17" to 21", 30-45 lbs. The Kerry Blue's coat is non-shedding, but requires lots of maintenance. The Kerry is extremely intelligent, hence requires training. They are good with people and other animals, although dog aggression is common, particularly between males. Kerries are not good as kennel or outside dogs. The Kerry has few health problems and is perfect for people with allergies.
History and Purpose
The Kerry Blue Terrier is a large terrier breed that was developed as an all-purpose, working farm dog in Ireland. It is closely related to the Irish Terrier and the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and is believed to have Irish Wolfhound, Black and Tan Terrier (a now extinct terrier breed), and possibly some Poodle or similar breed, spaniel, and herding breed ancestory. Years of selective breeding have produced an intelligent, athletic dog that has been called "a canine Jack-of-all-trades and a master at most." In their native Ireland, they were expected to hunt, herd, guard, retrieve, and go to ground, all as part of a day's work. In modern times, the Kerry has been successfully used as a police dog, livestock herder and guardian, therapy dog, assistance dog, and in search and rescue, obedience, flyball, and agility. Most importantly, though, they are devoted companions to the many people who are proud to be owned by one.
The Kerry's most distinguishing characteristic is its coat. Described in the breed standard as "soft, dense, and wavy," it does not shed and can be tolerated by many people with pet allergies. The color of an adult Kerry (puppies are born black) ranges from light silver to a dark blue-grey, giving the breed its name. The coat is trimmed to give Kerries their classical terrier look. However, this crowning glory can also be the breed's biggest drawback. This is a high maintenance breed. The coat needs to be thoroughly brushed and combed at least once a week, and a monthly trim is recommended. Most professional groomers have never seen a Kerry, let alone know how to trim one properly, and you must be prepared either to cultivate a relationship with a good groomer, learn to groom the dog yourself, or live with a Kerry that is trimmed more like a Schnauzer or Poodle! This same "Velcro" coat also makes Kerry owners think twice about letting them romp in the woods, fields, or at the beach, as the time required afterwards to pick burrs, foxtails, twigs, and other debris out of their coats can be truly intimidating.
The AKC standard calls for Kerries to be "17 1/2"-19 1/2" tall, bitches proportionately less," and a weight of 33-40 lb.. However, larger ones are not uncommon; 20" dogs and bitches are frequently seen, and even some 22" and 23" dogs have been reported. Although this still places them in the medium-sized range for dog breeds, many people consider Kerry Blue Terriers to be large dogs. In addition, they are deceptively strong for their size. Their size and strength, combined with a surprisingly deep bark and natural protective tendencies, make Kerries excellent watch dogs. Not being yappy by nature, Kerries also adapt well to apartment living. This is a very people-oriented breed, and should be included as part of the family. Under no circumstances should a Kerry spend its life confined to the backyard or to a kennel.
Kerries have a typical terrier personality. While extremely intelligent and quick to learn, they may only obey when it suits them to. If you want a dog that will stay happily in an unfenced yard and never leave the property, do not get a Kerry Blue Terrier! This is a breed that is quick to learn exactly where and under what circumstances it can get away with not obeying, and for this reason is not a good choice for a wishy-washy, overly-indulgent, or submissive owner. Firmness and consistency are important when you own a Kerry Blue Terrier, and obedience training is highly recommended. Being terriers, they may have problems accepting cats or small pets (especially rodents). Dog aggression (aggression towards other dogs, not people!) is common in the breed. Fights are most likely between dogs of the same sex. Proper training, and common sense, go a long way in preventing problems. Many Kerries do peacefully co-exist with dogs and other pets with no problems. The writer's Kerry, for example, happily shares his home with two cats and two rats!
A Family Dog
Kerries are an excellent choice for families with children. They are an energetic, fun-loving breed, with a lot of common sense, and are big enough to handle some good natured rough-and-tumble without getting hurt or feeling the need to "defend themselves." An article in the September 1988 edition of Good Housekeeping Magazine listed Kerry Blue Terriers as one they recommended as great dogs for kids. Of course, for their own safety and that of the kids, no dog should be left totally unsupervised with small children.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is generally a long-lived breed (about 12 years), plagued by relatively few healthproblems. Skin problems, usually flea allergies or sebaceous cysts, are the most common complaint. Eye and ear problems may occur due to the profuse hair growing on the Kerry's face and down in the ear canals, but can be prevented with vigilant care. Hip dysplasia may be becoming more of a problem in the breed. Immune problems and bleeding disorders have been reported. It is advisable to find a reputable breeder who is aware of these problems, knows what is behind their own dogs, and is hopefully testing their dogs for some of these problems (especially hip dysplasia).
The Kerry Blue Terrier is a unique breed, with unique charms and special challenges. To the breed's many fans around the globe, it is the very best dog in the world. The question is, is a Kerry the best dog for YOU?