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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Irish Wolfhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

Irish Wolfhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

irish wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a giant dog breed that needs plenty of room in which to spread out and roam around. As such, it does not tend to do well in an apartment setting but prefers rural life. The breed makes an excellent family companion, being sweet and mild-mannered, loyal, and very understanding.

Originally bred to hunt wolves, the breed has also been utilized to drag men off horses during war, the breed remains adept at agility and other forms of canine sport. It can, however, tend towards laziness so it will need an owner that ensures it gets the required daily exercise, even on those days when the dog doesn’t necessarily want it.

Breed Overview


32-36 inches


110-180 pounds


6-10 years


white, gray, brindle, black, fawn, red

Suitable for:

Families with a lot of room that can provide a lot of exercise


Sweet, gentle, loving, loyal, patient

The Irish Wolfhound is usually good with children, other animals, and friendly with strangers. However, it is prone to several health issues and has a short lifespan of around 8 years.

Above all else, you should be prepared for a long and leggy dog that will want to spread out, usually on your sofa or your bed.

Irish Wolfhound Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


Irish Wolfhound Puppies

Irish Wolfhounds are purebred dogs. How expensive this pup is represents its scarcity.

This is a large breed with a big appetite. It’s also prone to injury and illness so you should prepare for some unforeseen vet bills over the coming years.

They are also sweet and gentle and will do well with a family who has the space for them to exercise.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Wolfhound

Although the breed costs a lot of money and takes up a lot of room, the Irish Wolfhound is renowned for being a friendly breed. It does need space, which means that it’s not considered suitable for life in an apartment, and it will enjoy time outdoors, both supervised on a leash and unsupervised in the yard.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The breed’s characteristics make it a great choice of family companion. It is friendly and loving, loyal, and seems to have an understanding of its size and the potential problems it can entail.

However, this is a very large breed and one that is prone to the occasional burst of energy. Accidents do happen. This could mean young children get knocked over or trampled on. Even if it is an accident, it can still cause damage. Also, the short lifespan of the breed may put some families off. The Wolfhound is likely to reach 8 years of age, whereas other family breeds like Labradors and Retrievers can reach double this.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

In general, the Irish Wolfhound is considered a friendly breed that not only gets on with people but animals, too. It can usually be introduced to other dogs, although if you are hoping to integrate this big dog into your family, you should try to introduce two dogs when they are still puppies.

Although some Irish Wolfhounds do live with cats, the dog is a sighthound so it may naturally want to chase smaller animals including cats. Again, try to introduce them when they are both young to ensure a positive response. Do not leave an Irish Wolfhound with smaller animals, such as rabbits, because they are likely to chase and it could lead to serious injury, or worse.divider-paw

Things to Know When Owning an Irish Wolfhound:

The Irish Wolfhound makes a loyal family dog that will get along with all adults and careful children. It will need plenty of space and you should not leave it with smaller animals like rabbits, or fear of it attacking. While there are plenty of benefits to owning this breed, it is not the best choice for all people and all situations. Read on to find out more about this giant breed and to see whether it is a good choice for you.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

As a giant breed, the Irish Wolfhound has an equally sizable appetite. If you are feeding dry kibble, ensure that it is of good quality and has decent protein levels. This will help replenish the energy burned and will keep the dog’s muscles in good shape. Expect to feed a minimum of three cups of food per day, and spread this out two or three meals. Dogs with a deep chest cavity are in danger of suffering bloat, which can be painful and may even prove fatal. Bloat is most commonly associated with eating too much, too quickly, and by limiting portion sizes but feeding more often, it is possible to cut the risk.

If feeding wet food, choose something appropriate for the size of the breed. The Irish Wolfhound can weigh well over 100 pounds and this means a lot of canned food. Weigh your dog, ensure that it is within healthy guidelines, and then feed according to the manufacturer’s instructions or according to any special dietary instructions given by your vet.

Exercise 🐕

The Irish Wolfhound is a working dog and it needs a lot of exercise. Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily have to run or sprint around, and brisk walks will usually suffice. But you will have to walk very quickly to keep up with a Wolfhound at full stride. Provide two hours of exercise every day.
Although walking may be enough, if you can give your Wolfhound some time to jog around, it will benefit from the extra exercise. The breed does well at agility classes, thanks to its energy levels, concentration, and how easy it is to train. They can also do well at Greyhound racing and man trailing.

Training 🎾

A naturally clean dog, the Irish Wolfhound is considered easy to house train or potty train. They are also considered intelligent, attentive, and eager to please their owner. This combination makes them susceptible to positive training techniques. Just bear in mind that a puppy Irish Wolfhound can be accident-prone. Yours may be put off training if it suffers too many accidents, so offer encouragement, be positive, and look for ways to keep training as light and enjoyable as possible.

Puppy classes are a good idea because they provide you with the tools to be able to train your dog yourself. Classes teach basic commands and they also provide you with a sympathetic environment where everybody and their dogs are in the same boat.

Grooming ✂️

The breed has a rough, wiry coat. It can be maintained with minimal brushing and tending. In most cases, it is possible to remove dead hairs and pluck unwanted hairs by hand. You can also manage the longer hairs that grow above your dog’s eyes to help ensure that they can still see properly without hindrance.

Nails will need to be trimmed roughly every two months. If your Wolfhound does not get out often or does not walk on abrasive surfaces like concrete, the nails may have to be trimmed more often. If you cannot trim your dog’s nails yourself, get a professional groomer to do it, or even ask your vet to give them a clip when you next visit. If you do intend to do this yourself, start when the dog is very young. Having somebody lift their paw and clip away with sharp scissors can be stressful for older dogs, but if they have experienced it when younger, they will usually deal with it better.

Similarly, you should start brushing your dog’s teeth when it is still a puppy. This needs doing three times a week, at least, to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Unfortunately, the Irish Wolfhound is prone to several illnesses and conditions. Breeding parents should have been screened for the existence of dysplasia and some other conditions, but even rigorous screening does not guarantee that your dog will be free from these problems.

  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus – More commonly known as bloat, this is a condition where the stomach twists and is a serious emergency. Dogs with deep chest cavities are more prone to this complaint.
  • Joint Dysplasia – This means that the ball and socket of the afflicted joint have grown at different rates so they have not developed equally. As such, the ball does not fit properly into the socket joint, causing inflammation, pain, and potential lameness.

Look for signs of the following conditions and consult a vet if you think you do see any signs.

Minor Conditions
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
  • Osteosarcoma
Serious Conditions
  • Gastric Torsion


Male vs Female

The male Irish Wolfhound will grow approximately two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than the female. Some people think that females are more prone to mood swings and tempers but males can be bold. The female is usually considered brighter and potentially easier to train. However, these reports are only anecdotal and are not specific to Irish Wolfhounds but to all dog breeds. Generally, the character of the individual dog is more important than their gender.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Wolfhound

1. They Are The Tallest Dog In The World

You may have heard the Irish Wolfhound described as being a giant breed and a tall dog. This is the tallest dog breed in the world. A male can be as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder, with females usually around two inches shorter. When they stand on their back legs, they can be 7 feet tall.

Fortunately, the breed is described as being a gentle giant because despite its big frame, the Wolfhound is not considered aggressive but is thought of as being gentle, understanding, accepting, and sweet-natured. Despite being tall, this elegant dog is not fat or heavy for its size. The Wolfhound can be thought of as being elegant.

2. They Nearly Became Extinct

Originally bred for hunting large game, especially, as the name suggests, wolf. They would also hunt elk, and when both of these animals saw their numbers dwindling in Ireland, the dog breed that was used to hunt them also saw plummeting numbers. By 1800, numbers had diminished considerably.

Captain George A. Graham bred the remaining examples he could find with Scottish Deerhound in a bid to revive the breed. Although they are not necessarily a common sight on every street corner, the majestic animal has bounced back. It has its own breed registry in the US, the Irish Wolfhound Club of America, and you can enjoy the loyal and sweet temperament of this giant breed in your home, too.

3. Irish Wolfhounds Do Not Make Good Guard Dogs

They were bred to hunt wolves and elk, were used to carry the bodies of soldiers off the battlefield, and have found utility in a variety of different roles and jobs.

However, one role they do not excel at is that of the guard dog. They are large and can be intimidating if they are allowed to jump up at people, but they are also very friendly. Not only do they get along with all members of the family but they will usually befriend the neighbors, people they meet at the park, and passers-by.

It is worth remembering that the breed is a sighthound, so yours may still have a strong prey drive and it may give chase if it sees a cat or small animal darting away.

irish wolfhound is standing on a green meadow
Image By: Tikhomirov Sergey, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

The Irish Wolfhound is a giant dog breed and, for a relatively short period, it is likely to fill a large space in your life and your family. It gets along with people of all ages, including strangers, and usually gets along with other dogs, although it should not be trusted around smaller animals. It will want space to stretch out so may not be suitable for an apartment, and it is prone to several illnesses and health conditions that mean it has an average life expectancy of just 8 years. However, it is a loyal, loving, and mild-mannered dog that makes a great family companion and can turn its paws, every efficiently, to dog agility and canine sports.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

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