The Kerry Blue Terrier can be classified as strong willed, highly intelligent, tenacious, humorous, affectionate and active breed. Its original purpose was as a general farm dog and, to hunt badgers to ground in the Irish countryside. Because of this, it has some "quirks."
The Kerry Blue Terrier is not the dog for you if...
...you have little patience.
Kerry Blues are highly intelligent. It takes a while to teach this breed to do what YOU want done. It likes to think what you want it to do, is his idea. It takes patience and a loving manner. Lack of patience on your part, could lead to disappointment with the dog.
...your sense of humor is not up to the dog's sense of humor, which it is well endowed with.
Kerry Blues live for fun. Life is a continuous game to them and they will do silly things to get attention. Kerry Blue owners find their dog's antics funny, while other dog owners find them annoying. Before acquiring a Kerry Blue make sure you're willing to laugh at the way it plays. If the play is inappropriate, be willing to fix the situation or your attitude, with patience.
...you feel that you can train the dog on your own.
Obedience covers two areas of the dog's character: it has a need to understand its limits and, the need for socialization in this breed. Socialization is a must. This breed was bred for the purpose of the hunt. It will take off after anything from a mouse to a bear. It places the dog in danger when not well trained, and can lead to the ultimate disappointment: the death of your dog. Enough said, if you're not willing to sign up for an obedience class, don't get this breed.
Kerry Blues can be protective of their owners. They may see a squirrel as a threat to you. People look at the dog, see it's groomed coat, and think "large miniature poodle." It's not until that big dog bark comes out or, it opens it's mouth allowing sight of the large white teeth, that people start to take him seriously. Be aware of your dog's nature. Each Kerry is different. One may have to be put on a lead when you answer the door. Another would let a burglar walk off with your computer system. While they are not vicious by nature, be aware that the dog (like any dog) may perceive a threat. Kerry Blues will pick up on your tensions within seconds. If you don't like solicitors at your door, place the dog on a lead for control BEFORE you answer your door. If the dog is protective, introduce him gently to friends, your manner will most likely convey friend to him. Obedience training will help with this.
..you want a dog that would only be underfoot when you call them.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is not a breed that wanders off on it's own or likes it's own company. You are its company. You are part of the dog. When you own a Kerry Blue, it's attached literally to your feet. It will follow you everywhere you go. That means laying in front of you when you are cooking or, following you into the bathroom. When a Kerry Blue owner loses a dog, they tend to forget that the dog is no longer with them. They will hold the bathroom door open waiting for it. It becomes second nature to the owner. Kerry Blue owners are typically repeat Kerry Blue owners.
When you sit down on your couch, it will either be beside you or, laying at your feet. When you are asleep and the dog thinks it's time to play, you will be eating it's beard when you awake to a cold snout. If you hug it, it will nibble your ear. This is an affectionate breed. When it gets a drink of water, and it's beard gets wet, it will lick your face with a wet beard, finding great fun in your "Oh, yuck get away" attitude.
...you cannot meet high exercise needs with a welled fenced yard or walks.
The Kerry Blue needs exercise. This cannot be understated. Whether it's chasing after a soft toy in the house, or playing fetch outside, the dog is in constant motion when it's ready to run. It has its quiet times. But, its love of activity outweighs them.
...you believe training can be accomplished by rolled newspapers and loud commands.
Training is best accomplished with a physical display of enthusiasm on your part. If you would be embarrassed working with your dog in front of your neighbors or, if being Bozo the Clown in your obedience class bothers you (because you're jumping up and down waving your hands, saying good boy and, generally looking like an idiot), don't think of getting this breed.
Using a stern voice as the method of training instead of correction for the occasional bad behavior (read inappropriate chewing, not failure to sit on command), will make this breed withdraw. If you want to train a Kerry Blue, the training must be his idea of fun. His idea of fun is high energy. If you use a rolled newspaper physically or, as a noise to get the dog's attention, you'll find newspaper shredded all over your house. If you use a solid object like a stick to make noise to correct the dog, you'll find it torn beyond repair.
Your happiness is directly assimilated to the dog, be a happy person.
...you lack enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm for everything the dog does right, is a must. If you can't get enthusiastic, it's probably not the dog for you.
...you do not want to commit to up to a $45 - $60 grooming bill every 4 - 6 weeks.
There are two issues here. First, the dog does not shed. Meaning that you will find wispy hair balls around, but not the total blowing of the coat. Unlike most other terriers the Kerry Blue has a soft coat. It GROWS. Every 4 - 6 weeks that coat must be cut back. When the Kerry Blue's coat gets long, it's feet will pick up every piece of dirt and mud it steps on and, return it to your house. It's a clean dog by nature, but there is work involved in it being clean. A daily brushing, foot check, ear check is best. Most dogs will require bathing every three weeks.
A Kerry Blue that lives in the country and has plenty of outdoor activity, in all kinds of weather, will stink to high heaven after three weeks. One that is in a city or, is walked on a leash, will not be as bad. The dog's ears must be rid of hair inside. Not doing so will cause ear infections and mite infestations. Visits to the groomer is a must for this purpose alone, unless you learn to do it yourself.
Second, finding a good groomer for a Kerry Blue Terrier can be nothing less than a nightmare. You will get comments on the dog's socialization, inability to stand still, constant distraction.
This comes from the dog's enthusiasm for life but, to some groomers it reads "untrained and wild". The dog will not be still on a grooming table. It's tail will wag the entire time. It will try to make friends or, test an enemy every time another dog is introduced into the shop. If you find a groomer that LIKES Kerry Blues, you are in lucky enough.
If not, you may find yourself in the position that 60% of Kerry owners find themselves, learning to groom him yourself. Your dog will look funny the first couple of times, but it's worth it. It's good quality time with your dog. Before buying a Kerry Blue, read the section on this website "Grooming the Kerry Blue". Be comfortable with the idea that you may have to learn to do this. Again, a good Kerry Blue Breeder would work with you on this. Be aware, the cost of set up to groom can run from $160 to $400 for equipment, based on what you choose to purchase. In reality, after paying grooming prices you will most likely say to yourself "I can do this myself."
The Kerry Blue may be the right dog for you if...
...you like companionship.
The dog will be your best friend. He will sleep where you sleep, follow you where you go, be with you for quiet times. He'll run in the yard fetching all day if you choose, and ride with you in a car anywhere you want to go. But, don't think the Kerry Blue is loyal, if you're not there, he'll find someone else in the family to follow and play with.
...you have kids.
While some Kerry Blues have a hard time adjusting to kids when they've never been around them, generally Kerry Blues like kids. Kids have their energy and playfulness. It's a perfect match. But, remember, the kids too must be involved in training the dog if the kids are older. With young kids, you must make sure that the dog knows you are in charge. No one likes a dog that constantly knocks them over, and the Kerry Blue is not a small dog. Teach your kids how to stop the dog from jumping on them when he's a puppy. This would apply to any dog, not just a Kerry Blue.
...you would like to have a watch dog but not necessarily a guard dog.
Kerry Blues are alert to everything going on around them. If someone steps into your yard, you'll know about it. Again, they can read your tension or relaxation attitude. Recognize that before you open your door. Recognize the level of protectiveness that YOUR dog has.
...you enjoy affection.
The Kerry Blue is brimming with affection. He will be affectionate to the point of annoyance at times, but it's wonderful to know you're perfect. At least to him.
...you like a challenge.
Training is a challenge with this breed, but when the Kerry Blue decides it was all his idea, and patience with him will make him think it was, the Kerry Blue has "got it". They are smart dogs, and can easily outwit the unaware. Your sense of humor will pull you through and you will eventually figure out how to work the dog. But, don't EVER think that because your Kerry Blue comes when called in from the fenced yard, that he will ever come when a cat crosses into the yard. Prey drive is strong in the dog, when out of an enclosed area, keep your dog on a leash.
Why this is the breed for me
Aside from all the minuses with this breed, I must confess that I have a love of the Kerry Blue that is unmatched by any of my other dogs. My other dogs have a purpose. One is a guard dog, aloof and a loner, one is my deer chaser and quiet, patient, calm girl.
My Kerry Blue, Celt, is my other half (don't tell my husband). He's my friend, my companion, my confidant. He's there whenever I need him, because he doesn't leave my side. As I write this during spring in Montana, there is 18" of snow on the ground outside and it's still coming down. Celt's at my feet, and I'm rubbing him and he's keeping my feet warm.
He tries daily to eat my parrot, roust the rabbit, tweak the parakeets and cruise my counters. He allows the kids to do all kinds of wild things with him. He digs holes to China when he thinks there's a mouse in the ground. Celt has brought me gifts of dead woodpeckers, 5 dead mice, and a whole Elk leg (we live on a large place). He's challenged bears as a six month old puppy. He's learned how to get over on my husband and basically jerk my husband's chain, which I find immensely funny.
When I'm laying on the floor he is stretched out beside me with his nose under my chin in that wonderful "I love you, mom" attitude. He butts up against me in the garden, follows me into the bathroom, works my kids like they are puppets. He is happiness abounding. When a Kerry Blue comes into your home, he brings enthusiasm, energy and laughter with him. Celt has his ups and downs, like I do. He sulks sometimes when I can't stop what I'm doing to play. But, he's young yet and, he's figuring out that I'm not going to ignore him for long. I like Celt being a little on the wild side. Unlike my previous Kerry Blue, Davitt, who was more of an "obedient" Kerry Blue, as much as a Kerry Blue can be. Celt's sense of adventure is unmatched in any of my other dogs, and he'll try anything. His enthusiasm for life gives me so much pleasure, I'll be eternally grateful that my husband allowed another one of those "obstinate" dogs into his house. I think they tolerate each other, Celt and my husband, because they both love me.
You have to be willing to accept these things to live with a Kerry Blue. If you can't, get a cat. Their attitude is as far away from a Kerry Blue as you can get.