About Glens

                                                          GLEN OF IMAAL TERRIERS

                                                             by Holly Best

                                                              (207) 452 8034

                                                     Email:  best1@erols.com



We offer here some general statements that we have found apply to Glen of Imaal Terriers. While these are generalities, any particular dog of course can have its own style.  No two dogs of any breed are exactly alike...but breeds do have threads which seem to run throughout the breed.  This summary is not meant to be all-inclusive. It offers some points of interest about Glens.

Glens are large dogs on short legs.  They have a big dog attitude and idea of themselves and are very substantial dogs.  Although they look cute (and they are!), they are also formidable hunting dogs who were bred to rid farms of all manner of vermin.  They are strong - pound for pound - one of the strongest  breed of dog we have ever met.  They are also strong-willed and require a firm, yet gentle hand.  They will run the household in no time if permitted.

The standard for the breed calls for Glens to be no more than 14 inches tall at the shoulders and no more than 35 pounds.  (See “Standards” on Links page)


Some Glens can be dog aggressive.  Some Glens are not able to live with other dogs. Most do well as long as they are socialized as a puppy and also have a firm guiding hand from the humans who live with them.  Some folks have any number of Glens living together and doing well, and some have found that this was not possible due to hierarchy struggles.  Glens can be very territorial with other animals.

In this breed, often the females are more assertive than the males in many ways. We caution about having two females living together as they sometimes will vie for the top-dog spot. It is usually the female in any Glen household that is the dominant canine-in-residence.

It is important to note that whether or not a Glen will become dog aggressive has something - but not everything - to do with early socialization and training.  This trait can appear usually between ages 2 – 4 and generally is not amenable to change.  It is either there…lurking in the genes - or not.  Two Glens can be reared and trained similarly, and only one may develop this aggressive trait.  It is a toss of the genetic dice.

It is also important to note that Glens do little posturing regarding their aggression.  They can be deadly and act without warning.  They are very strong dogs as well, and many owners have been pulled off their feet by their Glens.

Hierarchy is important to dogs but to Glens this seems paramount.  They are exquisitely sensitive dogs in terms of hierarchy. It is helpful to become familiar with canine hierarchy and language when living with a Glen. 

These are some realities about the breed best understood BEFORE you get a Glen.


Glens have a very strong prey drive.  This means that they will chase (and can kill) many things that move into their line of vision or scent area.  This chase can sometimes include your neighbor's cat (or your own cat), other dogs, and other animals.  Some Glens, unless socialized can mistake a small child as a chase object as well.  We do not mean this to be alarming - but we feel it is important to be brutally honest about prey drive.  Most Glens are totally enamored of people and we have heard of very few problems regarding dog-human aggression.  But, if a Glen mis-perceives that a small child is somehow "prey" or a threat, we have  seen Glens act on this from an instinctual level.  Again, Glens as a breed, are usually naturally wonderful with children.

We feel that Glens need to reside in a secure fenced in area and should not be trusted off-lead while outside a fenced area.  Even with obedience training (which we strongly encourage for ALL Glens and humans), prey drive can win out and they are apt to give chase and be gone.


The strength of Glens is always something  of which we remain in awe.  Glens should not be left alone with small children or put in the hands of small children with which they are unfamiliar. They can knock down a child from joyful exuberance and can drag a child along with them if they see something they want to chase or kill. Glens and kids need good supervision together until the child is old enough and strong enough to handle the strength of this breed.   This is, of course, a good policy for all dogs and small children - Glens are no exception in this regard.

The heritage of this breed - as working dogs, is an important one.  We want to see their heritage preserved.  In their native land, they are still mainly working dogs after all.  When any breed becomes more popular, with larger numbers being bred, there is the danger of diminishing or even losing those natural drives for which they were bred in the first place.  That is why we always caution prospective Glen owners about the toughness of this breed.  We want them to stay tough and not become merely "cute" fluffy lap dogs in generations to come.  We want Glens to remain relatively rare and to be preserved carefully.

Glens like to be around their human companions.  They seem the most comfortable when touching some part of you.  It is the norm to have a Glen lying on a foot while sitting at a desk, or otherwise in some close physical contact with you.  They are very sensitive dogs and are in tune with mood and emotion in any household.  They can be kenneled or crated for some amount of any day, but do need to feel a part of the household and need human contact for them to thrive.


Glens are a very healthy breed.  While there are always individual cases that are out of the norm, generally, they have few health problems.  There are some Glens with skin problems, but this does not seem to be necessarily part of being a Glen, as skin problems seem epidemic to dogs in general.  We happen to think much of this has to do with the modern day canine diet.

The only serious genetic problem at present seems to be Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This is a disorder of the eye that eventually, generally causes total blindness.  PRA was discovered in a line of Glens (foundation stock in USA) and the progeny from those dogs and others, have produced affected Glens.  Presently there is very little concrete information about how many dogs are or have been affected with PRA.  Since testing is relatively new, we are uncertain of the history of this genetic problem in Glens.

Recently a marker test has been developed that can determine PRA status. This genetic test is available through Optigen in the U.S. This development means that breeders can be sure not to produce dogs with PRA. It has been a test long in the making and welcomed by all in the Glen community. This will help us in terms of sound breeding practice. With the advent of this test's capabilitywe are able to safely breed a known carrier to a dog that is clearly not a carrier and be assured that the progeny will not be affected.

There is some controversy presently among Glen folks about breeding practices. There is disagreement over how to safely breed "known carriers". Because of a relatively small gene pool in the U.S. many breeders opt to continue to breed known carriers with dogs who test clear. Some are also interested in waiting for testing results on parents and grandparents of breeding stock before breeding thier progeny.

This can be a heated topic among Glen breeders and many become very emotional when quoting the "experts", etc. when sharing their philosophy about breeding. We suggest that you do your own homework and talk to lots of different folks and come to your own conclusions. There are many people, all of whom love Glens with a very different slant of this topic.

The following is a statistical table that will help with basic information about how an autosomal recessive gene manifests itself in breeding.  ( PRA in Glens is autosomal recessive)

PRA Breedings  Outcome Table  (by Janet Wilson)

This represents statistical likelihood only - As is the case for sex determination, every conception of every puppy is a genetic toss of the dice.  If Mother Nature is kind, she could send a much higher proportion of clear puppies than you would expect.  She could also send you an unpredictably high proportion of carrier puppies.  In the absence of a genetic marker test for PRA, all you can do is make an educated guess as to the PRA status of your puppies.

n= PRA gene,  N = Normal gene,  nn= two copies of PRA gene (will get PRA),

NN= carries no gene for PRA (will never get PRA),  Nn= carries only one gene for PRA

       (will never get PRA, but can pass the PRA gene to offspring)

Clear to Clear (NN x NN)      =    all pups will be clear (NN)

Clear to Carrier (NN x Nn)    =    50% of pups clear (NN), 50% of pups carrier (Nn)

Clear to Affected (NN x nn)  =    all pups will be carrier (Nn)

Carrier to Carrier (Nn x Nn)   =    25% of pups clear (NN), 50% of pups carrier (Nn),

                                                        25% of pups affected (nn)

Carrier to Affected (Nn x nn) =    50% of pups carrier (Nn), 50% of pups affected(nn)

                                                       (all pups are at least carriers)

Affected to affected (nn x nn) =   All pups will be affected (nn)


We (Powheiri Kennel) feed a totally raw diet, devoid of any commercial foods. We think that canines in general, and Glens in particular, do very well on this type of diet.  It consists of a more natural omnivore diet that attempts to mimic what a wolf eats in the wild. We feed raw meat & raw bones (ONLY raw - cooked bones will splinter), raw pulped vegetables, and a few supplements.  We do not feed any grains. We have almost no vet bills.  We also try our best to follow holistic and natural healing guidelines and use homeopathy as a mainstay of health care for our animals. We have been very pleased  with the results this has afforded thus far.   We are always happy to talk more about diet and holistic care for dogs with anyone who is interested!

We are aiming for healthy natural immunity that wards off dis-ease, and other health problems such as skeletal problems. We feel that over generations, as immunity gets more and more  robust, our Glens will be able to handle almost anything that comes their way.  With this diet, for one example, we have never had any problems with internal parasites. Nor have any of our dogs ever been on antibiotics thus far in their lives. We are committed to this way of rearing and plan to place pups only in homes that agree to be similarly committed.  We are also committed to maintaining contact with all pups that leave us and to offer as much support and help with diet and health as is possible.

Glens have a harsh coat overlying a soft undercoat.  They do not have fur - they have hair and it does not shed.  Dead hair will fall out if they are not brushed to remove the dead hairs.  Brushing once a week usually is enough to accomplish this.  To have a coat that is easy to care for, a Glen should be stripped several times per year.  This keeps the outer coat harsh and "Glen-like" and is what the standard calls for.  A stripped coat does not gather dirt and debris, is easy to brush, does not tangle nor mat, and handles all elements of weather easily.  It is the desired way to have an easy time with coat care.  Glens are not high maintenance coat care dogs if they are stripped several times a year and brushed weekly.  Most Glen owners learn how to strip the coat - it is very easy to learn and pays off in easier care.  Glens should appear natural and NOT overgroomed. They do not require the grooming expertise of many other terrier breeds.


There are many reasons to have a Glen as part of your household.  We think that the comedic value alone is sometimes reason enough!  They are very funny dogs and have great senses of humor. They are a dichotomy in many ways, but once you have become connected to a Glen, nothing else will suffice.  They are endearing, exasperating, funny, bossy, robust and very enchanting.

They are typically not yappy dogs, although we have seen individual differences abound in this regard.  They have a very large bark - sounding more like a giant breed than a 14-inch dog! Sometimes the degree of barking has to do with what you want from a dog.  If you discourage barking, they generally will only bark  "when needed."  They are often called the "un-terrier" as they are not as hyper as many other terrier breeds.

They are smart - very smart.  Yet, they can get bored with obedience training.  Although they can catch onto tasks quickly, they still have enough stubbornness to try to do whatever they feel like doing at times.  They are not as tractable as many other breeds.

They will run the household and can be in charge very quickly unless they understand that a human is the head of the pack.  While they are in need of clear guidelines, they are also very sensitive, so how this hierarchy is accomplished becomes important.  Physical discipline does not work well with Glens.  One needs to be clear, patient and gentle in forming your agreement with a Glen.  They do not forget anything - yet seem to choose when to let you know they remember!

Their tendency toward dog aggression can create a frank liability for a Glen owner.  This harder part to the breed is one that we mention to anyone thinking of getting a Glen.  It can be very difficult and may mean constant vigilance and extra caution with your Glen. From what we have seen, this trait can not be “trained out” of a Glen. It is not easy to own a dog aggressive dog, especially one that is fully capable of killing its prey. Glens work silently and often give no warning about their plan to attack.  This makes it doubly hard for handling a dog-aggressive Glen.

A Glen may NOT be for you :

~ If you are not sure of yourself and the position you will need to gently yet firmly take in the household with your dog.

~ If you are not patient.

~ If you think that prey drive can be controlled or eliminated.

~ If you are frail or easily knocked off your feet for any reason.

~ If you think that Glens are only cute, fluffy lap dogs.

~ If you are have other dogs in your household that are dominant dogs.

~ If you have cats, gerbils, rabbits or other small creatures as part of your household.

~ If you have never owned a dog before. A Glen may not be a good choice for your first dog.

~ If you are looking for a watchdog. 

~ If you expect to let your dog roam loose in your yard or neighborhood.

~ If you do not have a secure, fenced in area.

~ If you expect to use Invisible fencing. 

~ If you expect to have your dog walk off lead.

~ If you are not willing to spend the time to do positively reinforced obedience training.


Here in the USA, the two main divisions in the breed have centered over the question of AKC recognition for Glens as well as breeding practices including whether we should be breeding from known carriers of PRA at this time. The latter has already been discussed.

The question of AKC recognition has been an important one for Glens.  Some felt strongly that this breed would be better off without the AKC.  This stance seems to revolve around health issues being seen as correlated to greater popularity. With greater popularity comes a more ready market for pups hence more breeders and thus less diligent breeding practice and the increased danger of exploitation. Many came to Glens precisely because they were a rare and unspoiled breed unlike so many other breeds today. The push from this group has been for Glens to remain relatively rare, not too popular so as to protect it and its strong heritage of health.  This view also does not relish seeing Glens in the AKC limelight and feels  many other breeds have become ruined by over grooming, over handling and the emphasis on winning in the showring rather than on the more natural setting and working qualities from whence they evolved. In short, they view more popularity via the AKC as a negative.

Others feel strongly that the only way forward for Glens was to become an AKC recognized breed.  The main thrust here seems to be increasing the numbers of Glens in the US and  the potential for cross-fertilization with Glens in other countries.  Since the AKC is the only kennel club recognized by other world kennel clubs,  the point has been made that it will be easier to send breeding stock back and forth if one KC is recognized by all. This group looks forward to the AKC showring and limelight that the breed has been getting and tends to see the AKC as a benevolent corporation rather than an uncaring and somewhat negligent conglomerate as is felt by the anti- AKC folks.

There are two Breed clubs in the US.  The Glen of Imaal Terrier Club (GITC) is recognized by the United Kennel Club and elected not to pursue AKC recognition.  They are adamantly opposed to the AKC. The Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America (GITCA) had it's leadership focused on taking the steps toward AKC recognition in the past few years by having turned its registrations over to the FSS (Foundation Stock Service) of the AKC which was a precursor to recognition. GITCA is the National Breed Parent Club for AKC.

Glens are currently recognized as an AKC breed and 2004 found them in the AKC show ring for the first time. It is yet to be seen what impact this will have on the breed.


We got our first Glen in 1996 and we have been smitten ever since!  Although we have had other dogs and other breeds, we have never found a breed that has totally touched our hearts like Glens. We love them and cherish their working background.  We also love their toughness and strength. We both love and respect that strength and their natural drives.  We do not want to alter their instincts in any way that will harm them.  We plan to breed them very cautiously, very seldom, and very carefully.  We do not think they should become a popular breed. We don't like what popularity does to most breeds.  We think they should be carefully chosen by the humans with whom they live.  We want to share  what we have come to  learn about them generously, carefully and with candor. We want prospective owners to have the full story about them, including the more difficult parts.

Any breeder who offers only the positive parts to their breed is not giving the full story. There are always positives and negatives to any breed.

We hope this has been helpful in your search for information about Glens.  Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

                                         Holly Best

                              (reprint only with permission)



Perhaps this Editorial taken from GlenViews, (an independent bi-monthly publication devoted to Glens) offers a good summary.

                          A Contradiction in Terms 

What is a Glen anyway?  We hear them described in many ways.  Some words are revealing.

Words such as stubborn, feisty, and the old stand-by, holy terrier are used over and over.

There are others too: sweet, gentle, loving, great-with -kids,  funny, cute, smart, sensitive, laid back,(couch potato), lazy, cuddly and one heard so oft - loveable.

These are all true.

And there are some other adjectives.  Dominant, aggressive, strong, focused, willful, controlling, hard-to-control and at certain junctures - downright dangerous. These are the harder descriptions to accept about Glens.  Perhaps these descriptions are more closely aligned with their jobs as working dogs, bred to go after and to kill prey.  Glens are genetically closer to their roots than many breeds and it serves them well in many respects. They are tough, hardy, physically strong and able to survive many environments.

We also know that there are some things about the breed that we should not forget.  They are not like other breeds that can be left outside to loll about until the owner comes home. They cannot be trusted to remain in one place if they see what they perceive as prey strolling by. This could be the neighbor's cat or dog, a squirrel, or in the worst case scenario - a small child. They have an instinct called prey drive. They need to be supervised.

People ask us, "are they good with children?"  And, the answer is yes - with a caveat.  Always supervise and ALWAYS  socialize first.  We have seen Glens who misperceived a small child as a moving object - prey. That can be terrifying.

We have also heard from people about problems with Glens being dog aggressive. We have witnessed the experience first hand. Until you have seen a Glen fighting, you will not know how frightening it can be.

What do we do with this knowledge? We pay attention. And we make sure that we are as much in control as we can human-to-dog make it. We do obedience training with positive reinforcement, and use it often.  It provides security for dogs - they feel safer and clearer when they know what the rules are.  We do not ever foster behavior that is aggressive in any way. That can turn in a second into something quite out of control. And we pay attention to warning signs whenever possible.

We have noticed some things about Glens. They often give little or NO warning about possible dominant /aggressive behavior. They get focused and work silently on their plan at times. This makes it difficult for us humans. They also can move, in a split second, from normal barking and playing - to aggression.  At times, we are not totally at ease as they run together.

We are sorry to disappoint some of you with these reminders. Perhaps you have only seen the soft fuzzy side of your Glen. We know that is a very real part to them also. That is why we fell in love with them.  We just encourage you to remember this other natural side. And to honor it enough to pay attention and avoid problems.

While we often portray the wonderful, fun, warm and comical side of Glens in GlenViews, which we will continue to do, we don't wish to dismiss this other part.  They may be the biggest dichotomy in dog-dom.  The two parts are both admirable -  their natural heritage, with which we never want them to lose touch, as so many other breeds have done -  and the other, enjoyed as we cuddle up with them on the sofa.

And, we would never want to live without them, for even a minute.

                                                The Editors

Reprinted from   GlenViews (Volume 2  No. 2, May, 1999 issue)

Reprint only with permission.

                                THE END
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