12×19 graphite and white charcoal on tinted Canson pastel paper. Original available.
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The Irish Terrier is an active, compactly sized dog that is suited for life in both rural and city environments. The red, harsh coat protects an Irish Terrier well in all kinds of weather.
Appearance Breed standards describe the ideal Irish Terrier as being racy, red and rectangular. Racy: an Irish Terrier should appear powerful without being sturdy or heavy. Rectangular: the outline of the Irish Terrier differs markedly from those of other terriers. The Irish Terrier’s body is proportionately longer than that of the Fox Terrier, with a tendency toward racy lines but with no lack of substance.
The tail is customarily docked soon after birth to approximately two-thirds of the original length. In countries where docking is prohibited, the conformation judges emphasize tail carriage. The tail should start up quite high, but it should not stick straight up or curl over the back or either side. The ears are small and folded forward just above skull level. They are preferably slightly darker than the rest of the coat. It is fairly common to see wrongly positioned ears, even though most dogs have their ears trained during adolescence.
A properly trimmed Irish Terrier should have some “furnishings” on legs and head. The slightly longer hair on the front legs should form even pillars, while the rear legs should only have some longer hair and not be trimmed too close to the skin. The chin is accentuated with a small beard. The beard should not be as profuse as that of a Schnauzer.
The eyes should be dark brown and quite small with a “fiery” expression. The eyes are topped with well-groomed eyebrows. The whole head should have good pigmentation.
Characteristics The Irish Terrier is full of life, but not hyperactive. It should be able to relax inside the house and be roused to full activity level quickly.
Irish Terriers are good with people. Most Irish Terriers love children and tolerate rough-housing to a certain extent. Most breed devotees would not recommend an Irish Terrier as the first dog. They should know who is the boss, and have natural respect for him/her. Irish Terriers respond best to firm, consistent training from a relaxed, authoritative person. Violence should never be used – it is always best to outwit and lure.
Irish Terriers are often dominant with other dogs, particularly same-sex aggression is a common problem. Poorly socialized individuals will start fights with minimal, if any, provocation. Thus, early socialization is a necessity. Most can have strong guarding instincts and when these instincts are controlled, make excellent alarming watchdogs. Most Irish Terriers need a reason for barking, and will not yap continuously.
Irish Terriers are intelligent and learn new things easily. They can learn complex tasks with relative ease, when they have the motivation to do so. In motivating tidbits and toys work equally well. Training will not be as easy as with other dog breeds that have stronger willingness to please people. When seeking a trainer, one should look for a person who has experience with terriers.
The Irish Terrier is an active dog, and loves to be challenged mentally and physically. Most Irish Terriers are companions and show dogs. There are however more and more people joining organised dog sports with their ITs. Obedience training to a certain level is fairly easy, though the precision and long-lasting drive needed in the higher levels may be hard to achieve. Many Irish Terriers excel in agility, even though it may be hard to balance the speed, independence and precision needed in the higher levels. To date there is one Agility Champion in the US, and a handful of Finnish and Swedish Irish terriers compete at the most difficult classes.
Irish Terriers have a good nose and can learn to track either animal blood or human scent. Many Irish Terriers enjoy Lure Coursing, although they are not eligible for competition like sight hounds are. In Finland one Irish Terrier is a qualified Rescue Dog specializing at Sea Rescue.
When stripping, the coat may be “taken down” entirely to leave the dog in the undercoat until a new coat grows in. For a pet, this should be done at least twice a year. When a show-quality coat is required, it can be achieved in many ways. One is by “rolling the coat”, i.e. stripping the dog every X weeks to remove any dead hair. Before a show an expert trimmer is needed to mold especially the head and legs.
Most Irish Terriers need to have their ears trained during adolescence. Otherwise the ears may stick up, roll back or hang down unaesthetically.
Health Irish Terrier is a generally healthy breed. The life expectancy is around 13 – 14 years.
The proportions are not over-exaggerated in any way and thus eye or breathing problems are rare. Most Irish Terriers do not show signs of allergies towards foods. As they are small dogs, the breed has a very low incidence of hip dysplasia.
In the 1960s and 1970s there were problems with hyperkeratosis, a disease causing corny pads and severe pain. Today it is widely known which dogs carried the disease and respectable breeders do not use those bloodlines anymore. A health study conducted by the Irish Terrier Club of America showed a greater-than-expected incidence of hypothyroidism and cataracts. There are not enough eye-checked individuals to draw any conclusions. (information from Wikipedia)