PURPOSE OF BREED: Medium sized dog originally bred in Ireland as an all-round farm dog for dispatching vermin, herding livestock, and watching over hearth and home. They were specifically bred (as all terriers were) to "go to ground" after game, but for the last 100 years have been bred primarily for conformation showing and as house pets. Today they retain much of their original "gamey" temperament and require firm, consistent, and kind discipline from their owners.
AVERAGE LITTER SIZE: 5-7
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN: 11 years
HEIGHT (at withers) :
MALE 18-19.5 in (46-48 cm)
FEMALE: 17.5 19 in (45-47 cm)
MALE 33-40 lb (15-17 kg)
FEMALE: slightly less
The Kerry coat is curly to wavy, does not shed, and is black at birth and gradually turns to variations of "blue"--from slate or steel gray to pearl gray with a bluish cast. Some brown or rust coloring of the coat commonly occurs during the color change, which typically clears by 24 months of age. Dark points on the mature Kerry are common, with darker feet and head than the rest of the body. The dog's skin, which may appear pale blue (especially on its back), produces little dander, making the breed a possible choice for allergy sufferers.
The coat requires considerable grooming to keep it tangle-free, and should be combed/brushed at least weekly to remove the dead hair that doesn't shed.
Trimming is required every 4-6 weeks to keep the dog looking and feeling its best. Finding a professional groomer experienced with the Kerry trim can
be difficult, but the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation web site maintains a list of them nationwide. In addition to coat care, Kerry puppies from
approximately 3 to 6 or 8 months of age require ear-setting (gluing of the ears in a set position on the skull) for proper appearance and terrier expression.
Kerries are generally considered a very healthy breed, and have relatively few congenital and heritable disorders. Some of them include bleeding disorders
(Factor XI deficiency, von Willebrand's Disease), other autoimmune
disorders (allergies, Hemolytic Anemia), hypothyroidism, a neurological condition fatal to puppies (PNA), hermaphroditism, hip dysplasia, and a number of eye disorders (Distichiasis, Entropion, Keratitis sicca/Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and cataracts). Potential Kerry owners should ask breeders if they are screening for the bleeding disorders, thyroid problems, hip dysplasia (OFA certification), and some of the eye disorders (CERF test).
Ear and eye ailments are common, but regular cleaning and plucking of hair from the ear canals, and regular (daily) cleansing and/or medicating of the
eyes can help keep the problems in check. Like other soft-coated breeds,
Kerries are prone to a variety of skin conditions, including sebaceous cysts, hair follicle tumors, and spiculosis.
While considered a family dog, the Kerry Blue Terrier was historically bred to hunt, quarry, and kill rodents, such as mice and rats, rabbits, badgers (a fierce game animal) and even fox--a job that required high intelligence, fearlessness, independent-thinking, and a never-give-up tenacity. To pet owners today, those traits may translate into a willful, head-strong dog with a mind of its own, obsessed with squirrels (or the household cat), willing to take risks, and second-guess and out-smart its handler. Thus, the breed requires both persistent and regular training, often using creative techniques, to keep their attitudes in check and help them display the "disciplined gameness" that is the hallmark of the breed.
In addition to proper training, the Kerry has demanding socialization requirements, both with dogs and people, to curb their dog-aggressive tendencies
and to fulfill their need for constant human interaction and
love, acceptance, and attention from the people around them. Walks, playtimes, and outings with the family provide the vigorous exercise and mental stimulation they need to become well-adjusted family companions. Kerries are strictly house dogs and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time, or when not allowed to join in family activities. This is a proud and challenging breed for the experienced pet owner willing to commit the time and effort needed for its care. It is not a breed recommended for the first-time dog owner.
Relationship with Other Animals
Kerries are frequently dominant by nature with an "alpha" attitude and prone to dog aggression, so they do not do well in homes with multiple pets, particularly dogs of the same sex. Many consider cats prey, and even small dogs. Co-existence is most successful with dogs of the opposite sex. Two male Kerries in the same household is a high-risk situation and to be avoided.