Irish Terriers are spirited, alert, and intelligent dogs; they are also said to be the daredevils of the dog world. As with other dogs in the Terrier group, they are known for their hunting ability, which means they can put their keen sense of smell at work in earthdog trials. They also enjoy dog sports such as agility, hunting, retrieving, Frisbee, tracking, flyball, and even water sports, all of which can provide physical and mental activity while promoting family bonding. Irish Terriers seem to be good with children; however, as with all dogs, extremely close supervision is needed to prevent accidental injury to the dog and its subsequently developing fear-based defensive aggression. While Irish Terriers have been described as stubborn, they respond to motivational tools such as treats and favorite toys in reward-based obedience training.
Irish Terriers were developed in Cork, Ireland during the 1870's when the first breed club was formed. Though their exact origin is unknown, they are believed to be descended from the Black-and-Tan Irish Terriers, as were the Kerry Blue Terriers and the Soft-Haired Wheaten Terriers. The founding pair of Irish Terriers were named "Erin" and "Killney Boy", and the breed was the first to be recognized by the English Kennel Club as one native to Ireland. During World War I they were used as couriers to carry messages to the front and they also received commendations during the war for locating wounded soldiers. F. M. Jowett, an English writer, described them as "the poor man's sentinel, the farmer's friend and the gentleman's favorite." By the 1880's the Irish Terrier was the fourth most popular breed in England, and that popularity quickly spread to America. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885, and the Irish Terrier Club of America was founded in 1896.