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All About Irish Wolfhounds

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An Irish Wolfhound stands on a lush green hill.

Meet the Irish Wolfhound, a gentle giant with a heart as colossal as their size. From their impressive physical features to their warm-hearted personalities, let's unravel the charm and joy that come with sharing life with an Irish Wolfhound.

About the Breed

The Irish Wolfhound is not only the tallest among all dog breeds, but it's also known for its grace and athleticism. Originally bred as a big game hunter, Wolfhounds are now the most serene and agreeable of companions. These dogs are absolute sweethearts and can be excellent additions to the family, as long as there's enough room to accommodate their large size. While they only possess a moderate energy level, they need lots of space to exercise their large bodies.

This breed takes a long time to mature and grow to their full size. Pet parents may be sometimes overwhelmed when their still-young puppy who is full of typical puppy behaviors already inhabits the body of a very large dog.

History

The Irish wolfhound is one of the oldest breeds in existence, having been around for over 1,000 years. They were developed by monks in ancient Ireland who needed an animal that could hunt down and kill wolves, which were considered dangerous pests at the time, earning them the name, “Wolfhound.” Highly prized for their size and strength, their primary role was to hunt wolves, boars, and other large game. They were also considered a war dog, used to drag men off horseback or chariots.

Throughout history, they were considered symbols of prestige and were frequently given as gifts to emperors, ambassadors, kings, and cardinals. However, by 1836, the breed was included on a list titled, “Notices of Animals which have disappeared from Ireland.”

Despite facing near-extinction at certain points, dedicated breeding efforts in the 19th century helped revive the breed. In 1922, the first official breeding program took place when three pairs of hounds were imported from Germany. Today, more than 100 years later, the Irish Wolfhound remains among the world’s top ten breeds and is even considered a national symbol of Ireland.

Attributes

These giants are among the tallest dog breeds. In fact, a male Irish Wolfhound on their hind legs can stand at a stunning seven feet tall! Their distinctive coat, which comes in a variety of colors including white, gray, brindle, red, and black, is wiry and rough with a soft undercoat.

Despite their robust build, Irish Wolfhounds are known for their gentle eyes and expressive faces. Their heads are large, and their ears, while small in proportion to their size, add a touch of charm.

How big is an Irish wolfhound?

The Irish Wolfhound size and weight dimensions classify these dogs as a "giant breed.” A male Irish Wolfhound can weigh between 120-180 pounds in adulthood, while a full-grown female will weigh at least 105 pounds on average. The standard height of an Irish Wolfhound varies by gender, but both males and females stand taller than 30 inches at the shoulders. In some males, the Irish Wolfhound size may be as tall as 35 inches – nearly three feet from their shoulder to the ground.

Do Irish wolfhounds shed?

Irish Wolfhounds are considered to be moderate shedders; however, while they do shed, it’s not as prolific as some other breeds. A weekly brushing session can help remove loose hair and prevents matting, keeping their coat healthy and neat.

What’s the average lifespan for an Irish Wolfhound?

The Irish Wolfhound, despite its larger-than-life stature, has a relatively short lifespan, typically ranging from 6 to 8 years. Like many giant breeds, they age faster than smaller dogs, and their shorter lifespan is a characteristic shared by many large canines.

Do Irish Wolfhounds bark a lot?

In general, Irish Wolfhounds are not known for being big barkers. They do have a fairly loud bark, though, and will certainly use it to let you know if they are unhappy.

Personality

Although these gentle giants were originally bred for protecting livestock from wolves in Ireland, Irish Wolfhounds are now mostly family pets due to their mellow and relaxed nature. Despite their imposing size, this breed is widely recognized for its friendly demeanor, remarkable patience, and calm disposition. Affectionate and loyal, they make excellent companions and typically form strong bonds with their humans. Wolfhounds tend to be tolerant and even-tempered, but their size is rather formidable, so they’re best for families with older children.

Care

As adults, Irish Wolfhounds can become couch potatoes if allowed, but regular exercise will help keep them physically and mentally healthy. A home with a fairly large, fenced area is necessary to provide the kind of environment in which they can thrive.

To keep your Irish Wolfhound in shape, make sure they get at least two hours of exercise every day. It's best to spread this out throughout the day instead of doing it all at once. You can take them for walks, easy jogs, and let them play freely in a safe, enclosed space. Just remember to be mindful of not overdoing it, especially while they're still growing. Too much exercise can strain their bones and joints as they are still developing.

Providing your Wolfhound with a high-quality diet can be another easy way to ensure that they live a happy and healthy life. It’s helpful to talk with your veterinarian about what type of food is appropriate for your dog.

Grooming

When it comes to grooming, the Irish Wolfhound has minimal needs and does not shed or drool excessively. The coat of the Irish Wolfhound is characterized by its rough texture and is relatively low-maintenance compared to some other breeds. Just a few brushings each week should do the trick to keep their coat looking great. Regular brushing helps get rid of loose hair, prevents tangles, and gives their fur a healthy look. It's also a good idea to check for any knots or dirt that might have gotten stuck in their coat while they were out and about.

The Irish Wolfhound should undergo hand-stripping every six months. This process involves carefully plucking out dead hair by hand or using a stripping rake to effectively remove it. With just a little bit of grooming, you can make sure your Irish Wolfhound stays happy and has a beautiful coat.

As is the case for all breeds, their teeth should be brushed weekly, their ears should be examined and cleaned regularly, and their nails should be trimmed when they begin clicking on the floor.

Training

Irish Wolfhound puppies usually take about two years or more to fully mature. It's important to know that during this time, they might show some destructive behavior and could accidentally hurt themselves if left alone for too long. Early socialization and puppy training classes (using positive training methods only) are recommended. When they're introduced to kids and other dogs early on, most Irish Wolfhounds get along just fine.

Irish Wolfhounds are very intelligent, making them fast learners. They crave the company of their people, and their sensitivity to humans makes them excellent candidates for therapy work. Although the Irish Wolfhound may have a typical sighthound's tendency to be dismissive toward dog training, use of positive reinforcement teaching techniques can help them to walk nicely on a leash at a young age. This is crucial for pet parents who wish to have some level of control over this majestic breed once they reach their full size, as they may have a strong instinct to chase smaller animals like squirrels during walks.

Common Health Problems

Although Irish Wolfhounds are a fairly healthy breed, they are still prone to some health issues. According to our recent pet insurance claims data,** issues that commonly affect this breed include:

  1. Food allergies
  2. Ear infections
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Lameness
  5. Lymphoma
  6. Incontinence
  7. Cancer
  8. Back injuries
  9. Skin irritation
  10. Urinary tract infections

To help stay on top of your dog’s health, it is best to schedule them for regular veterinary appointments. Routine checkups allow your veterinarian to be more familiar with your dog’s well-being and gives them the chance to catch any developing issues early on.

Known for their friendly nature and impressive size, these gentle giants truly embody loyalty and companionship. They are calm and dignified, yet also playful and silly. With their easygoing and reliable personalities, it's no wonder the Irish Wolfhound is adored by people all over the world.

**Internal Claims Data, 2018-22

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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