Kennel Club Breed Standard
History of the Irish
Care of Your
The Irish wolfhound is a giant breed which will take several years to
mature. When your puppy is six months old, although he will be almost his adult
size he is still a baby and needs to be treated as such. The wolfhound is a
galloping hound with a strong hunting instinct and this should always be taken
into account when letting him off the leash.
Every breeder has their own way of feeding. Your breeder should hopefully
give you a diet sheet when collecting your puppy. Do not give any extra
supplements of vitamins or minerals and in particular do not give any calcium
supplements or cod liver oil as to do so would be harmful to your puppy.
However, if you prefer an alternative method of feeding, then ask advice from a
member of the committee of the Irish Wolfhound Society.
If possible, for the first week he is with you give the same food he has had
before so as not to cause unnecessary stress while he is settling in. The
second week start adding the new food if appropriate by giving a tablespoonful
mixed in with the other food the first day and then increasing the amount
gradually each day, whilst reducing the amount of the original food, until by
the end of the week the puppy is entirely on the new diet. If you give milk,
cows milk is not easily digested by dogs and may cause scouring (diarrhoea).
Goats milk is less likely to cause digestive problems and sheeps milk is even
better, being very close to bitch milk in composition. There are several makes
of dry powdered bitch milk replacers available from pet shops.
It is not possible to list set amounts to give your puppy to eat because all
dogs are different and what will suit one will be too much or too little for
another. There will be some feeding instructions on the bag of food you buy and
this can be used as a rough guide. Most puppies under five months of age can be
fed pretty much all they will eat, although some will not eat enough and very
few will eat too much.
It should be possible to feel the outline of the puppy's ribs but not to feel
between the ribs (too thin), nor to have to press through flesh to reach the
ribs (too fat). A puppy will have its daily ration divided into several meals.
Do not leave the food down for long periods; allow no more than ten minutes for
it to be eaten and then pick up the remainder and give fresh food for the next
meal. If the puppy regularly leaves some food uneaten, then reduce the amount
of the next meals until all the food is eaten. As the puppy grows, the amount
of food required will increase. It is not a good idea to follow a free-feeding
regime (having dry food available at all times) for a wolfhound.
It is important to choose the right diet for your wolfhound. The very high
protein/high energy feeds are intended for working dogs and not for the average
family dog. Therefore find a food low in protein at about 18 per cent or less.
All most adult wolfhounds require is a maintenance diet, although, if your
hound is very active (or not a good feeder), a Performance diet can be given.
It is a good idea to divide your adult wolfhound's ration into at least two
meals each day.
Older dogs require less food as they become less active, to prevent their
becoming overweight as excess weight aggravates many health problems such as
heart disease and arthritis. Some manufacturers have a diet especially for the
older dog in their range. Such diets have reduced protein and sodium content to
lessen the danger of kidney failure and fluid retention. There are also special
prescription diets available from your veterinary surgeon to help with
controlling obesity, kidney and heart disease, and so on. It may be necessary
with an old hound to divide the daily ration into several smaller meals so as
not to put too much strain on the digestion.
There is a wide range of complete diets in a wide range of types, from a fine
meal designed to be moistened with water or gravy, through small pieces
(kibble) designed to be fed dry or moistened, to large nuts or chunks intended
to be fed dry, and moist (canned), so if your hound is a difficult feeder you
can try several types to find one he likes. Having found a food your hound
likes and which suits him, keep to it as it is neither necessary nor desirable
for a dog to have a varied diet and changing the food he is given may cause
digestive upsets. If you have problems getting your puppy to eat, then ask the
breeder or, failing this, a member of the Society Committee for help.
It is a good idea to raise food bowls off the ground to a height at which the
puppy or adult does not have to reach down to eat. Do not soak food to a sloppy
consistency, just moisten it. Do not add liquid to dry food well in advance of
feeding in hot weather or it will turn sour and, if food has been kept in a
refrigerator, remove it at least an hour before feeding and feed at room
temperature. Feed all food fresh, not stale. Fresh water must be available at
all times. Keep water containers clean.
Your puppy should be given his own place to sleep, which must be away from
draughts, warm and comfortable. It is somewhere he can be sent when you want
him safely out of the way, and somewhere he can go when he wants to get
If you do not want him to sit on furniture when he is an adult or wet, or has
muddy paws, don't let him do it at all, because he cannot be expected to
understand that it is okay only sometimes. When the puppy is on his bed do not
allow children to torment him, he needs lots of sleep.
Give your puppy a number of toys but allow him just a few at a time and
switch them around to keep him interested. If he does not know how to play,
then teach him by playing with him. Do not give him old shoes or other items of
clothing as toys, because he cannot be expected to know the difference between
old ones and your best pair. Make sure all toys left with him are safe. A ball
must always be too large to be swallowed, for example, and nothing you give
should be able to splinter or break when chewed. Hard rubber toys are best but
if he gets to the stage of chewing bits off, only give them when you can
supervise. Squeaky toys should never be left with a puppy as they are easily
destroyed and the metal squeak can be swallowed. Do not throw sticks for a
puppy or adult as they can cause serious damage; a throw toy such as a frisbee
(the Nylabone or Gummabone frisbees are best as they do not splinter and are
designed to take a little chewing), ball or Kong are best. If you give him a
bone it should only be a raw one, such as a marrow bone (never cooked bones
which splinter) and not too often once he gets to the stage of being able to
crunch it up; no more than once a week. Rawhide chews are indigestible and can
cause severe health problems. An occasional one is permissible but it is best
to give the really large ones and remove it when the puppy starts to destroy
Until your puppy is six months old he will require only limited exercise,
but it is important that he be socialised. Take him out in the car as early as
possible and let him meet people and learn about traffic, etc. so that he does
not become shy and nervous. Before he has finished his vaccination programme it
is unwise to let him walk in public places where he could pick up infection.
You can have him in the car in busy areas so that he can get used to traffic
noise and so on.
It is quite natural for a puppy to play for a time and then collapse into
sleep; it does not mean there is anything wrong with him. After six months you
can start taking your puppy for walks but make them short to begin with and
lengthen them gradually. By nine months the puppy should be able to go out for
20 minutes at a time. It is better to have several walks of 20 minutes each
rather than a long walk of an hour at this stage, but do not tire the puppy.
Puppies are as individual in the amount of exercise they can take as in the
amount of food they require, and a puppy that has grown very tall and gangly
should be given several short walks during the day and not overtired. An adult
hound requires a minimum of an hour's walking or half-an-hour free running
every day, unless it has a condition which requires restricted exercise.
Do not always walk a young puppy at a very slow pace but move at a rate at
which the puppy can extend itself properly. A puppy which is forced to shorten
its steps to keep up with a toddler, for example, may never be able to move
properly when adult. Part of the daily exercise should be solely for the
hound's enjoyment, and the Irish wolfhound is a galloping hound so should be
given the opportunity to run at least sometimes.
Always walk your hound on a lead on public highways, no matter how well behaved
it is. If you go to dog shows with him, keep him on a lead. The Irish wolfhound
is a hunting dog and still retains a strong hunting instinct in many cases. Do
remember this when you are taking him out and take care that he cannot chase
other animals. If there is farm stock around, he must be kept on a lead.
You will require a bristle brush, a good strong comb (a non-tangle comb is a
good buy), a slicker brush, a pair of nail clippers (the guillotine type are
best), and a pair of blunt-ended scissors for basic grooming of your hound.
Comb thoroughly all over, following with a thorough brushing with a slicker
brush (which brings out dead and loose hair), finishing off with a bristle
brush to bring up a shine on the coat. A young puppy will just require gentle
brushing with a soft brush to get him used to being groomed.
Keep long hair under the tail, and on the sheath of males, trimmed short with
blunt-ended scissors. Keep the nails trimmed, being careful to take off only a
tiny amount at a time so as not to cut the quick, which is the soft core of the
nail and painful if cut. If your hound has not had dewclaws removed, do
remember to keep them clippped, as they can grow round into the leg if
neglected. The dewclaws are on the inside of the leg, just above the foot and
correspond to the thumb in humans. They are mostly found on the forelegs but
occasionally also on the hind legs.
It is not usually necessary to bathe a wolfhound often, but only if he gets
particularly dirty or has rolled in something unpleasant. Use shampoos
specifically intended for dogs; do not use human shampoos as the acidity of the
skin of people and dogs is different and altering it by using the wrong shampoo
can cause skin infection.
Check your hound's ears regularly and clean earflaps of dirt and wax. This can
be done with a soft cloth or cotton wool and warm water, or ask your vet for a
proprietary ear cleanser. Do not put oil or powders inside the ears (unless
directed to do so by your vet) and do not put anything hard or pointed down
into the ear canal. You can clean out dirt or wax from the part you can see by
putting in the ear cleanser and wiping out with a wad of cotton wool, but never
use cotton buds or anything similar to clean out the ear. If your hound keeps
shaking his head or rubbing his ears, do take him to the vet to be checked. Ear
infections can be very difficult to clear up if neglected and may then require
If you decide to exhibit your hound at shows, he wll need to be stripped out to
some extent. Go to a few shows which are scheduling wolfhound classes and ask
exhibitors for advice on show preparation, or go to a breed Rally with your
hound and ask to be shown how to prepare him.
Collars and Leads
By law your dog must wear a collar when in a public place and the collar has
got to be fitted with a tag bearing your name and address. A soft leather
collar is the most suitable for a young puppy. Do not leave any kind of slip
collar or check chain on a dog when the dog is off lead, not even around the
house. This kind of collar or chain can easily catch on projections such as
branches or door knobs (or on the teeth of another dog) and strangle the dog
wearing it. For the same reason, never tie a dog up by a slip collar or chain.
The weakest part of a lead is usually the clip by which it is fastened to the
collar, so make sure the one you buy has a good strong clip and that the ring
on the collar is also strong and not likely to pull open.
All puppies should be trained in basic control and good manners. Your puppy is
going to be learning from the moment you get him so it is sensible to ensure
that he learns the right lessons. You should start his education as early as
possible and it is a good idea to get him to puppy training classes as soon as
he has completed his vaccination programme. Such classes are excellent for
socialisation and teaching the puppy to accept other dogs and people. Details
of local training classes can be obtained from the Kennel Club, from
advertisements in the local press, or from your veterinary surgery.
It is impossible to give detailed instructions on training in this booklet but
do read books on training and remember reward training works much better than
punishment. It is not necessary to punish a puppy, or an adult dog, in order to
get it to obey your commands. You should do some training as soon as your puppy
arrives (housetraining, for example), more as soon as it has settled in (car
training, for example) and lead training as soon as the puppy has accepted you
enough to follow you about. Have the puppy trained to walk on the lead before
you take him anywhere and get him used to walking on both your right and left
hand side, and , if you walk him on a road with no pavement, keep him on the
inside so you are between him and the traffic.
Get him used from the start to having his mouth opened and examined; his ears
looked in and touched; his head, body, legs, and feet touched and moved and his
toes separated. Get him to lie on his side and be rolled over and examined and
touched, so that he comes to accept all this as normal. Get him used to being
brushed and, in particular, to having his face and whiskers brushed and his
tail raised and his toenails trimmed. Practice this regularly and try to get
other people to handle the pup during these sessions as well. It is easy to do
this with a young puppy but much harder when he weighs as much or more than you
do, and being used to being handled will make it much easier for you to groom
him, and for your vet to examine him.
The breeder of your puppy should give you details of the worming he has had.
A puppy should be wormed at least at six, eight, ten and twelve weeks. If he
has not, worm him when you get him and again two weeks later and again at three
months if you got him at eight weeks. Ask your vet for a suitable worming
preparation and do follow the instructions to the letter. It is important to
weigh the puppy accurately before worming, because worming tablets are given on
a basis of weight. If you give too little, the worms will not be killed. If you
give too much, you may harm the puppy. He should then be wormed every six
months for the rest of his life.
One health problem which occurs in most large and giant breeds of dogis
bloat/gastric torsion. This is a condition in which the stomach becomes
distended with gas (bloat) and sometimes twists round (gastric torsion),
thereby shutting off the outlets and preventing the gases escaping. It is a
very dangerous condition which necessitates immediate veterinary attention if
the dog's life is to be saved. First signs are: the dog becomes restless and
anxious, pacing about and refusing to lie down. He may sit in a hunched
position, he will probably pant a lot and drool; he may retche as if trying to
be sick and may vomit what looks like partially whipped egg white. He may also
frantically tear at and eat grass or other vegetation, upholstery, carpets,
bedding, etc. He may stand with his back arched and his abdomen may be swollen
up behind his rib cage and feel tight and hard like a drum. Later he may lie
down but this does not mean he is better; he is suffering from clinical shock
because of pressure of the blown-up stomach on the diaphragm and blood vessels
and the next step is coma and death.
No-one yet knows why bloat/gastric torsion occurs but ways in which you can try
to avoid it are: do not exercise for at least an hour before and two hours
after a meal; give at least two meals a day so that the stomach is not
completely empty and then overfull; do not feed dry anything that swells on
contact with water (some puppy meals do this, for instance, and should always
be fed pre-soaked - read the instructions carefully).
There is a scheme for research into heart disease in the Irish wolfhound, which
means that you can have your hound's heart monitored regularly (for a donation
to the Heart Research Fund) by taking him to one of the breed events at which
the research team are present. See the Forthcoming Events page for details.