The Irish Wolfhound is largely known for their striking appearance and dignified demeanor. While this breed can seem a bit daunting at first due to their large size, they have the ability to be wonderful companions when raised in a loving environment.
In this article, we’ll dive into the details of the Irish Wolfhound breed, and tips for welcoming this breed into your home.
History Of The Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound has been treasured since the moment they stepped into the dog world. Their striking size made them equipped to hunt massive animals, and even play a huge role when they joined their humans at war.
The Irish Wolfhound was used as a war dog that was well feared, and often pulled men off the backs of their horses or from their chariots. When they weren’t accompanying their battle buddies they were hunting massive elk and wolves.
Most believe they got their name from taking down wolves and therefore, stealing their name.
After their time spent at war, they were only able to be owned by Irish royalty, and the number of dogs owned were related to how prestigious your title was.
For example, “average” citizens could only own 2 Irish Wolfhounds, while some royalty owned up to 500 at once. Royalty truly loved the Irish Wolfhound and was often used as a gift between royals.
If you travel to Caernarvon, Wales, you will likely come across a tomb created in honor of an Irish Wolfhound named Gelert. Prince Llewellyn of Wales has gifted this Irish Wolfhound and loved him more than life itself.
Once the Prince married and had his own children, Gelert was often tasked with guarding the children. While he always did so with honor, one day it appeared that things went wrong.
The Prince returned from a normal day of hunting to find his baby’s crib turned over and empty, and his dog Gelert covered in blood. In a fit of rage, he slayed Gelert, only to find his baby unharmed nearby, lying next to a dead wolf that Gelert had mauled.
Consumed with grief and guilt over what he had just done, he created a memorial in Gelert’s honor that is still standing today. It’s still a huge tourist attraction in the area that people travel to in order to pay respects.
While Irish Wolfhounds may no longer watch over children as their parents go out to hunt, they are still a treasured breed. The Irish Wolfhound made their way to the US in the early 1900s and is treasured by those that welcome them into their family.
Appearance Of The Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound’s appearance is one of the main reasons as to why they are so popular. The Irish Wolfhound can weigh up to 140 pounds and stand up to 34 inches in height.
This breed is striking, and will certainly cause you to take a back each time you see this majestic pup.
Their coat is extremely thick and coarse and can range in length. While some breeders are said to create Irish Wolfhounds with softer fur, this hasn’t been proven.
Their fur can come in a variety of colors including white, fawn, brindle, grey, red, and black.
Some Irish Wolfhounds are believed to be bred with merle Great Dane’s, giving some Irish Wolfhound crosses a merle coat color.
Personality Of The Irish Wolfhound
While this breed can appear threatening due to their size, they are actually gentle giants. With a deep desire for human companionship, they make wonderful and gentle furry friends.
They are also extremely calm and dignified in any setting.
Their sensitivity makes them deeply connected with their favorite humans but does cause them to shut down if you attempt to train them with negative reinforcement.
It’s quite funny when you think of their past as guard dogs and war dogs because this breed is known to be incredibly gentle.
Many Irish Wolfhound owners note that their pups are useless around “possible intruders”, and how they often cower in overwhelming situations.
If you’re looking for a vicious guard dog, this is likely not the breed for you.
Overall Health Of The Irish Wolfhound
While the Irish Wolfhound can live a generally healthy life of up to 8 years, they are prone to certain medical conditions. These conditions include:
1. Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition that refers to the improper alignment of the hip joint. Since this condition is a result of breeding, there is no set time that a dog will begin to display symptoms.
Since this is hereditary, it’s important to have medical records on each parent when purchasing an Irish Wolfhound puppy.
2. Luxating Patellas
Luxating patella refers to the dislocation of the knee joint. This condition refers to the sliding of the knee joint, which often results in pain and possible lameness.
While most dogs can lead generally normal lives with this condition, it can lead to severe pain and lameness in some dogs.
3. Gastric Bloat (GDV)
Bloat (GDV) is a life-threatening condition that affects deep-chested dogs.
Any time you have a deep-chested dog, GDV will be a condition to be aware of. During gastric bloat the stomach will flip on itself, trapping the stomach contents and cutting off blood circulation.
Symptoms of bloat include wretching with no vomit produced, distended abdomen, weakness, and even collapse. When not treated immediately, this condition will always be fatal.
Like many other large and giant breeds, osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that often affects large dogs.
Osteosarcoma will need to be treated aggressively, usually with the amputation of the limb and chemotherapy.
With treatment, dogs can live nine months to two years or more. The first signs of osteosarcoma are limping, lameness, and swelling of the limb. Some dogs may also experience weight loss.
5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition that causes the retina to deteriorate over time.
If not treated early on, this can eventually lead to blindness.
Though blindness is a condition that dogs can handle well in the right environment, it’s still important to have them seen for their yearly exams to help detect changes in the eye to hopefully catch this condition early on.
6. Anesthesia Sensitivity
Many sighthounds, including Irish Wolfhounds, are extremely sensitive to anesthesia and other pain medications. Due to their low body fat, standard amounts of anesthesia affect them differently.
A regular dose for a dog the size of the Irish Wolfhound is generally too high for the Irish Wolfhound, so it’s important to be aware of this possibility.
Exercise And Your Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound is known to be very playful, so this is not an ideal breed for a laid back family. They benefit from a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise and are happy to tag along on any of your adventures.
Since this breed is known to be a bit anxious, any pent up energy can exacerbate the possibility of undesirable behavior. In order to keep them calm and happy in your home, it’s best to make sure that you have at least 30 minutes each day to dedicate to your furry friend.
The Irish Wolfhound LOVES to participate in outdoor activities, so keep this in mind when you are trying to determine an activity to do with your favorite furry companion.
Training Your Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound is easy to please, making them the perfect candidate for obedience training.
They are known to be really intelligent when it comes to the training process, meaning they catch on fairly quickly to tasks you are trying to teach them.
While they are smart, they can shut down if they are in a training environment that does not uplift them.
The Irish Wolfhound is extremely sensitive, meaning they need a positive reinforcement style of training in order to succeed. They will shut down and retreat if they are scolded, so it’s important to keep their training positive and encouraging.
Since they love to be around their favorite humans, they are just happy to be involved in any process that involves their family.
The Bottom Line
The Irish Wolfhound is a unique breed that has so much to offer their family.
If you are looking to find a furry gentle soul to add to your home, this is the perfect breed for you!