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Glen of Imaal Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a medium purebred often nicknamed Glen or Glennie. It comes from Ireland and was bred to hunt fox and badger. It was also used to keep rodents out of homes. In total there are four Irish terriers, the Glen of Imaal Terrier, also called the Wicklow Terrier gets its name from where it comes from, a specific remote valley with the same name in Ireland. Today while still excelling at hunting it also makes a great family dog and companion.

The Glen of Imaal Terrier at A Glance
Name Glen of Imaal Terrier
Other names Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier
Nicknames Glen, Glennie
Origin Ireland
Average size Medium
Average weight 32 to 40 pounds
Average height 13 to 14 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Medium, harsh, rough
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, black, blue
Popularity Not popular – ranked 173rd by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – above average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in hot climates just not extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle cold weather just not very cold or extremes
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair will be around the home
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – not especially prone but if allowed to overeat it will of course gain weight
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate – easy to brush
Barking Rare – does not bark a lot
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs a good amount of daily exercise
Trainability Moderately easy – should not be too hard but it can have an independent mind which can slow things up
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential as is supervision at all times
Good with other pets Low to Moderate – again socialization is essential, has high prey drive
Good with strangers Good with socialization – can be wary
Good apartment dog Very good with its size and quiet nature
Handles alone time well Good – can handle short periods but will not like being left alone for a long time
Health issues A fairly healthy breed but some issues include eye problems, allergies, hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $535 a year for grooming, basic training, miscellaneous items, toys and license
Average annual expenses $1140 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $2,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Glen of Imaal Terrier Rescue Foundation and the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Glen of Imaal Terrier’s Beginnings

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is believed to come from a dog Flemish soldiers kept during the late 1500s. These mercenaries were allowed to settle in the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland by Elizabeth I as a reward for them helping with the suppression of Irish rebels. These dogs back then were rough coated, small French hounds. Over the years these dogs were bred with local dogs, mostly terriers and this lead eventually to the Glen of Imaal Terrier. This dog was a great hunter especially of badger, vermin and fox and was bred to be a strong dog meaning it was bred to work mute not to bark.

It was also used as a working dog in other roles. There is one story that says it was used as a turn-spit dog, a dog that would be put on a treadmill that turned the wheel that turned the cooking meat. There is however not a lot of real evidence for this. Until 1966 when it was banned they were also put in pits with badgers and timed on their kills.

The Glen was not a known breed apart from to locals for many years. It stayed hidden in its valley and it was not until dog shows became popular in the mid 1800s that the breed was introduced to the rest of the world. However the first Irish dog breed club was not formed until 1933 and the Irish Kennel Club recognized them in 1934, being one of four Irish terriers. With the arrival of the second world war though there was a huge detrimental impact on the breed and numbers dropped so much it almost became extinct.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully the breed was not lost, and after the war breeders in Ireland worked hard on restoring its numbers. It did take over 30 years though before it was stable again. It was in the 1930s that it came to America with some Irish immigrant families, but there was little interest in the dog until the 1980s and it was not recognized by the AKC until 2004. It is not a common dog still though and is in fact one of the rarest breeds and the lest known Irish breed. It is ranked just 173rd in popularity by the AKC. The Kennel Club in the UK have labeled the dog as a vulnerable native breed as there are less than 300 registered there each year.

The Dog You See Today

Glen of Imaal Terriers are a medium sized dog weighing 32 to 40 pounds and standing 13 to 14 inches tall. It is a sturdily built dog with short bowed legs making it a low to the ground dog like the Welsh Corgi. Its tail is docked in places where that is still allowed to half its length but in many places in Europe tail docking is now illegal so it is left natural. It has a straight topline and muscular hips, shoulders and chest. It has a double coat with a short, soft under coat and a wiry, harsh medium length top coat. Common colors are cream, silver, wheaten, brindle, blue, red and even a tiger striped pattern. As puppies some have a stripe of dark fur down their back but that usually fades as they mature. On their legs, sides and head the coat is softer and can be wavy.

Their skull is broad and somewhat domed and the head is in proportion to the rest of it. The muzzle tapers to the nose and is strong, and the nose is black. It has medium sized eyes that are brown and round. Its ears can be rose or half-pricked and are set back on the head fairly widely apart.

The Inner Glen of Imaal Terrier


Glens are not known for being great watchdogs, it may not bark to let you know of an intruder (remember it is a quiet dog) but it might act to defend you as it is courageous. At home with good owners it is gentle, quiet, loyal and docile though it does have an independent side to it. When out hunting it is tenacious, aggressive and unyielding. That independence is partly why this breed is not one for new owners, it is certainly better in the hands of experienced dog owners. It is an intelligent breed and does have the potential for aggression towards its prey more seen if you keep it as a hunting dog. Around strangers it is reserved but polite.

Like other terriers it is feisty and bold and when it does bark that is a deep and loud bark that would seem to come from a much larger dog. It is an affectionate and devoted dog that makes a great family dog, and it has a lot of patience and happiness. When focused on a job it can become very fixed and intent but it also enjoys relaxing with the family and it wants to be included as part of family events and activities. It will want to rest its head on your feet, or lap when it is time to watch TV. It does take longer to mature than many dog breeds so will stay puppy like and more rambunctious for longer. However as it matures if that rambunctiousness remains and it is also acting out, this is more a sign of it not getting enough exercise.

Living with a Glen of Imaal Terrier

What will training look like?

The Glennie is a moderately easy dog to train, it is intelligent but can be stubborn and so the process tends to be a gradual one, but not too frustrating as long as you have the right approach. Training should be begun as soon as you bring your puppy home when it is less headstrong and can soak up what you expect of it. With praise to motivate, and positive encouragement and treats it should be quite willing to work. Just try to keep the sessions fun and engaging and avoid making them too long. If it becomes boring or repetitive it is likely to find interest in something else. You also need to stay strong and firm with it, watch your tone, if it senses you are being meek and that you do not have authority over it, it will become difficult. Also important is being consistent, set the rules and stick to them at all times.

As important as basic obedience training is to ensure it is well socialized. This is also something to start when it is young. Introduce it to different places, sounds, animals, dogs and people so that it adjusts and learns appropriate responses. A well socialized dog is a happier and more confident dog, which means you will be a happier and more confident owner.

How active is the Glen of Imaal Terrier?

Glens need daily exercise and are fairly active breeds so ideally will have owners who are also happy to be active. It can adapt to a yard as long as it gets outside enough but if there is a yard be warned it likes to dig and that fence needs to be done well as it once pursued its prey underground so has no problem with digging to escape. Other idea include taking it to a dog park for off leash time and playing games with you, though make sure it is well socialized and trained to avoid issues with other dogs. Try to go out with it during the cooler times of day as it does overheat easily. It is surprisingly agile and quick and will want to run after ‘prey’ so keep it leashed when out walking. It is not a dog to join you for a jog, and care should be taken around water as its build means it is not a great swimmer. It will need a good long walk, about 30 minutes each, twice a day. If it is acting out and it is past its puppy stage this may be a sign it is not getting enough mental and physical stimulation.

Caring for the Glen of Imaal Terrier

Grooming needs

This dog is ideal for people who are looking for a low to moderate maintenance dog, there is not a lot of upkeep needed and it is low shedding so not a lot of hair around the home either. Brushing it once or twice a week with a slicker brush will keep the tangles at bay and only give it a bath when it really needs one. You may need to cut with scissors under the tail and the hair in the ears and pads of the feet will need plucking or removing. Do not use clippers on it as this will affect the texture of the hair too. Bathing it too frequently can lead to skin problems as it affects it natural oils and it also softens the naturally coarse coat. It will need 3 or 4 visits to a groomer each year though to strip the coat. This is especially needed if you are keeping it to show standards.

Other needs are the same for any dog. Its ears should be checked weekly for infection and then cleaned. That can be done using a cotton ball and dog ear cleanser or you can use a warm damp cloth. Nothing should even be pushed into the ear though. Its nails need to be trimmed when they get too long. Some dogs wear them down naturally with their physical activity, but some still need a trim now and then. You can do it yourself with proper dog nail clippers or have a groomer or vet do it. Just be warned dog nails are unlike ours, there is a section lower down called the quick that should not be cut, that would cause pain and bleeding. Then it should have its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week or daily if possible.

Feeding Time

Now Glens like their food so make sure you keep it out of their reach and you avoid letting it have too many treats or table scraps. It can eat between 1 1/2 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. Things that affect how much your Glen needs to eat includes it level of activity, metabolism rate, build, age and health.

How is the Glen of Imaal Terrier with children and other animals?

This is a great dog with children, it will play, be lively and energetic with them and then cuddle and be affectionate with them. While it loves to play its strength means sometimes it can be too rough and can knock over small children so supervision is a good idea. Make sure the children are taught how to touch and play in an appropriate way.

With other pets and other dogs though it is not as good, and socialization will be extremely important. While it is unlikely to start a fight with another dog it will not back down if it feels the other dog is challenging it in anyway. Its high prey drive means it sees cats, rabbits, birds, rodents and such as something to chase and seize. It is best in a home that does not have other small furry pets especially if they are allowed to go free. If raised with a cat, socialized and owned by a strong owner in control it may adapt to living with a cat or another dog, but it is not easy or guaranteed.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of the Glen is 10 to 14 years and it is generally a healthy breed. Some issues to be aware of include eye problems, rod-cone dystrophy, hip dysplasia, allergies, ear infections, skin problems especially on the paws and growth plate injuries.

Biting Statistics

Reports covering dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm over the last 35 years in the US and Canada do not mention the Glen of Imaal Terrier. It is going to be very low odds of it being involved in such an incident just because there are very few around. It does have aggressive capabilities though and in certain situations it could react poorly. A Glen that is not well bred or raised for example might be more likely to over react to something. Any dog no matter size or breed has the potential to become aggressive, there are no breeds that are 100% safe at all times. Give your dog enough exercise and stimulation, attention, food, socialization and training and you can lower the chances of it having a bad day.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

This is quite an expensive breed because of how rare it is. A figure of $2000 from a decent breeder is not unheard of, and that can double or triple from a top breeder of show dogs. You are not likely to find one in a shelter or rescue but it is worth giving them a call or a visit to see. Expect to be put on a waiting list and be patient about it. It is better to wait and get a good and healthy dog from a decent breeder than turn to ignorant and bad breeders like you can find with backyard breeders, and absolutely avoid puppy mills and pet stores.

When you get your puppy it will need some items at home like a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and such. These will cost about $200. You should also take it as soon as possible to a vet for a physical exam, blood tests, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering, and micro chipping. These initial medical needs will cost about $270.

Then the costs to look after it day to day are something to be prepared for. For basic health care such as vet check ups, vaccinations and flea and tick prevention along with pet insurance you can expect to pay about $460 a year. For dog treats and a good quality dry dog food expect a cost of around $145 a year. Then miscellaneous costs like a license, grooming, miscellaneous items, basic training and toys are going to at least $535 a year. That gives an estimated yearly cost of $1140.


Looking for a Glen of Imaal Terrier Name? Let select one from our list!

If you love the low to the ground type of dogs, want a terrier like dog but one that is quiet this could be the dog for you. But be prepared for things like its love of digging, its high prey drive and its aggression or dominance issues with other dogs. It is a very loyal, affectionate and fun dog and still makes a great hunting dog especially for prey that goes to ground, but it is also a good companion for owners with experience and ones who are active. Also be prepared to wait for one, especially outside of Ireland.

Featured Image Credit: DejaVuDesigns, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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