The Glen of Imaal Terrier — or Glen, as they are commonly called — is one of Ireland's four native terrier breeds. This sturdy and strong breed is built for tough tasks like finding pests and hunting. Their deep and full-throated bark also makes them a good choice for a watchdog.
What's great about Glens is that they're lovable, highly trainable, and easy to live with. So, if you're looking for a no-fuss working dog that'll also make an affectionate companion, the Glen of Imaal Terrier may be the perfect breed for you.
Characteristics of Glen of Imaal Terriers
Glens have many "antique" features similar to those present in the early terrier breeds, including a large and broad head, ears that become rose-shaped or semi-pricked when alert, and a deep, muscular chest. They walk with speed and agility despite having slightly bowed front legs with turned-out feet. You can also recognize them by their unique straight topline that rises slightly toward their tail.
The colors of Glen of Imaal Terriers range from blue and brindle to any shade of wheaten. They have a double coat, which consists of a medium-length, wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat.
When it comes to Glen of Imaal Terrier size, the males are generally larger and heavier than the females. Dogs of this breed weigh between 32 to 40 pounds but often only reach a height of 14 inches. This is why many describe the Glen as a "big dog on short legs."
Most people find the temperament of Glen of Imaal Terriers to be sweet and docile. Some also find their personality "stoic" since they neither bark much nor get excited as much as some other terrier breeds. When it comes to work, they show great courage and become active, energetic, and completely focused on their task.
Glens find pleasure in their own silly games like running in circles and don't demand constant attention, but they do adore human companionship and treat their owners with gentleness and devotion.
Caring for Glen of Imaal Terriers
Grooming. Glen of Imaal Terriers shed very little when brushed and stripped regularly. Their outer coat can become matted and grow 3 to 4 inches longer, though, when left uncombed and unbrushed. This is why you should thoroughly brush your dog's coat at least once or twice every week. To prevent the undercoat from overgrowing, use a stripping knife to rake the coat. Also, strip your Glen's coat 2 to 3 times a year to remove the dead hair that doesn't shed by itself.
Another thing to consider is their ear hygiene. Not only should you check their ears every week for wax or debris buildup, but also for excess hair growth. Since hair tends to grow fast in the ear canals of Glens, it's important to pluck these hairs regularly. Similarly, trim their nails regularly and brush their teeth daily. You may want to avoid bathing them often, though, as that can soften their coat.
Exercise. Glen of Imaal Terriers are typically less energetic than other terriers and need only moderate exercise to stay fit. However, being working dogs by nature, they still enjoy an active lifestyle. Many times, you may find them playing by themselves, but that may not be enough. You should also help them exercise by taking them out for a short walk or a playful run through the park. Just remember not to tire them out during such activities since their short legs might not be able to bear too much stress.
As a Glen owner, you should also not let your pups run downstairs, jump off couches, or do any tough exercise before their front legs are fully formed. The growth plates in their legs don't close until they're around 9 to 12 months old. Therefore, remember to keep your pup from doing any physical activity that may strain the joints in their growing front legs.
Training. Glen of Imaal Terriers are quite smart and intelligent. They are highly trainable and tend to learn things quickly, but they also have a habit of getting bored when given the same kind of dog training repetitively. This is why you should train them for a short time using fun activities. Per experts, training them for five minutes three times a day produces much better results than training them for half an hour at a stretch.
Glens can feel uncomfortable around strangers and other dogs if they have not been trained to socialize. Let your pet be around other people and animals from a very young age, which will make them more confident as they grow old.
Being terriers, these dogs can also act stubborn and willful at times. To correct them, only use positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise since they may respond badly to a scolding.
Diet and nutrition. Make sure your Glen always has access to clean and fresh water. Feed them protein-rich, high-quality dog food roughly twice a day. Talk with your veterinarian to find food that is right for your dog's breed, age, and activity levels. Since obesity is a problem among Glen of Imaal Terriers, avoid using too many treats during training.
Medical care. A Glen can get rabies, parvo, distemper, and other common bacterial and viral infections affecting other dogs. The good news is that most of them can be prevented through vaccination. Besides infections, many kinds of bugs (ticks, fleas, and ear mites) and worms (heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms) can also infest this breed. Your vet can detect these parasites during regular checkups and offer proper treatment or year-round prevention for them.
Health Problems to Watch for With Glen of Imaal Terriers
Glen of Imaal Terriers are generally a healthy and robust breed with a lifespan ranging from 10 to 15 years, but they are prone to getting certain genetic disorders. Ask your breeder if they have checked their stock for such conditions before buying any pups.
As per the Code of Ethics of the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America, these are the conditions that should be tested for once in the parents of each litter:
Elbow dysplasia. This is an inherited condition that causes the abnormal development of the elbow joint in dogs. If left untreated, it can lead to elbow pain and forelimb lameness in your Glen. While it can't be cured, your veterinary doctor can help to manage this condition with proper medications and physical therapy.
Hip dysplasia. This condition prevents the ball and socket joint of your dog's hip from developing normally. It can be diagnosed with an X-ray. For extreme cases in which dogs have trouble walking, a vet may suggest surgery for treating this disorder.
Cone rod dystrophy (CRD). CRD is a form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) — a genetic condition that can damage the retina in your dog's eye. Over time, it can also lead to blindness. With proper breeding and tests like the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) exam, though, breeders can stop the next generation of Glens from inheriting this disorder.
Special Considerations for Glen of Imaal Terriers
If raised together with animals and trained from a young age, Glens can live happily with other pets, including dogs and cats. However, being a terrier, they always feel the urge to chase small, furry creatures. This means they can act aggressively towards other pets if they mistake them for prey.
While they adore kids, they may be hard to handle for young children, who can even get hurt while playing with them. An adult should always be there to supervise when this dog is left alone with a small child.
Glen of Imaal Terriers are as comfortable in urban flats as they are in houses with huge lawns, but remember that this breed loves to dig and give chase. This is why you should only let them play in a yard that is fenced with a solid foundation.
Also, be careful while leaving them around swimming pools. Even though these dogs like water, they can't swim well due to their short legs and bulky weight.
Glen of Imaal Terriers are not hypoallergenic, so you should talk with your doctor before keeping one as a pet if you are prone to getting allergies. While they don't shed much, you can still get allergies from their dander and saliva. Therefore, if you plan to have a Glen as your pet, maintain a regular pet grooming schedule to reduce the chances of having an allergic reaction.
History of Glen of Imaal Terriers
This breed originated in the remote Glen of Imaal in the hilly county of Wicklow in Ireland. However, no one is sure when exactly they came into existence.
Most reports state that the Glens were first developed by the Hessian and French soldiers (mercenaries) who were hired by Queen Elizabeth I to stop the civil disorder in Ireland. Once the conflict ended, many of them stayed back in the Wicklow county. Over time, they bred their own small-sized hounds with the native terrier breeds to create a new breed, which became famous as the Glen of Imaal Terrier.
The original purpose of these dogs was to get rid of vermin such as badgers, foxes, otters, and rats. Unlike most other terriers, they were bred to work silently and go after their quarry without barking or making any noise.
Over the years, they also started working as herding dogs, and if Irish lore is to be believed, even as turnspit dogs. As per legends, the Glen was once used in kitchens to turn meat over open fires. However, there is not much evidence to prove that.
As only a few people in Ireland adopted them, the breed almost became extinct over the new few centuries, but they were revived in the early 1900s. After a few years, the breed was recognized for the first time by the Irish Kennel Club in 1934.
In the 1930s, this breed was first seen in the USA, but the Glen didn't become widely known among Americans until the 1980s. During this time, many fanciers and breeders brought to America the parent stock of this breed from countries like the UK and Ireland. These same Glen breeders then established the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America in 1986. Almost two decades later, in 2004, this breed was finally recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Despite such recognition, Glen of Imaal Terriers have still not gained popularity among dog owners. Today, not only are they the least-known terrier breed in Ireland but also one of the rarest dog breeds in America.