Heather has owned Irish Wolfhounds for the past 45 years, often more than three at a time. She has a wealth of experience with ‘giant’ breeds, how the pack dynamics operate within the household, and the challenges that come with that.
1. What first attracted you to the Irish Wolfhound breed and how many do you currently own?
I have always loved Irish Wolfhounds, they are so friendly and non-threatening despite their huge size. I also love Greek mythology too so all of my dogs are always named after Greek Gods. Currently we have Hera, she’s three years old, Apollo is eight months and Juno is four months and they are both boys.
2. In a multiple-dog household, is it best to have all males, all females, or a mixture?
We have always had a mixture of males and females, it doesn’t seem to cause any issues that we have found. At the moment Hera, being the oldest and also the only female, tends to mother the two younger boys, although given the opportunity will get up to mischief alongside them!
3. Is there always a pack leader, and if so how does a dog usually emerge as such?
We do all we can to prevent any of the dogs becoming the pack leader. We treat them all the same, and they regard us as above them in the pack which keeps them in their place.
4. Do they need a lot of space and exercise?
Wolfhound puppies grow very quickly, so you have to allow their bone structures to build with very gentle exercise in the first year. They love a walk, but equally love to sleep too! The puppies don’t realise quite how large they are, and they often attempt to sit on our laps, it is quite a sight to behold! Also there isn’t much floor space when there are a few in the house like we have. They can’t walk up and down stairs either, so that’s worth taking into consideration when deciding whether to own one.
5. How much do they eat, and what does the food cost on average per month?
The puppies have four meals per day up until three months of age, they then drop down to three meals a day until they are one year old. Then after that it's twice a day. Their meals consist of dry food but soaked in water until fully absorbed. Because they are hounds they have a tendancy to bolt their food, so if it was left dry it would swell up in their stomach after swallowing which can cause problems. By soaking, it has taken on all the liquid it can first before entering the stomach, so is already the highest volume it can be. They eat from raised bowls because the dogs are so tall, plus it’s better for their tummies and posture to eat higher up. The total cost for the three dogs we have is around £100 per month.
6. Tell us about the typical characteristics of the breed?
I think they’re the tallest dog breed and definitely the biggest of all sighthounds. They bark a fair bit when someone arrives home, but they wouldn’t ever be aggressive. Their sheer size would be enough to put off any intruders anyway! They have quite a short lifespan, only up to around eight years or so, although we have had ones who have lived to eleven years. They all have different characters, but the main trait running through all of them is how friendly they are, really cuddly and often silly! As with any dog, once socialised properly when they are puppies they will be friendly to anyone, but being sighthounds they do like to chase birds, squirrels, rabbits etc. which is worth bearing in mind. It’s normal to only walk them on the lead because of that. Unless you can run very fast! They don’t shed all that much hair, but it's helpful to brush them once a week or so.