Pete the Vet on Ireland AM – Irish Native Dog Breeds

Pete the vet on Ireland am this week

The focus of this week’s chat was to discuss Irish Native Breeds of dog: you can watch the video by clicking on the link at the foot of this page.


Choosing a puppy is a big decision

I’ve written a blog post over at the Telegraph recently about the broad topic of choosing a puppy: it’s a big decision.

My first advice is to choose a rescue dog: there are so many needing homes that there is really no need to go out to buy a pedigree or “designer” type animal. You will be able to find your ideal pet from the many animals who really do need homes: it will cost you less and you will be doing the world a favour.

There is no doubt, however, that some people are determined to have a pedigree pup, and if you are going to do that, you need to do it as well as possible.

Simple steps to take when choosing a new dog

  • The advantage of any pedigree dog is that the final adult version is predictable when you get a puppy: you know what the cute little bundle is going to grow into.
  • The disadvantage is first, the cost (anything from €400 up to over €1000), and second, the potential for increased health problems.

To minimise such issues, take the following steps:

  1. Do your research first by googling the breed name and “health issues”
  2. Ask the breeder what steps they have taken to minimise the risk of health problems
  3. Check the pedigree to make sure that there are no grandparents or great grandparents that are the same for the pup’s mother and father
  4. If in doubt, call the Irish Kennel Club for further advice
  5. Consider the Irish Native Breeds, which on average, are amongst the healthiest pedigree dogs

What are the Irish Native Breeds?

The nine Irish Breeds are..

  1. The Irish Wolfhound
  2. The Kerry Beagle
  3. The Irish Red Setter
  4. The Irish Red & White Setter
  5. The Irish Water Spaniel
  6. The Irish Terrier
  7. The Kerry Blue Terrier
  8. The Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  9. The Glen of Imaal Terrier

In this video clip from TV3, I have an example of three of the breeds highlighted in bold,

Irish Wolfhound

One of the ancient symbols of Ireland, in the past given as gifts to kings and chieftains, and in the past was used as a military mascot and a fighting dog, as well as being used to hunt wolves and deer
Health issues include osteosarcoma (bone cancer), dilated cardiomyopathy and a shortened life span

Irish Water Spaniel

These dogs have a distinct hairless “rat tail”, and a curled waterproof coat
Health issues include hip dysplasia and a few other conditions

Glen of Imaal Terrier

This breed has a distinctive ‘sitting up’ position because of their anatomy – if you watch the video you will see this in action
An ancient breed, they were first produced by Queen Elizabeth the First, alond with  Hession Mercenaries, who used low slung hounds  to produce this short-legged, sold shape which has remained unchanged for centuries.
Health issues include hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) – schemes are in place to try to control these issues

The “endangered status” of Irish Native Breeds

The Irish Kennel Club are applying for Heritage Status for the 9 native breeds to help secure their existence for future generations. This is supported by the government.

The problem for all pedigree dogs is that by definition, they are in-bred. A pedigree dog must have a pedigree, which is a family tree extending back at least 3 generations, and all of the dog’s forebears must be of the same breed. Given that there are only small numbers of some of the rare breeds, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop dogs from breeding with dogs that they are related to, and this then means that there is the risk of the concentration of harmful genes. In-breeding can lead to a higher incidence of inherited problems, and many pedigree dogs suffer from these. Despite these issues, there is value in a healthy breeding group of dogs with distinct characteristics, and this has to be the aim of supporters of these rare breeds.

Watch the video clip below to learn more and to see the three dogs on Ireland AM.


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