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© 2003 Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation

Kerry Blue Terriers

Are Kerries good with kids?

Yes. They love kids and their rough-and-tumble games. Kerries are sturdy and well-muscled and are not easily injured. Their tolerant good-nature keeps them from becoming grouchy or snappy. Naturally, any situation involving toddlers, young children or young puppies should be well supervised to prevent accidental injuries or tormenting behavior. It's a good idea for older children to attend training classes with the dog to ensure that the terrier does not regard the child as its subordinate.

See also the article: Are Kerries Good With Kids?, by Randy Hayes.  

Are Kerries good for people with dog allergies?

Maybe. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog. But because Kerries are non-shedding they are sometimes recommended to people with allergies and they may actually be more tolerable than a shedding breed. However, allergic reactions are unique to each person. The sufferer should spend as much time as possible with Kerries in the dogs' living quarters to determine if the breed is suitable before taking one home. See also Allergies and the Kerry Blue Terrier, by Natalia Samajova.

Do Kerries fight with other dogs?

Kerry Blues display inter-male aggression. Like many terrier breeds, early Kerries were quite prone to fighting and aggressive behavior.

Careful breeding has greatly improved the Kerry disposition. A Kerry can be trained to mind his own business, but he will not back down from another dog if he is attacked.

Early training and firm, consistent handling will prevent problems in most situations, but it is best to have only one intact male Kerry in the household. Some Kerry experts advise having only one male in the household, period, regardless of whether or not he is neutered.

Are Kerries yappy or destructive?

Most Kerries do not bark as a hobby. They tend to reserve their barking for warning and welcoming. Because they are terriers, Kerries have digging instincts. Digging can be minimized or eliminated with training and by keeping the Kerry exercised and entertained. Kerries also have strong jaws. Divert their chewing instincts to sturdy chew toys.

Do Kerries make good watch dogs?

Yes. They have business-like barks to alert their owners of visitors (or prowlers) on the premises. A full grown Kerry barking at the door is an imposing sight. However, once the visitor is approved by the owner, the visitor is accepted by the dog and may even be solicited to play.

Can Kerries adapt to apartment living?

The Kerry is a powerful, agile, and athletic dog that requires regular exercise. While some Kerries exercise themselves in their own, safely enclosed back yards, others do not. Not only will a daily walk maintain muscle tone and keep a Kerry fit and trim, it will provide the necessary stimulation and socialization to keep it happy, active and alert. Kerries who live in apartments require at least three excursions outdoors each day (and puppies many more)-regardless of whether it's raining or her master is tired or in a hurry.

Are Kerries difficult to train?

The Kerry is a born showman, hamming it up at every opportunity with rollicking good humor and remarkable intelligence. He can be easily bored, though, and something of a rascal, testing his limits to see what he can get away with.

The Kerry has a mind of his own and many require a firm but loving hand to show what is expected from him. He instinctively wants to please and learns quickly, given positive reinforcement and plenty of praise. A heavy hand is never needed with a Kerry, because despite his resilience, he is surprisingly sensitive.

Training is a requirement to owning a Kerry.

Is this a good breed for first time dog owners?

Maybe! These are delightful dogs, good with families, and very adaptable. On the other hand they require a good deal of effort and commitment from the owner, perhaps more than most breeds. Between the need for exercise, socialization, and grooming; a commitment for many hours of attention a week may be needed for the next 15 years. Many responsible terrier breeders are reluctant to place dogs with first time dog owners.

Have a frank conversation with some Kerry owners and you will have a better idea if you are up to the challenge.

Kerry Blues are not perfect for everyone.

Are they indoor or outdoor dogs?

Although they were originally developed as farm dogs, they do best when housed indoors and treated as one of the family. These are people dogs and will always want to be where the family is. They will not do as well in outside kenneling situations. Most Kerry owners will admit that their Kerry sleeps on their bed.

Is the Kerry a city dog?

Kerries make fine dogs for apartment dwellers as long as their exercise requirements are met (a couple 20 minute walks each day is sufficient). Their size is convenient, they are exceptionally sociable, and do not disturb neighbors with excessive barking.

Are these dogs good in cold weather? in hot weather?

Kerries are good in cooler climates and are popular in such northern countries as Canada, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Normal cold weather care should be taken, including regular inspection of pads for ice balls.

As mentioned above, they are mostly indoor dogs and most of them enjoy excursions into cold and snowy weather.

They do not do as well in hot weather and may be noticeably less active. They should always be given access to both shade (if outdoors) and water and strenuous exercise should be avoided. Indoors, they may prefer to lie on cool tiles or linoleum, sometimes in bathrooms. Trimming the coat slightly shorter is OK, but not so much that the sun can reach the skin.

Do they make good obedience dogs?

The Kerry is very intelligent and a number of dogs have received advanced obedience degrees, but they can be stubborn and independent. Like most terriers, the Kerry was bred to work independently of human direction. If a dog is nose to nose with a badger, it cannot take the time to ask "may I attack now, please, or would you prefer me to wait?" Thus, obedience as a formal task is rather foreign to the breed, but their loyalty and eagerness to please will usually compensate. They are surprisingly sensitive and respond best to positive training techniques.

All dogs should learn basic good manners and certain general behaviors, such as coming when called and walking on a lead. Puppy kindergarten training is wonderful socialization for a young dog to learn, to avoid dog-aggressiveness later in life. It should be followed by a basic obedience course. A new certificate/program of the AKC which emphasizes good manners is the Canine Good Citizen award.

Is the Kerry Blue the National Dog of Ireland?

Some publications claim so, but actually, the Irish government never has given this designation to any dog breed. Michael Collins, one of Irelands most famous patriots, was a Kerry Blue fancier in the early part of last century. He introduced legislation to elevate the Kerry Blue, or the Irish Blue Terrier as they were then called, to the National Dog of Ireland. After his murder, the interest in the initiative was lost.

Is the Kerry Blue from County Kerry?

The Blue was called the "Irish Blue Terrier" in Ireland for many years but in England it was known as the "Kerry Blue Terrier", and all were not happy with this name for the Irish Breed.

Southern Irish fanciers objected to the title by which these terriers have been registered by the English Kennel Club, for they asserted that County Kerry has no right to the monopoly of the breed. If any prefix is required, they asserted, the dog should be known as the "Carrick Blue." Because Carrick-on-Suir (County Tipperary) was its original home.

However this may be, the Irish Kennel Club has given the breed the more embracing title of "The Irish Blue Terrier".

Discussions on the name of the dog took place between the Irish and the English clubs and eventually settled on the name its known today "The Kerry Blue Terrier".

Does the Kerry require a lot of maintenance?

The Kerry is drop-dead gorgeous when properly groomed, moves with an eye-stopping fluid gait, has no doggy odor even when wet, and sheds not a hair from her magnificent coat. The skin produces very little dander, making it an excellent choice for allergy sufferers. But for all this, she requires almost daily brushing, frequent bathing and monthly trimming to look and feel her best.

How do I find a Kerry breeder?

Kerry Blue puppies are not easy to find. Check out the list of breeders. You should not buy a Kerry puppy from a pet store because you may not be able to check the pedigree or receive support from the breeder. It is better find a reputable breeder on this web site or through a local Kerry Blue Terrier Club.

How are Kerries different from Wheatens?Guinness

Many people have narrowed down their selection of their next dog to either a Wheaten or a Kerry. Here is an opinion on how they are different:

  • Kerries are slightly more feisty and more difficult to handle than Wheatens,
  • Wheatens are a little more "flighty" and need more training,
  • Kerry litters are more difficult to find,
  • Wheatens may have a few more genetic problems,
  • Kerries are more aggressive with other dogs,
  • Wheaten's hair tangles more easily, it is silkier, less curly and softer,
  • Wheaten's coat requires more work,
  • Both Kerries and Wheatens have some skin problems, though different problems: cysts versus rashes.

This list was compiled from comments by both Kerry and Wheaten owners. While there are some differences, the differences are small. Many of the differences can be compensated for by selecting the appropriate breeding lines.

Two other good Wheaten sites are those maintained by Bonnie O'Connor for the US SCWTCA and the site maintained by Dave Perry, former president of the Canadian Wheaten Club.

Can Kerries get along with cats?

Answered by Nancie Echeverria

When this question was posed to the 300+ KB-L subscribers, many good examples of Kerries, cats,and other species of critters co-habitation were given, while just a few thought that their Kerries would never tolerate a cat under any conditions.

Kerries and cats would seem to be able to co-exist in the same household and even become genuinely fond of each other with some guidelines. The carefully supervised initial introduction is most important. The Kerry is a smart dog that can, in most cases, be made to understand that this is HIS cat and he is not to abuse it. Animals that are raised together seem to form an early, mutually satisfying bond that is trustworthy. Some cats seem quite tolerant of being chased, mouthed, barked at and presented with toys! There are no guarantees; however, and most Kerries will still choose to chase a feline that is not part of his household whether it be in a recreational manner or an act of aggression. Close supervision, particularly in the early stages, seemed to be the common denominator that helped make the relationship successful.

How trainable are Kerries?

Lisa Frankland, the owner and trainer of Lav, the #1 Obedience Kerry in the country in 1996, answers the question as follows.:

Lav has a UDX. Since he is the first dog I have ever gone through formal obedience with, I don't have a whole lot to compare him to as far as trainability goes. I do know that he has managed to beat more than his share of Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, and Shelties!

From my observations, the main difference between training a terrier vs. training a more traditional obedience breed seems to be one of motivation. You ask a Golden to jump and it will reply, "How high?" You ask a Kerry to jump and it will say, "Give me one good reason!" This is not to say that Kerries aren't willing to please, just that they tend to be a little less blindly obedient and a little more distractable than some other breeds.

I have found that Lav has a tremendous sense of fairness, taking a correction well if he understands why he has it coming, but falling apart if he doesn't. I have also found that Lav (and many other dogs, Kerries and non-Kerries alike) are very tuned in to their owner's feelings and mood. In other words, if I am upset or tense, Lav will pick up on it and act accordingly.

Can I run long distances with a Kerry?

Answered by Robert Paul.
In Running With Man's Best Friend, by Davia Anne Gallup, Alpine Publications, 1986, Kerries are rated as 'good' runners, out of the categories 'fair,' 'good,' 'superior.' I quote:

Dogs with a "Good (G)" rating make fine running partners, but may be less capable of running daily or for long distances. I advise no more than 18-25 miles per week. Running five days a week, this is equivalent to 4 or 5 miles a day.

Just like a human, a dog should ease into a running program--perhaps 20 minutes at an easy pace 3 X a week for a couple of weeks to start. Hard days (longer or faster runs) ought to be followed by easy days. Gallup rates Airedales and SCWTs as the only 'superior' runners among the Terriers.

Keep your dog hydrated, and after a hard run walk a bit to cool down. *Never end a hard run at the front door in cold weather, so that you and your dog go directly from the cold into a warm environment without cooling down. Walk the last block home.*

It would be useful to carry water during the warm seasons and to teach your dog to drink from a squeeze bottle.

Avoid excessive heat and humidity, of course.

Why do Kerries have all that hair on their face?

Answered by Janet Joers.

Kerries' eyes are no more sensitive to light, pollution, or any other irritant than any other breed.

If historically the Kerry's "fall" protected the eyes from the claws of badgers, today, it can protect them from the claws of cats, raccoons, skunks, fox, gophers, woodchucks, or anything else that Kerries might tangle with. Given their propensity to stick their heads in holes of all kinds (culverts, wood piles, brush), Kerries are more likely to need that hair than other breeds. For that reason alone, I wouldn't cut it off.

For those owners who somehow cannot abide by all that facial hair, I recommend thinning it with thinning shears, or bringing the fall forward, say starting it from the top of the eye rather than from the back of the eye (essentially "narrowing" the fall). Even a Schnauzer cut with "eyebrows" is preferable to no facial furnishings at all.

How much does a Kerry cost?

Perhaps the best answer to this question is: Far more than the purchase price! Over the lifetime of the dog, the purchase price is, in fact, negligible, as you add up the costs of veterinary care, monthly grooming, food and supplements, training, pet insurance, boarding/petsitting, and all the incidentals that get worn out, out-grown, emptied, or chewed up! 

What kind of companion can I get for my Kerry?

Interestingly, the best companion for a Kerry is not a dog, it's YOU! Far more than nearly any other breed, Kerries are people-oriented. They are most happy and content when they are with someone, and are well known to follow their masters around like shadows! Kerries need to be where the action is, included in family act ivies, and treated as an important family member. They do not do well in homes where they are left alone all day, and can develop undesirable behaviors (barking, digging, showing separation anxiety, becoming destructive, etc.). For that reason, responsible Kerry breeders often will not sell a dog to a family that will leave the dog at home alone more than 3-4 hours a day. To keep their dogs happy and well-adjusted, working families frequently use doggie day care facilities, petwalkers, take their Kerries to work with them, or make other arrangements, such as staggering their work hours or working from home several days a week.

Every Kerry DOES need to be well socialized with other dogs (which helps to temper the breed's dog aggression, which is common). So daily walks where the Kerry will encounter other dogs is essential, as are puppy socialization classes for young dogs, and basic obedience classes for older dogs. Having friends visit with their dogs is another way to provide canine companionship. In general, Kerries can learn to get along with most other breeds, but far more important than breed is the temperament of the other dog. Since Kerries do not back down when challenged, dogs that are less dominant and more submissive have the best chance of successfully interacting with a Kerry.

Do you have another question?

If you have any specific questions, please let us know and we will put you in contact with one of our mentors.

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Today is November 13, 2019

In this month in 2003:

The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation opens its first Health Survey of the breed.

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