Irish Wolfhound Temperament & Personality
With roots tracing back from the medieval ages, the Irish Wolfhound has endured as a companion dog for centuries. While its size, name, and physical capabilities may strike fear to some, this dog is actually a gentle giant, with character traits and a temperament very suitable as a companion dog. It also has very workmanlike traits; it has an ideal mix of physical attributes and intelligence for learning specific skills.
While its massive size and its relatively short lifespan makes it a complicated sell to most pet lovers, taking an Irish Wolfhound as part of your family is guaranteed to be a memorable experience, provided that you take care of him well.
As one of the largest breeds of dogs in the world, the Irish Wolfhound stands out with its intimidating presence. As the world’s tallest dog breed, with broad shoulders, puffed out chest, and muscular frame, it has a build that will strike fear among most people. But behind its intimidating presence is a dog that is highly valued for its smarts and companionship. It is a true gentle giant, but it would pounce without hesitation on anyone who will threaten his family.
The Irish Wolfhound has a lifespan that is comparable to dogs of similar size. While it might have more than its fair share of structural and functional flaws, and can be argued to be a victim of its own genetic lineage, these dogs can live a healthy and happy life with proper care. They can also be trained for house living, though they are better suited in houses with wide and open spaces. With proper training and supervision, they can live with other pets without any issues.
The Irish Wolfhound may have a quiet and reserved personality, but it is a dog that thrives off good companionship with its masters. They are at their best when they are being showered with affection, and at their worst when they are mired in neglect. Multiple groups worldwide are now established with the commitment of providing the best possible care for these dogs.
One of the first things that will jump out right away when you see an Irish Wolfhound is its sheer size. It is considered to be the world’s tallest dog. But more than just its sheer size, its commanding presence makes it look much larger than it actually is. However, just like the Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound has a compact and muscular build; it is not overly heavy and gives it a highly athletic profile. All of its size traits make it an ideal breed for the purpose they were initially bred for, as sighthounds and hunting partners.
Though male Irish Wolfhounds are slightly larger than their female counterparts, the difference is not all that significant. In fact, females can grow to a size that can approximate males, and they can be equally capable. Both sexes have body frames that are longer than they are tall.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest dog breed in the world. At the shoulders, they can stand up to 32 inches in adult size, and they can reach up to 7 feet tall if they are made to stand in their hind legs. Mature males can grow to at least 30-32 inches in height, while mature females can grow to at least 28-30 inches. There are examples of these dogs that grow much bigger than these averages, and that can give them such intimidating presence. Most of these dogs reach their adult size by the time they approach 18 months old.
While it is considered as perhaps the tallest dog breed in the world, it is not necessarily the heaviest one. Because of its working hound roots, its body is surprisingly compact for a dog its size. Still, it is quite a heavy dog once it fills out its frame. Male Irish Wolfhounds weigh in at least 120 pounds at their full adult form, and their female counterparts will grow to weigh at least 100 pounds. Depending on the size and level of training provided, both sexes can weigh up to 180 pounds. Needless to say, these are massive dogs with more than a handful of weight to carry.
One of the most important things you can do as a dog parent of an Irish Wolfhound is to keep their weight under control. Obesity is one of the factors that unlocks nearly all of the health issues of this dog breed. Keeping their weight in check thru diet and exercise is one of the best ways you can maximize their potential lifespan.
The lifespan of Irish Wolfhounds is at par with other extra-large dog breeds. Their lifespan can range from 6 to 10 years, with the average age closer to 7. It is always said to be one of the downsides of choosing to adopt an Irish Wolfhound; their lifespans are relatively short compared to most of their counterparts.
Further complicating things would be the long list of potential illnesses linked to this breed, as would be discussed in the health portion of this guide. If your dog ends up with a hereditary issue, it can significantly alter their prospective lifespan.
The good thing is that with the help of proper care techniques, you can be able to maximize their possible lifespan. This is where proper health management comes in. You really have to take care of these dogs as early as they are puppies, and you have to keep at it, especially as they advance in their golden years.
The personality of an Irish Wolfhound is variable, with many owners lauding these dogs for their personal quirks and individuality. However, they are generally characterized as reserved and intelligent. They are usually quiet and would just go about their business. They don’t usually go around and break stuff given that they are trained and taken care of properly, which make them safe to bring indoors. However, if you are looking for a guard dog, the Irish Wolfhound doesn’t have the personality for that. They are not very keen in defending spaces and are relatively friendly towards strangers.
A deeper look at the Irish Wolfhound’s personality reveals a dog that is best taken as a companion. While it has an introverted disposition and bred to be independent, this breed is reputed for being a highly loyal dog. It is very gentle with people, including children. They are also very responsive to firm and gentle discipline, as long as you ensure consistency. They are also known to be very affectionate with their masters. It can become miserable if left alone for long periods of time. The Irish Wolfhound has a reputation for being gentle, but it can be quite fierce when provoked.
Exercise is an essential component of daily care for the Irish Wolfhound. As mentioned earlier, excessive weight gain is linked to most of the health problems associated with this breed. Taking your dogs out for daily walks and play sessions is essential to keep them physically and mentally sharp, especially as they advance in age. However, they are more than capable of more intense physical training. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see these dogs participate in canine sports such as tracking. Relative to other dog breeds, it requires moderate exercise to keep them in good shape.
When letting them loose at your home, it would be nice if you have a spacious fenced area for them to roam around. Their sheer size and level of activity make them a poor fit for apartment living: they thrive better with more space. They are generally well-coordinated, so you won’t have to worry about them breaking stuff at your yard. However, if you would be walking outdoors, it is important that you always keep them on a leash. Their hunting and chasing instincts are still intact, and you won’t like to risk it kicking in at an untimely manner, given their immense size and potential to create damage.
A dog like the Irish Wolfhound needs to be trained as soon as they arrive at your home. For starters, Irish Wolfhound pups, with their size, energy, and relative clumsiness, are potentially destructive. Without age-appropriate play, they can either end up destroying their surroundings or hurting themselves. Also, because of these destructive tendencies, they should be regularly monitored when being trained. Respect training is highly recommended for Irish Wolfhounds, and they generally respond well to it even as puppies. Early socialization training is also recommended for them.
The good thing is that Irish Wolfhounds are quick learners; the right training approach will almost always yield positive results. If you are training puppies, it is not recommended that you train them with adult dogs. Also, you should not force them to exercise or exert them too much, as it can leave them prone to injuries. One thing that will work on your favor is their natural desire to follow humans; their desire for company, among other traits, makes them great candidates for dog training.
The Irish Wolfhound has a long history that dates back to more than a thousand years. It is said that the bloodline of this breed has been created by the cross-breeding of local dogs in the British lands with hounds that trace their roots from the Middle East. The resultant line is a large dog that has gained a reputation for being a gentle giant, yet ready to mix it up when pushed. It has been originally used as a hunting companion and a sight dog. With its physique, it can mix up with massive animals such as wolves and other big game animals.
The Irish Wolfhound was driven to near extinction during the 18th century, but the line was saved by Captain George Augustus Graham. Going all over Ireland and the rest of Britain to save what is left of this breed, he ensured that what’s remaining of “Ireland’s national hound” will survive and get the protection that they need. Today, the Irish Wolfhound is made a symbol of the country it shares its name with. And while these dogs rarely go hunting like they did during the early days, the traits that made the breed successful back then are enabling them to become very successful companion dogs now.
One of the downsides of choosing to adopt an Irish Wolfhound is their relatively short lifespan compared to other dogs. As mentioned earlier, the Irish Wolfhound has an average lifespan of 6-10 years, with some of them going even shorter than that. Part of the reason behind this statistic is the number of potential health issues that is linked to this breed. Some of these health problems are considered hereditary with this breed, so you better keep an eye on it as your dog progresses in age.
As a deep-chested dog, one of the most common health issues for Irish Wolfhounds is bloat, also known as gastric torsion. This is a condition wherein the stomach overstretches and twists due to excessive gas content. Abdominal distention and retching combined with signs of discomfort (ex.: hypersalivation, difficulty breathing) are signs of potential torsion. Bloat is the most common cause of sudden death in Irish Wolfhounds. Health problems that Irish Wolfhounds are seen to have a genetic disposition with include bone cancer, hereditary intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, and dilated cardiomyopathy.
How to care for Irish Wolfhounds
Because of its good temperament and high potential for learning, an Irish Wolfhound does not require too much monitoring. However, because of its affectionate nature, it is important that they enjoy your family’s presence on a consistent basis. Neglect, even on short periods, can have such an adverse effect on these dogs, as they can have emotional or behavioral issues when left alone. Your involvement in its daily care is very important when raising this type of dog.
Some of the particulars of care for Irish Wolfhounds will be discussed on the later parts of this guide, but the great thing is that this breed only requires moderate maintenance overall to keep them healthy and in excellent shape. Because of the presence of multiple diseases of hereditary origin, it is considered prudent to have the dogs screened for genetic conditions. If that is not possible, at least an annual physical checkup of your dogs is considered essential. Due to the heart problems associated with these dogs, an EKG should be included in their regular screening.
Nutrition and feeding
Whether you are preparing your own food or you are buying pre-packaged dog food, it is important that it should be ideally formulated for the nutritional needs of large breeds. It is generally recommended that Irish Wolfhounds should be fed with food that is about 20% protein, as it is just enough to maintain their muscle mass while preventing them from packing excess weight. It is generally accepted that puppies should not be overfed, as it could cause them to grow rapidly. Additional supplementation is generally not needed as long as you provide them good-quality food.
Because of the large size of this dog, you also got to expect that their food servings are going to be larger than usual. It is considered more ideal to provide multiple small feedings for your dog; it will allow them to get their massive nutritional needs while reducing the risk of bloating, which is one of the biggest health risks when it comes to this breed. The good thing about Irish Wolfhounds is that they usually just eat only when hungry and don’t generally have a habit of bingeing. As for alternative diets such as raw diet, make sure to discuss it with your veterinarian before proceeding.
Coat color and grooming
Aside from its majestic physique, one of the things that make the Irish Wolfhound stand out aesthetically is with its coat. While the coat is rough-looking, it is actually aesthetically pleasing and actually serves a functional purpose when it is being deployed as a hunting dog in the past. Irish Wolfhounds actually have a double coat, the outer coat is rough-looking and wiry while the inner coat is softer. They shed their coat in either an annual or a semi-annual basis. The most common coat color for the Irish Wolfhound is gray with white and black streaks, but some can have brownish hues.
Just like with any dogs with long coat, regular brushing is part of the basic grooming regimen of the Irish Wolfhound. Brushing should be scheduled at least once weekly to prevent dirt buildup and hair clumping. Trimming of hair can also be done whenever necessary. Regular nail clipping should also be done by schedule. There are instances where nails that were allowed to grow too long caused hampered movement in all speeds, plus long and sharp nails are always a potential source of hazards. The good thing is that most of their grooming needs don’t require specialist approach.
Children and other pets
One of the great things about the Irish Wolfhound is that you can enjoy their company with the rest of your family. Yes, that includes the children. Because of its natural instincts as a family companion, they will take care of each member of your family, including the little ones. Their calmness is an asset when you have children in your house. Still, because of their immense size, it is not totally recommended that you unleash your dog if you have a house filled with toddlers and small kids. Also, make sure to discourage kids from riding on your dog’s back, as it can cause potentially serious injuries.
The Irish Wolfhound is more than capable of coexisting with other animals. It has shown an extraordinary ability to live amicably with other dogs, cats, and other animals, especially if they are raised around them even as a pup. However, whether it is indoors or outdoors, it is important that when they are playing with other pets, you should still keep an eye on them. Irish Wolfhounds still have their hunting instincts, and they may end up chasing stray animals if they got triggered. Proper training and supervision can go a long way in ensuring a peaceful coexistence for Irish Wolfhounds and other pets.
The Irish Wolfhound is a well-beloved breed for centuries. However, there are some situations wherein continuing to raise these dogs has been rendered impossible for one reason or another. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of people who care about dogs, Irish Wolfhounds don’t have to languish to a homeless and miserable existence. There is a number of groups worldwide committed to rescuing Irish Wolfhounds, as well as other breeds of dogs. From puppies to elder dogs, they are committed to taking care of these dogs until they get a home that will adopt them.
Whether you are looking to adopt a dog or having one of your dogs rescued for one reason or another, you can give a call to any rescue group near you. Take note that the adoption process is not as easy as it used to be (and it’s for the better), and these groups will try to check first if you have what it takes to raise the dog that is up for adoption. They will check your level of commitment in raising the dog right, as well as check your property if it’s the suitable environment for the dog in question. If you can pass the criteria, rescue groups are a humane means to give an Irish Wolfhound a second chance in life.
Because of the historic stature of the Irish Wolfhound breed and their overall value as a companion dog, there are more than a few enthusiasts of this breed around the world. In fact, a lot of those who have one of these dogs are committed to make sure that this line will thrive for many more years. These breed organizations are among the biggest of their kind in the world, and are a very good source of information and support. You can also check locally if your country has an organization that caters to Irish Wolfhounds.
Irish Wolfhound Club of America – This is considered as the official breed organization for the Irish Wolfhound in the USA, recognized by the American Kennel Club, and with local chapters spread out all over the country. They can help you get your hands on an Irish Wolfhound, whether you are looking to purchase or adopt one.
Irish Wolfhound Society – Their tagline explains it all: they are committed to “promoting the responsible ownership of Irish Wolfhounds in the UK”. It is considered as the official organization that promotes the breed and creates a community of dog lovers who want to try out the breed for themselves.
More info about this breed
– The Irish Wolfhound is known by other names such as Irish dog, Irish Greyhound, and Wolfdogs of Ireland.
– Irish Wolfhounds are popular gifts for nobles of foreign lands. During the 4th century, these dogs were given as gifts to the Roman Empire, with Romans viewing these gifts “with wonder.”
– An Irish Wolfhound can grow very big even as a puppy. In fact, a pup can grow as heavy as 100 pounds, which is much heavier than adult forms of most dogs.
– Multiple Irish legends have lauded the Irish Wolfhound for its loyalty. It is also a favorite subject of poetry in Ireland and beyond.
– Irish armies used to have battalions of Irish Wolfhounds as part of their forces. They have served multiple roles, being used as hunting guides, sightdogs, guardians, and as general companions.
– A life-sized Irish Wolfhound can be found at the Irish Brigade memorial, located at Gettysburg.
– Many popular personalities owned Irish Wolfhounds. These include the likes of former US presidents Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy.