April 6, 2020

Irish Wolfhound – big, calm and loyal

The biggest of the biggest, but don’t let their awesome size fool you; the Irish Wolfhound is a gentle soul who loves to get along with everybody; especially good with children and a friend to other dogs. There is conjecture in the current breeds originality. Most agree that the architype was an Irish sighthound bred as a fearsome war and hunting dog, their size enabled them to tackle animals such as wild boar, deer and even wolves through the dense Irish countryside and farming estates and pull down unwanted invaders from horses and chariots.  As the wolf became extinct in Ireland; the last recorded pair killed in 1786; the Wolfhound quickly lost favour and it’s thought such hunting dogs had disappeared by the start of the 19th century.

A Scotsman by the name of George Graham embarked on reviving the breed in the 1860’s introducing bloodlines from Scottish deerhounds, the Great Dane, Borzois and Tibetans. His breeding was challenged by some purists; however, the dog endured as was recognised as a breed in its own right in 1897.

Today’s Irish Wolfhound has an enormous capacity for human companionship; they’re a family dog, thriving in a family unit.  Calm, responsive to positive reinforcement in training and a dignified breed for their size. Not aggressive by any means, lovers rather than fighters and not prone to barking; therefore not much good as a watch dog. Like all dogs they require socialisation from an early age and being descendants of sighthounds they will chase and have eyes only for what they’re chasing so road sense and keeping your pooch on a lead in built up areas is essential. They need consistent and regular exercise.  A long walk once or twice a day is necessary, a chance to go for a run; otherwise they’re very happy on the couch or on their bed, chilling out in the comfort of home life.  Regarded as an intelligent breed, they are easily house trained and will obey commands when trained correctly.

We’ve mentioned their statue; males will average around 86cm to the shoulder and weigh 63kg – 82kg that’s a big unit.  The females are slightly smaller averaging 83cm at the shoulder and weigh 52kg – 64kg.  They need space and apartment living or houses with staircases are not a great fit for these giants.  A fenced backyard is a bonus and opportunity to go for a run in a park is well advised.

The Irish Wolfhound is a robust animal, albeit with a short life span 6-10years and those thinking of this breed should be aware.  They’re hardy and healthy however do face the same issues as most large and giant breed dogs.

Not all Irish Wolfhounds will develop these illness or disease however owners need to be mindful that this breed is susceptible to the following.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, and shoulders. It can be detected in dogs at four to nine months of age. Overfeeding may contribute to its development.
Hip Dysplasia can be problematic with any large breed and can cause arthritis.  Even if your dog is not displaying any signs of lameness an X-Ray should be done periodically to ensure the dogs health.
Gastric torsion is nasty and can affect large dogs with deep chests, just like the Irish Wolfhound. Gastric torsion is also known as Bloat. When dogs, gorge their food, drink heavily straight afterwards and exercise after food they become dangerously exposed to bloat. More common in older dogs and happens when the dog is unable to burp or vomit out the excess air in its stomach. The stomach becomes distended with air or gas and twists (torsion). The normal flow of blood to the heart is compromised, the dogs blood pressure drops, and the dog will go into shock. The dog must be taken for immediate medical attention or it can die. Other signs of bloat include restlessness, lethargic, weak and depressed.
Bone Cancer can be called osteosarcoma. Any dog can contract bone cancer and those that do tend to be older dogs.  The Irish Wolfhound along with other larger and giant breed canines can develop tumors at an early age. Osteosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer and can result in amputation and chemotherapy.
Heart Disease is another issue for large and giant breed dogs.  New owners of the Irish Wolfhound or any larger breed should know in advance that their dog may well develop and be susceptible to heart disease which may require surgery or shorten an already short life span.
Liver Shunt A liver shunt is an abnormal blood flow between the liver and the body. Signs can include neurobehavioral abnormalities, lack of appetite, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), intermittent gastrointestinal issues, urinary tract problems, drug intolerance, and stunted growth.

They must have a high quality food.
balanced LiFE Enhanced; a dry food with air dried raw meat protein inclusions is an excellent long term feeding option. 4 -8 cups per day spread over 2 meals will be sufficient.  Including a few meals of balanced LiFE Rehydrate throughout the week adds variety, texture and added water intake.  400grams per day of Rehydrate over 2 meals is similar volume.
It is recommended to monitor your feeding with the Irish Wolfhound and have set meals at set times rather than having food available all day. It is important to keep this breed in good shape with responsible feeding and treating and regular exercise.
Dogs are individuals and food intake will depend on their activity level, size and age.  Always consult your vet for guidance on what is best for your Irish Wolfhound.

They say the Irish Wolfhound was in a time of the Irish mist, dating back to 300AD, before being lost to the canine world.  All history is full of stories and past down through century’s and often millennia.  There is always some truth in historical accounts often mixed with the gifts of the scribes. Regardless, today’s Irish Wolfhound is one of the true gentle giants of the canine world.  Big, calm and loyal.  For owners wanting a big dog without the boisterous temperament, easy to train and a loving companion the Irish Wolfhound may be just the ticket.  Such a distinct and gracious animal.

Other breeds
Afghan Hound 
Bernese Mountain Dog 
Cocker Spaniel 
French Bulldog 
Great Dane 



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Irish Wolfhound - big, calm and loyal - Balanced Life