The Glen of Imaal Terrier is an old Irish breed, but there are relatively few left.
They have disproportionately short legs, so their size and weight are surprising relative to their height.
As pets, they are quiet compared to most terriers, with easy going temperaments. But their small population size presents a risk to their genetic health.
Are you thinking about welcoming this uncommon little dog into your home?
What’s In This Guide
- History and original purpose of the Glen of Imaal Terrier
- Glen of Imaal Terrier appearance
- Glen of Imaal Terrier temperament
- Training and exercising your Glen of Imaal Terrier
- Glen of Imaal Terrier health and care
- Do Glen of Imaal Terrier make good family pets
- Rescuing a Glen of Imaal Terrier
- Finding a Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy
- Raising a Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity: Ranks 174th out of the 197 breeds recognized by the AKC
- Purpose: Badger hunting and small vermin control
- Weight: 32-40lbs
- Temperament: Brave, resilient, and relatively docile by terrier standards
History and original purpose of the Glen of Imaal Terrier
The Glen of Imaal terrier harks from the Glen of Imaal in the east of Ireland.
The word Imaal derives from Uí Máil, the name of a prominent dynastic family in the region in the 7th century.
The Glen of Imaal terrier – often just called the Glen – was originally bred to hunt badgers and kill small vermin like rats living in barns.
There are also enduring tales that they used to turn meat on a spit whilst it was cooking, by running in a hamster-wheel type contraption next to the fire.
It’s disputed whether this ever really happened though!
Establishing the Breed
Glens were brought to America in fits and starts during the mid-20th century, but it was only a really determined effort by fans of the breed in the 1980s which finally got them established.
The Glen was eventually recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2004.
Glen of Imaal Terrier appearance
The Glen of Imaal Terrier might be the only dog in the world which is specifically described as looking “unrefined” in its breed standard.
Refining the perfect example of a breed is usually the whole point of writing a breed standard at all!
In fact, fans of Glens sometimes affectionately refer to them as “spare part dogs”, because their appearance resembles such a mish mash of features from other breeds.
The cute and quirky Glen is 12.5-14 inches tall at the shoulders and weighs 32-40 pounds.
All Glens have chrondrodysplastic dwarfism, a genetic condition which gives them disproportionately short legs relative to their body and head. It also makes their front legs bow outwards slightly.
In the past, this was perfect for enabling a dog which was otherwise large and strong to follow badgers and foxes down underground.
Coat Type and Colors
Their coat is medium length and coarse to touch, and comes in 3 colors:
Glen of Imaal Terrier temperament
It takes a brave dog to chase a fox or badger not much smaller than them down into a dark hole.
And the Glen is a brave dog indeed.
Like all terriers, it has a lively personality, and a high chase drive around smaller animals.
But it also stands out from other terriers for being unusually quiet.
Traditionally, it was a requirement of Glens competing in field trials that they had to work silently. And their modern descendants have retained that trait of being slightly less vocal than other terrier breeds.
Owners also say that the Glen spends less time pursuing excitement and stimulation than other terriers.
Training and exercising your Glen of Imaal Terrier
All dog breeds need to be taught house manners, like toilet training. And basic obedience, like walking on a loose leash and coming back when called.
Glens, like other terrier breeds, are sometimes described as being moderately difficult to train.
This is partly because historically they didn’t do jobs which required them to work closely with a human handler.
So they’re slightly less naturally motivated to focus on people and look to humans for instructions, than say, a Labrador.
It’s also partly because they tend to be somewhat less food motivated than other breeds. So making desirable behavior more worthwhile than unwanted behavior isn’t as simple as just dishing out kibble.
Nonetheless, Glens are clever little dogs, and capable of learning a great deal.
Positive reinforcement training such as the course on our Dogsnet training site will get the best results.
Glens were bred to tolerate being outdoors in all weathers.
They typically need an hour of exercise a day, but they’re pretty flexible about what that involves.
They enjoy long walks, but their short legs mean that they may struggle to keep up on a jog or run.
Glens also love dog sports such Earthdog – trials and challenges based on following a scent into an artificial network of underground tunnels.
At home, you’re also likely to discover that a Glen makes their own entertainment by digging holes in your yard.
This is a natural instinct common to all terriers, and the best way to channel it is by setting up a sand or dirt box where they can dig to their heart’s content without destroying your landscaping.
They don’t tend to be very strong swimmers, so always supervise them closely around water.
Glen of Imaal Terrier health and care
Most dog breeds, including the Glen, are fixed populations.
That means that new generations can only be created by mating two Glens together, and no new genes can be introduced by mating to other breeds.
One result of this, for all pedigrees, is that genetic diseases which have become “trapped” in the population can quickly end up amplified to more and more members of the next generation.
Think of a dog which passes a condition to 2 puppies, who pass it to 4 grandpuppies, who pass it on to 8 great-grandpuppies, and so on.
This is a significant problem facing the Glen at the moment, because there are so few of them about.
The number of Glens in the United States is thought to be in the mid hundreds.
And breeders are worried that breeding from an increasingly small gene pool may pose long term health risks for the breed. Because it makes it difficult to find two unrelated individuals who are both free from genetic disease to mate together.
Common Health Issues in the Breed
Hereditary conditions currently reported in Glens include:
- Hip dysplasia – approximately 1 in 4 Glens affected.
- Elbow dysplasia – approximately 1 in 10 Glens affected.
- Allergy-induced dermatitis – approximately 1 in 10 Glens affected.
- Seasonal alopecia – approximately 1 in 16 Glens affected.
- Eye diseases and progressive blindness – approximately 1 in 20 Glens affected.
Glens usually live for 10-12 years, but healthy individuals have been known to reach the mid-teens too.
Do Glen of Imaal Terriers make good family pets?
They may get teased for their looks, but that doesn’t stop Glen fans praising how easy and gentle they are to live with.
Not all dog breeds are equally suitable for every home though, so let’s take a look at some of the things to consider before bringing one into your home:
- Glens generally get on well with children, but they’re heavier than they look. This means a boisterous Glen may knock children over accidentally, and a child couldn’t typically control a Glen on the leash by themselves.
- Glens have a high chase drive, and even with socialization from a young age they might pose a risk to smaller pets.
- Glens can dig! Is your yard secure enough to contain them? Owners report that they don’t tend to be very savvy about traffic either, so think about the risk of them coming to harm if they do escape.
Rescuing a Glen of Imaal Terrier
Glens are rare, verging on endangered.
That’s not to say they never need rehoming. In the UK, approximately 10% of Glens are thought to be rescued or rehomed from their original home.
But when a dog only exists in small numbers to begin with, the possibility of finding an adult dog to rehome is slim.
Older dogs who are failed show prospects or retired breeding dogs are sometimes rehomed through the community of breed fans affiliated to their national breed club.
Finding a Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy
The Glenn of Imaal Terrier breeding community is small.
Both of the breed clubs keep a directory of active breeders, and can put you in touch with breeders expecting a litter near you.
Since there are so few of them, you might have to join a waiting list, and see if a puppy becomes available.
Since puppies are bred from a small population with a high frequency of some inherited diseases, it’s especially important to make sure that a puppies parents have been health tested.
As a minimum, they should be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia, and be DNA tested for the eye disease rod cone dystrophy.
Our Puppy Search guide has lots more information about finding a healthy, happy puppy from a reputable breeder.
Raising a Glen of Imaal Terrier puppy
Puppies of all types are a big commitment.
Our puppy articles will help you get started with confidence:
- Puppy Development Stages with Growth Charts and Week by Week Guide
- Puppy Potty Training Schedule And Finishing Touches
- Crate Training A Puppy – The Ultimate Expert Guide
- 12 Great Places to Socialise Your Puppy
Over on our Dogsnet site we also have a detailed Puppy Parenting course for new puppy owners finding their feet and keen to establish good habits.
Since Glens have dwarf limbs, their breed club recommends preventing them from jumping down from steps or furniture until their 1st birthday.
If it turns out that finding the unusual Glen terrier is simply impossible in your area, don’t despair.
There are several similar breeds equally worthy of your attention.
For a start, the Glen is one of four native Irish terrier breeds. The other three are the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and the Irish Terrier.
And these better known medium-small dogs are also famous for packing a perfect blend of lively, gentle and affectionate:
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Miniature Poodle
- Wheaten Terrier
- Tibetan Terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Norfolk Terrier
Summary – Pros And Cons of Getting A Glen of Imaal Terrier
There’s a lot to consider if you’re tempted by the Glen of Imaal terrier.
Here’s a quick run down of the pros and cons of this breed:
- Rare and hard to come by.
- High frequency of some inherited diseases.
- May no be safe with smaller pets, or yards with boundaries which can be easily dug under.
- Easy going and low maintenance in terms of exercise and temperament.
- Typically quieter than other terrier breeds.
- Endearingly odd looking.
Do you already have a Glen of Imaal Terrier?
We’d love to hear about them in the comments box down below!
References And Resources
- Adams et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2010.
- Glen of Imaal Terrier (UK resident) Pedigree Breed Summary 2018.
- Hardy. Breeding of Glen of Imaal Terriers. The Veterinary Record. 2008.
- Kropatsch et al. Generalized progressive retinal atrophy in the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier is associated with a deletion in the ADAM9 gene. Molecular and Cellular Probes. 2010.
- Official Standard of the Glen of Imaal Terrier. American Kennel Club. 2001.
- Orthopedic Foundation For Animals