Living with an Irish Wolfhound.


This is a brief summary of what its like to have an Irish Wolfhound. It’s aimed at people who are considering maybe sharing their lives with one of these dogs.  Its not, by any means, a complete guide, only a quick round up of some things that I have learned and there are links to other sites at the end of this.
Wolfhounds are addictive  –  be warned, you will not stop at just the one.
I will say “he” and “him” because it is easy…………..
The Irish Wolfhound is the tallest breed of dog, most people seem never to have seen one and are quite astounded at the size, finding it hard not to make comments about horses and saddles, which become very tedious after a few years.
Actually, I only notice how big my dog is when I take him to a friends house and it is not so large a house…… the dog is suddenly much bigger than I thought and the friend’s house is smaller than I thought. Their nice coffee table has become a major hazard and poor Cu Sha has to keep very still.

He usually goes to sleep. Irish Wolfhounds are enthusiastic sleepers……
People often ask me if he is in the way at home…. well, no, he isn’t…… because I love him. Do not get a wolfie if you are not going to adore him  –  he is a very big animal – almost certainly bigger than you and, in many ways, inconvenient to the type of life style that many now choose.
This really is a consideration, it is by no means like having even a labrador – sized dog…    I know how much I wanted a wolfie and I was lucky to have my dream –  several times over.

Irish Wolfhounds are not really dogs for small houses/gardens. Although, if you lived in a small house with a reasonable outside area, then I expect it would work if you were totally committed to making sure your dog would be happy

– that he would have a large enough bed area to lie fully stretched out and be prepared to make sure he would get out a lot at least twice a day, to have his freedom to sniff around and run.
He depends on you, he is almost like a child, he will offer you every good thing he has to give, don’t let him down and give him a miserable life  –  the life you give him is all he has. He does not have choices like you. Leaving him alone all day in the house is cruel……. Leaving him outside alone in a pen all day is cruel. Occasionally, you may have to leave him on his own but  – if you are out all day, every day, do not have a dog… you are keeping a prisoner.
So, if you have decided to have a wolfhound in your life, then seek out a responsible breeder, do not encourage the owner’s of a puupy farm, cute and cheap – but criminally cruel.   If you cannot afford to pay the correct price for a wolfhound, then you most certainly cannot afford to look after one.

Feeding – ask the breeder, read up about it.  Irish Wolfhounds may be better be fed from a raised platform.
Find a vet by asking other pet owners in your area, you want a vet who likes and respects animals and who is kind to them.

Don’t pay a vet to treat your animals if they are rough and cold to the animal, find someone else.
Help your vet, teach your dog to be handled all over while he is young.     Eyes, ears, mouth, bum ( unfortunately)    Teach him to lie down, roll over…. Read up on dog problems a little, be prepared – you may recognise symptoms quickly enough to save his life.  Know about bloat and torsion. Understand dog body language a bit  – you want him to understand you… so try to follow what he is saying, because he is speaking the only way he knows –   by signing.
Cu Sha is my fifth Irish Wolfhound.  I have loved each one totally and unreservedly and there are no favourites  –  but Cu Sha is here in this Now …….. and he is lying on the floor watching me type this, sleeping and waiting for me to do something more interesting such as take him out for a walk.  He has  beautiful, dark rimmed, soulful brown eyes, with enormously long lashes,  it seems that an equal intelligence and awareness  is looking back at me… he is such a good friend. As long as he is with me he is quite happy…. a stroll around outside and a big run about would be much better, though.
The Irish Wolfhound is a magnificent, strong dog combining a commanding appearance with a gentle expression, he has a rough coat that comes in a variety of colours which are the same as the colours of the greyhound family, the most common being grey or grey/brindle.

IMG_0659-800px-copyrightDo not imagine he will be a guard dog, despite his size, he is not of that nature, although his appearance and bark may put off an intruder, he is much more of a guardian friend to you than a guard of your house.

CuSha trots about self importantly, woofing, if he imagines there might be some invader, even great big growly barks…  but I would not rely on him guarding the house except by being a bit offputting.
He may reach over three feet in height at the shoulder and weigh up to fourteen stone, he will be over six feet high when he stands on his hind legs – this is an impressive activity but really should be discouraged, as he will not just stand up, he needs support and you, or your friends, or children, or elderly relatives might constitute that support …  he won’t mind who he leans on: you might.
He has a wonderful easy, loping movement and can run very fast indeed over relatively short distances – stopping is another matter.

He will want to run around with any other dog who offers a game, make sure he doesn’t land on a tiny one – usually they run rings around a big dog but if he did jump on to a tiny dog it might be hurt and the owner would be upset.
When young, he grows so fast that you have to be careful with his legs, he will be clumsy and hurt himself if you don’t take care and that great long, waving tail not only clears tables but can get damaged surprisingly easily.

If he does damage his tail, take him to the vet. Do not leave it to get better, he will chew it.
In fact, be prepared to take him to the (expensive) vet quite often, do not let injuries go untended, vet bills are something to think seriously about before you buy an Irish Wolfhound.
On the subject of damage, he has long, strong, curving nails  these need to be kept trimmed for his comfort unless he walks on very hard, rough surfaces the whole time. They also need to be trimmed for your comfort, as you will discover, the first time he stands on your bare foot….   White nails are easy, you can see the quick and avoid it, black nails are hard to judge, so cut less than you think. I have not yet got CuSha used to my dremel for claw trimming and I use a strong specialised dog nail clipper.  I could not cut the thick wolfhound nails with an ordinary one.  Check his feet for stones, tar and splinters – and ice balls in winter.
There are various instructions on UTube for dremel-ing dogs claws, my Jack Russell terrier quite liked it. CuSha remains dubious.
You must train him to fit in to his home life with people, he has no idea whatsoever about what you want him to do  … you must teach him  –  if he makes a mistake, it is because he didn’t understand fully. He wants to please you, he is not naughty, he is uninformed.

House training is not hard, you just have to understand how to teach it   –   then it will be easy.  We tend to make this harder than it need be by not reading up enough about it… even when you have had puppies before, you forget so much. I forgot to give Cu Sha a small sapce to be in, inside the house, before the was house trained. Th result was that he came indoors to relieve himself because he did not fully understand the difference between “den” (house)  and “not den” (garden).
Irish Wolfhounds are sight hounds  –  hounds come from centuries of breeding to run off and catch prey – his freedom to run means a lot to him:  it is a hard-wired desire within him. He may be difficult to teach to come back to you, most hounds do not do easy recall. Never, ever, tell him off when he eventually returns to you –    if you do he will not wish to come back next time ……. think about this very carefully  – it is easy to be annoyed when he does not return but its utterly counter-productive to punish him in any way  –  he did what you asked, he came back… it just took a while.  A quiet acknowledgement of his eventual presence and putting his lead back on is best if he was ignoring you.

You might consider buying the dvd “Really Reliable Recall” by Leslie Nelson.

Irish Wolfhounds are sensitive and yelling at them or hitting them is pointless and distressing for them, would you trust someone who does that to you because you did not understand what they wanted ?
Take your puppy and yourself to a trainer – a “positive”  trainer who uses kind, encouraging methods. Basically – the dog does the >job< of doing what you ask and you pay him for it, you teach the >job< in easy stages and you reward for progress, if it does not go right, then you ignore it and start again. You can learn from books but a training class for a young dog is a good answer as it socialises him to other dogs and new people as well. What he learns as a little puppy will last his lifetime.  The lesson of quiet confidence around people and dogs is invaluable, far too many dogs aredifficult to handle,  fearful and aggressive because no one cared enough to give the gift of a puppy class.

The window of opportunity for teaching a puppy at its most receptive is rather short, although a dog will learn all his life, that baby brain is all new and ready to learn.
Clicker training is a good investment for everyone concerned. The use of a clicker is not necessary but it helps almost all dogs, as it marks the exact point that the dog did what you wanted and teaches quickly   –   he hears the click and he will get a treat.

A trainer who considers that a prong collar or electric shock is a useful tool should be avoided at all costs.
Exactly why is it appropriate to hurt a dog – in any way – to teach it ?

The dog will learn really well by reward and he will love you… punishment will make him dislike and fear you.
IWs are rare enough to provoke interest from the general public frequently – so having a well behaved one is going to make a good impression on behalf of the breed’s reputation. Unfortunately, if your enthusiastic ( and they are ) IW jumps all over someone, that person is going to think that is how the breed is because it will probably be he only one encountered.

Give a dog a bad name…
Most badly behaved Pit bull types could/would be lovely dogs, if well trained and well behaved.  Unfortunately, that type has attracted some unpleasant owners, some of whom even believe a dog is a weapon… so, unfortunately, the Pit Bull type is widely considered dangerous……

This also applies to several other breeds as well as pit bull types.
More to come about wolfhounds…………..
here and here

Pictures of Cu Sha and other people’s wolfies:-



Here is a dog we saw at a show, before CuSha was born. As you can see from the first picture here, which is also of him, the front feet are folded in what appears to be an impossible position. Cu Sha also does this.





This is Ellis, one of our wolfies. He was a rescue.


Me and Cu Sha walking down the ” green tunnel”  to the side of our house, leading down toward the town.

I think he looks so cute.

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