Due to their large size, Irish Wolfhounds need homes with plenty of space—otherwise, they're likely to bump into and break anything fragile. They are best suited to families with older children and pet parents who understand the challenges of extra-large dogs.
Irish Wolfhound Traits
What makes the Irish Wolfhound an Irish Wolfhound? Let's find out how they stack up.
Irish Wolfhound Temperament
If you’ve ever dreamed of being friends with Chewbacca, you’re in luck: Being BFFs with an Irish Wolfhound dog, the gentle giant of the canine world, might be the next best thing. These pups are kind, loving and more loyal to you than even Chewy was to Han Solo. But despite all that devotion, their sighthound instincts sometimes convince them that their agenda is more important than yours when it comes to, say, napping, counter surfing or watching squirrels.
Irish Wolfhounds can adapt to life with other pets in their household if carefully trained. Due to their instinct as hunting dogs, some may be less trustworthy around cats—it really depends on the individual dog and their training. Irish Wolfhounds are generally good with children and love interacting with them, but are better suited for households with older children simply due to their size; your pup may accidentally knock a small child over while playing. (And watch that puppy nipping, because as adults, they have a strong bite force.)
This breed is generally not aggressive and has a calm demeanor, loves to run and is athletic. But while their traits and qualities were well suited to their original job (a talented and skilled hunting dog), today’s dogs are much more likely to be talented and skilled couch potatoes if you let them.
How to Care for a Irish Wolfhound
The Irish Wolfhound is a quite literally a whole lot of dog, and their size has an impact on everything from diet to training. Even Irish Wolfhound puppies are big, compared to most other breeds, and pet parents will need to start training early, while they are still at a manageable size. But don’t worry: Their grooming needs aren’t as outsized as their bodies, and they tend to be light shedders.
Irish Wolfhound Health
Irish Wolfhounds have a life expectancy of 6 to 8 years, and there are several health issues to watch out for to keep your dog healthy. It’s also important to know that veterinary care for a dog of this size can be expensive. If injured or ailing, they may need assistance in getting around, which can be a significant challenge given their weight and height. These gentle giants are worth the extra care, but if you do bring one home, keep an eye out for these concerns:
- Bloat: Irish Wolfhounds are prone to a condition called bloat, which often affects giant or deep-chested dog breeds. When bloat occurs, the dog’s stomach may twist, causing a life-threatening emergency that requires surgery to correct. A dog suffering from bloat will act restless, the stomach will become distended and the dog may unsuccessfully attempt to vomit. Fortunately, there is a preventive surgery available that can help eliminate the problem. Another prevention technique is to avoid exercising your dog immediately after feeding and feeding your pup smaller meals throughout the day with a slow feeding bowl.
- Liver Shunts: This is an abnormal series of blood vessels that circumnavigate a dog’s liver and can cause stunted growth, poor muscle development, disorientation and seizures. Ideally, your Irish Wolfhound puppy should be screened by their breeder for liver shunts before going to their new home. Management for the condition includes diet modifications, antibiotics and medications.
- Bone Cancer: More formally known as osteosarcoma, bone cancer is common in Irish Wolfhounds, often affecting a particular leg. The condition is often serious, although there are several different treatment options available, including radiation and chemotherapy, and genetic research is being conducted to help breeders reduce the number of cases.
- Pneumonia: Some Irish Wolfhounds are prone to recurrent pneumonia, which can be challenging to diagnose but important for pet parents to recognize early. Antibiotic treatments are common but may not stop the condition from happening again.
To ensure your dog is in the best health, choose your puppy from a responsible breeder who carefully works to reduce the risk of genetic-linked disease.
Irish Wolfhounds have loving, affectionate natures and are capable of imparting a lot of joy to their parents and family. But keep in mind these dogs have relatively short lifespans. It can be difficult to lose a great dog so young, especially if you have children in your family. For many pet parents, life with these dogs is more than worth the loss. Still, lifespan is an important factor to consider as you’re choosing the right breed for you.
Irish Wolfhound History
When it comes to the Irish Wolfhound’s history, the name says it all. They are hounds, they hunted wolves and they’re from Ireland. But to fill in a few more specifics, the Irish Wolfhound is an ancient breed who has been valued for centuries and features in many of the folklore tales of Ireland. Their size and stature made them excellent accomplices on quests, battles and general adventuring.
During the 1400s they became particularly notable as wolf hunters in Ireland, but by the 1700s, wolves had been eradicated in the country. Subsequently, the population of Irish Wolfhounds diminished to low levels. The Irish Wolfhound breed was in danger of extinction, but thankfully, there was renewed interest in preserving the breed in the 1800s.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Irish Wolfhound breed in 1897, and the Irish Wolfhound Club of America was established in 1926. Irish Wolfhounds rank 74 on the AKC’s list of the most popular dog breeds.
Want to add an Irish Wolfhound to your family? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. On average, Irish Wolfhound puppies will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 for a pup. But for that, you usually get a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Irish Wolfhound rescue organizations to adopt or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.
Do Irish Wolfhounds shed?
Yes, Irish Wolfhounds shed lightly year-round. While they do shed an average amount for a double-coated breed, Irish Wolfhounds aren’t noted for heavy seasonal shedding.
How long do Irish Wolfhounds live?
The average life expectancy of an Irish Wolfhound is 6 to 8 years. Like many large and giant dog breeds, their lifespans tend to be shorter.
How big do Irish Wolfhounds get?
Irish Wolfhounds get very, very big. The height of a male Irish Wolfhound is a minimum of 32 inches and females stand a minimum of 30 inches tall. They are the tallest dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. The weight of a male Irish Wolfhound is at least 120 pounds and females weigh at least 105 pounds.
Are Irish Wolfhounds good pets?
Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are good pets. They generally have kind and devoted personalities, and they love family life. While they are often good with children, the sheer size of an Irish Wolfhound can be a concern for families with small children.
Are Irish Wolfhounds aggressive?
Irish Wolfhounds are not known for being aggressive, despite their impressive size. They typically aren’t used as guard dogs.
What are the most popular Irish Wolfhound names?
Some of the most popular Irish Wolfhound names reach back into Irish mythology and include Aengus, Aileen, Balor, Brigid, Cian, Danu, Deirdre, Fionnuala and Lir. Get more dog names here.
What are the most common Irish Wolfhounds mixes?
The most common Irish Wolfhound mixes are:
- Irish Wolfhound-Poodle mix (Irish Wolfoodle)
- Irish Wolfhound-Great Dane mix (Irish Dane)
- Irish Wolfhound-German Shepherd mix (Irish Shepherd)
- Irish Wolfhound-Golden Retriever mix (Irish Retriever)
- Irish Wolfhound-Mastiff mix (Irish Mastiff)
- Irish Wolfhound-Great Pyrenees mix (Great Wolfhound)
If you’re looking for a large, loving and loyal dog who has the potential to be an all-star on the canine version of the Harlem Globetrotters, the Irish Wolfhound might be your ideal match. Sure, they require a lot of space, but they more than make up for it with their enormous hearts, passion for fun and their unswerving devotion.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Melanie Mercer, DVM and certified dog trainer Bree Reza, CPDT-KA, of 42 Walks Dog Training.