Glen of Imaal terriers are sweet, spunky dogs who hail from the rocky coast of Ireland. Originally developed to help farmers hunt badgers and foxes, today, Glen of Imaal terriers make wonderful family pets. These independent, intelligent dogs are incredibly easy to love thanks to their affectionate and often silly personalities, adaptability, and moderate exercise needs. They're still rare in the United States, though when you do see one of these charming dogs out and about, it's nearly impossible to resist the urge to stop and say hello.
It's hard not to let out a squeal of delight when you see a Glen of Imaal terrier. These teddy bear-like dogs are medium-sized and utterly adorable, thanks to their cheerful brown eyes, button-shaped noses, and perpetual smiles.
Glen of Imaal terriers typically stand between 12.5–14 inches tall and weigh between 32–40 pounds. They have scruffy, wiry double coats that generally come in just two colors: wheaten and blue brindle. Their double coat is made up of a soft undercoat and a coarser outer coat that is weather-resistant. Though mostly hidden from view by their thick coats, their bodies are muscular, strong, and sturdy; they tend to be longer than they are tall.
This breed has short legs that end with paws that are slightly turned out. Their small, triangular-shaped ears tend to hang loosely when relaxed, but then become half pricked—meaning they stand halfway up but then fold over on themselves—when the dog is alert or listening for something (like a passing squirrel or his food bowl being filled).
Some Glen of Imaal terrier breeders and owners dock their dogs' tails to half their full length. But tail docking remains a controversial practice that the American Veterinary Medical Association says conveys no proven benefits—and it can be painful for the animal.
Glen of Imaal dogs are savvy, independent pooches with plenty of energy for work and play. Their temperament tends to be calmer overall than other high-energy terriers, which can make them a better fit for some families. They're incredibly affectionate with their human companions, but they don't tend to beg for attention like some breeds.
"This rare breed is renowned for its fearless and confident temperament," says Linda Simon, MVB, MRCVS, consulting veterinarian at FiveBarks. "They are self-assured and comfortable in their own skin [and] not prone to anxiety."
Glen of Imaal terriers tend to be bold—they "act like a big dog in a little dog's body," Simon says. Though they enjoy playing, they're also equally as happy to curl up on their owner's lap for an evening of snuggles. These terriers are also good with kids, though it's always important for parents to supervise interactions between young ones and their four-legged friends. Though they're fairly petite, Glens are solidly built, so they can easily knock over toddlers by accident.
"They do get along with children but are strong and may play too rough with small children," Robinson says.
These generally docile dogs tend to bark only when necessary, and they're fairly vigilant when it comes to a delivery person or another stranger walking up to the front door. And while they're relatively open to meeting new people, they may take a few moments to warm up and show their personality.
Glens are highly adaptable dogs who can thrive in any environment, whether that's the sprawling acreage of a farm or the cozy rooms of a small house or apartment.
No matter their living arrangement, Glens need a securely fenced yard and should always be walked on a durable leash—they're curious and inquisitive, which means they could easily run off while pursuing a particularly interesting smell. Some Glens have a tendency to dig, so owners should regularly inspect the fenceline and address any current or future escape holes.
While Glen of Imaal terriers don't have the always-on-the-go energy of other terriers, they do need to stretch their little legs every day. They're happiest when they can get outside for some fresh air in the yard, take a leisurely walk, or play with their owners. They don't make the best running companions because their legs are so short, but they're always up for going on a car ride (especially when they have a chance to sniff out the windows!).
"Versatile and athletic, they can excel in a range of disciplines and enjoy keeping fit," Simon says. "However, they do not need a huge amount of exercise and could make suitable urban pets if taken for a long walk each day."
Glen of Imaal terriers are successful in some dog activities and competitions, including agility, rally, and earthdog. Some Glens love to swim, but it depends on the individual dog—overall, the breed's short legs and large body mean that these dogs are not especially well-suited for water, so owners should always exercise caution near swimming pools, lakes, and streams. Putting them in a cute doggy life jacket is always a smart idea, too.
Glens can happily live with dogs and, in some circumstances, cats—especially those that they were raised with since they were puppies. That being said, these terriers were originally developed to hunt small vermin and they have a strong prey drive, so they're not the best fit for households with other small mammals (like hamsters or guinea pigs), and they may not be suitable for all homes with cats.
RELATED: How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat
And because they're most comfortable being around dogs they're very familiar with, Glens aren't usually good contenders for trips to the dog park.
"They tend to do well as the only pet in the house, though [they] can get on well with other dogs they've grown up with," says Simon.
Thanks to their wiry, medium-length double coat, these Irish dogs require some special maintenance when it comes to grooming. Glen of Imaal terriers look (and feel!) their best when their coat has been hand-stripped, a procedure that involves carefully removing older hairs, particularly from the undercoat, to make way for new growth. This is best done by an experienced professional groomer two or three times a year, but Glen of Imaal terrier owners can also learn how to do it themselves. Regular hand-stripping will also practically eliminate shedding, according to the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America (GITCA).
In between stripping sessions, owners should brush their dog's fur once a week to clear out debris and prevent any mats from forming, paying special attention to the soft hair on the dog's stomach, legs, neck, and ears. To keep Glens comfortable while running and walking, owners should trim their dog's nails regularly using either a grinder or clipper tool (a groomer can also help with this, too).
Because they're so intelligent, training a Glen of Imaal terrier puppy is generally easy. That said, these dogs are also very independent, so keep training sessions short, engaging, and fun. Glen of Imaal terriers thrive when they're rewarded with positive reinforcement like pets and scratches, treats, and plenty of praise. They also do well in structured training environments like puppy obedience classes, which have the added benefit of helping to socialize them.
Glen of Imaal terriers typically lead long, healthy lives. Their expected lifespan is between 10–15 years, though they may encounter a handful of genetic health issues along the way. This breed can be susceptible to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and certain eye diseases such as cone rod dystrophy, which can lead to blindness.
Luckily, responsible Glen of Imaal terrier breeders screen their dogs for these conditions, performing hip evaluations, elbow evaluations, ophthalmologist evaluations, and DNA evaluations to check for eye diseases. Before bringing home a Glen of Imaal terrier puppy, ask your breeder for all available health information and screening results.
Don't let the Glen of Imaal terrier's melt-your-heart cuteness fool you into thinking these dogs are snuggly purse pooches. On the contrary, they're incredibly sturdy and powerful, thanks in large part to their heritage. Glens hail from a rocky, remote region on the eastern coast of Ireland, which made them incredibly tough and hardy.
They were originally developed to hunt badgers and foxes, according to the GITCA, though they actually had a number of different jobs on Ireland's mountainous farms. Some Glen of Imaal terrier dogs, for instance, learned how to walk on a wheel to help turn meat on a spit over a fire—their strong legs made them ideal for the job.
The breed made it to the U.S. in the early 1930s, but the American Kennel Club didn't recognize the breed until 2004. Today, Glen of Imaal terriers remain relatively rare stateside.
- One big reason why Glens don't bark much? They were originally bred to be silent while working.
- Glen of Imaal terriers earned the well-deserved nickname of "turnspit dogs" because of the role they played in making dinner. They're basically little furry chefs!