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Selecting a Kerry Blue Terrier Puppy



Right: This photo by Eileen Dreyspring took second place in the Puppy Class of the Great Western Terrier Photography Contest, 1976

Kerry Blue Terrier is a medium-sized, substantial Terrier, neither yappy nor nervous, and is very adaptable to modern family life. The soft coat does not shed or have an odor, so persons with allergies frequently are able to own a Kerry.

The Kerry was the Irish farmer's dog, accustomed to being with the family in the home. He had great intelligence, courage, and adaptability, and was used to bring the horses and cattle in from the pasture, guard the family and home, hunt small animals, and retrieve game. His square build and long legs made it easy for him to keep up with his master in the field or on hunting trips.

Today, Kerries are still definitely house dogs, for they prefer to be with their owners and are patient and playful with children. Kerries are excellent watchdogs, but their deep bark is seldom heard unless a stranger approaches, for they learn to distinguish between strangers and neighbors,

The safeguard of today's Kerry Blue Terrier lies in the fact that the breed is almost entirely in the hands of hobby fanciers rather than commercial breeders. Consequently, most Kerry puppies are whelped and raised in homes and are given much individual attention. You may locate such fanciers in any one of several ways. One way is to visit a local dog show or match and ask the Kerry exhibitors if they have puppies for sale. Another way is to write the Secretary of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club for a list of reputable breeders. (The name and address of the Secretary is listed in dog magazines, and also may be secured by writing The American Kennel Club, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10010.) Answering an ad in your local newspaper is a third way you may locate a breeder with puppies for sale. A visit to the breeder's home will indicate whether the puppies are healthy, happy specimens, well cared for, and from carefully planned litters, Remember, though, a pedigree or American Kennel Club "papers" do not guarantee quality.

You should not buy a dog of any breed on a moment's impulse just because you see an appealing puppy in a store window. Frequently such puppies have been shipped from a breeding farm thousands of miles away when they were really too young to leave their dam. It is better to buy from a local breeder, for then you will be able to see how the puppies have been raised. A reputable breeder who is truly interested in the breed will help you both in choosing the puppy and in raising it. He will tell you how to groom the puppy and set its ears, and will provide instructions on care and diet. If the breeder is close enough so that you can visit his home, you should see the dam, but you probably will see only photographs of the sire, since few breeders own the stud to which they breed.

The decision as to whether to have a male or a female is not really important if you are looking for a companion dog. There are many gentle males and as many boisterous females, so make your choice on the basis of the individual puppy's appeal. The bitch comes in season twice a year for a period of approximately three weeks, but chlorophyll tablets eliminate problems of attention from other dogs. Many veterinarians recommend spaying a bitch after the first season-both for her health and for your convenience. If you are interested in entering your Kerry in conformation shows, Kerry females win almost as large a share of Best-of-Breed and Group placements as do males.

Whether you are selecting a Kerry for show competition or to serve as a pet, the most important characteristic to look for is friendly, outgoing temperament. A puppy that is shy and fearful will bark too much, will eat poorly, and will not adapt to new surroundings. We do not often have a temperament problem with Kerries, but shyness sometimes occurs if the litter was large, or if a puppy was brought up in a kennel and did not have enough socialization with people, Lots of attention from the new owners may eliminate the problem, though.

A dog that fights with other dogs is also difficult to live with, so this is another reason that you should ask to see the dam and should inquire about the temperament of the sire. Also, you should ask the breeder whether he trains his dogs in obedience, for the answer to this question may indicate whether the breeder is interested in the temperament of his dogs.

Being of moderate size, and very strongly muscled, Kerries are not often subject to hip dysplasia-a debilitating condition that afflicts a number of breeds. Nevertheless, many Kerry breeders have all their breeding stock X-rayed and certified as clear by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, thus guarding against transmitting the condition-which is believed to be hereditary-to later generations.

just as in other breeds of dogs and certain human families, some Kerry bloodlines do have inherited problems, but these are few and usually appear at an early age. juvenile cataracts in the eyes and Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (a nerve disorder that affects the gait) are problems that may appear in some bloodlines. You would not, of course, buy an afflicted puppy, but if you are interested in breeding, do not buy a puppy from bloodlines known to carry serious inherited problems. Cinnamon-brown and wheaten-brown Kerries with brown noses and pads are not normal. Their litter mates are not recommended for breeding,

A puppy should appear healthy, with shiny coat, smooth skin, and a smooth, cool nose. The eyes should be clean, although all very young Kerries have a very small amount of discharge in the inner corner of the eyes, but it should not be sufficient to cause the eyelids to stick together. As the puppy grows older, the eye discharge will disappear.

Except immediately after eating, the puppy's abdomen should not bulge-for a bulging abdomen is often a sign of worms. There should be a good covering of flesh on the ribs. 'Me Kerry puppy should not be light in bone or racy in outline. The Kerry is a substantial, square Terrier, with the measurement from the withers (top of the shoulders) to the ground, and the measurement from chest to hip being equal. At six weeks of age the puppy should be about six inches tall (from the withers to the ground) and weigh about six pounds. At eight weeks, he should be about eight inches tall and weigh about eight pounds. From then on, the growth may vary.

File head should be oblong, with as much length in front of the eye as behind it. The top of the skull and the cheeks should be flat. The neck and the head should look long, and the Kerry should hold the head and neck proudly.

The back should be level, the chest should be deep (about to the elbow), and the tail should be set high and carried straight up. The tail may appear long-usually the tail is docked longer now than twenty years ago-but it should be in proportion to the length of the neck. Slightly less than one-third of the tail is removed the day after whelping.

There should be space for your four fingers between the front legs, and the hips should be broad. A puppy that lies down "frog style" with his hind legs out behind him usually has the correct width of hips. The front legs are straight, but the hind legs are angulated, forming curves from hip to knee to hock. When the puppy is standing and you observe him from the rear, the legs should appear parallel-turning neither in nor out. Remember, though, that as he walks the Kerry puppy may appear a bit "loose," for the muscles of a very young puppy are not firm enough to enable him to move with the sure-footed power of an older dog.

At whelping, all normal Kerry puppies are some shade of black and by eighteen months of age should turn to some shade of gray blue. A very few puppies are whelped with brown marks on the head, chest, thighs, and feet. These reddish brown marks will turn gray, but the rest of the coat may or may not turn. The marks are no indication of what the color of the whole coat will be.

A puppy may have a small white mark on its chest. If the skin is not white, but only the hair, the white mark will disappear by six months of age.

As a puppy grows older, the black coat may turn to black-brown, dull black, or deep steel gray, before the color of the mature coat is attained. If the gray blue color is attained before the puppy is a year old, the coat frequently will be fine and not so dense as is desirable.

Under The American Kennel Club approved Standard for the Kerry Blue Terrier, solid black coat color and the presence of dewclaws on the hind legs are disqualifying features for Kerries in conformation competition. Most Kerry puppies are whelped with dewclaws on the front legs, and a very few have them on the hind legs. Within a day or two of whelping, dewclaws should be removed and the tail should be docked. A veterinarian should perform these surgical procedures for an inexperienced breeder.

While a solid black coat is not permitted in the show ring, many owners love the shiny black coat and would not have their Kerry any other color. If you prefer some shade of gray blue, which is an identifying characteristic of the breed, choose a puppy with a coat just a little off jet black.

'Me breed Standard requires a level bite or a scissors bite, where the upper teeth close just outside the lower teeth, so open the puppy's mouth to make sure that the baby teeth meet properly. Occasionally one baby eyetooth will press into the gum, but this condition usually will correct itself when the adult teeth come in at four months of age. Very rarely, an undershot or overshot bite will develop into the correct bite at about six months of age, but if you are interested in showing or breeding, avoid selecting a puppy with a faulty bite.

The American Kennel Club also requires that all males to be entered in conformation shows must have two normally descended testicles. In the Kerry both should be descended as early as ten weeks. A dog with only one testicle or with neither testicle descended is entirely satisfactory as a pet and he may be entered in obedience competition. With one testicle descended, a dog can sire a litter, but such a dog should not be used at stud, for this fault is hereditary. Veterinarians recommend that such dogs be altered.

The puppy should be at least ten weeks old when he goes to his new home. This is the age recommended by the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club as the minimum age for delivering a puppy to his new owner, unless the new owner has had a young puppy before. A ten-week-old PUPPY is accustomed to regular food and eats only two or three meals a day-rather than the four or five that puppies require when first weaned. At ten weeks of age the puppy should also have had the first adult vaccine shot for distemper, hepatitis, and leptospirosis (often referred to as the DHL shot), and for parvovirus, and should have been wormed if necessary.

You should receive a four-generation pedigree and an American Kennel Club Registration Application showing the names of the sire and dam, the date of whelping, the litter registration number, and the breeder's name and address. You should also receive instructions for feeding and general care, as well as the record of the health care provided the puppy to date. Many breeders also provide a copy of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club Handbook with each puppy they sell.

We have talked about basics in choosing a Kerry puppy, but now we come to a more difficult area: quality. In every litter there will be differences in the puppies. Some breeders feel that if the sire and dam are champions or have produced show quality Kerries in earlier litters, then all puppies in a litter should be the same price. Others "grade" the puppies, feeling that buyers who want a companion should not pay the same price as those who want show prospects. If you are interested in showing, always have the puppy walked on a lead to see if it is sound. (See discussion of movement in the chapter on the ideal Kerry.) Whether the parents are champions or have produced champions, and the age of the puppy will enter into the price. Sometimes a companion puppy grows up with so much style and personality that he can be a successful show dog, and sometimes a show prospect sold at a very young age will be disappointing at maturity. No one can guarantee that a puppy, or even an adult Kerry, can finish its championship, but there are indications -such as balance, temperament, and size that are apparent in a good specimen.

Whether the puppy is to be a companion or a show prospect, the breeder will want to know something about the buyer, also. Many breeders will hesitate to sell to buyers if both husband and wife are employed and the puppy will be left alone at home all day. All breeders should insist that the buyer have a fenced yard so that the dog may exercise freely and not annoy the neighbors, and will not be lost or injured.

The puppy should have a place of his own, a comfortable bed in which to sleep at night and nap during the day. the bed should be placed where it is protected from rain, wind, and sun. An enclosed porch that can be heated in winter, and that has a "dog door," is ideal.

If you drive to the breeder's residence to pick up the puppy, he will be happier riding on the seat beside you, on a large towel to protect your clothes and the seat in case he becomes carsick. If you prefer to use a crate or box, put it on the floor or seat where the puppy can see you and you can speak to him and pat him. If the puppy is to be shipped, he should travel by air freight on a nonstop flight, and the breeder should telephone you when the puppy is on the plane so that you can be waiting when he arrives at your airport. The next day, you should take the puppy to your veterinarian for a general checkup and any shots that may be necessary.

Remember this-the puppy has just made a big change in his life, so give him extra attention. Try to have him arrive when you can be at home with him all of the time for at least two days. Take your puppy out each hour, and after naps and meals, and take him to the part of the yard you wish him to use. Taking him at regular intervals will facilitate housebreaking.

For teaching the puppy to walk on lead, use a wide show lead and collar. Since the collar is adjustable, it will grow with him. When your Kerry is about six months old buy a round, leather collar. It will last for years and will not mark his coat. The leather lead to match the collar is available, but a six-foot obedience lead is better for hiking or long walks. An identification tag with your phone number is essential.

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Today is July 21, 2019

In this month in 2002:

Dr. W. Jean Dodds was first elected to the Board of the Kerry Blue Terrrier Foundation.

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