The Irish Wolfhound

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Irish wolfhounds are very big dogs indeed, and just one can make your house seem very small, often knocking things over without meaning to. They do best with a large, fenced garden, like most sighthounds, and also like being taken for walks. They are usually affectionate, and get on well with children, though they should be supervised with smaller children, because they are such big dogs and can easily knock people over if they get boisterous.

They also usually get on well with other dogs, even those from small breeds. Other dogs which are often nervous of big dogs seem to sense that Irish Wolfhounds are gentle, and don't mind their being big. Irish Wolfhounds have different playing styles, and tend to be well-behaved and calm with small dogs, but youngsters especially will sometimes invite medium and big dogs for a chase game. This can end in an amiable wrestling match, with the Wolfhound attempting to pull the other dog to the ground, and usually winning, as it is the bigger dog. Some dogs hugely enjoy these games with Wolfhounds, but do check with the owners of the other dogs if you sense a chase is coming on. The games can be a little alarming to watch for people who do not know that Wolfhounds are generally big softies, and aren't trying to hurt their dogs. You also need to check that the playmate is robust enough to withstand the game, though Irish Wolfhounds tend only to play this way when their invitation has been taken up, and the other dog is willing.

These dogs are also likely to fill your house with mud, try to be lap dogs, and don't have to try very hard to steal things from tables and kitchen work surfaces. Training in house rules is therefore very important from when they are pups. They can learn commands well if you are consistent from the start, though they aren't as easy to train as Labs and Golden retrievers, so consistency is important. If, for example, you don't want such a big dog on the furniture as an adult, never allow your pup to climb up on the sofa with you! Pups also need to be taught not to pull on the lead, and some degree of recall, so that you can take them for walks without being pulled around. They need a firm, but gentle approach, because they are quite sensitive and keen to please, even if they don't always do what they are asked!

Irish Wolfhounds aren't usually very barky dogs, and are not much good as guard dogs, because they are usually very friendly with everyone they meet. They need a fair bit of grooming. Despite their having rough coats, they aren't dogs to be left outdoors. They are far too sociable, and like to be with their human family. They aren't especially bad as shedders, though of course adult Irish Wolfhounds are very big, so there is more surface area from which hairs can fall!

The biggest drawback with Irish Wolfhounds is their vulnerability to health problems. They can suffer from problems with bone growth if not fed and exercised properly as puppies. Adults are enormous, so youngsters grow very fast and take a long time to mature. They need especial care to ensure that they eat the right food and don't overtax themselves while they are growing. Give the pup a rest on walks if he looks like he needs one, and after he has been running round, whether or not he wants a rest. Cancer, liver trouble, gastric torsion (bloat) eye trouble, Von Willebrands, and heart disease can also cut short their lives, and/or cost you a lot in vets bills. Choosing a healthy pup is important, and this involves asking questions about the longevity of your pup's ancestors.

Linda Gover has kept Irish wolfhounds for two decades, and her love of these very special dogs is evident. There is information on the breed's history, and on outstanding kennels specialising in Irish wolfhounds. She also deals with the health problems of the breed, and is frank about one of their main drawbacks - their relatively short lifespan for a dog. Obedience training is also tackled - important when you have a dog which is the size of a small pony when adult! Anyone considering owning an Irish Wolfhound would do well to start here, to get some idea of what they would be taking on, as well as understanding the appeal of this affable breed.