Irish Wolfhound: Dog Breed Info

Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a majestic breed known for its impressive size, which has made it a notable figure in literature, poetry, and mythology. Originally bred for battle, this breed was used to pull people off horses and chariots and to hunt large game. It has a strong connection to Gaelic Ireland and was valued as a protective dog and for its wolf-hunting abilities. Not only is it the tallest breed of dog, but it also possesses strength, agility, and the ability to chase and overpower big prey. Despite its impressive stature, this gentle giant is friendly and makes an excellent companion, especially for families with children. However, apartment living may not be suitable unless there is enough space for them to exercise and play. A tall fence is necessary to prevent them from chasing wildlife.

Irish Wolfhound Appearance 

The Irish Wolfhound is a massive dog, known for being one of the tallest breeds worldwide and resembling a small pony in size. Standing up to one meter tall and weighing around 54kg, this breed requires a significant amount of food to satisfy its substantial body mass. Despite their enormous size, Irish Wolfhounds maintain a fit and well-proportioned physique. They have an elongated head with a narrow skull, a long and somewhat pointed muzzle, and small ears that lie flat or partly upright, depending on their mood.

Furthermore, these dogs have a long, sturdy, and gracefully arched neck, a broad and deep chest, and a slightly curved tail that hangs down. Their legs are elongated and strong, with round feet and nicely arched toes. The Irish Wolfhound has a shaggy and wiry coat, with longer hair over the eyes and beneath the jaw. The coat feels rough when touched and can come in various colors, including gray (the most common), brindle, red, black, white, or fawn.

History of Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a majestic breed of dog with a significant history. Originally bred in Ireland, these dogs were specifically trained to hunt wolves. They held a prominent place in Irish folklore and were highly regarded by the Gaels, associated with warriors and kings. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the Irish Wolfhound as we know it today is a more recent development, contradicting the belief that they were enormous in ancient times.

The Irish Wolfhound was also popular outside of Ireland and was frequently given as a gift to important individuals. Their hunting abilities were valued, and they were used to control the wolf population.

By the 18th century, the Irish Wolfhound was known for its size, strength, and resemblance to a greyhound. It became a sought-after status symbol, as the last wolf in Ireland was killed in 1786. However, the breed almost disappeared in the 19th century. Captain George Augustus Graham played a vital role in reviving the Irish Wolfhound by selectively breeding Scottish Deerhounds, Great Danes, Borzois, and Tibetan Kyi Apsos. He founded the Irish Wolfhound Club and established standards for the breed.

Today, the Irish Wolfhound is considered a symbol of Ireland and is recognized by organizations such as the American Kennel Club. They are sought-after dogs, ranking 74 on the AKC’s list of popular breeds.

Irish Wolfhound Temperament

Irish Wolfhounds are beloved companions for kids due to their patient and sweet nature. They are devoted and intelligent, always aiming to please their owners. Although they may not excel as guard dogs, their large stature can be intimidating. Irish Wolfhounds are incredibly loyal and eager to please but tend to be clumsy and take longer to mature. It is vital to build their confidence during their early stages. Training these dogs is relatively easy as they respond well to consistent yet gentle leadership.

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They generally get along with other animals, but caution is advised with cats due to their hunting background. While they are compatible with children, their size suits households with older kids better. Irish Wolfhounds have a calm demeanor and enjoy physical activities but can become sedentary if not provided with sufficient exercise. Overall, they make friendly and compatible pets.

Irish Wolfhound Grooming

Grooming an Irish wolfhound requires a significant amount of time and effort due to their large size and thick coats. To properly groom your dog, it is recommended to comb and brush their coat once or twice a week. Start by having your wolfhound stand or sit in front of you. Begin at the nape of the neck and comb through their coat, carefully removing any tangles or debris. Use a slicker brush for particularly tangled areas and to remove dead hair during shedding.

Furthermore, trim the longer hairs on their face, tail, and legs as needed, using blunt-nosed scissors with sharp blades. Brush the rest of their coat with a bristle brush. Clean their ears with a moistened cotton ball, avoiding the ear canal. Brush their teeth regularly for good dental hygiene. Bathe them every 6 to 8 weeks, using lukewarm water and dog shampoo and conditioner. Lastly, check their feet for any injuries or swelling and trim their nails when necessary to prevent foot problems.

Irish Wolfhound Training

The Irish Wolfhound, a large and determined dog, requires basic training for both the owner’s and the dog’s benefit. It is crucial to establish a secure space for the puppy, like a crate or pen. Training is the owner’s responsibility, as the Wolfhound follows its instincts. Regardless of the method, persistence, patience, and practice are essential. Simple commands and signs should be used to avoid confusion. Setting boundaries and expectations is important. Training should begin immediately upon bringing the puppy home, focusing on bonding and basic commands like “come” and “sit.”

Toilet training should start right away, following a consistent schedule for eating, drinking, waking, and exercising. Providing suitable chew toys helps deter them from chewing on inappropriate items. Traffic and car training should be introduced gradually, using positive reinforcement and treats. Irish Wolfhounds respond well to love and kindness, making the training experience rewarding. Overall, training an Irish Wolfhound involves establishing security and consistency and using positive reinforcement techniques.

Irish Wolfhound Exercise

To keep Irish Wolfhounds healthy, they need one to two hours of exercise daily. They have a long stride and can reach up to 10 feet, so it’s crucial to provide them with opportunities to stretch their legs. They are excellent companions for jogging, running, long walks, and hikes, as they can hit speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. However, their bursts of energy, known as “zoomies,” are better suited for short outings. For puppies, focus on playtime and training during the first six months, avoiding excessive exercise to prevent skeletal issues. Irish Wolfhounds should have access to a fenced yard to move freely, and engaging in dog sports like tracking and agility can be stimulating. Due to their size, they are prone to joint problems, so striking a balance is crucial. With proper exercise, they tend to be calm indoors.

Irish Wolfhound Food & Nutrition

Ensuring proper nutrition for an Irish Wolfhound is vital to their overall health. Following AAFCO standards is crucial as these dogs need a steady growth rate to develop balanced muscles and bones. Rapid growth can lead to weakened bones, joint strain, and issues like hip and elbow dysplasia. It is important to provide the right amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, which can be achieved through AAFCO-compliant foods designed for large breeds. It is crucial to seek guidance from a veterinarian in order to establish the most suitable diet for your Irish Wolfhound. Feeding them every 12 hours and avoiding raised food and water bowls can help prevent bloat.

The amount of calories required for an individual depends on factors such as their size, metabolism, and level of physical activity. To determine the correct portion size, it is recommended to consult feeding guides and seek advice from your veterinarian. Keeping them at a lean body weight is crucial for joint health. Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for their skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart and can be obtained through supplements or specially formulated dog foods.

Common Health Issues of Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds have various health concerns, not limited to the ones briefly mentioned here. The breed’s health issues are not exclusive to them but common among purebred and mixed breed dogs, with some specific conditions found in giant and large dog breeds. While owning an Irish Wolfhound can be a memorable experience, it is not suitable for those who are easily discouraged, as they have earned the nickname “The Heartbreak Dog.”

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat

GDV, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, is a dangerous condition that affects large and giant breed dogs. It can be fatal if not caught early. Certain breeds, such as Irish Wolfhounds, are more prone to GDV. Factors such as nutrition, pH balance, stress, and exercise can contribute to the development of GDV. Preventative measures include feeding smaller meals multiple times a day, providing probiotics and digestive enzymes, and using elevated feeding stands. Stress should be minimized, and proper rest before and after meals is important. Travel can also increase the risk of GDV.


Osteosarcoma and Lymphosarcoma are common cancers that affect Irish Wolfhounds. Henosarcoma and thyroid cancer are also observed in this breed, although they are less common. The Irish Wolfhound is not an ideal candidate for standard treatments such as amputation due to their large size, and chemotherapy is often financially unfeasible.

Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease

The Irish Wolfhound breed is prone to several life-threatening health issues, including heart disease. Most heart diseases in these dogs are treatable if detected early. However, diagnosing cardiac disease in Irish Wolfhounds requires advanced training and specialized equipment. It cannot be done by a general veterinarian practitioner unless they have specific expertise in congenital heart disease.

Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) or Liver Shunt

A liver shunt’s purpose is to divert blood circulation away from the liver instead of going through it. The condition can either be congenital or develop due to severe liver disease. It is crucial to perform liver bile acid testing on young dogs, particularly around 10 weeks old before they are placed into new homes.

Hip Dysplasia

A loose joint is the result of improper development of the hip joint, which is known as hip dysplasia. It can be caused by factors such as growth rate, hormones, diet, and exercise. This condition can result in degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis, causing pain, difficulty standing, and limping. To prevent arthritis, maintaining a lean body condition is crucial. Treatment options include low-intensity exercise, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin supplementation, and, in severe cases, surgery.

Final Thoughts

The Irish Wolfhound is a majestic breed known for its size and historical significance. Originally bred for battle and hunting, it has a strong connection to Gaelic Ireland. Despite its impressive stature, this gentle giant is friendly and makes an excellent companion. Known for its towering height, the Irish Wolfhound possesses a unique appearance accentuated by its shaggy coat, which can boast an array of colors. The breed almost disappeared in the 19th century but was revived by selective breeding. Irish Wolfhounds are beloved companions, especially for families with older children. They are loyal, intelligent, and respond well to training. Grooming and exercise are important for their health and well-being, and they have a few common health issues to be aware of, such as bloat and cancer. Overall, the Irish Wolfhound is a remarkable and cherished breed.

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