Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Kerry Blue Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The Kerry Blue Terrier is extraordinarily bright and full of life. He has a high energy level, is always ready to play, and wants to be wherever you are. This sounds great, and it can be -- but it does have its downsides.
You cannot leave a Kerry Blue Terrier alone all day, or stick him in the back yard and expect him to be passive and content. These intelligent dogs insist on being a full-fledged member of your family and cannot just be shunted aside. When bored or ignored, Kerries (like many other breeds, by the way) are likely to get into a world of mischief.
Other important-to-know characteristics of the Kerry Blue Terrier are his pride, his sensitivity, a tendency toward moodiness, and his strong sense of justice. Taken together, this means the Kerry Blue doesn't meekly accept teasing, unfairness, or rough handling.
That sensitivity can make for a fine line when you're training him. On the one hand, you can't push him too far. On the other hand, if you don't demonstrate firm, consistent leadership, he will walk over you. The Kerry Blue Terrier may be one of the smartest breeds in dogdom, but that definitely doesn't mean instant obedience. In other words, a Kerry Blue Terrier is capable of learning anything -- including how to get what HE wants. Unless you establish yourself as in charge, a Kerry can be headstrong, taking clever advantage of those who indulge him. With his complex temperament, this is not a good breed for a first-time or casual owner.
Toward strangers, the Kerry Blue Terrier may be friendly or reserved, and even the friendly ones are sensibly protective. Some lines and individuals are more wary, and some are overprotective. Socialization is imperative to develop a stable attitude.
A Kerry Blue Terrier is not always the best choice for multi-pet households -- he may not go looking for a fight, but he certainly won't walk away from one, and he can have a high prey drive with cats, birds, and other small animals.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium-sized, athletic, and agile
- Has a soft, wavy coat that doesn't shed much
- Is very smart, capable, and intuitive
- Has a high energy level and thrives on vigorous exercise and athletic activities
- Makes a keen watchdog
A Kerry Blue Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
- Providing enough exercise and activities to keep them busy
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
- Suspiciousness toward strangers when not socialized enough
- Aggression toward other animals -- chasing instincts
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Digging holes
- Regular brushing and clipping
- Waiting lists (hard to find) and a high price tag
A Kerry Blue Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Kerry Blue Terrier
If I was considering a Kerry Blue Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Kerry Blue Terriers are active go-getters. They MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things.
- Animal aggression. Most Kerry Blue Terriers are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs. Most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs.
- Fence security. Many terriers are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their small size. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks.
- Barking. Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. If you work all day and have close neighbors, terriers are not the best choice for you. For the same reason, terriers should NEVER be left outside in your yard, unsupervised.
- The strong temperament. Kerry Blue Terriers are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal, but they have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Many Kerry Blue Terriers are extremely stubborn and manipulative. Some are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Kerry to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Kerry Blue Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Defensive reactions. If you need to physically chastise a terrier, and you go beyond what THEY believe is a fair correction, terriers (as a group) are more likely than other breeds to growl or snap. As an obedience instructor, I'm always extra careful when putting my hands on any terrier for a correction.
I do NOT recommend terriers for small children. Many terriers will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
- Grooming. To keep their silky coat free of mats, Kerry Blue Terriers require regular brushing, and also clipping and trimming every few months. But don't expect your pet Kerry Blue Terrier to look like the show dogs you've seen in books or on TV. That particular look takes hours of work by experienced show groomers.
- Finding one and paying the price. In the United States, fewer than 400 new Kerry Blue Terrier puppies are registered each year. (Compare that to over 60,000 new Golden Retriever puppies.) And many breeders are charging $1500 and up.
To learn more about training Kerry Blue Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Kerry Blue Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Kerry Blue Terrier. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Kerry Blue Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Kerry Blue Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Kerry Blue Terrier...
When you're acquiring a Kerry Blue Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Kerry Blue Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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