Breed Type: Sight Hound
Country of Origin: Ireland
Size:  Large
Also known as: Wolfhounds
Males: Height: 79cm Weight: 54kg
Females: Height: 71cm, Weight: 48kg
Exercise Requirements: High
Care Requirements: Medium
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Best Suited as:Pet of Experienced Dog Owner

If you are searching for the tallest dog breed and one of the oldest, you have found it. The Irish Wolfhound is a fun loving pet that requires room to romp and a large dog food allowance.

The Irish Wolfhound is a strong, lively breed with easy, agile movements and a rough coat. Used as hunting and war dogs, they have excellent sight and are fast runners. Their coat colors vary and may come in red, white, gray, brindle, black, wheaten or fawn. The Irish Wolfhound has a fairly narrow frame, much like a Greyhound, and has long legs.

Irish Wolfhounds are an extremely old breed and have been traced back over 2,000 years to their country of origin, Ireland. They were revered for their hunting prowess and many English and Irish royalty owned them as pets. As the popularity of the wolfhound grew, large numbers of them were exported to other countries for hunting purposes. In fact, Ireland lost so many of these powerful dogs that that by the 17th century almost none could be found there. To keep them from becoming extinct in Ireland, the country imposed an exportation ban in 1652. The Irish Wolfhound breed was also dwindling in other parts of the world because they were such successful hunters that their prey was also becoming extinct and were no longer needed for hunting them.

Luckily for the Irish Wolfhound, a man named Captain George Augustus Graham (1833-1909), came along in the 1860’s and reestablished a breeding program over a period of 23 years. To bolster the breed, it is believed that the Great Dane, Deerhound and Mastiff dogs all were used to cross breed with the existing Irish Wolfhounds to create the modern day Irish Wolfhound. In 19th century Australia, the Irish Wolfhound was used in crosses for kangaroo-hunting dogs.

Despite their intimidating size, if bred and trained well, the Irish Wolfhound is a gentle soul and is well behaved around people and other animals. They should be socialized early and taught to be calm around children. Some are particularly sensitive to anger and must be reprimanded in a firm but gentle manner. Besides their long twitching tail which can be a household hazard if unchecked, the Irish Wolfhound is generally calm indoors and enjoys long naps.

When well rested, Irish Wolfhounds love to show their owners their playful side and are eager to take long walks. Irish Wolfhounds are fiercely loyal and love extra attention and care from all of their family members. When neglected, they can become agitated and destructive.

They are relatively easy to train because of their patience and their obedient nature. They react well to praise and love food rewards during training sessions. Despite the need for love from their owners, Wolfhounds can be shy around strangers.

Care and Grooming
To get your Irish Wolfhound accustomed to the weekly grooming regiment it will need for the rest of its life, start brushing your dog as early as possible when it is a puppy. Some owners find that brushing is needed only once a week while others like to spend several shorter periods throughout the week so it is more tolerable for their pet. A stiff brush usually works best for their course fur. Luckily, there is no need to buy a large bathtub for regular baths. Irish Wolfhounds need to be bathed rarely – probably no more than three or four times a year.

Their ears should also be checked often for dirt and wax. Ear infections are difficult to clear up and are easy to avoid with the proper care. If your dog is often shaking or scratching his ears, take her to the vet.

Irish Wolfhounds love to eat and often will often nudge you towards their food dish until they have been fed. Two or three meals a day of a high quality, low protein food generally works best for this breed. Irish Wolfhounds should not receive additional supplements. Because of their size and their proclivity towards joint problems, proper bedding in their own space such as a large hammock style bed is best for this breed.

Irish Wolfhounds in their young adult years must be walked daily. A 30 to 60 minute walk should suffice and they should always be kept on leash. Even the best trained Irish Wolfhounds can intimidate other dogs and their owners due to their extreme size, so don’t set your pet up for failure.

Despite their agility and strength, Wolfhound owner should take care not to overexert their dogs at a young age. Outstretched limbs and irreparable joint damage can occur. As a rule of thumb, Wolfhounds should be at least 18 months before they are involved in running or other strenuous activities.

Bone cancer and heart disease are the biggest concerns for this breed and bloating can occur in older dogs. Owners can watch for the signs of a dog with gastric torsion (bloat) and will notice that their dog has difficulty lying down, will pace anxiously and may drool a lot. Joint degeneration and pain can also occur and it is advised that you see your vet regularly to check for such issues.

Suitability as a Pet
If properly trained, the Irish Wolfhound makes a wonderful pet for anyone who has the room for it and the dedication to longer walks. Those who are not accustomed to large dogs may find that they are not equipped for the training that this large animal needs as a puppy. If not properly trained, this gentle giant can create quite a mess in any family home, including knocking over smaller family members.

Irish Wolfhounds are known for their intelligence and obedience and are great around well behaved children and other pets. They do well in any urban, suburban or rural environment where they have a special place to sleep and room to exercise.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.