The typical Kerry Blue Terrier should be upstanding well knit and in good balance, showing a well-developed and muscular body with definite terrier style and character throughout. Correct coat and color are important. A low-slung Kerry is not typical.
Kerries are fairly healthy, but there are some genetic disorders that are prevalent in the breed. They are prone to eye problems such as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes), cataracts, and entropion. They sometimes get cysts or tumorous growths in their skin, but these are rarely malignant. Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, cryptorchidism have also been reported occasionally. Progressive neuronal abiotrophy (PNA) is also seen but rare in the population. This condition is also referred to as Cerebellar cortical abiotrophy (CCA) or Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA). Another skin-related health issue is spiculosis though this has been successfully bred out by some breeders. This is a skin disorder that produces abnormally thick hairs that are also called thorns, spikes or bristles.
The Kerry Blue Terrier is an energetic and often rambunctious dog who loves to play hard. They are true family dogs who love to be surrounded by the ones they love and insist upon being included in all family activities. They have enough stamina to accompany people on long walks and hikes, but prefer yard games like catch, fetch, or plain old games of tag. Kerry Blues can be trusted around children of all ages, though their yen for rough housing makes them a poor choice for homes with toddlers. They are reliable watchdogs, quick to sound the alarm that someone is approaching, and they are fearless protectors of their property and family. They are not aggressive, however, unless absolutely provoked and are a great choice for families with experience raising dogs.
This mid-sized terrier needs a lot of physical and mental activity in order to maintain happiness and health. They have energy to spare, and just when you think you’ve tired our your Kerry Blue Terrier, he’ll come back for more. This breed is not for couch potatoes, and don’t do well in apartments. Houses with open space and a yard to play in are the ideal living situation for a Kerry Blue Terrier. They need about one hour of vigorous exercise every day which can include brisk walks, jogs, or romping in the yard. In addition to physical activity, it is important to keep the Kerry Blue’s mind active. A bored Kerry is a destructive Kerry. Agility training is a good option to work both his mind and his body.
Kerry Blues are highly intelligent dogs and can be difficult to train. They spend a lot of time observing and reading the behavior of those around them and will use what they’ve learned to manipulate the situation whenever possible. Training should be done with confidence and consistency, as the Kerry Blue Terrier will take a mile if given an inch. Positive reinforcement and lots of treats are a must, as is mixing up the routine. Kerry Blues will become bored doing the same thing over and over. Once consistent leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Kerry Blues should graduate on to advanced classes and agility training. Because they are so smart, they need a lot of mental stimulation to stave off destructive behaviors, and these advanced activities will keep their mind and bodies sharp.
Kerry Blue Terriers need to be socialized early and often to accept new people and to learn to coexist with other animals. While Kerry Blues are rarely aggressive with other dogs, they will not back down from a fight if provoked. Teaching them to be even-tempered around other animals can minimize the possibility of a fight. Around people, the Kerry Blue needs to learn that strangers are not necessarily bad. They are protective dogs and unless they learn to identify the “good guys,” they will assume outsiders are bad. Cats, birds, and other small pets should be kept away from Kerry Blue Terriers. They have a strong chasing and hunting instinct, and living amongst potential prey could be disastrous. Kerry Blues are best as the only pet in the house.
Even though the Kerry Blue Terrier sheds very little, or not at all, the coat requires daily brushing to prevent tangles, mats, remove dirt and distribute oils. Trimming and bathing need to occur every four to six weeks. It is recommended that a professional groomer handle the bathing and trimming of a Kerry Blue, but because the breed is not common, it can be difficult to find a groomer who is familiar with the proper Kerry Blue style. Breeders can provide references for groomers. Check the ears on a regular basis for signs of wax buildup, irritation or infection. Clean the ears with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser; never use a cotton swab in a dog’s ear canal. Teeth should be brushed on a weekly basis to prevent tartar buildup, promote gum health and keep bad breath at bay. Trim nails monthly if the dog does not wear the toenails down naturally outdoors.
The Kerry Blue Terrier was first observed in the mountains of Kerry in Ireland, hence the name of the breed. There is a romantic story of a blue dog swimming ashore from a shipwreck: the coat of this dog was so lovely that it was mated with all the female Wheaten Terriers in Kerry (or in all Ireland, according to some), producing the Kerry Blue. Perhaps this story is not entirely myth, as the Portuguese Water Dog is often suggested as part of the Kerry's makeup. Others suggest the Kerry was produced by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier crossed with the Bedlington Terrier with (or without) some Irish Wolfhound or Irish Terrier blood. The extinct Gadhar herding dog is also mentioned as another possible branch of the Kerry's family tree. One certain fact is the breed became very popular as an all-around farm dog in rural Ireland.
National Dog of Ireland
With the development of dog shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the breed became standardised and “tidied up” for the show ring. The Irish nationalist leader Michael Collins owned a famous Kerry Blue named Convict 224. Collins even made an attempt to have the Kerry blue adopted as the national dog of Ireland. Love of dogs did, however, cross political divides. The first show of the Dublin Irish Blue Terrier club took place outside official curfew hours and was entered both by those fighting for and against an Ireland republic. The Dublin Irish Blue Terrier Club was so successful it led directly to the foundation of the Irish Kennel Club, and a Kerry blue was the first dog that club registered.