Irish Wolfhound: All You Need To Know About This Gentle Giant

Despite his imposing appearance, the Irish wolfhound is a gentle, noble soul who's at his happiest when he's with his family. For the right kind of owner, he can be a loyal friend, a calm companion, and a major head-turner on the streets.

If you think you have what it takes to own an Irish wolfhound, read on. 

A Basic Overview of the Irish Wolfhound

Irish wolfhounds are the largest of the sighthounds, or dogs that were bred to chase after prey. They can reach up to 2 feet and 11 inches at the shoulder, which makes them the tallest dog breed in the world.

Because of their size, Irish wolfhounds are more suitable for spacious family homes than cramped apartment spaces. Lucky for owners who have a lot of breakables, these docile pooches would rather lie in their couch all day than run around the house.

Compared to most dogs, Irish wolfhounds have relatively short lifespans. They only live for up to eight years, and their size makes them prone to health problems. If you want a dog who's easy to care for and can stay with you for at least another decade, the Irish wolfhound isn't for you.

But if you want a dog who has more to him than meets the eye, who can scare off intruders with his size alone, and who's literally a big ball of fuzz and warmth, the Irish wolfhound may be just what you're looking for.

What is the Personality of the Irish Wolfhound?

The Irish wolfhound is a big dog with an equally big heart. He can be as warm and gracious towards strangers as he is to his own family. However, he will not hesitate to chase after cats and wild animals hanging around your property. He is still a sighthound, after all.

As good as he is at hunting, he's no guard dog. He may be able to intimidate intruders with his size, but the fact that he doesn't bark makes him unsuitable as a burglar alarm.

On the bright side, his lack of bark (and bite) means you can let him roam around the house even with visitors around. Also, if you have neighbors, you don't have to worry about him howling in the middle of the night. When it comes to Irish wolfhounds, you can expect them to stay quiet, calm and well-behaved indoors.  

Related: The Adorable Pomsky Mixed Breed

But when he's outdoors, you have to take care not to let his sighthound instincts take over. Irish wolfhounds can and will chase after animals that they've "tagged" as game, so unless you keep him on a leash, he has a good chance of getting seriously hurt from a chase.

The Irish wolfhound behaves his best when he's been socialized from an early age, and when he comes from a good pedigree. When buying one of these pooches, make sure you get the pup who plays nice with his litter mates.

History and Background of the Irish Wolfhound

Today, Irish wolfhounds are famous for being gentle giants. But they weren't always that way.

Long ago, when the Roman Empire still existed, these hounds were feared for their battle prowess, able to pull down men from moving chariots. Their reputation was such that, when a Roman consul named Aurelius was gifted with seven of these hounds, "all Rome viewed with wonder."

In their homeland, Irish wolfhounds were used to hunt animals as large as elk, and as dangerous as wolves. When their prey dwindled to the point of extinction, the wolfhound's prestige dwindled too. At that point, the dogs were in danger of extinction.

Luckily, two men became interested enough in the Irish wolfhound to revive it. In the 1800s, Major H. D. Richardson and Captain George Augustus Graham began to breed the hounds, which were eventually registered with the American Kennel Club in 1897. Thanks to the efforts of these gentlemen, the Irish wolfhound survives to this day.  

Are Irish Wolfhounds Playful and Fun?

Irish wolfhounds have a lot of names, but "Playful and Fun" isn't one of them.

When indoors, Irish wolfhounds would rather snuggle in a corner than play horsey with the kids. He's usually a laidback pooch, so you don't have to worry about him breaking any Ming vases anytime soon. (Speaking of which, you should never let an Irish wolfhound play horsey. He may be the size of a small pony, but he's no beast of burden.)

If you do let an Irish wolfhound out of the house, be sure to put a large fence around the yard. Otherwise, his sighthound instincts will kick in, and you might just find yourself chasing after the Great Hound of Ireland. Just give him enough room to move around, and he should be fine.

How Much Exercise Does an Irish Wolfhound Need?

Irish wolfhounds are house dogs through and through, so they don't need to move around a lot. They do best with gentle, low-intensity exercise, which is ideal for them no matter how old they get.

If your wolfhound is younger than 18 months old, start him off with 5-minute walks. At that age, his bones and muscles are still developing, so he shouldn't strain himself too much.

As he gets older, he can increase the distance he walks. You can let him walk up to a mile within a three-month period. Ideally, however, he shouldn't walk more than two miles until he's a year old.

Related: Basenji Breed: Everything You Need to Know About This Dog

For adult Irish wolfhounds, walks are the best exercise. Let him get used to a leash, so he won't suddenly run after anything that catches his eye.

Like their younger counterparts, adult Irish wolfhounds need to be careful not to overexert themselves. Excessive exercise can damage their joints, and possibly cause other health problems that you definitely don't want to deal with.

When it comes to Irish wolfhounds, you only need to give him just enough exercise to stay in shape. If he's exercising too much, he's sure to let you know.     

What are the Grooming Needs of the Irish Wolfhound?

Despite their scruffy looks, Irish wolfhounds don't need to bathe much. You can wash him if he ends up getting dirty all over, but otherwise, he doesn't need to bathe more than once or twice a year.

He is a heavy shedder though, so give him a brush at least once a week. Take a look at his ears too, and gently pluck out any excess hairs that make him look unruly (not to mention prone to infection). Use trimming scissors to shorten the hair on his feet and around his neck. But don't chop off too much hair: You don't want him to lose his unique looks!

Also, you should:

  • Brush his teeth at least once every other day.
  • Clip his nails every month, or every two weeks.
  • Check his ears and other bodily orifices for signs of infection (e.g. bad odor, redness, pus).

Most importantly, get him used to being groomed as soon as he's old enough. If he's had a positive experience with grooming as a puppy, it'll be easier to get him cleaned up when he's older.

Are Irish Wolfhounds Easy to Train?

Irish wolfhounds are smart, but they can also be stubborn. Although they're usually gentle and docile, they tend to wander off as soon as they spot a prey animal. Once an Irish wolfhound is in hunting mode, it'll be very difficult to snap him out of it.

If you want to train an Irish wolfhound, start early. Start with the basics, like "Sit," "Stay" and "Heel." Take him outside as soon as he's about to do his business on your carpet. Get him used to staying in a crate whenever you're not around, so he won't cause problems in your absence.

Related: The Brave, Brainy, and Adorable Corgi Husky Mix

Get him used to a leash too. The leash should be strong enough to reel him in whenever you need to, but not so tight that you'll end up practically strangling him. The idea is to keep him under control in case he gets distracted during your walks.   

Above all, be patient. If he doesn't learn a trick within a day, within a week, or even within a month, don't lose your cool. Instead, keep up the training until he shows signs of improvement, or switch it up if it's not working. Give him a pat for a job well done, and gently nudge him in the right direction for a not-so-good job.

How Much Does an Irish Wolfhound Puppy Cost?

Hefty dogs usually come with hefty price tags, and the Irish wolfhound is no exception.

On average, you'll have to shell out anywhere between $1,500 and $2,000 for an Irish wolfhound. For puppies with breeding rights and papers, the price starts from $2,100 to as high as $6,200.

To keep your pooch healthy and happy, make sure you budget for his yearly upkeep. If you factor in grooming, training, trips to the vet, deworming, supplies, food and the like, the annual cost for raising an Irish wolfhound can reach up to $2,000 a year. As you can see, this breed is a major investment, so think carefully before you take on the responsibility of caring for him.

Irish wolfhounds may no longer be as prestigious as they were during ancient times, but you can't deny that they're no less majestic even today. If you have thoughts about this beautiful and gentle dog, let's hear about them in the comments!