial with new people and other dogs, so early and continued socialization is important. Though Kerries present challenges, they’re an intelligent, entertaining breed that loves to play.
Are Kerry Blue Terriers Good with Kids? Kerry Blues may do well with children, but temperament may vary between individual dogs. Some may be affectionate and even protective of the children in the household, while others may be wary or indifferent. Terriers, as a whole, can be picky about handling and may nip if they feel they are being treated unfairly. Older children are often a better match for the Kerry Blue Terrier.
Are Kerry Blue Terriers Good with Other Pets? Kerry Blue Terriers often prefer to be the only dog in the household. They can be territorial or aggressive with other dogs. Kerries are likely to chase and injure or kill cats, rabbits, and other small animals.
An alert nature makes the Kerry Blue Terrier a trustworthy watchdog. The breed’s use through history includes guarding farms and homes against intruders, and the protective instinct remains. But though they’ll alert you to visitors, they aren’t guard dogs.
The active Kerry Blue Terrier has an abundance of typical terrier energy.
- Kerry Blue Terriers are stubborn.
- An only-pet home is ideal for the Kerry.
- Without enough exercise, the Kerry Blue Terrier can become destructive.
- As a terrier, the Kerry has a tendency to bark.
- Kerries require daily brushing and regular trips to the groomer.
- Without regular socialization, Kerries may become suspicious of people.
With enough exercise, the Kerry Blue is a well-behaved indoor companion. A Kerry may be able to live in an apartment if he gets plenty of exercise and the opportunity to play outdoors—but barking may be a concern.
Outdoor play is essential for the Kerry Blue, but fenced areas and leashed walks are important to prevent his prey drive and tendency to wander from taking over. Kerries shouldn't be expected to live outdoors full-time, as they want to be close to their people.
At least an hour of exercise per day is necessary for this energetic terrier. Without enough exercise, Kerry Blues may become destructive, engage in nuisance barking, or become difficult to manage. Mental stimulation is also important for this intelligent breed.
Plenty of stamina will keep the Kerry Blue Terrier going—their impressive endurance makes them a great match for active households.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: A well-conditioned Kerry Blue Terrier may be able to join you on a four- to five-mile run.
- Hiking Miles: Kerry Blue Terriers may be able to hike up to eight miles, but a high prey drive makes leashed hikes necessary.
The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food to feed an average weight Kerry Blue Terrier is 1½ to 2 cups per day, split between two meals.
Some terriers can be possessive of their food—children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
Time alone can bring out some negative behaviors in the Kerry Blue Terrier. Without enough exercise and attention, the Kerry can become destructive or bark excessively. You may be able to leave your Kerry home for four to six hours during the day, but crate training may be necessary to prevent chewing and other destructive behaviors.
Health and Grooming
Though Kerry Blue Terriers are a non-shedding breed, they need daily brushing to prevent matting and tangles. Monthly trips to the groomer and baths may be necessary. And because the Kerry Blue is a messy eater, his beard will need cleaning.
A condition called spiculosis may affect Kerry Blues. Dogs with this condition may experience rough, whisker-like hairs sprouting on the body, including between the toes. These spicules can be painful but may be removed by the groomer. Occasionally, the follicle where the spicule grew may become infected and require further treatment.
Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail. Terriers may be sensitive about having their paws touched, so get your Kerry Blue used to it early.
Common Health Issues
The Kerry Blue Terrier may be prone to breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Thyroid concerns
- Patellar luxation
- Eye concerns
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Kerry Blue Terrier by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Headstrong, stubborn Kerry Blues learn best through positive reinforcement training methods and may shut down with harsh correction. Though basic obedience training is easy for the Kerry Blue to learn, the challenge may be in getting him to do as you’ve asked if there is something more interesting afoot. A confident owner is necessary to ensure the Kerry isn’t the one running the show.
A high energy level makes agility, advanced obedience, and dog sports fun options for motivated Kerry Blue Terriers. Advanced training will help burn energy, and also keep a Kerry’s brain active.
Sporting Dog Training
Kerry Blue Terriers have been used to hunt vermin, otters, and fox, but they’re no longer common sporting dogs. They may be able to put their hunting instincts to use in Earthdogging, barn hunt, or lure coursing.
Kerry Blue Terriers have high-set, V-shaped ears that fold over, with the tips resting slightly higher than the skull. While puppies are teething, calcium expenditure is high which may cause a Kerry Blue’s ears to droop. To get the appropriate ear set, the ears are glued to ‘train’ them into the correct position. The process begins at about 12 weeks of age, and the ears are re-glued every four weeks until the puppy’s permanent teeth come in—about nine months of age. This process is best handled by a breeder or groomer to prevent an incorrect set.
Yes, Kerry Blue Terriers still have the ability to herd. With time, training, and patience, Kerries can master working dog skills—a great way to burn energy. A well-trained Kerry may compete in herding trials and may be able to herd on a working farm. Kerries may even exhibit natural herding behaviors prior to any formal training.
Yes, Kerry Blue Terriers are considered hypoallergenic. This doesn't mean allergic individuals won't have a reaction to the Kerry, but that the breed sheds very little and may be less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.