Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The breed is known to be the most common example of a working dog breed. The origins of the Kerry Blue Terrier draw roots from an area in Ireland called County Kerry, from which the breed got its name. The general use of the Kerry Blue Terrier was in herding cattle and sheep, as well as eliminating smaller pests, hunting birds and smaller animals, like the most working dogs in that time. Recognizable for their bravery and intelligence, as time passed the breed became one of the most adored pet groups, probably because of the devotion they have for their owners, families or packs. For sure the Kerry Blue isn’t the most common or popular dog breed today, but they enjoy a respectable fan base of followers.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Terrier Dogs
Height:Generally 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 7 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: Generally 33 to 40 pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

100 percent of the dog’s character belongs to the terrier. But what are those recognizable character fragments exactly? Well, caution, reaction to a suspicious situation, alert, and good nature within the individual. Their bodies are muscular and always ready for action. The thing that divides this breed apart from the rest is the unusual coat constructed of gray tinted hair and blue appearance when the dog reaches adulthood.

On the other hand, you can notice a Kerry Terrier puppy having darker color variations of gray, blue, brown, and even black. Until the maturity at 18 months of age, these colors are prevalent and possible are combinations can be found also. Some people claim that the appearance of an adult Kerry Terrier reminds them of an older human, especially because of the falling mop of hair covering the dog’s eyes, as well as the ears shaped like the letter V and beard-like hair conglomerate under the mouth.

Even though this breed doesn’t show aggressive behavior towards humans, the interaction with other dogs can be difficult sometimes, as the Kerry Terrier naturally is more prone to aggression than the rest of the terriers. Breeders know this information very well and work hard to eliminate this natural characteristic. And knowing that in the past the Kerry Blue was even more aggressive towards other dogs than it is now, it seems the breeders are doing a good job.

Of course, early and sufficient, proper socialization can lead to minimizing the risks of your Kerry Blue growing to be prone to aggression towards other dogs. The puppies must be trained properly and regularly, even though you can never be sure that the wild gene factor won’t activate to start a fight.

In the family circle, the dog shows passion and love for owners that show strong will, just like the dog itself. The owner must present true leadership in a kind manner and keep it consistent at all times. The slightest misleading act of training and owning the Kerry Terrier can make the dog skid the row of an obedient pet. That’s why in most cases an experienced dog breeder would go on better with a Kerry Blue, rather than a first-time dog owner.

Since the dog is a working breed that needs to maintain a lot of daily exercises and activities, every owner will have a great walking, running or bicycle-riding companion. In general, they aren’t known for shedding, but grooming the dog every day at least once will contribute in having a clean coat. Also, the Kerry Blue is almost odor-free.

By now, you already consider the idea of rushing and getting a puppy Kerry Blue Terrier. Before doing that let us remind you once again of the risk factors that go along with having the dog: high and uncontrollable prey drive, occasional stubbornness, aggressive attitude towards other dogs and what every terrier has – the love for digging holes in the ground. Whenever you might think of purchasing a puppy, look through these cons once more and evaluate if you can deal with them.

Main Highlights
  • Even though the individuals of the breed learn fast throughout the learning process, a little stubbornness is present from time to time. Keep in mind to maintain your patience, laugh at their funny moments and everything will go downhill.
  • The Kerry Blue can be aggressive towards other dogs, but if properly and regularly trained the dog won’t start a fight. If it gets irritated by some other dog, then probably your Kerry Blue will snap and try to end the fight. On the other hand, humans are perfectly safe around it.
  • You can always choose to groom the dog yourself, but it is a really hard everyday If you take it to dog salons frequently (as needed) it’s expensive.
  • The terrier temper will be expressed through occasional barking, chasing smaller animals, chewing the wrong shoes and digging yard holes.
  • As a breed, they are natural runners. Besides daily walks, they’ll require running games (Frisbee, ball-toss) and yards where they can feel free.
  • Make sure you get a healthy puppy from a breeder that’s responsible and has a good reputation with breeding Kerry Blue Terriers.
Breed History

The origins of the Kerry Blue Terrier start in County Kerry in Ireland. First of all, the breed was used for herding cattle and sheep, and later on for hunting smaller prey and keeping the home vermin free.  The breed also made a great guard of the home.  The characteristic aggressiveness was intentionally bred inside the dogs. The reason why the Kerry Terrier got the moniker ‘blue devil’ was because of the dog shows organized in that time. In order to show its value, the dog needed to be tested by hunting certain prey.

In the early 1920’s the breed was introduced in the United States, yet no one knows for certain who introduced it. After the initial appearance at a dog show in 1922, the AKC (American Kennel Club) recognized the breed two years later. In 1926 the KBTCA (Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America) was formed after an appearance of the breed on a dog show.

There have been legislating initiatives for recognition of the Kerry Blue as the national dog of Ireland in the early XX century, but due to the early death of one of the main actors – Michael Collins, an Irish Patriot, the initiative lost its course.


The height of an adult male ranges between 18 and 19.5 inches. The range for adult females is 17.5-19 inches. The weight for both adult females and males ranges between 33 and 40 pounds.

Personality and Character

As we mentioned before, the breed is prone to aggressiveness towards other dogs. Besides this characteristic, they show high levels of energy and stamina and enjoy experiencing different exercises and sports. They are hard-working and strong-willed. You may be annoyed by listening to barking and noticing holes in your yard, but you will love the breed’s lovely, funny and silly moments for sure.

When we mention exercises we don’t only talk about physical, but mental ones as well. This is not the type of dog you want to leave at home alone for a longer period of time. If a Kerry Blue Terrier gets bored, it starts expressing its destructive behavior. Although contact with other dogs and smaller animals might be a slight smudge in the overall delightful picture for the Kerry Blue, proper, and regular training can reduce the risks associated with the wild nature of the breed.

One individual differs from the other, so if you want a cool-nerved dog, then ask the breeder from which you want to purchase the puppy from, for additional information on the parent’s temper. Observe the litter and choose the one that’s not too aggressive towards its siblings and not too shy to hide in the corner.

It’s always advisable to acquire more information on the temper of one, or both of the parents and even some siblings. Meeting them in person will give you a better look at what to expect from you Kerry Blue Terrier when he/she reaches adulthood.

Early socialization is very important and healthy for the puppy. Socialization includes experience with different animals, different people, situation, occasions, nature and surroundings. Improvement on the dog’s social skills will be ensured with taking puppy kindergarten class, inviting different friends, family, and colleagues at your home frequently, and taking the dog to dog parks.

Health and Potential Problems

Generally, the breed is shown to be quite healthy; however, there are certain conditions which are associated with the Kerry Blue Terrier. In order to avoid them, the owner needs to choose a good breeder that has in his possession health clearances for the puppies, proving they are free of hereditary diseases.

  • Entropion: Rolling of the upper (mostly) and lower eyelid leading to eye irritation and sight-loss. The condition is found in both eyes and appears in individuals younger than one year. This condition is successfully treated with surgical procedure later on in life.
  • Hypothyroidism: The condition is caused by malfunction of the thyroid gland in a dog. It affects the dog’s health by causing various skin conditions (pyoderma), obesity, hyperpigmentation, lethargy, hair loss and even epilepsy in some cases. The sickness can be treated but not cured. Besides proper medications, a strict diet is also required.
  • Skin Cyste: The cysts on the skin can appear in the form of bumps and lumps in the epidermis. These cysts don’t damage the general health of the dog, only if the rupture. In that case, they become prone to secondary bacterial infections and need to be properly treated with medications.
  • Cancer: The Kerry Blue Terrier isn’t more prone to cancer than rest of the dogs, but if it appears the cancer manifests in the form of heavy breathing, weight loss, excessive bleeding from body openings etc. Even though the condition is serious it can be managed with surgical procedures and medications depending on the stage of cancer, and prolong your dog’s life.
  • Keratoses: Corns appearing on the nose or the feet. They are surgically removed when they appear.
  • Cataract: Eye condition generally associated with elderly dogs. The eye of the dog appears to be cloudy and the vision is fading. Sometimes it’s possible to do surgical interventions to improve the dog’s vision.
  • Dry Eye: It appears because of the reduced tear production in the eye, with corneal black spots as a side-effect. The pigmentation can cause blindness if it covers the whole eye. Because of the dry condition the pigment spreads, but with artificial moistening of the eye, with proper medication, the condition can be treated.
  • Chronic Otitis Externa: Because of the excessive hair that sticks inside of the ear in Kerry Blue Terriers, the conditions for bacteria and fungi growth increase, thus causing chronic inflammations in the outer ear canal. The condition isn’t serious but requires medications and proper hygiene of the ear canal.
  • Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy: Not well researched hereditary sickness that’s not curable. It appears in dogs older than 2 months and it manifests with paralysis of the back limbs when the dog reaches one year of age.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Some dogs may show discomfort, pain, and lameness when suffering from the condition, whiles other show subclinical (hidden signs). Hip Dysplasia is diagnosed with x-ray examination. Since it is hereditary, the dogs suffering from this hip problem should be excluded from further reproduction.
  • Patellar Luxation: Similar to the previous condition, this one manifests with pain and lameness in the knee of the dog. Most of the dogs can live normally with the condition.
  • Factor XI Deficiency: This abnormality is inherited and caused by the absence of Factor XI of blood clotting, thus causing severe and excessive bleeding, usually after a trauma or a surgical procedure.
Care Features

These dogs are strong and athletic; therefore require proper and frequent training and exercises. While some Kerry Blue Terriers are capable of exercising running and spending energy by themselves in the yards, others aren’t and need a stimulation to do so. Individuals of the breed kept in apartment need to take at least three walks per day, irrelevant of the outdoor temperature or weather conditions.

The regular walks and training ensure the dog’s health and energy are kept balanced, as well as getting the proper socialization they need. Dog parks and puppy kindergarten classes are a great way to start with early socialization. The Kerry Terriers need to be introduced not only to other animals while they are younger, but to children as well.

Positive training with rewards and praise always proves to be effective with this breed, and on the other hand, negative ones are really bad as Kerry Terriers are quite sensitive to harsh teaching. They will want to please the owner at any cause.

Feeding Schedule

Your adult Kerry Blue Terrier should be fed with 1.5-2 cups of food, divided into two meals on a daily basis. The food should be high-quality dry one.

There isn’t a strict rule on how much your dog should eat daily. The required amount of food varies from individual to individual, the metabolism, the gender, the age and the sexual cycle affect the appetite and the conversion of the nutrients.

Do a body examination of you Kerry Blue with observing the ribs if they are clearly visible or not. Then touch your dog along the spine. If the ribs aren’t clearly visible, but palpable than the dog is in fit condition.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Even though the Kerry Blue doesn’t shed too much, it requires high-maintenance regarding the brushing, grooming, and bathing schedule. If you decide to do it on your own it can easily become a boring hustle. That’s why most owners decide to take their Kerry Terrier to a professional that already has experience with such breed. Besides daily brushing of their soft coat, the dogs need to take baths once a month.

Other things regarding the care about your Kerry Blue, should include brushing the dog’s teeth at least two times per week for keeping proper oral hygiene. Nail trimming must be performed once a month and ear check-ups once a week. If the owner notices redness, debris or bad odor coming from the ears then it’s time to pay a visit to the vet.

In order to be sure that your dog won’t make problems while being brushed, trimmed or given a bath, the rituals should start while he/she is still a puppy, and performed regularly according to the previously described schedule.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Kerry Blue will always show good behavior towards children that behave positively with the dog. They are tolerant, but you should give a lesson or two to your child on how to approach and treat a dog in general.

Even though they are aggressive towards other dogs and have a high drive for chasing smaller animals, with proper training and early socialization they can get used to keeping it cool. Regarding cats and smaller pets, if a Kerry Blue Terrier is living with one in its home and growing up with, it will be much more tolerant towards them in adulthood.

Funny, but elegant natural hunters eager for exhausting daily activities alongside their owners. Owning a Kerry Blue Terrier will make you stand-out from the crowd and as long as you are familiar with their natural temper, needs, and feelings you will live a happy life with your new pet.

These dogs are great for families, with or without children. Always pick a puppy from certified and experienced breeders that can always give you information which will help you in raising your Kerry Terrier puppy. Contacting with other owners of the breed is always a good idea to get as much knowledge as you can, to secure a life that your dog deserves.            

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.