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rec.pets.dogs: Kerry Blues Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/kerryblues
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Last-modified: 06 Dec 1997

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                              Kerry Blue Terriers

     * Daryl Enstone (
   Copyright 1994 by Daryl Enstone. This faq is intended only for
   personal use. Single copies may be downloaded and printed for
   individual use. This faq is not to be further copied, either whole or
   in part, without the explicit permission of the author.
   The material presented in this document is accurate to the best of my
   knowledge. If errors or inaccuracies are found, or if additional
   information is appropriate, please contact the author and the faq will
   be updated as soon as possible.
   Many thanks to the Kerry breeders and fanciers who have helped by
   providing information and answering questions about Kerries.
   Particular thanks are due to to Ed and Kay Greer, Thornton, ON. I am
   also grateful to Cindy Tittle Moore for valuable editorial comments
   and for getting this faq approved and posted.
Table of Contents

     * Breed Description
     * History
     * Characteristics and Temperament
     * Care and Training
     * Special Medical Problems
     * Frequently Asked Questions
     * References
          + Books
          + Periodicals
          + Breed Rescue Organizations
          + Breed Clubs
          + Breeders
Breed Description

   The Kerry Blue Terrier is recognized by all major kennel clubs.
   Brief Summary of Breed Standards (CKC/AKC/KC)
   Height: Dogs 18-19 1/2" (46-48 cm) at withers; bitches 17 1/2-19" (45-
   47 cm). Weight: Dogs 33-40 lb (15-17 kg); bitches slightly less.
   General Appearance: Upstanding, well knit and proportioned, well
   developed and muscular body showing good balance. Character: A compact
   and powerful, yet graceful terrier. Displays an attitude of alert
   determination and definate terrier style and character throughout.
   "Disciplined gameness."
   Head is long and well-proportioned with V-shaped ears and dark eyes
   showing a keen terrier expression. Neck is clean and moderately long,
   set on well laid back shoulders. Chest deep, but of moderate breadth.
   Legs straight, moderately long and well muscled. Back short, strong
   and level. Tail is carried gaily erect. Coat is silky soft, dense and
   wavy, any shade from deep slate through blue-grey to silvery. Colour
   usually takes 18 months to clear. Solid black is a disqualification as
   are dewclaws on hind legs.
   The coat is one of the most attention-getting features of this breed.
   Pus are born either solid blue-black (sometimes a tiny white patch on
   the chest) or a very dark grey, and their skin, particularly on the
   back,is blue. As they grow, the coat begins to "clear" or lighten
   toward the mature colour. Often a brownish or tan tone appears during
   the clearing process; this is normal and will usually disappear as the
   pup matures. The standard specifies that the coat should clear by 18
   months; prior to this a tan tone or solid black will be tolerated in
   the breed ring. Despite the specification that mature colour should be
   reached by 18 months, many Kerries take longer to clear and may not
   reach their final colour for 2 or 3 years. Darker points on the legs,
   tail and head can occur and are acceptable as long as the darker
   colouration does not extend down the neck from the head.
   While any shade of blue-grey is permissible, many breeders aim for a
   medium blue. The very light, silvery coats tend to have poor texture;
   they are often cottony and lack wave. These coats also grow more
   slowly. At the other extreme, the darkest dogs often have excellent
   coats; extremely dense with good texture and wave. However, solid
   black is a disqualification and many judges favour medium toned dogs.

     "In the morn they herd the cattle; at noon they come in and tread
     the wheel to churn the butter; in the afternoon they herd again and
     after supper are turned out to guard the sheep, the chickens and
     geese and pigs. The last thing that they do before going to bed is
     to take off the pants of an Irishman."
     an Irish Kerry breeder writing in an 1924 magazine, quoted by
   The Kerry Blue Terrier (also known as the Irish Blue Terrier in
   Ireland) is one of three closely related, long-legged, all-purpose
   working terriers which were distilled from the great mixture of coat
   colours, textures and dispositions that were found throughout the
   Irish countryside over the last few centuries. The Kerry's two Irish
   cousins are the Irish terrier and the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier; the
   latter is often considered an ancestor of the Kerry Blue.
   Forbidden by law to own the ancient Irish wolfhound (that privilege
   was reserved for the aristocratic class), the crofters concentrated on
   breeding terriers to their own needs and tastes. These farm dogs
   needed to combine herding, guarding, hunting, retrieving and vermin
   destroying talents. They were also family members who played with and
   watched over the children and curled up at the hearth. Crosses between
   various groups of dogs including hounds were made to obtain these
   traits and it is likely that a fair amount of Irish wolfhound blood
   ended up in the terriers.
   A popular story told of the Kerry is that during the invasion by the
   Spanish Armada, a small spaniel with a soft blue-grey coat swam ashore
   from a ship wreck and mated with the native terriers, producing off-
   spring with terrier form and a soft bluish coat. Other variations of
   this story cast the invading dog as a blue-coloured Russian terrier
   from a wreck in Tralee Bay and as a Portuguese water dog from a
   Portuguese trading ship.
   The Kerry as a distinct breed showed up slightly later than the Irish
   and Wheaten, emerging in the notes of dog enthusiasts in the latter
   part of the 1800's. Although the Wheaten is considered one of the more
   direct ancestors of the Kerry, most Kerry sources claim that the race
   of blue terriers with soft coats were present for several centuries,
   particularly in the south-west Irish county of Kerry and its environs.
   Kerries were first at shown in England in the early 1920's and were
   recognized by the Kennel Club in 1922. The first Kerry Blues in North
   America were five pets imported in 1918-9; the breed first appeared at
   shows in the very early 1920's.
   Kerries have been used for retrieving small game and water fowl, for
   herding sheep and cattle, as police dogs in the United Kingdom, and as
   guard dogs at UK military installations during the Second World War.
Characteristics and Temperament

     "The Kerry just isn't everybody's dog - he's too smart for that. If
     you don't understand him or don't accept him as one of the family,
     then he just doesn't turn on that personality for which he is
     "To like a Kerry, you've first got to like the Irish, for a Kerry
     is very much a part of his native land. The only Irish custom I've
     so far not seen in the Kerry is the smoking of a clay pipe. He has
     all the other traits: the rare blarney humor, the facile wit and
     the blazing temper."
     - Montgomery p137
   Kerry Traits:
     * stubborn, proud, tenacious, courageous, bold, can be pugnacious
     * highly intelligent, curious, trainable, eager to please
     * energetic, sometimes to the point of boisterous, and playful
     * good sense of humour
     * good-natured, merry, affectionate
     * loyal
     * a "family" dog, not a one-person dog
     * good with children, has a gentle mouth
     * has stamina, vigour, and endurance; is very stoical.
   Kerry Owner Traits:
     * firm, consistant, fair, and determined (more stubborn than the
     * fun-loving, affectionate, energetic, a good sense of humour.
     "Uncertain, submissive, over-loving and demanding people have
     trouble raising this breed. It is necessary to know and enforce
     firmly and kindly your expectations of the dog."
     - Helen Roy, Kel-Tara Kennels, BC, Canada (quoted in Kerry Blue
     Notes, KBTCC, Winter 1994)
Care and Training

   Kerries are usually not picky eaters. Feed premium quality food for
   good coat condition and lasting health. Breeders will supply detailed
   information from their experience. Dry food is the most convenient,
   since there is less tendency to gum up the whiskers. Tartar formation
   is also reduced with dry food.
   Kerries have extensive grooming requirements, comparable to the amount
   needed for a poodle. Weekly brushing is essential and daily brushing
   is ideal to keep the coat and skin in top condition and free of mats.
   Bathing and trimming is required about every 6-8 weeks. The coat may
   be either clipped or scissored; the latter is usual for conformation
   showing. Grooming tools include clippers with interchangable blades,
   metal comb with medium and coarse teeth, slicker brush,
   guillotine-type nail clippers, scissors, thinning shears, and
   hemostats (forceps - e.g., the locking type with curved tips) to pluck
   the ears. The Kerry books cited below and most good multi-breed
   grooming books describe the proper cut. Choose a professional groomer
   carefully - many are unfamiliar with Kerries and the dog will end up
   looking like a Schnauzer.
   The Kerry Blue has a moderate exercise requirement. A fenced yard
   where he can run is ideal. This should be supplemented with daily
   walks. Kerries are enthusiastic retrievers and love to play ball and
   frisbee, making them easy to exercise even in limited space. Most love
   to swim, too.
   Start early; get into a puppy kindergarten class as soon as shots are
   completed. Sixteen weeks not too early, but start with a flat buckle
   collar at this age, not a chain or nylon slip ("choke") collar. Use
   motivational, positive reinforcement training - the Kerry stubborn
   streak and intelligence will respond best to training if it is made to
   be "worth her while" and the instinctive desire to please is appealed
   to. Lessons must be short and fun for both dog and trainer or the
   Kerry will become bored. A Kerry's grasp of what is required is often
   intuitive, and training can proceed remarkably quickly. Kerries do
   well at obedience work; heeling can be the most difficult exercise to
   train. Many Kerries have earned their U.D. title and some have
   acquired the T.D. title. Kerries have also participated in agility and
  "Home Alone" Kerries
   Although their preference is to accompany their packmates, Kerries are
   flexible, adaptable dogs that can integrate into families where
   everyone works outside the home during the day. This sort of
   relationship will require extra dedication from all family members to
   interact with the Kerry when they are home - exercise, play, training
   etc. Discuss the matter with the breeder and have them assist in
   selecting a pup with correct temperament for this lifestyle. An adult
   Kerry may be advisable for people who cannot come home during the day
   to care for a pup.
   Crate training is highly recommended. The Vari-Kennel 300 or 400 are
   appropriate sizes.
  Special Medical Problems
   Kerry Blues are typically healthy dogs that remain active all their
   lives. The life-span of the Kerry ranges from about 10 to as much as
   18 years and averages about 13 years. Inherited medical problems are
   infrequent and are usually not life-threatening. Details of medical
   conditions that have been reported in Kerries are listed below; in
   general, these conditions are uncommon unless otherwise indicated.
     * Lumps on the skin are very common in Kerries. These are usually
       epidermal cysts/sebaceous gland cysts, or dermal cysts. Typically
       they do not cause any problems, however, they can rupture or
       become infected. Fast-growing or large lumps should be checked by
       a veterinarian.
     * Corns (footpad keratoses), warty growths, and calluses in and
       between footpads may affect some dogs. These can be painful and
       affect gait. Corns may be inherited and may be associated with
       thin pads or flat feet. They can be surgically removed but may
       recur. Antibiotics and corticosteroids are another treatment
       option in some cases. Nasal keratoses may also occur.
     * Juvenile cataracts is a very uncommon disorder and apparently only
       occurs in some bloodlines. If the problem is present, it will
       appear at an early age, i.e. before 6 months.
     * Entropion (turning in of the eyelid and lashes toward the eyeball
       causing irritation of the cornea) may be present as an inherited
       or an acquired condition. Surgical correction is required.
     * Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, dry eye) is a condition resulting
       from lack of tear production. The problem may be congential or
       induced by a number of conditions. Veterinary treatment is
       required and condition may be chronic.
     * Kerry ears are quite prone to external ear canal infections
       (chronic otitis externa) since there is often a large amount of
       hair in the ear canal. If the ears are not kept clean, dry and
       plucked, wax, dirt and moisture easily accumulate and foster
       bacterial and fungal growth.
     * Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (nerve disorder affecting gait) is
       a rare condition which is inherited, progressive and untreatable.
       Symptoms initially appear between 2 - 6 months. By one year of
       age, the dog is incapable of standing. This disease was first
       thought to come from one particular bloodline, but subsequent
       cases have developed in other lines as well. Currently, there is
       no method of testing for carrier status, however the USKBTC is
       working on a method of genetic status detection. Contact the
       Health and Genetics Committee for more info (address below).
     * Missing teeth (particularly premolars) are fairly common in Kerry
       Blue Terriers. While this is not a disqualification according to
       the standard, breeders have been recommended to regard it as a
       fault. Undershot and overshot bites also occur. Puppies with a
       _slight case_ of these conditions may "out grow" it, but if the
       dog is past its growth stage the condition will probably be
     * Canine hip displaysia occurs infrequently compared to other breeds
       due to this terrier's moderate size and strong musculature. Many
       breeders do have breeding stock x-rayed and certified by
       Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (in the US). As of 1992, of the
       radiographs submitted to the OFA for grading, 11% were displasic
       and 5% were borderline. Certified Hip graded percentages were
       distributed as: Excellent (12%); Good (54%); Fair (18%). Please
       note that these numbers only represent those radiographs submitted
       to the OFA for certification; most dogs are not screened, so the
       true breed incidence is unknown.
     * Subluxation of the patella occurs occasionally. The kneecap is not
       properly seated at the stifle, either as a result of weakened
       ligament development and/or improperly formed knee assembly. This
       can be an acquired (due to injury or trauma) or an inherited
     * Hypothyroidism is not uncommon in Kerries as in many other breeds.
       Ninety per cent of cases are caused by autoimmune thyroiditis. The
       condition can be corrected with hormone supplementation.
     * Autoimmune diseases have been reported to occur in the Kerry Blue
       as in other breeds. The over 40 diseases grouped under this
       heading share a common trait in that the dog's immune system has
       been stimulated to attack the dog's own tissue. Four main
       causative factors have been identified: genetic disposition;
       hormonal influence; infections (especially viruses); and stress.
       Current concerns include Factor XI deficiency (a rare inherited
       blood clotting abnormality), von Willebrands disease (another rare
       blood clotting abnormality), and Addison's disease (a rare adrenal
       gland disorder).
Frequently Asked Questions

   _Is that a ____? (poodle, schnauzer, poodleXschnauzer, Airedale,
   Portugese water dog, scottie....)_
     No. The Kerry Blue terrier is an uncommon breed and is not often
     seen outside of dog shows. He will often attract a great deal of
     attention in public.
   _Are Kerries good with kids?_
     Yes. They love kids and their rough-and-tumble games. Kerries are
     sturdy and well-muscled and are not easily injured. Their tolerant
     good-nature keeps them from becoming grouchy or snappy. Naturally,
     any situation involving toddlers, young children or young puppies
     should be well supervised to prevent accidental injuries or
     tormenting behaviour. It's a good idea for older children to attend
     training classes with the dog to ensure that the terrier does not
     regard the child as its subordinate.
   _Are Kerries good for people with dog allergies?_
     Maybe. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog. But because
     Kerries are non-shedding they are sometimes recommended to people
     with allergies and they may actually be more tolerable than a
     shedding breed. However, allergic reactions are unique to each
     person. The sufferer should spend as much time as possible with
     Kerries in the dogs' living quarters to determine if the breed is
     suitable before taking one home.
   _Do Kerries make good watch dogs?_
     Yes. They have business-like barks to alert their owners of
     visitors (or prowlers) on the premises. A full grown Kerry barking
     at the door is an imposing sight. However, once the visitor is
     approved by the owner, the visitor is accepted by the dog and may
     even be solicited to play.
   _Do Kerries fight with other dogs?_
     Kerry Blues display inter-male aggression. Like many terrier
     breeds, early Kerries were quite prone to fighting and aggressive
     behaviour. Careful breeding has greatly improved the Kerry
     disposition. A Kerry can be trained to mind his own business, but
     he will not back down from another dog if he is attacked. Early
     training and firm, consistent handling will prevent problems in
     most situations, but it is best to have only one intact male Kerry
     in the household. Some Kerry experts advise having only one male in
     the household, period, regardless of whether or not he is neutered.
   _Are Kerries yappy or destructive?_
     Most Kerries do not bark as a hobby. They tend to reserve their
     barking for warning and welcoming. Because they are terriers,
     Kerries have digging instincts. Digging can be minimized or
     eliminated with training and by keeping the Kerry exercised and
     entertained. Kerries also have strong jaws. Divert their chewing
     instincts to sturdy chew toys.

   Izant, E. 1982. _The Kerry Blue Terrier_. W.W. Denlinger and R.A.
   Rathman (eds.). Denlinger's Publishers, Ltd., Fairfax, VA. 112 pp.
   ISBN 0-87714- 060-X. (A well-written compilation of information on
   Kerries. A good series of line drawings to illustrate various aspects
   of conformation complements the numerous photographic examples. Not as
   detailed as Montgomery's book but contains more up-to-date
   information. Rather expensive.)
   Montgomery, E.S. 1965. _The New Complete Kerry Blue Terrier_. 2nd Ed.
   Howell Book House, NY. 293 pp. No ISBN. (This book is now out of print
   - it is limited to the last century and first half only of this
   century - but it is an excellent source of information on all aspects
   of Kerries and contains much information about the early breeders.
   Check with libraries for copies - it is worth tracking down if you are
   seriously interested in the breed.)
   Schweppe, F. 1990. _Kerry Blue Terriers_. T.F.H. Publications, Inc.,
   Neptune City, NJ. 191 pp. No ISBN. (A fairly short and superficial
   treatment of the breed; most of the book is given over to generalized
   dog care. This book is easier to find than the previous two and will
   be useful to the novice owner. Includes grooming instructins)
   United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club, Inc. 1992. _The Kerry Blue
   Terrier Handbook_. Goslin Printing Company, Winston-Salem, North
   Carolina. 322 pp. No ISBN or ISSN. (An excellent source of breed
   information and has the most comprehensive medical information section
   of any book published on the Kerry. Includes US national and regional
   club addresses and advertisements from numerous breeders. Available
   from the club secretary for US$10, including shipping.)
   _Kerry Blue Notes_. Quarterly newsletter of the Kerry Blue Terrier
   Club of Canada. Jacqueline Irving, editor. Louise Lang, publisher,
   Toronto , ON. No ISSN.
   _Terrier Type_. 1988. Vol.28, No. 7. Special Issue: The Kerry blue
   terrier in America. Ed./Publ. Dan Kiedrowski, LaHonda, CA. ISSN
  Breed Rescue Organizations
   Some of this information was obtained from the Breed Rescue
   Organizations FAQ Part 2/2, by Michael George Buening, which is
   currently maintained by Janice Ritter (
   _United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Joanne K. Schindler, chair
   12056 Cedar Creek
   Cincinnati, OH 45240
   _Empire Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Gwen Resk
   645 Pine Brook Blvd.
   New Rochelle, NY 10804
   _Greater Boston Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Rhoda Bergman (N.E. Mass)
   Off Cross Rd.
   Lunenberg, MA 01462
   or Brian Lowney (S.E. Mass and R.I.)
   1307 Gardners Neck Rd.
   South Swansea, MA 02777
   _Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern California_
   Carol Blundell
   51201 Pine Canyon Rd, # 24
   King City, CA 93950
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Southern California_
   Mrs. Suzanne Stull
   44027 Shad St.
   Lancaster, CA 93536
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Canada_
   Rescue and Relocation Committee
   Daryl Enstone
   P.O. Box 72
   Station "Q"
   Toronto, ON
   M4T 2L7
   tel: 519-746-3039
   fax: 519-746-6741
   internet e-mail:
   _Western Canada Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Lee Templeton, Sec.
   561 West 65th Ave.
   Vancouver, BC
   V6P 2P6
  Breed Clubs
   Full addresses are given for national clubs; telephone numbers only
   are given for regional clubs.
   _United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Barb Beuter, Secretary
   2458 Eastridge Dr., #10
   Hamilton, OH 45001
   _Empire Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Rose Marie Mace 516-289-3902
   _Greater Boston Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   L. Scott Schlager 617-332-8240
   Brian J. Lowney 508-672-6086
   _Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Chicago, Inc._
   Bob Tannhauser 708-885-2692
   Bonnie Whelehan 312-585-9617
   _Philadelphia Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Margaret McDonough (Sec., 1992) 215-696-2936
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Greater Pittsburgh_
   PA 412-941-5204
   NY 716-947-5895
   OH 513-742-3745
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern Ohio_
   Barbara Beuter (Sec., 1992) 513-863-6230
   _Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern California_
   Carol Blundell (Sec., 1992) 408-385-6080
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Southern California_
   Mrs. Helen Bock (Sec., 1992) 310-398-1750
   _The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Canada_
   Louise Lang, Sec.
   P.O. Box 72
   Station "Q"
   Toronto, ON
   M4T 2L7
   tel: 416-484-0008
   fax: 416-484-8360
   _The Western Canada Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Lee Thompson, Sec., 604-325-3157
   _The Kerry Blue and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of Finland_
   Hannele Virtanen
   37470 Vesilahti
   _Svenska Kerry Blue Terrier Club_
   Ulla Lethenstrvm
   Nordanvdgen 8
   17538 Jarfalla
   Breeders of Kerry Blue Terriers are best located through the breed
   club of your area or your national breed club.
    Kerry Blue Terriers FAQ
    Daryl Enstone,
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