Top 5 Irish Dog Breeds: What to Know

Irish dogs are as spunky, sassy, and loveable as their human counterparts. There are several Irish dog breeds, including the Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, and Kerry Blue Terrier.

Apr 18, 2024By Thalia Oosthuizen
irish dog breeds what to know

The Emerald Isle is home to more than fairies and rolling hills; it’s also home to some fascinating dog breeds! From the beloved Irish Setter to the lesser-known Kerry Blue Terrier, these dogs have brought joy into homes for centuries. Here, we’ll see what these dogs have in common, what makes them different, and what to know about welcoming one into your pack.

The Irish Setter

Irish Setter Dog Standing on Grass
Image Credit: The Spruce Pets

Irish Setters were, as their name suggests, first bred in Ireland, where they were used for hunting game birds. But fast forward a few hundred years, and these cute pooches are revered for more than their hunting skills, with the focus now on their appearance more than how quickly they can retrieve prey.

The Irish Setter is a head-turner in the dog world. It features a striking red coat that shines almost copper in the sun. Now, add in a pair of long, droopy ears and a thick, glistening coat, and you have a dog that is not only beautiful to look at but also a dream to snuggle with.

Irish Red Setter Standing by Tree
Image Credit: Gun Dog Mag

Setters are known for their smarts, making them a dream to train and socialize. But, like all Irish dogs, they can also be a bit mischievous and have a ton of energy to burn. This, however, makes them the ideal canine companion for families who love being active and want a loyal, loving, and gentle furry companion by their side.

Like all breeds, Irish Setters can have a few health problems, like hip dysplasia. But with some tender loving care and regular checkups at the vet, this magnificent breed can live a very long and healthy life—easily hitting the 12-year mark!

The Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel Standing near Pond
Image Credit: Pet Finder

The Irish Water Spaniel is a dog like no other with its curly, waterproof curls that resemble a mop. They have long ears and a sweet little top knot, and they complete the look with a rat-like tail. Sure, it sounds a bit messy, but these dogs are as cute as they come!

Bred in Ireland to retrieve game from the water, these magnificent dogs have come a long way and are now popular companions for families all around the world. They are friendly, outgoing, and always up for a game of fetch with their human family.

2 Irish Water Spaniels Standing in Field
Image Credit: Project Upland

Oh, and if you happen to have a pool, you can expect to find them sneaking a swim, too. Irish Water Spaniels are generally healthy dogs that love a good swim, but they can sometimes have eye or hip issues that might require the odd vet visit. This doesn’t, however, stop them from enjoying outdoor activities, like swimming and hiking, with their families.

The Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier Running in Field
Image Credit: The Spruce Pets

As its name suggests, the Irish Terrier has its roots in Ireland, where it was bred to be a farm dog. Now a popular and loyal protector, this spirited little dog with its wiry coat is capturing hearts across the world. Irish Terriers are known for their spunky attitude, and while they are loyal to the nth degree, they are also independent, confident, and fearless.

When it comes to socializing and training an Irish Terrier, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for a bit of a challenge. These cute little terriers are extremely stubborn, making training that much more difficult. But, this can quickly be overcome with a bit of positive reinforcement and clear communication along the way. Be consistent, show them the ropes, and use clear words that they will quickly learn and understand.

Irish Terrier Dog Playing With Ball
Image Credit: Pet MD

Irish Terriers are very wary of strangers, and will often bark at other dogs, especially when they are still young. This is why socializing your pup from a young age is necessary.

Like many dog breeds, Irish Terriers are generally quite healthy but can be prone to allergies, hip dysplasia, and eye problems. Despite these challenges, owning an Irish Terrier is a good idea for families who will appreciate their spirited nature, loyalty, and cute-as-a-button appearance.

The Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound Standing in Forest
Image Credit: Westover Wolfhounds

Ah, the gentle giant of the Irish dog world. Irish Wolfhounds, too, were bred in Ireland and started as hunting dogs––and hunting not just birds and rabbits––but wolves! These days, however, Irish Wolfhounds can be found in every corner of the world and enjoy an easy life with loving owners who want a large but gentle companion by their side.

Don’t be fooled by their imposing size, though. These gentle hounds may initially seem intimidating, but they have a sweet nature and are affectionate and loyal, making them a great addition to all families.

Irish Wolfhound Standing in Garden
Image Credit: The Groomer’s Spotlight

While training them can be a challenge, they respond quite well to positive reinforcement and consistent training.

Like many other large breeds, Irish Wolfhounds are prone to certain health issues, such as heart problems, bloat, and hip dysplasia. However, regular checkups at your local vet, along with some good old TLC and a healthy balanced diet, will ensure that this breed avoids common health problems.

The Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier Standing on Grass
Image Credit: Brit

The Kerry Blue Terrier is a truly beautiful dog with a unique coat that starts out black when they are pups and gradually turns into a more blue-gray color as they grow.

Originally bred as working dogs in Ireland, these charming little dogs have certainly moved up in the world as they waved their tails goodbye to long, boring days of hunting, herding, and guarding. Now popular companions for families who enjoy an active lifestyle, Kerry Blue’s are playful and loving dogs who enjoy a good run.

Kerry Blue Terrier  Standing in Field
Image Credit: The Spruce Pets

Healthwise, the Kerry Blue Terrier is generally healthy but is prone to hip dysplasia, eye problems, and skin allergies—probably owing to its gorgeous yet fluffy coat, which needs regular grooming. A healthy diet and routine vet checkups are usually all you need to prevent or manage these issues.

Owning a Kerry Blue Terrier is like having your loyal best friend by your side, but beware of the quirky personality that might just come out to play when you least expect it.

Thalia Oosthuizen
By Thalia Oosthuizen

Thalia has been a freelance writer for over a decade and a dog (and animal) lover for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm where, at one stage, she had 15 dogs. She currently has one dog, Avery - an adorable pavement special with an extra toe on each foot, and two rescue cats - Boris and Mango. In her spare time, Thalia enjoys running, cycling, swimming, and reading