The Glen Imaal Terrier; An Unusual Breed Of Terrier From Ireland

Glen Imaal Terrier

The Glen Imaal Terrier from Ireland – a breed you probably haven’t heard of!

Among Terrier dog breeds, the Glen Imaal Terrier is relatively calm, but still has a big heart and an inquisitive nature. They are very cute to look at, but were bred as hard-working farm dogs. They have a scruffy, ‘natural’ appearance, and rather short legs, but don’t let that deceive you! This is one tough little dog. The ‘Glen’ is one of the rarest breeds in the USA, although recognized by the AKC in 2004.

A Glen of Imaal Terrier standing on grass, looking up to the right.
Glen of Imaal Terrrier puppy

Glen Imaal Terrier – Temperament

The ‘Glen’ is energetic and active, like all terrier dog breeds, but they are more laid back and relaxed than most. While they enjoy a good run out, they are also happy to relax with their owner. They are quiet dogs, and do not bark much.

This is an intelligent breed, and they learn quickly, but also have a stubborn nature. They are very sociable dogs, getting on well with everyone including children. As terriers, they have a strong prey drive, and will tend to go for any small animals and rodents they see such as rats and mice. While this is useful for keeping vermin down in a rural setting, it means they might also attack other small pets in the family home such as rabbits or gerbils.

The ‘Glen’ is also liable to chase cats, and is suspicious of other dogs unless they have been socialized as a puppy to accept strange dogs.

This breed is not a strong swimmer, but is strong enough to work around water if needed.

Bred in the inhospitable Glen of Imaal, they are hardy dogs, and do not mind bad weather out on a walk. They do not stray far from their owner, and tend to stay within line of sight. However, because they are brave and stubborn, they are not intimidated by cars or larger dogs, and so need to be supervised when out off leash.

This breed does not like hot weather, due to it’s thick coat.

A Glen of Imaal Terrier standing outdoors on grass
Glen of Imaal Terrier

Glen Imaal Terrier – Breed History

The Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland, is the home of this breed. This is a remote and tough region, mountainous and rocky. The farmers here had to work hard to make a living, and they expected their dogs to work just as hard.

The main job of the Glen Imaal Terrier at that time was hunting rats, foxes and badgers. They hunted silently, so as not to spook the prey, and had the bravery and strength to tackle a badger underground.

Some sources state that the ‘Glen’ also worked in the farmhouse kitchens, running in a small treadmill device to turn meat over an open  fire. There is actually little evidence for this, and the story has simply been passed on so many times as achieve an element of truth. But it is unlikely to be true. Drawings of so-called ‘turnspit’ dogs from the 19th century do not depict short-legged terriers.

Glen of Imaal Terriers were also used for herding sheep and cattle, and for companionship on the farm. They are bigger than most people expect, who have only seen photos of the breed. At around 35lbs, they are solid dogs!

Vital Statistics;

Height;  12 to 14 inches

Weight; 30lbs to 40lbs

Life Span; 10 to 15 years

Ease of Training

While the ‘Glen’ is intelligent and smart, they are not always easy to train. They have a strong character, and can be stubborn at times. They need to be socialized early, as puppies, to get them used to strange and new sights and sounds, especially strange dogs.

Proper training should be limited to short sessions, several times a day. That means 5 to 10 minutes maximum, with lots of praise and treats for correct behavior. It’s well worthwhile enrolling in puppy training classes and then obedience classes.

The head of a Glen of Imaal Terrier close up, chewing on a small stick
Glen of Imaal Terrier


The Glen of Imaal Terrier is normally a quiet dog, bred to hunt badgers silently, and they rarely bark. But they will certainly let you know if they detect something out of the ordinary. They are alert and vigilant, and have a bark that is surprisingly full and low-pitched for the size of dog. So if your ‘Glen’ is barking, you had better go see what’s up!

While they make very good watchdogs, they are not so good at being effective guard dogs. There is no doubting their bravery, speed and strength, and they would certainly have a go at an unwanted intruder; but they lack the sheer physical bulk needed to be an effective guard dog.

If you are looking for a dog breed to provide you with some protection, I recommend you look for  bigger breed.


The Glen Imaal Terrier has a waterproof double coat to protect it from bad weather, but the thicker, wiry outer coat is mainly on the back. The head, sides and legs are only covered with the soft undercoat.

Grooming is relatively straightforward. This breed does not shed much, and only needs a brush and comb once a week to keep the soft, fine undercoat in good condition.

The wiry outer coat on the dog’s back should be stripped 2 to 3 times a year to remove dead hairs.

In the USA, the tail is frequently docked. This was done originally in Ireland, leaving just enough tail for the owner to grasp to pull the ‘Glen’ out of a badger set with the badger in the dog’s mouth. However tail docking is illegal in Europe.

Health Considerations

As puppies, it is important to limit excessive exercise, especially going up and down stairs, and jumping down off sofas. These movements may damage the front legs before the bones have finished growing. Most breeders will try to limit a puppies’ jumping around until 9 months of age.

Otherwise, this breed is generally healthy with few issues, but there are some genetic problems that need to be considered.

  •  Hip dysplasia
  •  Elbow dysplasia
  •  Cone Rod dystrophy (and eye condition)
  •  PRA optigen DNA test

Famous Glen Imaal Terriers

I could not find any famous dogs of this breed – if you know of one, please let me know via the Contact Me link. Thank you!

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