Irish Wolfhound Care

The Irish Wolfhound: big, rangy, scruffy-looking, and quite fleet of foot. But beneath that rough exterior, the IW is a pleasant, sensitive dog that forms deep bonds with its human owners. Likewise, these dogs are beloved by people worldwide--and that's a good thing, because Irish Wolfhound care is pretty time-consuming and specific, especially with exercise and diet. The info below has plenty of details on raising and maintaining an Irish Wolfhound: puppy care and development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. For answers to all your Irish Wolfhound-related questions, read on!

Irish Wolfhound Breed Development

As a giant-sized breed, Irish Wolfhound puppy development usually spans 20-24 months from birth to full maturity. Physically, IW puppies grow incredibly fast in height and length for the first 9-10 months (with a major growth spurt starting at the 3- to 4-month mark); the adolescent usually "fills out" by gaining muscle mass and fat between 10-16 months. Irish Wolfhound pups typically reach their adult size (an average of 32 inches at the shoulders in height and 140 pounds in weight) at 14-16 months of age.

Socially, IW puppies develop steadily: they reach adolescence at 6-7 months, sexual maturity at 11-12 months, and full mental maturity by two years of age (though some "mature" IWs may retain their puppylike behavior for a few additional months). For specific milestones in IW puppy development, reference the chart below.

(NOTE: Irish Wolfhound puppies' physical growth rate is exceptionally rapid--dogs of this breed, in fact, are known to be some of the fastest-growing land mammals in the animal kingdom. This means that certain precautions need to be taken regarding the feeding and exercising of these puppies; see the Exercise Needs and Diet sections of this page for more info.)

Irish Wolfhound Exercise Needs

Though not an incredibly active breed, Irish Wolfhound exercise is important in keeping these dogs happy and fit. The main thing to keep in mind regarding exercise for your IW is that, because of both their build and their temperament, these dogs will need close supervision when performing physical activities; IW puppies in particular will need to be watched constantly when at play to make sure they don't overexert themselves, which will easily result in injury.

And specifically how much exercise does an Irish Wolfhound need? Depending on its age and overall activity level, a mature IW will require 45-60 minutes of daily activity. IW puppies shouldn't begin proper exercise until six months of age, though brief play periods are okay for pups younger than that. You can begin by taking your six-month-old IW pup for brief (5- to 10-minute) walks, then slowly increasing the walks' length and duration as the puppy grows.

Some precautions to take when exercising your Irish Wolfhound: first, as previously mentioned, puppies need special consideration when it comes to physical activity. Because they grow so fast, these pups are extremely susceptible to injuring their growth plates if they jump or run too much before they're fully grown. An over-exercised IW puppy is highly prone to the development of hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis, and other joint problems later in life. Beginning with the short walks at six months old, you can lengthen the walks up to two miles by the time the puppy reaches a year in age--but you shouldn't let the young IW participate in any activities that include a lot of jumping and running until the dog reaches its full adult size (usually at 14-16 months).

Regardless of age, a dog of this breed will also need to be leashed when in public. IWs have an exceptionally high prey drive, and will instinctively chase most interesting-looking critters, so they'll need to be carefully controlled while you're out and about. Additionally, it's not a good idea to exercise your IW for an hour before or two hours after the dog eats. IWs have a high risk of bloat, an often-fatal condition caused by air getting trapped in a dog's stomach when it eats too fast; the issue is more prevalent if the dog eats just before or after exercising.

Safeguards aside, it's good to exercise your Irish Wolfhound every single day. A bored or restless IW will turn destructive, disobedient, and generally unhappy, so consistent physical activity is good for both the dog's sanity and your own. Some exercise ideas:

  • Walking: Two 20-minute walks per day is a good target
  • Fetch: Your IW will love chasing a ball or stick
  • Dog Park: These dogs enjoy the company of other dogs; make sure to use a leash
  • Swimming: Take the dog for a nice, long swim in a pool or lake on hotter days
  • Hiking: Great bonding activity; bonus if you can go in a remote area so the dog can be off-leash

When indoors, it's a good idea to give your Irish Wolfhound access to one or more balls or chew-toys that will allow the dog to burn off pent-up energy. It's also recommended that you establish a consistent daily exercise schedule for your IW, such as walks in the morning and evening and a play period in the afternoon.

Irish Wolfhound Maintenance

Care requirements for an Irish Wolfhound in terms of shedding and drooling are typically pretty low overall. These dogs shed lightly year-round, while drooling is basically a non-issue.

Some Irish Wolfhound shedding information: IWs have medium-length, rough, double-layered coats--but unlike most double-coated breeds, the IW doesn't "blow" its undercoat when the seasons change. So does an Irish Wolfhound shed at all? It does, all year long--but the amount of shed hairs is pretty low. Still, owners may need to vacuum the floors and use lint rollers on clothes and furniture from time to time. Breed experts say brushing an IW once a week will minimize the shedding some, and stripping its coat 2-3 times a year will help as well; stripping the coat will also soften its texture.

These dogs may drool a bit in anticipation of food, but very little otherwise. If your Irish Wolfhound is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case a veterinarian's care is needed.

Irish Wolfhound Diet

The Irish Wolfhound diet is ultra-important in keeping these dogs happy and long-living. The IW diet is also special because it requires carefully balanced amounts of proteins and carbohydrates--especially for swiftly-growing puppies. This means that Irish Wolfhound food absolutely must be a premium brand, particularly one formulated for large breeds. These high-quality large-breed foods provide the proper amounts of nutrients that cheap, generic dog foods--which contain mostly empty "filler" ingredients--simply don't have. The Irish Wolfhound already has one of the shortest lifespans of any breed (only 6-8 years), and feeding an IW only cheap dog food will likely shorten its life even more.

A further note about feeding an Irish Wolfhound puppy: young IWs need a lot of protein and carbs, of course--but not too much of it. Because these pups grow at such a rapid rate, too much protein can cause problems with the growth process, leading to problems in the dog's joints once it matures. Some breeders and experts recommend feeding an IW puppy a large-breed puppy formula until it's a year old, while others say even that is too much protein, and that a puppy should eat premium dry adult food made for normal-sized breeds for its first year. In any case, new IW owners are strongly advised to consult a veterinarian about feeding their Irish Wolfhound pups.

And just how much does an Irish Wolfhound eat? As you can probably guess, quite a lot. An adult IW, depending on its age, size, and activity level, will need about five cups of premium dry food per day, divided into two meals. IW puppies will need a bit less: again depending on its age, a pup will need about 3½ cups per day, divided into three meals (not two) until nine months old. For further info on food portions for IW puppies and adults, see this Irish Wolfhound feeding chart:

It's a good idea to try and stick to the above-listed portions; while your IW can probably devour a lot more food, these amounts are ample. An overfed IW will likely become overweight--and a fat Irish Wolfhound will have extensive joint issues, problems with breathing and digestion, and an even shorter lifespan. You can control your IW's weight in several ways: by establishing consistent feeding and exercise schedules; by not feeding the dog table scraps; and by not leaving food in its bowl all the time, thereby allowing the dog to eat anytime it wants. It's better to put your IW's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 20-30 minutes after the dog begins eating.If you're worried your Irish Wolfhound is overweight, give the dog this simple test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Reduce your IW's daily food consumption by one-fourth, and add an extra walk or play period to its daily exercise schedule.