Longer than tall, the Glen’s short, bowed front legs, well-muscled loin, rising topline, and strong rear allow him to dig and then get adequate leverage to back out of a hole dragging a struggling badger that might weigh more than the Glen itself. The medium-length coat is harsh with a soft undercoat, and is less prone to mat or catch burrs than a longer, softer coat.
In this harsh land, a dog had to earn its keep. The plucky terriers did so by tackling rats, badgers, and foxes, entertaining the men by fighting in the pits by night, and working for the women as turnspit dogs by day. Here was a dog with courage to face off against a badger underground and the stamina to run for mile after mile in a turnspit of a hot kitchen. On top of that, the Glen of Imaal Terrier had a sparkling personality that made him part of the family. Some say only a leprechaun could emerge from such a past with such a rosy attitude.
Very few turnspit breeds survived into the twentieth century, partly because they weren’t deemed illustrious or intriguing enough to preserve or develop through dog shows. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was largely bypassed in the rush to promote new breeds, allowing it to retain his natural traits rather than evolve into a fashion plate. In 1934 they became one of the first terrier breeds recognized by the Irish Kennel Club. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a concerted effort was made to foster the breed in America. The Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America was formed in 1986, and the AKC admitted the breed to the Miscellaneous class in 2001. They became a full-fledged member of the Terrier Group in 2004.
A big dog on short legs, the Glen is a dog of big ideas that’s never short of ways to achieve them. This is a spirited, inquisitive, courageous breed, always ready for a game. Less excitable than most terriers, he is nonetheless an active dog. However, once given his daily dose of activity, he is content to snuggle by your side. At home the Glen is good-natured and gentle with family members; with his childlike exuberance, he especially enjoys the companionship of children. Some Glens can be dog aggressive. Glens learn quickly but may not always do what you ask. They are not inclined to bark much.
The Glen is large enough to take part in almost any family activity, and small enough to take almost anywhere. He deals well with inclement weather, but is not a fan of hot weather. The Glen tends to stay around on walks, but because he tends to be fearless in the face of oncoming automobiles or threatening dogs, and loves a good hunt on fresh scent or a good chase, he should not be allowed off lead unsupervised. Glens are not usually great swimmers, and shouldn’t be allowed near deep water until you know they can swim. The coat needs stripping a few times a year, but is otherwise easily maintained.