The following Irish proverb describes the Irish Wolfhound: “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” This breed can be standoffish to strangers, but once they know you, they are very affectionate. They can become so attached to their owner that they can become destructive or morose when left alone. Irish Wolfhounds are very gentle with children. They understand their own size and strength, but children and small animals should still be supervised when around them. Irish Wolfhounds are sight-hounds, meaning that they track by sight, not smell. These dogs are also endurance runners and superb athletes. Because of these traits, they should be obedience trained early and consistently. They should also have plenty of exercise.
The AKC description of the Irish Wolfhound says they should be “of great size and commanding appearance.” They are considered the tallest dog breed, although they’re not the heaviest. They have a rough wiry coat that comes in pure white, grey, brindle, red, black, and fawn. They have long, thick, straight legs and a long slightly curved tail.
This breed’s history is long and varied. They were once war dogs used to pull the enemy out of chariots. They also hunted Irish elk. They were used as guards–for their size only. But their temperament does not lend itself well to be a good guard dog today. They were considered a coveted gift to royalty and at one point the breed was near extinction. There was a ban on the exportation of the Irish Wolfhound, but Captain George Augustus Graham resurrected the breed and founded the Irish Wolfhound Club in 1885.
As with any giant breed, these dogs are prone to gastric torsion (bloat). Familiarize yourself with the symptoms if you wish to own one of these dogs. The Irish Wolfhound is also prone to bone cancer. Owners are cautioned against letting a puppy under six months of age exercise too much. Only periods of leash training and no excessive walking are recommended. Owners should also not allow any rough play until after six months of age to prevent fast-growing bones from becoming injured or having skeletal development issues. These gentle giants have a seven-year life span and they’re not recommended for apartment life. They are relatively inactive indoors, but these pups take up a lot of space. I can tell you from personal experience that they are bed-hogs. And they don’t curl up, either. They get comfortable by stretching their entire body. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.