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Known for its courage and companionability, this adaptable dog of the Emerald Isle is a rare gem indeed

The Glen of Imaal: A Gaelic Treasure

By Sharon Pflaumer

An Oldie But a Goodie 
Small But Substantial 
A True Companion Pet 
Training Should Be Fun 
A Genetically Sound Breed 
Grooming Can Be Hairy 
Finding The Right Home 
Breed Information 
Rescue Information 
While her family's dinner cooked on the stove, Patricia Young sought a few moments of respite from the day's responsibilities. In addition to being a wife and mother, Young is president of the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club. Making arrangements for the group's upcoming fun match had occupied most of her day. Pleased with the outcome, Young ran the details of the event through her mind once more as she sank comfortably into a favorite chair. Riann, her 4-year-old Glen of Imaal Terrier, settled by her feet, his head resting on one of her shoes. 

A sharp knock at the back door interrupted Young's reverie. She sighed as she got up and went to see who was there. Riann ambled along behind her, his tail wagging a mile a minute. People-loving by nature, he always was happy to greet visitors. 

"Good afternoon, Ma'am. I'm involved with a local environmental group . . ." began the unshaven stranger at Young's back door. 

"What can I do for you?" she asked. 

Instead of answering her query, the stranger peered into the kitchen through the screen door as though checking for the presence of anyone else. A feeling of uneasiness swept over Young. Again she asked, "What can I do for you?" 

Again, the stranger failed to answer. Instead, he pushed the door open and made his way inside the kitchen. Once there, he stepped toward Young, who now was afraid for her safety. She needn't have been. As the stranger stepped closer still, Riann, who had been hidden from view behind her, let out a deep growl. It was the kind of growl one expects from an Irish Wolfhound_not a 35-pound terrier. Riann then stepped forward and flashed his teeth. To Young's enormous relief, the stranger, taken totally by surprise, turned and fled. Never was an owner more grateful to her dog. Had it not been for the courage of Young's Glen of Imaal Terrier, a tragedy might have occurred that afternoon. 

* * * * * 

Riann's courageous behavior is typical of his breed. Although medium in size, the Glen of Imaal Terrier, or Glen, is virtually fearless. Those who know the breed well say it truly is a big dog in a little dog's body. Riann's defense of Young and the breed's courageous nature in general are not surprising in light of the purpose for which the Glen was developed. The gutsy Glen was bred to go to ground after badger, fox and otter. In "The Noble Art of Venerie," written in 1575, author George Turberville speaks of the breed as a crooked-legged, tenacious dog that takes to earth after badger better than other terriers. According to breed aficionado Julia Rankin, the Glen goes to ground after quarry in the following way. First, a sounder_a smaller, more vocal terrier of another breed_is sent into a hole to find the quarry and bark upon locating it. The hunter then digs down to the sounder and removes it. Next, a heavy dog, a terrier such as a Glen, is put in the hole to drag the quarry out. Because badgers may weigh upward of 60 pounds, the heavy dog needs a powerful bite and very strong shoulders. Incredible courage and sheer toughness also are essential because no badger comes to the surface without first waging a life-or-death battle. 

Rankin is coordinator and secretary of the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America and an honorary vice president of the Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Owners and Breeders Association in Ireland. She has been involved with the Glen since 1994. The breed's courageous nature and hunting ability also made it useful as an all-purpose farm dog. It not only kept the varmint population in check, but protected livestock as well. In addition to being a hunter and farm dog, the Glen was used to operate dog wheels. By walking on a treadmill for hours at a time, "turnspit" dogs supplied the power to turn fire spits and churns to cook food and make butter. 

Some breed authorities also believe the Glen was pitted against other dogs in its early history. However, Rankin disputes this claim. "At no time was the breed bred for fighting nor were there any documented infusions of bulldog in the formation of the breed," she says. (The early bulldog commonly was used for fighting in Ireland and the United Kingdom.) 

An Oldie But A Goodie

Despite the fact the Glen is one of Ireland's oldest breeds, it wasn't recognized by the Irish Kennel Club until 1934. Muskreagh and Pride of the Valley were the first members of the breed to earn championships. In those days, no dog could become a champion without first having earned a certificate of gameness to fox and badger, (which was known as a Teastas Meisneac). 

Enthusiasm for the Glen, which takes its name from the Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow where the breed originated, did not generate across the channel until much later. England's Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1975. 

The first members of the breed imported to the United States are thought to have arrived in this country in the early 1980s. California breeders Randy and Sally McFarland were among the first to import the Glen. In 1981, Irish breeder Eamonn Dobbyn exported Lovely Blue Daude to them. 

The first club for the breed in this country, the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America, was founded in 1986 by Mary and Frank Murphy and Young. At that time, the group made formal application to the American Kennel Club for recognition of the breed and their club. Although the application was not approved due to an insufficient number of Glens in this country at that time, the group continues to seek AKC recognition. 

GITCA also began the first registry for the breed in this country. With more than 200 dogs listed, it was turned over to the AKC's Foundation Stock Service in 1997. (The FSS began in 1995 with the purpose of ensuring the record keeping of all purebred rare breeds meets AKC standards. In the event a breed is recognized by the AKC, the organization knows the registries are in acceptable condition.) GITCA has more than 100 members in some 30 states, Canada and Europe. The club's annual specialty show is held in conjunction with the American Rare Breed Association's Cherry Blossom Classic in Washington, D.C. 

In 1995, Young went on to co-found the Glen of Imaal Terrier Club. GITC made application to the United Kennel Club for recognition of the breed and the club in August of that year. In 1996, its application was approved, and it became the only club for the breed licensed and authorized by the UKC. In 1997, the first Glen dog and bitch earned UKC championships. GITC will hold its first national UKC specialty show for the Glen in the fall of 1998. At present, the group has 47 members in the United States and Europe. 

The Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America was established in 1995. The club has 25 members and also is seeking AKC recognition for the breed. In the fall of 1998, it will conduct its first national specialty in conjunction with ARBA's Windy City Classic in Chicago. 

(Note: In 1993, the Irish Kennel Club changed the breed's name from Glen of Imaal Terrier to Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier. IGITCA adopted this name change as did the FSS, ARBA and the Federation Cynologique Internationale. GITCA, GITC and the UKC did not adopt the name change. In regard to the breed's standard, GITCA and IGITCA use the FCI's. The UKC standard is based on the FCI standard with input from GITC. GITC uses the UKC standard.)

Mary Murphy, who has been involved with the breed since 1984, estimates there are between 500 and 600 Glens in the United States and perhaps a total of 2,000 worldwide. She is the current president of GITCA. 

The exact number of Glens is not known because there are a multitude of registries with which the breed may be listed. These include the UKC, ARBA, World Wide Kennel Club, Canine Rarity, Federation of Rare Breeds and States Kennel Club. Although the Glen still is not recognized by the AKC and therefore can't be registered with it, the breed can be listed with the AKC's FSS. Listing a dog with the FSS, however, does not make it eligible for AKC-sanctioned shows and events. Currently, the breed may be shown at fun matches (non-AKC-sanctioned shows), UKC shows and events, ARBA shows, FCI shows, World Wide Kennel Club shows, Canine Rarity shows, SKC shows and Federation of Rare Breeds shows. The Glen also may compete in working terrier trials held by the American Working Terrier Association.

Small But Substantial

Although it is not large in size, with a height of 14 inches and a weight of 35 pounds, the Glen is nonetheless a dog of great substance and strength. Its sturdy, big-boned body is longer than it is tall and low to the ground. The breed is extremely flexible and fast and moves effortlessly with good drive from behind due to heavy muscling. (With its speed and agility, the Glen does extremely well in agility competition as well as earthdog trials. Many owners also compete in obedience and conformation, and some are getting involved with therapy dog work, according to Murphy.) 

The Glen has an unusual front in that its legs bow out at the pastern. "This [bowing] enables the breed to more effectively dig for quarry because it allows the dog to throw dirt out to the sides rather than back and under the belly," Rankin explains. 

A large head and distinctive profile are among the Glen's other distinguishing characteristics. In shape, its small ears are rose or half-pricked. And its round, brown eyes are medium in size. The tail is docked and has a gay carriage. 

The Glen has a harsh outer coat between 3 inches and 4 inches in length and a shorter, soft undercoat. Coat color is blue brindle or wheaten. Puppies may have a streak of blue down their back or on their tail and ears; face masks are inky blue. 

Darker markings fade with maturity. The breed sheds minimally and has a low level of dander; thus, it is relatively hypoallergenic. 

A True Companion Pet

As already stated, the Glen is a tough breed initially developed to hunt badger, fox and otter. It always has been known for its tenacious gameness. Paradoxically, it also is the epitome of the gentle canine companion. Young, Rankin and Murphy agree that given its laid-back, stable temperament, the Glen makes an ideal family pet. "Glens have a great love of people and are totally nonaggressive with them. They will lick you to death if you let them," says Murphy. 

It should be noted, however, that although normally laid-back and not one to seek out aggressive encounters with other dogs, the Glen defends itself to the end once provoked. Young, who has been involved with the breed for nearly 15 years, also describes it as intelligent, responsive, playful and mischievous. Interestingly, she adds that the Glen is very unterrierlike in many ways: "Although Glens will alert owners to the presence of strangers, they're not frivolous barkers. They don't have a penchant for digging unless kept in the solitary confinement of a back yard as outdoor dogs, which promotes boredom behaviors. And they aren't inclined to snap." 

When it comes to prey instinct, however, the Glen still is very much a terrier. According to Murphy, "If Glens are to be kept in multiple-pet homes_with cats, hamsters, gerbils, etc._care must be taken as to the circumstances. For example, it's best to introduce a Glen puppy [into a home] where there is an established adult cat. Introducing a kitten in a home where there is an established adult Glen is likely to result in tragedy for the feline." The Glen is an energetic breed as well, yet it is not hyperactive. While it loves outings, Young says a walk around the block once a day is sufficient exercise for the average adult dog. A fenced yard also provides a good opportunity for self-exercise. Owners should never let their dogs off-lead outside of a fenced-in area, however. Glens have absolutely no road sense. Upon sighting a squirrel or rabbit, the breed gives chase and becomes oblivious to everything else_including traffic. 

Training Should Be Fun 

Young believes all Glens should be obedience trained because "they're easier to handle when they're under control. They have so much energy and enthusiasm, they're otherwise all over the place when walked on a leash and likely to trip someone." 

(Note: Children under 9 years of age shouldn't be allowed to walk a Glen on-lead unless the dog has been obedience trained. The Glen's low center of gravity and tremendous strength make it easy to pull youngsters off their feet.) 

The Glen enjoys obedience training_as long as owners keep it fun. Like most intelligent breeds, it quickly tires of the process when it becomes repetitive and boring. Happily, this is unlikely to happen as long as sessions are liberally sprinkled with verbal praise, food rewards and games with toys. 

Young, Murphy and Rankin agree that punitive training methods are ineffective with the breed and do not recommend their use. "This is a sensitive breed that's easily intimidated by harsh corrections," Rankin explains.

Young and Murphy advocate crate training. Although the mature Glen is not destructive, they crate puppies to prevent damage from chewing when they're teething. Housetraining also is accomplished more quickly and easily when a crate is used. 

A Genetically Sound Breed

The Glen is a healthy breed with a long life span. On the average, dogs live about 14 years. The breed suffers from relatively few inherited health problems, and those present have a very low incidence. Genetically based conditions documented in the breed in this country include progressive retinal atrophy, skin allergies and gastritis. GITCA's health committee currently is researching PRA and skin allergies. 

The following is a brief description of the inherited health problems listed above as well as their treatment: 

PRA, which only recently emerged in the breed, is an eye disorder in which the light cells in the retina wither and die due to insufficient blood supply. The disease progresses gradually, results in blindness and has no known cure. Its presence can be detected by ophthalmoscopic examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Breeding stock should be screened for the condition and listed with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach, is characterized by vomiting, loss of appetite and depression. Treatment may involve the administration of drugs to stop vomiting, antibiotics, gastric acid secretion inhibitors and antacids.

Skin allergies in the breed are thought to be of two types: one related to food intolerance and the other a reaction to flea saliva known as flea-bite dermatitis. Dogs with allergies based on the former respond well to commercially prepared hypoallergenic diets formulated with fish and potato. In the case of flea-bite dermatitis, the itchy rash that develops after being bitten is treated with cortisone. 

Grooming Can Be Hairy 

Good grooming supports good health. This especially is true where proper ear care is concerned. The Glen is prone to infections due to hair growth in the ear canal. Dogs should be checked for hair growth inside the ear every two weeks. Any hair present should be removed. 

Pet-quality dogs need bathing only when necessary_when they get into mud or something nasty. Too-frequent bathing dries the skin. 

In terms of other grooming, Murphy recommends pet-quality dogs be stripped twice a year. Stripping is a process by which the undercoat is removed by hand-plucking with a tool called a stripping knife. "If pet-quality dogs aren't stripped at regular intervals, their coat texture softens and they have an extremely shaggy appearance," Young adds. 

Because the process requires some skill, pet owners may wish to have their dogs stripped by a professional groomer. Between strippings, dogs should be brushed and combed weekly with a pin brush and a Greyhound comb. Regular combing and brushing is essential. Without it, the undercoat mats as it grows back in. 

To encourage the wiry coat texture necessary for ring competition, show dogs should be stripped three times a year and be brushed every other day. Young trims around the edges of their paws and ears with scissors to create a nice outline. She also trims the goatee and mane if they have become a bit overgrown and personally prefers to thin the fall over the eyes. The skirt and genital area also should be tidied. The show dog never should be clipped with a clipper because it causes the coat to curl. 

One week before showing them, Young bathes her dogs with a texturizing shampoo, which makes the coat harsher still. Because conditioners soften the coat, she says they should never be applied to the Glen. 

Other grooming for both pet-quality and show dogs includes regular nail trims and dental care. Dogs that don't wear their nails down by walking on concrete surfaces should have them trimmed weekly. Young, who brushes her canines' teeth daily, advises owners to brush their dogs' teeth at least weekly. Yearly professional teeth cleaning by a veterinarian also is recommended. 

Finding The Right Home

The Glen adapts well to most physical environments, be it an apartment, house in the suburbs or farm in the country. However, "It is too people-oriented to thrive as an outdoor or kennel dog. Glens want to be near their owners at all times," Murphy emphasizes. "They don't just lie down next to you on the sofa or floor_they want to rest their heads on your lap or feet." 

Generally, the Glen is good with people of all ages. The breed is sturdy enough to withstand_and temperamentally tolerant of_toddlers climbing on it. However, because it's an enthusiastic dog that thrives near its owner, the Glen often is underfoot. Thus, it inadvertently may trip toddlers (or unsteady senior citizens). 

As already described, care also must be taken when keeping the Glen with other pets such as cats, hamsters, etc. In terms of multiple-dog homes, Murphy says, "The Glen gets along well with other dogs unless it's in a breeding situation." 

Young, Rankin and Murphy advise those interested in purchasing a Glen to deal with a reputable breeder. Each of their respective clubs can provide buyers with a breeder directory. 

Young further advises buyers to ask breeders the following questions:

  1. Why is he or she breeding dogs? All breeding should be undertaken to improve the breed_not to make money. 
  2. Where were the puppies raised (i.e., in the basement, in a kennel, in the house with the family, etc.)? For proper socialization to occur, puppies should be raised with plenty of human contact rather than in isolated situations. 
  3. Has the breeding stock been screened for genetic disorders? Breeders should have it checked and listed with CERF so it does not pass on genetically based eye disease. 
  4. How many litters does the breeder produce annually? Mass-produced dogs are unlikely to be genetically sound physically and temperamentally. 
  5. Does he or she belong to any of the breed clubs? If so, the breeder should keep informed of health issues, new bloodlines, etc. 
  6. Have the puppies had their first set of inoculations? Good breeders have puppies vaccinated with their first series of shots before placing them. 
  7. Were the puppies line- or in-bred? If either is the case, is the breeder sufficiently knowledgeable of genetics and the pedigrees involved to be sure the breeding will improve the breed? The breeding of closely related dogs can have fantastic results or it can produce four-legged tragedies in terms of health and temperament. 
Young also recommends prospective buyers see both parents if possible and evaluate their temperament. The sire and dam, as well as their offspring, should be friendly and confident. Shy or aggressive dogs should be avoided. Buyers should expect a pet-quality Glen puppy to cost between $500 and $800. Show-quality dogs are more expensive, with an average price tag of $800. 

At the time of purchase, buyers should receive registration applications, a signed pedigree, copies of the contract of sale and health guarantee, a complete health record that includes the dates of worming and other medical care and a veterinarian's certificate proving inoculation. The breeder also should provide written proof he or she will take the puppy back within a limited period of time if it is found to be ill or suffering from some defect. Dogs should be examined by a veterinarian within 48 hours of the sale. Pet-quality canines should be sold with a spay/neuter contract. 

* * * * * 

All things considered, the Glen is a bit of a canine paradox. It is a relatively small dog yet has a big dog's personality. It is a gutsy, fearless hunter yet has a highly sensitive, loving nature. While the breed retains many terrier characteristics, it also acts very unterrierlike, without the desire to dig excessively or bark frivolously. Although Glens have many divergent traits, one thing is certain: It is an ideal family dog that fits well into almost every home. 

About The Author

Sharon Pflaumer

A Dog Writers Association of America annual writing competition finalist, Sharon Pflaumer holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Northern Illinois University and has been writing on the subject of dogs for more than 13 years. She resides in DeKalb, Ill., with her beloved 16-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix, Dude, whom she adopted 14 years ago when he was abandoned. 



Eithne Cleary, Ireland's Native Terrier, The Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Reference Book, self-published, 1995, copyright worldwide. To obtain copies, send the equivalent of $15 to Cleary, 21 Johnstown Rd., Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland. Cleary also can be reached by e-mail:

Stanley Dangerfield and Elsworth Howell (eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Dog, Rainbird Reference Books, Ltd., London, 1971. 

Ronald Delaney, Hounds and Terriers, Blanford Press, Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom, 1984. 

Cathy J. Flamholtz, A Celebration of Rare Breeds, OTR Publications, Centreville, Ala., 1986, p. 104. 

John F. Gordon, An Illustrated Guide to Some Rare and Unusual Dog Breeds, John Bartholomew and Sons, Ltd., Edinburgh, Scotland, 1974.

Tom Horner, Terriers of the World: Their History and Characteristics, Faber and Faber, Ltd., London, 1984. 

Clifford L.B. Hubbard, Dogs in Britain: A List of All Native and Most Foreign Breeds in Britain, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London, 1948. 

Richard Marples (ed.), Encyclopedia of Dogs, Octopus Books Ltd., London, 1981. 

Catherine Osborn (ed.), The Native Dogs of Ireland, The Irish Kennel Club, Dublin, Ireland, 1984. 

D. Brian Plummer, The Working Terrier, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, United Kingdom, 1978. 

Gino Pugnetti, Simon and Schuster's Guide to Dogs, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1980. 

Michael Shaw, The Modern Working Terrier, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, United Kingdom, 1985. 

Vera Shaw, The Classic Encyclopedia of the Dog, Bonanza Books, New York, 1984. 

Catherine G. Sutton, The New Observers Book of Dogs, Frederick Warne, London, 1983. 

Breed Information

Breed Information

Glen of Imaal Terrier Club, Patricia Young, N91 W20695 Hillview Drive, Menomonee Falls, Wis. 53501. 

Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America, Peg Carty, Route 1, Box 120P, Staunton, Va. 24401. 

Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America, Julia Rankin, 22474 Walser Road, Caliente, Calif. 93518. 

Rescue Information

Rescue Information

Glen of Imaal Terrier Club, Phillip Pearl, 1903 E. Kenwood, Milwaukee, Wis. 53211. 

Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America, Gary Duffy, 900 Hays County Acres Road, No. 29, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620. 

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Photo © Close Encounters of the Furry Kind
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