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Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Glen of Imaal Terrier is a breed of dog of the terrier category and one of four Irish terrier breeds. It is sometimes called the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier or the Wicklow Terrier, and the name of the breed is often shortened by fanciers to just Glen. The breed originates in, and is named for, the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, Ireland. It was recognised first by the Irish Kennel Club in 1934 and most recently by the American Kennel Club in 2004. The Glen 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, which they bred with the local terrier stock, eventually resulting in a distinctive breed that became known as the Glen of Imaal Terrier. The Glen was developed for eradicating vermin such as rat, fox, badger, and otter, and also as a general-purpose working dog for herding. 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 to indicate its location. In trials, which used to be required by many kennel clubs for championships, they were actually disqualified if they sounded at the quarry. According to Irish lore, which is repeated in many descriptions of the breed, Glen of Imaal Terriers were also used as turnspit dogs to turn meat over fires for cooking. However, evidence for this is scarce, and engravings of turnspit dogs from the 19th century do not show much resemblance to today's Glen. The breed almost died out before being revived in the early twentieth century. Today, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is still one of the rarest breeds of dog (in the US, registered animals number in the hundreds) and the least-known Irish terrier breed.

Appearance A "big dog on short legs," 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. Glens have a double coat on the back that is harsh on top and soft below. The head, sides, and legs have only the softer coat. Colour may be wheaten or blue (usually with brindling) in colour, with both wheaten and blue encompassing a range of shades. Other colorings do occasionally occur in Glens (including a mixture of wheaten and blue referred to as "grizzle" and a "blue and tan" that is blue on top with wheaten furnishings) but these variations may not be to breed standard, depending on the kennel club. Wheaten Glen of Imaal puppies often have black highlights in their puppy coats, but this usually does not appear in their their adult coat.

The Glen of Imaal terrier does not molt or shed much, and needs to be groomed on a regular basis to keep the coat in good condition and free of matting. Grooming includes "stripping" excess hair from the coat two to four times per year; this "dead" hair pulls out easily and painlessly with the proper tools. Historically, the breed's tail was typically docked to a length just sufficient for pulling the dog out of a hole when necessary. Docking is still standard in the United States, though some breeders have stopped doing it. Many countries ban docking for showing completely. Ireland has banned showing of dogs whose tails were docked on or after March 6, 2014 (the procedure is also itself illegal with very limited exceptions). In the UK, working terriers can still be shown with docked tails, but dogs kept as pets cannot.


Glens are generally very strong and healthy and can live 15 years or more. A genetic test is available for progressive retinal atrophy (type crd3), a congenital disorder that results in gradual blindness beginning at about five years of age. PRA was previously problematic because blindness did not become apparent until well into the breeding years. It will be difficult to completely eliminate the defective gene, as breeding only clear to clear would severely restrict choices in an already small gene pool. It is possible, however, to produce litters that will never be affected by PRA, even though some individuals in the litter may carry the gene, and most breeders are doing so. (Because the trait is recessive, animals with only one copy of the defective gene do not develop PRA.) Heart problems are virtually nonexistent in the breed. Skin allergies are occasionally seen and may be caused by diet or by reactions 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 build. Because they are achondroplastic (dwarfs) and front-heavy with turned-out front feet, 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. After the age of 12 months, Glens generally do best on a lower-protein diet.

Temperament and behavior Like most terriers, Glen of Imaal terriers are energetic and tenacious, but they tend to be more even-tempered and less vocal than other small terriers. While they love activity, they are not demanding, and are happy to relax by their owner's side. Their bark, while infrequently employed, is deep and authoritative, like that of a much larger dog. 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. Glens can have a stubborn streak, so a firm hand is essential in training. They are typically fearless and loyal, and are superb with people, including children. However, they can be dog-aggressive, especially when provoked. By maturity, most individuals develop a high prey drive and will readily go for vermin such as rats, so they need to be well-socialized with other animals—particularly 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, some Glens can work well in water, and others have been trained to herd and drive sheep and cattle.

Relationship to other breeds Though the precise origin of the Glen of Imaal Terrier is now lost to history, some say that the breed may be related to the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, another Irish terrier breed; in fact, some sources claim all Irish terrier breeds to be derived from the Soft-Coated Wheaten. The "low-slung hounds" in the Glen's heritage are sometimes held to be forerunners of the PBGV. Though it bears a passing resemblance to Scotland's Dandie Dinmont terrier, and even comes in two colors similar to the Dandie's "mustard" and "pepper," it does not seem to be particularly closely related to that breed. DNA evidence has brought little clarity to the relationship of the Glen of Imaal Terrier with other breeds. Based on DNA evidence alone, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is more closely related to the Molossers than to other small terriers.