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Glen Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Glen of Imaal Terrier, Wicklow Terrier, Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier

Life Expectancy
Approximately 13-16 Years

Litter Size
Average 3-5 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Terrier

General Description

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is considered a dwarf breed. It is more substantial and muscular than might be expected 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. Glens have a large head, with rose or half-prick ears; 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.

Breed Standard

Head: Fairly broad and long. Relatively broad skull. Pronounced stop. Muzzles tapers toward the tip. Powerful jaws.
Ears: Small, rose, or semi-prick when dog is alert.
Eyes: Medium size, round and wide set. Brown color.
Body: Longer than tall. Very muscular neck. Broad, strong chest. Ribs well sprung. Strong loin. Straight back.
Tail: Docked. Strong at the root, carried gaily.
Hair: Medium length, harsh texture. Soft undercoat.
Coat: Blue brindle, but not tending to black. Light wheaten with golden red tones. Ink blue mask. Blue strip along the back, on the tail and the ears is acceptable.
Size: 33 to 35 cm (13-14 in).
Weight: 14-16 kg (31-35 lb).


Reportedly, the Glen's history began during the reign of Elizabeth I, who hired French and Hessian mercenaries to put down a rebellion in Ireland. After the conflict, many of these soldiers settled in the Wicklow area. They brought with them their low-slung hounds, which they bred with the local terrier stock, eventually developing a distinctive breed that became known as the Glen of Imaal Terrier.

Glens were originally used for eradicating other animals such as rat, fox, badger, and otter, and also as a general-purpose farm dog for herding and family companionship. Unlike many other terriers, they are "strong dogs" rather than "sounders", they were bred to work mute to ground, going silently into dens after their quarry rather than barking at it to alert their handlers. In hunting trials, which used to be required by many kennel clubs for championships, Glens were disqualified if they sounded at the quarry. For this reason, today they are among the quietest terriers.

According to Irish lore, Glen of Imaal Terriers were also used as turnspit dogs to turn meat over fires for cooking. Evidence for this is scarce, and engravings of such dogs from the 19th century do not bear much resemblance to today's Glen. It is, however, repeated in many descriptions of the breed and often used in color commentary by dog show announcers.

The breed almost died out before being revived in the early twentieth century by breeders in its homeland. Paddy Brennan Tinahely Co Wicklow, and Willie Kane Tipperary are recognised as two breeders that revived the breed. Today, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is still one of the rarest breeds of dog (in the US, living registered animals number in the hundreds) and the least-known Irish terrier breed. It is considered a vulnerable native breed by the UK's Kennel Club, which tracks breeds in which fewer than 300 puppies are registered each year.


Glen of Imaal terriers can be energetic and tenacious, but they tend to be more even-tempered, more easygoing, and less vocal than most other terriers. While they love activity, they are not demanding, and are happy to relax by their owner's side.

Their bark is deep and authoritative, like that of a much larger dog, and they are said to be good watch dogs.

The "Glen sit," in which the dog sits on its hind end and holds its entire body vertical, is a posture not commonly seen in other breeds.

As terriers, Glens can have a stubborn streak, but they respond well to a firm hand and can withstand correction when necessary. They are intelligent, learn quickly, and socialize easily. They are typically fearless and loyal, and are superb with people, including children. However, some can be dog-aggressive, especially when provoked.

By maturity, most Glens develop a robust prey drive and will readily go for vermin such as rats, so they need to be well-socialized with other animals when young, particularly with small household pets that they might mistake for quarry, such as cats and rabbits.


Glens often do well at Earthdog trials, Barn Hunt, and in agility. Although not typically strong swimmers due to their short legs and dense body, some Glens can work in water, and others have been trained to herd and drive sheep and cattle.


A genetic test is available for progressive retinal atrophy (type crd3), a congenital disorder that gradually results in blindness beginning at about five years of age. As blindness from this cause did not become apparent until well into the breeding years, it was difficult to breed out this trait before the advent of the test. Completely eliminating the defective gene will be tricky even now, as breeding only clear-to-clear would severely restrict choices in an already small gene pool. It is straightforward, however, to produce litters that will never be affected by this type of PRA, even though some individuals in the litter may carry the gene. (Because the trait is recessive, animals with only one copy of the defective gene do not develop PRA, and it is necessary only that one parent be clear to achieve this.) Responsible breeders use the test to plan PRA-free litters and continue to test their animals' eyes annually to validate the test and to monitor for other eye problems.

Heart problems are virtually nonexistent in the breed. Some Glen of Imaal Terriers suffer from allergies and skin itching, especially on paws, the typical problem with paws is redness, itching and sores during spells of wet weather. The Glen is not generally affected by the back problems common in certain other long-backed breeds. Hip dysplasia, though occasionally seen, is usually mild, and does not often result in lameness due to the breed's typically muscular build. Responsible breeders use OFA or PennHIP evaluations to ensure that their breeding stock's hips are healthy.

Because they are front-heavy and achondroplastic, young Glens are particularly susceptible to growth plate injuries that can significantly affect the development of front leg bones. Owners are advised to discourage their Glens from jumping off sofas, chairs, and beds until at least a year of age and to consult a veterinarian at the first sign of limping.

After the age of 12 months, Glens generally do best on a diet lower in protein than other breeds.

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