You are never given the dog you want, but the dog you need.

A Big Dog On Little Legs- The Glen of Imaal Terrier

Happy Thursday!

Welcome back for our Thursday series, ‘Breed All About It’!  For those of you that are new, each Thursday we cover a new dog breed- some old, some new- for our readers to enjoy. If you would like to assist in the picking of the next breed that we cover, we have been randomly selecting a country and then a breed that looks interesting, so drop us a line in the comments below and we’ll let you know who got chosen in the upcoming week! This week, the wonderful country of Ireland was picked as our destination! I realized that most of the dogs that have been shown here on the ‘Breed All About It’ series have been big dogs so far, so we’re giving the littler guys some attention this week.

This week, we have the Glen of Imaal Terrier as our pick. This spunky little guy has a rich history and is full of pep!

Wheaton Glen of Imaal


The Glen of Imaal Terrier originates in the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland. The breed was recognized first by the Irish Kennel Club in 1934 and most recently by the American Kennel Club in 2004. The breed reportedly came into existence during the reign of Elizabeth I, who hired French and Hessian mercenaries to put down civil unrest in Ireland. After the conflict, many of these soldiers settled in the Wicklow area. They brought with them their low-slung hounds, perhaps forerunners of the PBGV, which they bred with the local terrier stock, eventually resulting in a distinctive breed found only in the Glen of Imaal. Some say that the breed is distantly related to the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, another Irish terrier breed.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier was developed as a general working dog for herding and for eradicating vermin such as fox, badger, and otter. When hunting, Glens work “mute to ground,” silently digging out their quarry, as they are a strong dog and not a sounding terrier. The breed’s early job was as a hunter, silently going after vermin, and going to ground after fox and badgers, dragging out the pray. Gamers put them in a pit with badgers, timing them on the kill, until the so-called sport was banned in 1966. The dogs were also used as turnspit dogs: Glens were put on a treadmill and would walk for hours, turning a large rotisserie wheel that was used to cook meat over an open flame. Actual evidence for this is scarce, and engravings of turnspit dogs from the 19th century do not show much resemblance to the modern Glen.This spunky little terrier can still catch vermin and with little training it can still be used to successfully hunt foxes and badgers.

The breed almost died out before being revived in the early twentieth century. Today, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is one of the rarest breeds of dog (in the U.S., registered animals number about a thousand) and the least-known Irish terrier breed. Because the Glen of Imaal is now used as a firing range by the Irish army, today there are no Glen of Imaal Terriers residing there.


A “big dog on short legs,” the Glen of Imaal Terrier is considered a dwarf breed. The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a sturdy dog that resembles the Welsh Corgi in that it is low to the ground with short legs. The head is in proportion to the body. The skull is broad and slightly domed, tapering toward the eyes. The muzzle is strong, tapering toward the black nose. The stop is pronounced and the teeth meet in a level or scissors bite. The round, medium-sized eyes are brown. Glens have a large head, with rose or half-prick ears that and are wide-set on the back of the top outer edge of the head- held on the back of the head when the dog is alert, short, bowed legs; and a topline that rises from the shoulder to the tail. The shoulders, chest, and hips are sturdy and muscular, and feet are turned out. With three growing stages, a Glen can take up to four years to reach full maturity.

Its body is more substantial and muscular than might be expected from its height, particularly compared to other small terriers; a typical adult Glen weighs about 36 pounds and stands 14″ tall at the withers. The AKC breed standard specifies a height of 12″ to 14″ and a weight of “approximately” 35 pounds for males and “somewhat less” for females, with a length-to-height ratio of 5:3. Many champion Glens are, however, larger than breed standard, with some individuals exceeding 40 or even 45 pounds.

The breed has a medium-length double coat that is harsh on top and soft below. The coat may be wheaten, blue, or brindle in color. Like other terriers, the Glen of Imaal terrier does not molt, but needs to be groomed on a regular basis to keep the coat in good condition and free of matting. Grooming includes periodically “stripping” excess hair from the coat; this “dead” hair pulls out easily and painlessly with the proper tools.

Historically, the breed’s tail was typically docked, leaving it just long enough to provide a good grip for pulling the dog out of a hole. Docking is still standard in the United States,. In the UK, working terriers can still be shown with docked tails, but many countries ban docking for showing completely. In Ireland, docked dogs may be shown without restriction.


The Glen of Imaal is a spirited, brave, patient and devoted little dog. While mellow and gentle with the family, it is vigorous and unyielding when hunting; otherwise mild-mannered and calm indoors. It is intelligent, but also a late bloomer, taking longer to mature than the average dog. It is sensitive to the tone of one’s voice and will not listen if it senses that it has a stronger mind than its owner, however it will also not respond well to harsh discipline. Owners need to be calm, yet possess an air of natural authority.

Like most terriers, Glen of Imaal terriers are energetic and tenacious, but this breed tends to be more even-tempered and less vocal than other small terriers. Bred to be mute to ground, they are disqualified from trials if they sound at the quarry; however, their deep and authoritative bark is similar to that of a larger dog.

On the note of training: while quite intelligent, Glen’s can be stubborn; they require an owner with common sense to train them. They are typically fearless and loyal, and are superb with people, but can be aggressive if not properly trained, especially if provoked by other dogs. They do have a high prey drive and need to be properly socialized with other animals—particularly household pets that they might mistake for quarry, such as cats and rabbits.

As a working terrier, a Glen’s main function is to silently draw badger or fox from the Earth. Some have an excellent nose and can be used to hunt vermin such as mink and rats. Although not typically strong swimmers, some Glen’s can work well in water, and others have been trained to herd and drive sheep and cattle.


The Glen of Imaal Terrier needs a daily walk, where the dog is made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead. Always keep this in mind, that as an owner, you must maintain your position in the pack mentality. As with all breeds, play will not fulfill their primal instinct to walk. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavior problems. They will also enjoy a good romp in a safe, open area off-lead, such as a large, fenced-in yard.

Health and Life Expectancy:

Glens are generally very strong and healthy and can live 15 years or more.

A genetic test is available for progressive retinal atrophy, a congenital disorder that results in gradual blindness later in life, and many breeders are now using this test to evaluate potential breedings. The numbers of affected Glen’s is very low and within the next few generations, the trait should be bred out entirely, provided that the work that is being done today is continued through the future.

Heart problems are virtually nonexistent, with only one recorded case. Skin allergies are occasionally seen and may be caused by diet or by allergies to flea or mite bites. Hip dysplasia, though occasionally seen, is usually mild and does not usually result in lameness due to the breed’s typically muscular hind end.

That’s all we have for you today though guys! Thanks for dropping by and learning about our new breed of the week! This little breed was a fun one to learn about and it’s hard not to fall in love with that sweet face, isn’t it? We hope that you enjoyed your visit and that we will see your smiling faces back from our future ‘Breed All About It’ breeds. Drop us a line in the comments below if there is a country that you would like us to consider for the upcoming week and we will be happy to add your country to the hat!

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One response

  1. Cute doggies!

    June 6, 2013 at 11:40 am

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