Irish Wolfhound Overview
- Dog Breed:
- Irish Wolfhound
- Breed Group:
- Dignified, calm, serene, patient, and intelligent.
- Minimum height of 30 inches at the withers.
- Minimum weight of 120 pounds.
- Life Span:
- 6-8 years
- Coat Colors:
- White, gray, brindle, red, black, and fawn.
- Area of Origin:
- Best For:
- Large living space/Older children/Keen walkers
Irish Wolfhound Characteristics
Irish Wolfhound Gallery
About The Irish Wolfhound
Friendly with people and other dogs
Can be destructive when young
Irish Wolfhounds (IWH) are a large and powerful breed, but they’re also known for being gentle giants. Friendly with people and other dogs, this is not going to be the right choice if you need a fierce guard for your home and family.
Being such a large breed, they do need living areas with plenty of space, and you should even consider whether they will fit into your current car before committing to one joining your family.
Irish Wolfhounds can be real live wires with a destructive tendency until they eventually become adults at around 18 months. This means that if they’ve left alone all day without any stimulation for their minds, then it’s likely that you’ll return to their very own version of remodeling the furniture!
Irish Wolfhound Breed History
Well established by the Roman Empire
Used as big game hunters including wolves
Recognized by the AKC in 1897
Factual information on the early history of the Irish Wolfhound is not easy to come by. The breed is frequently mentioned by authors of historical sagas and romantic tales, but there is a tendency for them to be portrayed as having mythical properties and qualities. What is known is that they came to be by crossing large breeds of dog in Britain with coursing hounds from the Middle Eastern. Come the Roman Empire in the British Isles, these giant hounds were well established.
Moving on to the 15th-century, wolves had become a huge problem in the countryside of Ireland. With the IWH already being renowned for their ability as big-game hunters, they were trained to specialize on the wolf, and two centuries later, through the success of the hunting, the wolf had been eradicated.
However, with no job to do, the demand for the breed plummeted and it’s thought that they would have become extinct had it not been for George Augustus Graham, a British army captain. He began scouring Ireland for the remaining Irish Wolfhounds before committing to their protection and standardization.
It was in 1897 when the American Kennel Club formally recognized the breed.
Irish Wolfhound Size & Weight
Tallest breed registered with the American Kennel Club
Minimum height of 32 inches for males and 30 inches for females
Minimum weight of 120 pounds for males and 105 pounds for females
The minimum height and weight for a male dog is 32 inches and 120 pounds. For females, the minimum height is 30 inches and a weight of 105 pounds, with these all applying to hounds over the age of 18 months.
As the tallest of all dogs registered with the American Kennel Club, having an Irish Wolfhound join your family really does need some careful thought and consideration. This is not a dog who is going to curl up and leave you any room on the sofa!
Irish Wolfhound Personality & Temperament
Gentle and easygoing
Can be independent natured
This gentle giant is an easygoing and reliable breed. Of course, they have their moments of silliness, especially as a pup, but generally, they are considered to be calm and dignified. An affectionate dog, the IWH will greet strangers with an expectation of a fuss. These are not guard dogs; however, their sheer size is likely to be deterrent enough to put off any unwelcome visitors.
As can be expected from the hound group, the IWH can have an independent nature; however, they respond well to patient obedience training, demonstrating both their intelligence and trainability.
Irish Wolfhounds are generally gentle with children; however, their sheer size means that they can accidentally knock toddlers over. So, they’re probably best suited for homes with older children.
It’s unlikely that an IWH will be suitable for apartment living; they need the space to move around and, ideally, access to a securely fenced garden. With reference back to their Irish roots, these are a breed who much prefer colder climates. They can adjust to warmer conditions, but they’ll appreciate the cool breeze of aircon on a hot day.
Irish Wolfhound Health & Grooming
Short life span of 6-8 years
Some health problems within the breed
Needs a once weekly groom
Sadly, this breed has a very short life span of just 6-8 years. The impact of this very brief life does need to be taken on board before an IWH joins your family. Some of the common health issues which potential owners should be aware of are:
- von Willebrand’s Disease – A condition which affects the ability of the blood to clot
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy – An inherited disease of the retina which can eventually lead to blindness
- Megaesophagus – An enlargement of the esophagus resulting in food and liquid being unable to move from the throat down to the stomach.
- Cardiomyopathy – An enlarged heart which is then unable to function correctly.
Despite having a double coat, the Irish Wolfhound has minimal grooming requirements. A once-weekly brush through the thick wiry outer coat and down to the soft undercoat will help to remove dirt and loose hair. Although there will be some shedding of hair throughout the year, Irish Wolfhounds don’t have an annual heavy shed.
Irish Wolfhound Training
Can take longer to mature
High prey drive
Not excessive barkers
As with many of the giant breeds, Wolfhound puppies can take longer to mature. During the 18 months or more that it will before they fully leave puppyhood and adolescence, the Irish Wolfhound is known for being destructive. Careful management is then needed around the home to ensure a safe environment for them, particularly when they’re left home alone.
This is an intelligent breed, and when combined with their love of people, they enjoy the opportunity to take part in reward-based training sessions. Despite their size, Irish Wolfhounds are a sensitive breed, and so harsh punishment-based techniques are not recommended.
You should not forget the hunting background of the IWH because this is a breed that still retains their prey drive. This then means that off-lead exercise needs to be provided within a securely fenced area.
Irish Wolfhounds are not known as being excessive barkers, however, when they do, the whole neighborhood will know about it!
Irish Wolfhound Exercise Requirements
Can take longer to mature
High prey drive
Not excessive barkers
Although they have laid-back personalities, don’t be fooled into thinking that they don’t need much exercise! An adult Wolfhound will need around two hours of exercise, split into two walks, every day, to keep them fit and healthy. They’ll also enjoy the opportunity for a good game with even the calmer adults having a playful side to their personalities.
Because of their large size and fast growth, care is needed not to over-exercise your IWH puppy. Do check with your vet and breeder for current recommendations.
Irish Wolfhound Diet & Feeding
Speak to your veterinarian for advice on your dog’s needs
Pick a food suitable for the age and exercise level of your dog
The breed can be liable to bloat
For the best advice for your individual dog, do seek out information from your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.
When researching dog foods, look for one appropriate for your dog’s age, (puppy, adult, or senior), and activity level. There are now foods available that have been specially formulated for large breeds, and these will ensure that your Irish Wolfhound gets all the nutrients that they need.
This is a breed which is at risk of bloat, a condition which causes a twisted stomach and can be fatal without quick veterinary attention. Because of this, it’s recommended that they don’t have strenuous exercise directly before and after feeding time.
Irish Wolfhound Rescue Groups
If you’re interested in providing a homeless Irish Wolfhound with a new family, the following Irish Wolfhound organizations have rescue volunteers who can provide help and advice.
Irish Wolfhound Club of America Rescue – https://www.iwclubofamerica.org/rescue
Great Lakes Irish Wolfhound Association Rescue – http://gliwa.org/rescue/
Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Club Rescue – https://www.pviwc.org/Rescue.html
For more information on this majestic breed, take a look at the website of the Irish Wolfhound Club of America – https://www.iwclubofamerica.org.