Glen of Imaal Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

glen of imaal terriers

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Glen of Imaal Terriers, one of the lesser-known breeds from Ireland, are characterized by their wiry double coats, short but powerful legs, and muscular physiques. Also known as the Wicklow Terrier, the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier, or simply "Glens," they generally weigh in at 40 pounds or less, but have the personalities of much bigger dogs.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Terrier (AKC)

SIZE: 12.5 to 14 inches at the shoulder

COAT AND COLORS: Wiry, medium-length double coat in a variety of colors, including wheaten, blue, and brindle.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 10 to 15 years


Characteristics of the Glen of Imaal Terrier

Affection Level High
Friendliness Moderate
Kid-Friendly Moderate
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Moderate
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Moderate
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Glen of Imaal Terrier

Originating in Ireland's desolate Wicklow Mountains, the Glen of Imaal Terriers were originally bred as working dogs. In addition to tracking foxes and badgers on hunts and keeping owners' homes pest-free, Glens were also employed as turnspit dogs—or dogs that moved the wheel that turned a spit over a fire to cook meals—and as working dogs on the rocky farms across the Wicklow mountains. Their short, powerful legs and muscular bodies made them ideal for farm work, and their tough personalities enabled them to protect the farms from rats, badgers, and other vermin.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier was first presented at the Lisburn Dog Show in England in 1870. However, it wasn't recognized as the Glen of Imaal Terrier—rather, all terriers from Ireland were simply considered Irish Terriers. Several years later—after Glens had been given their official name—they were accepted by the Irish Kennel Club in 1934. Then, after nearly 70 years, they were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2004.

Today, Glen of Imaal Terriers are considered a rare breed. Because they've retained many of the original Glen of Imaal characteristics, they're often referred to as an "antique" breed.

Glen of Imaal Terrier Care

Because Glens have a rough-and-tumble history, they're a fairly low-maintenance breed.

The Glen's scruffy, wiry, double coat doesn't require constant grooming, but you should try to brush them once or twice per week to avoid tangles, mats, and knots. Plan to give your Glen a bath approximately once every three months. If your Glen's nails don't wear down naturally, be sure to trim them once or twice per month. Keeping their nails short and neat will keep their paws healthy and keep you scratch-free.

Dental care is often overlooked in dog care, but it's important to brush your Glen's teeth at least two to three times per week to prevent the build-up of plaque. Brushing every day is ideal, and can help prevent gum disease and bad doggy breath.

Glen of Imaal Terriers are highly intelligent dogs making training relatively simple—if you keep it interesting. Glens can become bored (and distracted) very easily, so it's important to keep training fresh, engaging, and interesting. You can start with some dog training basics, like "sit," "stay," and "come," then move onto more advanced commands.

Glens are extremely energetic, athletic, and playful, so daily exercise is a must. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activities like walking, running, or playing fetch or tag every day. Remember: Glens can become bored very easily, so keeping them engaged—and releasing some of their energy—is extremely important. Like other terriers, Glens love to dig—and will happily get rid of some of their excess energy by digging holes all over your yard.

glen of imaal terrier on the floor
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Common Health Problems

Like any other breed or mix of breeds, Glen of Imaal Terriers may be susceptible to certain health conditions, but that doesn't mean every Glen will develop these issues. It's important to be aware of potential health problems, so you can give your dog the best possible care should anything arise.

Some health problems that are common among Glen of Imaal Terriers include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia, which causes instability and weakness in the hips or elbows
  • Hypothyroidism, an endocrine disease that reduces the dog's metabolic rate
  • Retinal atrophy, a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness

Ethical, responsible breeders work hard to maintain the highest breed standards as established by the American Kennel Club in their dogs, making them less likely to develop these health conditions. However, some conditions are genetically inherited, making them much harder to avoid.

Be sure to talk to your Glen of Imaal's veterinarian about any potential health problems, and the steps you can take to reduce your dog's risk of developing them.

Diet and Nutrition

A dog's diet depends on their weight, age, activity levels, and metabolism, but generally, Glen of Imaal Terriers should eat one and a half to two cups of high-quality, high-protein, low-grain dog food each day. Canine obesity is a common problem in all breeds, so it's important to carefully measure your dog's food at each meal and limit their treats.

If you're not sure how much to feed your Glen, or what kind of food works best for her, talk to your veterinarian. They'll be able to recommend the best food for your dog's individual needs.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before adding a Glen of Imaal Terrier to the family, be sure to do your research. Glens are highly intelligent, energetic, and loving dogs, but they require hands-on obedience training and daily exercise. It's important to ensure a Glen's needs will fit your family's schedule and lifestyle before bringing them home.

If you're buying a Glen of Imaal Terrier from a breeder, make sure they are ethical and reputable. Ask the breeder lots of questions, meet the litter's parents, and conduct an on-site tour of the breeder's facility, if possible.

If you're interested in breeds similar to the Glen of Imaal, check out: