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The Kerry blue terrier is often mistaken for a poodle but once you meet him, this feisty Irish breed will show you why he is an original. Hailing from southwestern Ireland, the Kerry blue terrier craves human companionship but isn’t too impressed with other dogs.
History and Origin
The Kerry blue terrier has a long and proud Irish history. Hailing from the county of Kerry in southwestern Ireland, this dog has been bred for over 100 years. Originally, the Kerry blue was only found in Ireland and was used as a Jack-of-all-trades on the farm. He would clean the barn of rats and help hunt rabbits and birds on land or in the water. He even helped herd sheep and cattle and was a natural protector of his family. The Irish people considered him a working and sporting dog and did not think of him as a show dog.
In the early 1900s, the breed was discovered by travelers and brought to England and America. It was there that the breed’s potential as a show dog became obvious. Just a little trimming was all that was needed to turn this agile and playful dog into a popular and stunning show dog. The Kerry blue was first shown at Westminster in 1922.
One striking difference between showing the dog in his native country and showing him in England or America is the grooming requirements. In Ireland, the Kerry blue must be shown “in the rough” and not trimmed. In England and America, the dog is trimmed with a full set of whiskers and eyebrows.
The Kerry blue terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1924 as a member of the terrier group and the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America was founded 2 years later.
Appearance and Size
With his beautiful blue coat, the Kerry blue terrier looks like a puppy throughout his life. The head is long and rectangular with dark eyes and V-shaped ears that fold forward. The fold of the ear is slightly above the level of the skull. The neck is long and proudly carried on a short backed body with a docked tail. The hair coat of the Kerry blue is silky soft and dense. The coat can be curly or wavy but should not be wiry or harsh. In England and the United States, the coat on the body is often trimmed and the face has full whiskers and eyebrows. The Kerry blue terrier is born black but as he matures, the coat color will change to some shade of blue ranging from light silver to midnight or slate blue. Although he may look black to the untrained eye, black is not an acceptable color for the show ring.
The Kerry blue terrier stands 17 to 21 inches at the shoulder and weighs 30 to 45 pounds.
As with other Irish breeds, the Kerry blue is a strong-willed and vibrant dog. A natural show-off, these dogs love attention and crave center stage. Even when in his twilight years, the Kerry blue is a rambunctious, agile and fun-loving dog. They are perpetually young at heart.
The breed tends to have a mind of his own and will test his owners to see just how much he can get away with. Rarely submissive, these dogs can have a somewhat fiery temper and don’t really like strange dogs. The Kerry blue has a naturally dominant personality and requires firm, but kind, handling to prevent behavioral problems.
This breed is not for someone who wants a quiet, calm lap dog.
Home and Family Relations
The Kerry blue terrier loves people and craves their companionship. Some dogs will follow their owners from room to room since they do not enjoy time alone. The breed can be good with older children but isn’t too tolerant of the antics of younger children. He can live in any environment, as long as he is around people. These dogs do not make good outdoor pets.
The Kerry blue terrier is naturally protective of his family and will bark to warn that strangers are approaching, but he does not participate in the mindless barking often associated with other members of the terrier group. If their owners accept the stranger, the Kerry blue is very excited to welcome the newcomer into his home and must be taught early not to jump on people.
Despite being a breed that doesn’t shed much, the Kerry blue does require frequent grooming. Daily brushing is needed to prevent the development of mats and a visit to the professional grooming is a monthly task.
In his native Ireland, the Kerry blue is easily trained as a multipurpose farm dog. He is very intelligent and requires obedience training at a minimum to produce a well-behaved family member. The breed can be trained to hunt small game and birds as well as herding sheep or cattle. He is a natural protector and good watchdog.
The Kerry blue terrier, like other terriers, doesn’t enjoy keeping himself company. The breed needs plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Some dogs may have a tendency to dig and others may jump fences.
Although the dog loves people, he isn’t too tolerant of strange dogs and has the potential to be dog aggressive. The Kerry blue should be leashed when taken for a walk or confined to a secure backyard.
Common Diseases and Disorders
In general, the Kerry blue terrier is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
- Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a disorder of the eye that results when tear production is decreased.
- Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.In addition, the following have also been reported in the Kerry blue
- Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is a congenital birth defect caused by a blood vessel that normally closes after birth, but remains open resulting in the passage of extra volumes of blood into the lungs.
- conjunctivitis, allergies, fatty tumors, blood clotting abnormalities, XX sex reversal and cerebellar abiotrophy, a progressive nervous system abnormality that begins with incoordination and progresses until the dog is completely incapacitated.
The life span of the Kerry blue terrier is approximately 14 to 16 years and the breed is spry to the very end.
We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.