Terriers, as a breed have long been valued for their skills at assisting other dog breeds and sportsman during the hunt. Used to unearth prey such as fox and badger, the Terrier is a rough, fearless and tough little chap. The Glen of Imaal Terrier certainly lives up to that reputation. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a resourceful breed that may be small in size but makes up for it with a big attitude. They have been used throughout history as a hunter, a guardian of the home from vermin, as a fighter, and even as a turnspit dog. One of four Terrier types native to Ireland, the others being the Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, the Irish Terrier, and The Kerry Blue Terrier; the Glen of Imaal Terrier is named for the isolated Glen of Imaal, a remote valley situated in the northern part of County Wicklow, Ireland. Prior to the 19th century, the Glen of Imaal Terrier, also known as a “Glen” remained geographically secluded from the rest of the world in the Glen of Imaal and was unknown throughout the world and little known throughout the rest of Ireland.
The Glen of Imaal Terrier’s story begins in the 16th century with Queen Elizabeth I, the queen regnant of England and Ireland, who in the 1570’s sought a way to maintain order in tumultuous Ireland. Lacking funds to pay the army or mercenary soldiers to suppress an uprising in the country, the Queen offered Hessian and Flemish soldiers tracts of land in Ireland as payment for their services. The soldiers accepted this offer and upon ending the threat of rebellion, the soldiers received payment. The Glen of Imaal Valley was one of the tracts of land given as payment.
As the soldiers began to take possession of and settle into their new home on the lands in and around the Glen of Imaal, they brought with them their native hounds, reported to be low-slung and rough coated, possibly descended of French stock. Over time, these dogs began to interbreed with the indigenous dogs of Ireland and a unique type began to develop. The settlers decided to purposely breed a dog of the Terrier type with a specific skill set that would satisfy the needs of the their households. They wanted to maintain the ancient Terrier duties of hunting and ridding the house of vermin, as well as for a job unique to the Glen of Imaal Terrier, that of the turnspit operator.
Connected to a spit over the hearth of a home by a pulley, the turnspit was a wheel either suspended from the ceiling or placed on the floor. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was placed into this wheel to run and turn the cooking spit (similar to how a Hamster runs on its exercise wheel). It was in essence, a dog-powered rotisserie type cooking apparatus. The Glen of Imaal Terrier, running on the wheel would make certain that the meat was thoroughly cooked, and evenly heated on all sides due to the continual rotation. It is also reported that the Glen of Imaal Terrier may have been used on smaller turnspit wheels to churn butter as well. Due to a tremendous amount of energy in a resilient and tiny little package, the Glen of Imaal Terrier was well suited for this job, making it a treasured member of the household. The breed excelled at its work for centuries, unknown and unnoticed by the evolving world around it.
This idyllic and secluded life would continue for the Glen of Imaal Terrier into the 1800’s; a time when England would see an increased interest by breeders and the public, of showcasing dogs and their abilities; thus the “dog show” was born. Within ten years of the first dog show held in England, the Irish followed suite and began to hold dog shows as well creating a class for Irish Terriers for the first time in the dog show arena. The Glen of Imaal Terrier, a hard worker and a country dog at heart, would finally be introduced to the world.
The first Irish Terriers to be shown in dog shows were far from refined and beautiful dogs. The group was diverse and included dogs from the four Irish Terrier breeds currently in existence, as well as Terrier types that were integrated into other classes and even some breeds that have since become extinct. In 1870, the Lisburn, Ireland, dog show recorded that a Glen of Imaal Terrier won for the Terrier class that year. The show records describe the dog as “not high on the leg, longer than tall not straight in front, turned-out feet, and a slatey-brindle color. The long and useful type of Irish terrier one associates with the County Wicklow.” Further, writing in 1894, Rawdon B. Lee mentions the Glen of Imaal Terrier when he notes, in his book, ‘A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland’: “There is a glen, Imaal, in the Wicklow mountains that has always been, and still is, justly celebrated for its terriers.”
However useful and prized the Glen of Imaal Terrier was in the past, its story is not without some tumult. Although the breed remained a good vermin hunter, the job of turnspit operator became less needed as the Industrial Revolution began to hit Europe. Technology began to overtake this job in urban areas and subsequently reduced the demand for the Glen of Imaal Terrier. Owing its salvation mainly to the remote location of the Glen of Imaal, which remained rural and nearly untouched by these new technologies, the breed remained indispensible here and continued its hard work as it had in the previous centuries.
World War I (WWI) would also negatively affect the Glen of Imaal Terrier. As with many dog breeds, during times of war the Glen of Imaal was rarely kept, bred, or developed due to a lack of food and/or funds needed to maintain a breeding kennel and it like many other dog breeds found itself threatened with extinction at this time. But as the war ended and the lives of Europe’s inhabitants slowly began to be repaired, interest in their old ways grew once again and this included an interest in dog breeding and dog shows.
Irish Terriers began to be recognized as a unique breed type by the 1920’s. In 1933, a group of Glen of Imaal Terrier owners and breeders formed the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of Ireland. This group petitioned to have the Glen of Imaal Terrier acknowledged and recognized as a unique breed by the Irish Kennel Club (IKC). The IKC made the decision to recognize the Glen of Imaal Terrier in 1934, making it the third of the four Irish Terrier breeds of Ireland that would be recognized as a specific and unique breed types.
The start of World War II (WWII) would once again threaten to bring the Glen of Imaal to extinction. At this time, the progress of the breed’s development came to a stop and the registration numbers fell dramatically. In Ireland, the number of Glen of Imaal Terriers came so low as to include only a precious few left to be bred, and it would be forty years before the breed would receive another championship title.
In England, however, interest in the Glen of Imaal Terrier would begin again postwar and because of this interest, a revival of the breed in its native Ireland was attempted in the 1970’s. A new breed association was also formed. In 1980, the Glen of Imaal Terrier breed firmly established itself and received full breed status in England. It has been competing in the Terrier Class ever since.
With the immigration of Irish citizens into America, the Glen of Imaal Terrier made its way west as well during and after WWII. And although these importations are recorded, there is no evidence of litters from this line of Glens. Serious interest in the Glen of Imaal Terrier would not occur in America until the breed had already been reestablished in England, in the 1980’s. Breed fanciers living in Missouri, U.S.A., at this time began to import Glen of Imaal Terriers from Ireland, England, and Finland. These dogs would become the foundation stock of the Glen of Imaal Terrier lines in America. In 1986, these individuals founded the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America (GITCA).
In 2001, the American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the Glen of Imaal Terrier into its Miscellaneous Class and in 2004 this was changed and the breed was finally placed into the Terrier Class by the AKC. Even with their success in recognition, the registration numbers for the Glen of Imaal Terrier in America remain relatively low. On average, the AKC receives only 600-700 registrations for Glens each year. In England, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is classified as a “Vulnerable Native Breed” with the Kennel Club of Great Britain (KC). This distinction means that the KC receives fewer than 300 Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy registrations per year and the breed is viewed as in danger of extinction.
Although the Glen of Imaal Terrier came to be recognized only recently in America, it is now currently recognized by the Irish Kennel Club, the Kennel Club of Great Britain, the Federation Cynologique Internationale, the World Canine Organization, and several rare breeds associations worldwide. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is currently ranked 157th out of 167 dog breeds on the AKC’s most popular dog breeds list.
The Glen of Imaal Terrier is of the classic Terrier type in features and appearance. According to the AKC breed standard, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is “Unrefined to this day, the breed still possesses ‘antique’ features once common to many early terrier types…” A medium-sized dog, the breed displays a more considerable body type than many dogs of similar height and size. At the withers, the Glen of Imaal Terrier should be between 12 1/2 - 14 inches tall and weighs in at roughly 32 to 40 lbs (the standard calls for approximately 35 lbs). The Glen of Imaal Terrier is not as tall as it is long, and has been described as a “big dog on short legs”. The breed has a stocky build, but is quick and agile, performing its work and covering ground with little difficulty.
The head is slightly domed in shape, broad and powerful, with a strong foreface. The Glen of Imaal Terrier has a distinct stop and eyes that are set apart, round and brown in color. The muzzle is faintly tapered toward a black nose, with strong jaws and a perfect scissors bite. The ears of the Glen of Imaal Terrier are set well apart and towards the back of the skull, the shape is rose or half-pricked when the dog is alert. When at rest, the ears are thrown back.
Of reasonable length, the neck is strong and well-muscled. It leads into broad shoulders topping short, bowed, but powerful front legs. The Glen of Imaal Terrier presents a wide, deep rib cage, displaying neither a flat nor a barreled appearance. The topline rises slightly toward the tail, which is strong at the base and often docked. In balance with the forequarters are the strong hindquarters. They are amply boned and well-muscled; the hindquarters are strong and well-defined, possessing a good bend of stifle. The feet present rounded pads, and are strong but compact, with the front feet pointed slightly out from the pasterns.
The Glen of Imaal Terrier has a double-coat of medium length, with the undercoat being quite soft compared to the rough outer coat. The coat is meant to give the appearance of a burly worker, rough and strong, ready for work in the field. The color of the coat may vary and includes all types of blue, brindle, and wheaten color (shades ranging from cream to red wheaten). The blue coloring may be as dark as slate, but the coat of a Glen of Imaal Terrier should never be black.
The name Terrier comes from the Latin term terra, meaning “earth”. It has been translated from modern French to mean “burrow”. Because they were bred to chase vermin from within the earth, the name Terrier has come to describe a dog, small in stature, but with a rather large personality, low to the ground and willing to burrow and dig to locate its prey. Known as rambunctious and brave, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is true to this breed type. Terriers in the past were developed in England and Ireland to control the populations of vermin such as rodents, rabbits, badgers, and fox when they were causing problems both above ground and below it in their burrows. Its tendency to hunt silently and its scrappy attitude, quick speed, and fearless nature made the Glen of Imaal Terrier tremendously efficient while working in the field, and an irreplaceable worker on the farm.
Independent, like all Terrier breeds, the Glen of Imaal Terrier prefers to be in control in all situations. Quite intelligent and eager to please, with proper training the Glen of Imaal Terrier is a superb companion. He can be stubborn because of his independent nature so proper discipline is a necessity, as is a strong owner who displays consistent leadership. The Glen of Imaal Terrier may take longer to train as it is slow to mature and extremely sensitive to tone of voice as a puppy. To maintain proper control of the Glen of Imaal Terrier, an owner must naturally display authority and calmness, never allowing the dog to take control. Sensing meekness or passivity in their owner may cause the Glen of Imaal Terrier to develop “small dog syndrome” which he is predisposed to. This is when the dog, although being tiny, becomes stubborn and difficult, expressing dominance and a forceful attitude.
Maturing slowly will increase the length of training, as well as socialization that the dog requires to become well-adjusted. To ensure that adequate time is spent developing the dog properly, the training and socialization of the Glen of Imaal Terrier should begin as early as possible. Correction and discipline must always be given to the Glen of Imaal Terrier in a calm manner, quickly and consistently. The breed does not respond well to harsh actions or harsh tone. A crafty little dog, if the Glen of Imaal Terrier is allowed to “get away with it” once, he will interpret this as an invitation to continue the bad behavior and therefore must be properly corrected at the first sign of poor behavior. Glen of Imaal Terriers are keen and sharp, they respond well to obedience training and an aspect of “play” should always be incorporated into their training so as to challenge and stimulate the breed both physically and mentally. Proper leadership and fair correction will facilitate an understanding by the Glen of Imaal Terrier as to its place in the world and the behavior that is expected of it.
Most Terrier types have a characteristic described as “gameness”. The Glen of Imaal Terrier displays this quality as well. It is expressed as aggressiveness when something is perceived as a threat of some kind by the dog. This quality of gameness is often evident when the Glen of Imaal Terrier is around other dogs. Sometimes perceiving other canines as adversaries, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is unlikely to start a fight, but if one ensues, the Glen is likely to finish it. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is fearless and tough for his size, and is unlikely to back down from a fight, even with a dog that surpasses him greatly in size and strength. Although adequate socialization, begun early may help to alleviate some of this aggression, the Glen of Imaal Terrier should always be supervised when introducing it to or allowing it social time with other dogs, even familiar ones.
Although sometimes well behaved with other pets if raised with them from the time it is a puppy, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is not well suited socially to be at the park or in other locations where dogs intermingle freely. A true hunter at heart, the Glen of Imaal Terrier’s “prey drive” is well developed. The breed greatly enjoys the hunt, as well as chasing and digging. Other creatures, especially smaller ones, are often mistaken for prey by the Glen of Imaal Terrier. If it locates a squirrel when out, or other such animal, the Glen of Imaal Terrier will focus on it like a radar and give immediate chase. The dog will not notice its surroundings and will be unlikely to give up chase until it is satisfied. Because of this, the Glen of Imaal Terrier should be kept in a fenced yard or on a leash when being walked. Even an invisible fence will not keep the Glen contained once the prey drive has kicked in.
Very active and “rough and tumbly”, the Glen of Imaal Terrier requires a fair amount of exercise on a daily basis. They are small and adaptable, making them easily able to live in an apartment or condo, as well as a large home. Glen of Imaal Terriers have the ability to adjust their own energy levels to suit their lifestyle, however, they are unlikely to be an adequate companion for a couch potato type owner. The dog was bred in the outdoors and therefore still greatly enjoys its time spent in nature. A daily walk or time to run in a fenced yard should be sufficient to keep the Glen of Imaal Terrier happy. The Glen of Imaal Terrier should never be left unsupervised as the breed is a serious digger. The dog may devastate a yard or dig holes in which to escape and search for adventure.
A loving companion and an easy to live with housemate, the Glen of Imaal is a great member of any family. Terrier types have a reputation for being extremely high-strung, but the Glen of Imaal breed displays a more clam attitude. Glen of Imaal Terriers have a moderately aggressive nature and may delineate their personal boundaries by snapping at others, therefore young children should be supervised when playing with the dog until they understand its play limits. Glens are suitable pets for older children and adults.
A bit of a barker by nature, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is not as “yappy” as many other Terrier breeds. The doorbell or other barking dogs, however will excite the Glen and often cause it to be quite vocal. When you do hear a Glen of Imaal Terrier bark, it may be a surprise as the breed possesses a voice not common to its size. The bark is deep and can be mistaken as coming from a much larger dog. This bark makes the Glen of Imaal Terrier an acceptable watchdog. However useful, the Glen of Imaal Terrier’s barking can get out of hand if left unchecked. Early and consistent correction should prevent this from occurring.
Although rarely used today for its original purposes as a hunter, the Glen of Imaal Terrier has made a fairly smooth transition into his duties as family companion. His hunting instincts are ever present, and if supervised properly, the Glen should cause little problems in this area. While not a demander of constant attention from their human companions, the Glen of Imaal Terrier does adore time spent with its family. The dog will return any love and affection with the like, therefore making him a devoted companion; gentle, kind, loving, and loyal.
Being that the Glen of Imaal Terriers coat is comprised of hair and not fur, it does not shed. What may be taken as light shedding throughout the year are simply dead loose hairs that have fallen out. If regular brushing and combing are performed, there will be no evidence of shedding from this breed. Brushing once a week should be adequate to keep the coat healthy and attractive, free of knots and matting.
To maintain the rough appearance of the coat that the Glen of Imaal Terrier is known for, stripping is recommended once or twice a year. This is a process by which the owner or groomer will pull the dead, loose hairs free from the coat. It is painless for the dog, and takes roughly an hour to complete. The hair should be stripped from the neck, chest, body, and tail. Special attention should be paid to tidying up the hair around the ears. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is known to grow hair in the ear canal, and regular plucking of this excess hair is necessary to maintain healthy ear function.
A Glen of Imaal Terrier whose coat is properly cared for will be moderately low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. When the coat is stripped up to twice a year and brushed once weekly, dirt and debris will not collect within the hairs of the coat. It will be unlikely to tangle and mat up, handling all manner of weather with ease. Tidying and trimming of the face, ears, tail, leg and undercarriage feathering, and around the dog’s bottom are acceptable.
To prevent the harsh outer, weather-resistant coat from being lost, or its weather-proof qualities from being negatively affected, clipping is not recommended for the Glen of Imaal Terrier breed. Frequent bathing is also unnecessary as the coat can easily be brushed clean when dry. As is true for all dog breeds, the Glen of Imaal Terrier should have its nails trimmed regularly.
As a breed, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is quite healthy, having few major health concerns seen in excessive numbers. The average life span for the breed is 11-14 years, with some Glens recorded as living past 15 years. Of course, some health issues do present themselves within members of the breed. Among these concerns are Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Aortic Stenosis (AS), and Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD).
Well documented in the Glen of Imaal Terrier, Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an inherited genetic condition that will eventually lead to blindness in an affected individual. Both eyes will progress into blindness at the same time. The condition is not painful and most dogs affected by PRA will adapt fairly well to the loss of their sight. Research conducted in 2010 discovered a single gene mutation responsible for the condition in Glens and testing for PRA became available.
Passed genetically from one generation to the next, Aortic Stenosis is commonly found in the Glen of Imaal Terrier breed as well. This condition is a hereditary heart defect that partially obstructs blood flow through the Aortic Valve. Narrowing of the tissue around the valve causes this obstruction and forces the heart to work harder to pass oxygenated blood through the valve. In many cases of AS, the progression of the condition does not pass the severity of a heart murmur and may not interfere with the dog’s ability to function or its longevity. However in a few serious cases, the condition may get progressively worse as the affected individual ages and fainting or sudden death can occur. The condition can be treated by monitoring exercise and maintaining a healthy weight for the dog, and through medication.
Canine Hip Dysplasia is common in working dogs, and the Glen of Imaal Terrier is no different. Although found in roughly 30% of the breed, CHD rarely causes severe symptoms in Glens, like it can in other affected breeds. This may be due in part to their excessively strong loin area and their low stature.
Other health concerns that may affect the Glen of Imaal Terrier breed include but are not limited to: