Irish Wolfhound

A complete breed guide for Irish Wolfhounds

Last Updated 16 JANUARY 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Brittany Ward BVSc

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest dog breeds, known for its sturdy, imposing figure and characteristic shaggy coat. They have a lot more to offer than their intimidating appearance and are also one of the most gentle and friendly breeds of dog. They are quite laid back and like to take life at their own pace!

1. Irish Wolfhound Facts
2. History
3. Personality
4. Best Toys for Irish Wolfhounds
5. Best Food for Irish Wolfhounds
6. Health Concerns
7. Related Breeds
Further Reading

Facts About The Irish Wolfhound

Photo credits: @free.range.ferg, @floyd_wolfhound, @rorschach_eats_floorsnacks and @king_henry_irish_wolfhound.

Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence:
Giant Breed Ireland Very High
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Hound Moderate 40-70 kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
6-8 years Low Average 81-86cm
Drool factor: Ease of training: Coat type:
Low Moderate Rough and hard - mainly wiry. Especially wiry hair over eyes and beard.
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Colours:
Moderate Moderate (Weekly) Grey, Brindle, Red, Black, Pure White and Fawn

How big do Irish Wolfhounds get?

The Irish Wolfhound is one of the tallest dog breeds. The breed standard lists their desired height as 81 - 86 cm with the male minimum being 79 cm and the female minimum being 71 cm. Some males have been recorded up to 91 cm tall at the withers. They tend to be lean despite their height with females weighing a minimum of 40.5 kgs and males with a minimum of 54.5 kg can be anywhere up to 70 kgs.

How much does a Irish Wolfhound cost?

To purchase an Irish Wolfhound from a reputable breeder will cost around $1500 - $3000. If you'd prefer a purebred puppy, then make sure you do your research and ask the breeder our 10 Breeder Checklist Questions. We recommend considering adoption first, as there are many Wolfhound crosses in rescues and shelters.

How Much Training Do Irish Wolfhounds Need?

Irish Wolfhounds are highly intelligent and fast learners. However, they have a "laid back" nature that means they grow bored of long training sessions. They succeed the most with short, repetitive and consistent sessions. They are sensitive to criticism and prone to shutting down, so should be trained with positive methods. They also retain many of their hunting instincts and have a very high prey drive, so need to be socialised with other pets and animals quickly.

Do Irish Wolfhounds Shed?

Irish Wolfhounds shed throughout the year at a low to moderate level. Their coat needs a weekly brush with an undercoat rake followed by a pin brush or bristle brush just to remove loose hair and dirt. They may only need bathing a couple of times a year, or if their coat smells.

How Long Do Irish Wolfhounds Live For?

Irish Wolfhounds tend to have longer lifespans than most Giant Breeds, averaging 6-8 years, although some do reach 13 years of age. You can promote your Irish Wolfhound's lifespan with a premium quality giant breed diet, regular dental care, maintaining healthy body weight and supporting their joints.

How Much Exercise Do Irish Wolfhounds Need?

Irish Wolfhounds are fairly laid back and can easily settle into the lifestyle of a couch potato. They do prefer to have regular, daily exercise for at least 45-60 minutes. Often 1-2 walks a day is sufficient.

Do Irish Wolfhounds Make Good Pets?

Irish Wolfhounds make great pets! They are true gentle giants with a friendly disposition towards family and strangers. They are a relatively low maintenance dog and generally prefer to sprawl out around the house. They are not great as a guard dog, but intruders may find their size intimidating by itself.

Are Irish Wolfhounds Good With Kids?

Yes, Irish Wolfhounds are good with kids. They are patient and gentle with children, however, their large frame means they may accidentally knock over or frighten young children. Children may also find their laid back nature frustrating.

Irish Wolfhound History

Image Source: Irish Wolfhounds Victoria.

The Irish Wolfhound has ancient origins in the 1st Century BC as the 'Great Hound of Ireland'. Its most notable documentation was by the Roman Aurelis in 391 AD when he was gifted 7 of them while in Ireland. In Rome it was famed as a gladiator and hunting dog. They were fearsome in battle, used to pull men from their horses or chariots. They were also used for guarding herds and hunting large prey, capable of taking down 6 ft tall Irish Elks and Wolves, hence their name.

In Ireland, they were highly regarded and could only be owned by nobility, your status indicating how many Wolfhounds you were allowed to own. They almost became extinct in the 1800s as a result of the extinction of the Wolf in Ireland, their regular gifting to nobility and the 1845 famine. The breed was revived by crossing original Wolfhounds with Great Danes, Borzois, Scottish Deerhounds and Tibetan Mastiffs to create the breed we have today.

Irish Wolfhound Personality

Photo credits - Left:@king_henry_irish_wolfhound, Middle Two:@rorschach_eats_floorsnacks, Right:@floyd_wolfhound.

The breed standard describes the Irish Wolfhound's temperament as "Lambs at home, Lions in the chase". As such they are a calm, dignified and gentle breed that makes them loving family members and very comfortable in the home. They form deep bonds with their owners, and prefer human company, so may be susceptible to separation anxiety. They are very affectionate, and can be prone to attempting to sit in your lap!

They tend to be pacifists and take things at their own pace, but can have bouts of playfulness. Puppies are particularly prone to episodes of willfulness and destructiveness, so require lots of mental stimulation. They also grow rapidly to a large size and tend to lack awareness of how big they are - they are likely to knock things over. For these reasons early obedience training is essential.

Additionally, they retain many of their hunting instincts, high prey drive and fast running speed, and have sometimes been referred to as the "Long-Haired Greyhound". They need to be socialised around other animals and dogs to prevent them chasing "their prey". They have a one track mind, so become unresponsive to commands if distracted or chasing prey. It is best to keep them on leash or in a securely fenced area to prevent them from disappearing. Owners need to remain vigilant in public to prevent them taking off.

Best Toys for Iirsh Wolfhounds

Irish Wolfhound Diet and Nutrition

Photo credits: @king_henry_irish_wolfhound, @rorschach_eats_floorsnacks and @floyd_wolfhound.

A giant breed dog like an Irish Wolfhound also comes with a giant appetite (and food bill!). They are rapidly growing and late maturing, not reaching their full adult size until 2 years of age. As a result of this, it is very important to get your puppy's nutrition right. They need a premium quality food for large and giant breed puppies with tightly regulated energy and calcium contents to control the rate of growth and prevent joint problems. Additions like omega fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin are also recommended for joint support. We recommend feeding a premium diet from a reputable pet food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials until 18-24 months of age. The diet should be fed in controlled amounts to promote slow rate of growth and a lean body condition score of 4/9. Check out Body Condition Assessment for more information on assessing body condition scores.

It is also important to prevent Irish Wolfhound puppies from engaging in prolonged or strenuous exercise. Like many giant breed dogs, they are prone to orthopaedic developmental problems that can result from additional strain on their rapidly growing joints. Avoid forced exercise, instead let them explore at their own pace and use mental stimulation instead to prevent excess strain on their still developing joints.

Best Food for Irish Wolfhound Puppies

Hills Science Diet
Puppy Large Breed

This high quality dry puppy food contains ideal levels of energy, calcium and phosphorus to minimise the risk of developmental bone and joint problems.

Pro Plan
Large Breed Puppy

This premium quality large breed puppy food has chicken as the number one ingredient and is fortified with colostrum for enhanced immunity and protection from common intestinal upsets, as well as a combination of key nutrients to support healthy joints.

Black Hawk
Puppy Large Breed

This high quality, Australian made large breed puppy food contains iron and B12 rich Lamb with added prebiotics for digestive health, omega fatty acids for brain development, Green Lipped Mussel, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and antioxidants for overall health.

Large Breed Puppy

This formula is easily digested and contains precisely balanced levels of calcium, phosphorus and energy to promote controlled bone growth with optimal levels of omega fatty acids to support skin and coat health, as well as beet pulp and prebiotic fibres for healthy digestion.

Best Food for Adult Irish Wolfhounds

When it comes to feeding your adult Irish Wolfhound, you want a premium quality, large and giant breed diet with relatively low protein and fat contents to support weight management, as well as added joint support and antioxidants for heart care.

Eukanuba Large Breed

Containing premium animal based protein, with chicken as the main ingredient this delicious, nutritiously dense and highly digestible diet is designed to support joint health with natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin plus reduced fat levels to help maintain a healthy weight.

Advance Large Adult

This super premium, Australian made, dry dog food includes green lipped mussel powder to help support healthy joints and a unique blend of nutrients including taurine, arginine and vitamin E to promote improved cardiac function.

Hills Mobility Large Breed

This specially formulated dry food uses the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids to improve your dogs mobility and it also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, the building blocks of healthy joints and cartilage, as well as l-carnitine to maintain lean muscle mass and calcium for healthy bones.

Diamond Naturals Large

This diet provides complete, holistic nutrition for your dog and is enhanced with superfoods and probiotics. This formula is packed with glucosamine and chondroitin to help support your dog's joints and Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to help maintain their healthy skin and shiny coat.

Irish Wolfhound Health Problems

Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia

Dysplasia refers to a malalignment in a joint often causing pain and resulting in the development of arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia a condition where the head of the femur in the hindlimb doesn't sit comfortably in the socket of the hip leading to inflammation and pain, often noticed as lameness after exercise. Elbow Dysplasia is a condition where the three bones of the elbow joint grow at different rates and no longer do not fit together properly causing lameness.

Both of these conditions are breed related, heritable conditions and reputable breeders will ensure all their stud dogs are tested using the Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Scheme (CHEDS) prior to breeding.

Osteochondritis Dessicans

Osteochondritis Dessicans (OCD) is a condition involving the separation of diseased cartilage from the underlying bone. It is most commonly seen in the Elbow, Hip and Knee, of rapidly growing large breed dogs between 6 and 9 months of age. It is usually the result of too much exercise straining the joint or excessive calcium in the diet. The condition can vary in severity and as such treatment can vary from strict rest to surgery.


An Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer commonly seen in large and giant breeds. It often develops first in long bones, but quickly spreads to the lungs. An early sign is often lameness, but sometimes swelling can be seen as well. Treatment is aggressive with prompt amputation of the limb and chemotherapy.


Osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is a chronic condition resulting from inflammation in one or more joints. All dogs are at risk of developing osteoarthritis due to wear and tear as they age, but giant breeds do tend to be more prone. Trauma, congenital disorders and infection can also lead to the development of arthritis. A multi-modal approach is required for management with weight management, joint support supplements and prescription pain relief.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

GDV, also sometimes called bloat or gastric torsion, is a life-threatening, emergency condition. It is common in large, deep chested dog breeds like the Irish Wolfhound. GDV results from an accumulation of air and/or fluid in the stomach, which is often followed by the rotation of the stomach. This causes a blockage to outflow for excess air, as well as putting pressure on major blood vessels and organs. Typical signs include restlessness, unproductive retching, abdominal distension and signs of abdominal discomfort, such as the 'prayer pose' (front feet down and rear end up). To prevent Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, offer smaller meals more frequently, slow down food consumption and avoid exercise for 1-2 hours after eating with your Irish Wolfhound.

Liver Shunts

A Portosystemic Shunt, often simplified to Liver Shunt, is a congenital condition involving abnormal blood flow, where it bypasses the liver. In puppies, this is most commonly a persistent ductus venosus that fails to collapse after birth or the abnormal development of a blood vessel outside the liver. Symptoms are usually noticeable by 2 years of age and include stunted growth, poor muscle development, disorientation, staring into space, circling, head pressing, seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and urination.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a degenerative of the heart muscle leading to thinning and stretching of the muscle wall making the heart appear larger and weakening contraction. DCM is the most common cause of heart failure in large breed dogs. Signs are typically seen in middle-aged to senior dogs and include weakness, exercise intolerance, coughing, loss of appetite and fainting or passing out. Annual health checks with your Veterinarian are important for early detection of this disease.

Top Health Recommendations For Irish Wolfhounds

4cyte Joint
Support Supplement

A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Scream Slow Feed
Interactive Puzzle Bowl

This interactive dog feeder is designed to mentally stimulate your dog while they eat, and works to slow your canine down when they have their meals. Eating rapidly is a predisposing factor for bloat, so slowing down meal times is the perfect way to prevent this.

Zeez Deluxe
Telescoping Pet Ramp

Featuring an aluminium body with a plastic panel design, this lightweight ramp has an attached handle making carrying a breeze! Perfect for any size dog it can carry up to 90kg and has a tread width of 35.5cm.

Mobility Chews

These tasty chews are made with New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin, to help relieve the painful signs of arthritis.

Related Breeds

Scottish Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound or 'Royal Dog of Scotland' is another large breed sighthound bred for hunting, specifically Deer. Like the Wolfhound they are gentle and affectionate with family, although they are less prone to inter-dog aggression. These dogs have much higher energy requirements and cannot be left at home alone.


The Borzoi is a Russian bred, wolf-hunting, sighthound. Their coat is thicker and silkier than the Irish Wolfhound. They are gentle and calm, but like to be entertained so can be quite characterful and playful. Like Wolfhounds, they have a high prey drive and cannot be called off the chase


The Greyhound has made a name for itself as a racing dog, known for its high speed. Their speed is comparable to that of the Wolfhound. Like the Wolfhound they are gentle and affectionate, but can adapt well to apartment living. Greyhounds are much more adapted to hot weather than Irish Wolfhounds.

Great Dane

The Great Dane is another gentle giant like the Irish Wolfhound that prefers a laid back lifestyle and are friendly family dogs. They are a German hunting dog, and unlike the Irish Wolfhound make good watch dogs and can be territorial.

Further Reading

The Complete New Puppy Guide

How To Choose The Right Dog Breed

Managing Separation Anxiety

Boredom Busters For Dogs

Arthritis In Dogs