General Care








A puppy up to six months of age should just be allowed to play and should be given no actual formal exercise, except for training. It is important to allow the puppy plenty of time to rest, so children and other dogs should be prevented from continually harassing the puppy. A wolfhound puppy is growing extremely fast and skeletal disorders can be caused by both wrong feeding and incorrect exercise. Pushing a puppy for early maturity is damaging to its health, and it is most beneficial to have a pup growing slowly and naturally.

It is important to remember that any giant breed puppy could be susceptible to skeletal problems during its growth period, and that it is with the puppy that you need to guard against joint problems such as arthritis in the older dog. Although diet plays a major part in healthy growth and skeletal development, so does exercise. Many wolfhound puppies have been damaged by allowing them to play for long periods either with older wolfhounds, or with smaller breeds whether puppies or adults. Smaller breeds have more energy and can go on way past the stage at which a wolfhound puppy should have given up and rested, but in such circumstances the wolfhound pup often will continue to play and cause damage to its growing bones. So the rule is: do not allow the puppy free access to either older dogs or puppies of smaller breeds. Wolfhound puppies do need lots of sleep and rest and it is important that they get it.

A six month pup A six month old puppy

Do not take a puppy under six months for proper walks, even short ones. By all means give it lead training but not by taking it for walks. Once over six months, the puppy may be taken on short walks, starting with a few minutes a day and very gradually increasing to about a mile a day. The pup may also be given some free running other than playing in the garden for a few minutes each day. At nine months, the amount of exercise may be increased to reach two miles a day at a year old, plus some free running. After this age, exercise may be increased to twenty minutes or more free running twice a day by eighteen months, plus two miles walk. However, do not only walk a dog tied to a pram or pushchair and walking at the pace of a toddler or young child because being forced to shorten its steps and walk slowly will damage its skeletal and muscular structure so that it will not be able to stretch out on the move properly when it has finished growing.

However, do not take it that no proper walks means shutting the pup in a pen or cage all the time. Having space for playing and some running about is as important to health as a good diet and plenty of sleep.

An adult hound requires at least 20 minutes free exercise twice daily but some road walking is beneficial as well. No form of exercise should be given for an hour before or two hours after feeding because of the risk of bloat/gastric torsion.

Also, do not exercise your hound in the heat of the day; in warm weather exercise early in the morning and late in the evening when it is cooler. Exercising in heat can cause many problems, including collapse and even death. It is as well to remember that dogs should not be left out with no shade in hot weather and should absolutely never ever be left in a car in warm weather, even if the car is in shade when you leave it. It is not enough to open the windows; a car in sun becomes an oven in minutes and the unfortunate dog left in it literally cooks. This is also something to bear in mind when taking a dog out to drive anywhere in warm weather; the windows of modern cars are so designed that the dog has difficulty in staying out of direct sun. Investing in window shades that will help keep out the sun's rays is sensible, as is having a car with air conditioning, but window shades are not going to make it possible to leave a dog in a car on a sunny day.

Do not exercise for an hour before or two hours after feeding because of the risk of bloat/gastric torsion.

If you are an exhibitor, then it is very tempting to push your puppy to its maximum growth rate in order to do well in the showring. However, this is a very short-sighted policy because it can all too easily cause major problems both during the growing period with bone growth disorders and in the future. Keeping a pup to a slow and steady growth rate is the most sensible path. He may look undersized and juvenile in his class but is more likely to make a healthy, long-lived adult with sound limbs. Taking him round to show after show as a puppy is also not a very sensible or far-sighted procedure, because it is stressful and tiring for him and using up energy that would be better expended on growing and developing. Many very promising pups have ended up as poor quality adults through being shown frequently early on.

Also, it is unwise to expect any puppy (or junior in the large and giant breeds) to do jumping or agility because of the stress on developing bones and joints. Only start such activities when a dog is fully grown and in good condition. And going downstairs is not good exercise for any dog of whatever age, because of the stress it puts on the joints. However, walking uphill is good for building muscle once a dog is adult and requiring conditioning.

The Irish wolfhound should be hard muscled - it is, after all, a galloping breed - but good muscle is as much due to structure and diet as to exercise. And you do not want to try to muscle up a puppy through exercise or you will cause it possibly irreparable harm. However big your puppy is, remember that he is still a baby and needs treating as such. Vet Ian Billinghurst gives an excellent and easy to follow description of how bones grow in his book “Grow Your Pup With Bones”. He also gives sound advice on feeding and the importance of care with exercise.

Do remember that the Irish wolfhound was bred for hunting and many still retain a strong hunting instinct. Even those that are brought up with other animals may not be trustworthy with those animals as adults because of this. ( See characteristics of breed)

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Start your puppy off almost as soon as you get it by brushing with a soft brush, looking in its mouth and ears, lifting its tail and feet, feeling gently all over its body, and getting it used to being examined, both while standing and lying down on its side, and having its toes moved and its toenails trimmed. It is so important to do this and do it frequently so that the puppy accepts it as part of life. It can be extremely difficult to deal with an older hound that will not allow grooming or nail trimming and cannot be examined by the veterinarian when necessary. It is not very sensible to end up having to have your hound anaesthetised in order to have its nails cut, or requiring sedation before the vet can check him over.

The wolfhound does not need a vast amount of grooming but does require brushing regularly and a thorough going over once a week. Some hounds do have rather long, soft coats and these will obviously take much more work. For the show ring the hound should just be tidied up, not stripped out, except when removing old, dead coat.

However, tidying up can involve quite a lot of work - especially with those hounds with a heavy coat, which are inclined to grow soft and long hair on their ears, and enough hair round their feet to resemble carpet slippers. The hair from the ears must be removed with finger and thumb a little at a time, but most people use thinning scissors or a stripping knife to remove the hair from the feet, and also to tidy up the hair which can grow in ridges down the sides of the neck. Tidy the head so that the shape of the skull can be seen, with no tufts of fur to spoil the line. The neck should have a mane, so, although it is a good idea to tidy up the sides of the neck, it should not be completely stripped out.

Tidy the hair under the belly, especially under the tuck-up, so that there is not a long fringe hanging down and spoiling the underline. Strip any over-thick hair from the base of the tail so that the curve of the topline flows smoothly down into the tail, and do the same to any area where the hair is sticking out in tufts or not lying smooth. The outline of the hound should flow in a series of curves, not go straight and then up and over a hump! Get a good look from a few feet away every now and then as you work, because your view close to can give you a different picture to what the judge and ringsiders will see and you can lose sight of the whole hound while concentrating on some particular aspect of it.

Don't wait until the day before the show to start preparation; bathe your hound, if you are going to do that, about three to two weeks prior to the show so that the coat has time to settle, and do a little bit of stripping each day. Do prepare your hound before a show - it is most unpleasant for the judge (and does not show you or your hound in a good light) if it is dirty and unkempt.

Feeding your hounds the most suitable diet for each individual (see nutrition page) will help to keep his mouth pristine and his teeth white, but do start off at the early puppy stage and continue throughout his life examining his mouth thoroughly on a regular basis. Bad teeth can cause major problems with the dog's health and dogs can get mouth cancers, which are so often not noticed until they are extremely invasive simply because no-one looked in the mouth.

When you do bathe your hound, do use a proper dog shampoo because those have been formulated to fit in with the pH balance of the skin. Do not use human shampoos, nor baby shampoos, because the pH levels of the human and dog skin are different. Particularly do not use anti-dandruff shampoos sold for people as these can be extremely harmful. If your hound has scurfy skin, then take a look at his diet and particularly his intake of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and B complex vitamins.


All dogs should be trained to some extent. A puppy (in fact, any dog) will be learning all the time it is with you, so you may as well make sure it is learning some useful things (useful to you, that is) and all the things that will make you enjoy its company more. A puppy is never too young to learn. Hopefully, the breeder of your puppy will have done some basic training such as wearing a collar/lead, walking on the lead, coming when called, sit, and down, because those commands are so easy to teach during the period of six to twelve weeks of age. If not, then you should make a start as soon as you get the puppy.

Coming when called is simple because a puppy is going to be following you around anyway and, even when it is exploring, is easy to attract to you. The usual way of training a puppy to come to you is just to call the puppy to you (usually the command is "[Puppy's name] - Come!") in a bright, cheerful tone of voice and give it a small treat such as a bit of cheese and praise and pet it when it comes to you. It is a good idea to hold the puppy by the collar or with a hand on its back while you pet it with the other hand, so that the pup gets used to being restrained (even if only for a few seconds) when it responds. The puppy should be only too willing to come at this early stage and it makes things a lot easier if you can get this command firmly fixed as early as possible. However, to begin with don't call the puppy when it is investigating something interesting; instead choose a moment when it is just on the verge of coming towards you anyway.

Clicker training (operant conditioning) utilises just such natural moves to shape the behaviour wanted and is an excellent way to train a puppy or older animal, because it actually allows understanding of what is being asked and creates confidence in the animal. A book by Morgan Spector, Clicker Training For Obedience, covers all the theory of clicker training as well as all you need to know to train a dog to whatever standard you require; from just having a well-behaved companion to having a potential obedience champion.

Always be pleasant to come to, however long your hound takes to respond to your command. Making coming to you unpleasant (for example by shouting at the hound or, even worse, smacking it for not coming immediately) is not going to improve your hound's recall. It is far more likely to feel that staying away from you as long as possible is a better option. Screaming or yelling at your hound to come is no way to make it feel that being with you is more pleasant than being away from you. Keep your voice bright and cheerful, however frustrated or furious you are that your hound has not come immediately. Just bear in mind that you have not properly trained your hound if it does not respond to your commands, so it is hardly fair to blame the hound.

Training to sit and down by traditional positive training methods uses tidbits, which can be anything tasty (such as a piece of cheese or cooked liver) but should be very small (small enough to be concealed between your fingers) and can be part of the puppy's next meal rather than extra. For the sit, hold the tidbit just above the puppy's head and move it backwards so that the pup has to sit to get it. When it sits, say "Sit", give the pup the tidbit and praise it. For teaching the down, hold the tidbit in front of the pup at head height and then lower your hand down to the floor while moving your hand slightly away from the puppy so that it has to lie down to get at the tidbit. As it goes down, say "Down". You can also train for "down" by holding the tidbit on one side of a chair or other piece of furniture with the puppy on the other, so that it has to get down to get the tidbit. These are methods used by trainers such as Ian Dunbar, but clicker training, although it too uses treats, shapes the behaviour in a different way.

Clicker training may not suit dogs that are extremely sound sensitive. However, it is often possible to get even a sound sensitive dog to accept it by muting the clicker to begin with. Clicker training is based entirely on reinforcing the behaviour you want, which is what all training should be, rather than punishing the behaviour you do not want, which is what so much of training used to be (and sometimes still is), and is thus excellent at improving your relationship with your dog, as well as getting the dog to understand what it is you want rather than just following an order. It is particularly helpful for training behaviours rather than commands, and, in fact, you do not start using a command until you have fixed the behaviour. See the list of books and the Links for more details.

Do train your puppy to walk properly on the lead, especially if you are intending to show. It should be possible to train a puppy to walk (and trot when older) to heel on a loose lead without having to resort to such uncomfortable devices as the Halti or a check chain. Although dogs are normally walked on the handler's left, it is sensible to do some lead training walking your pup (and older hound) on your right, because this sometimes becomes necessary both in the ring and at other times but is usually scarey to a dog that has only ever been walked on the left. Don't keep jerking on the lead; that teaches the dog nothing. Clicker training can be used for teaching walking on the lead as well as other behaviours. Or, if the hound pulls, simply stop and wait until it is calm at your side, then move forward again. This is described in the "Dog Listener" books (see the list of books and the Links for more details), although the basic training for heelwork should have been carried out offlead indoors to begin with, so that the dog already knows about staying close to you on the command of "[name] Heel".

There is a book by Turid Rugaas called "What do I do....When my Dog Pulls?" which gives a simple way to teach your dog to walk calmly beside you so you can both enjoy your walks to a much greater extent.

You can also learn dog communication by reading Turid Rugaas' book on calming signals. This is all about working with dogs on the dog's level rather than trying to browbeat/dominate/force the dog. Using body language that is taken from the body language dogs use among themselves you can calm a dog and work with it in harmony. These are skills you can use in any interaction with dogs and benefit both the dogs and yourself.

The site offers online training lessons on dog house training ,dog behavior training, clicker training, potty training, agility training, crate training, puppy training. The Site Description: New Revolutionary Dog Training lessons will turn your dog in to the most obedient companion. is the website for Alex Keir's Good Dog Works! training programme. "I am passionate about dogs and training and about helping people create a kind, respectful relationship with their dog that does not involve the use of pain or fear. I think dogs make great followers as long as we take responsibility for guiding them."

Jan Fennell, the Dog Listener, has written several books and also has a website - - on her method of working with dogs, which she calls Amichien bonding. This works on the dog's basic instinctive drive towards maintaining a stable pack environment. A pack can be any size from one person and a dog to a large family of humans and a number of dogs, and, as far as a dog is concerned, there has to be an Alpha in charge just as there is in a wolf pack. If the people are not being the Alphas, then the dog has to take that role and this can lead to all sorts of strange and difficult behaviours (hyperactive behaviour, pulling on the lead, aggression, nervousness, fear of noises/cars/visitors, etc., tail chasing, self-mutilation, etc.) because the dog simply cannot cope with the modern lifestyle of humans. Shown that its role is only that of a subordinate, the dog can relax and enjoy life. Jan Fennell also holds two day seminars working with her own dogs at her home, limited to ten places. See her website for details.

Paul Owens also uses a method of training which is working on the dog's level and utilising the dog's methods of communication, which is explained in his book The Dog Whisperer. A DVD is also available.

Cèsar Millan [The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic channel] does not claim to "train" dogs in the sense of teaching them commands like "sit, stay, come, heel". Instead, he claims to rehabilitate unbalanced dogs and helps "re-train" their owners.......He asserts that the pack instinct is perhaps the strongest natural motivator for a dog, and teaches that in order to properly fulfill both our dogs and ourselves, owners need to become canines' calm, assertive pack leaders. He believes that a dog that doesn't trust its human to be a good pack leader becomes unbalanced and often exhibits unwanted or anti-social behaviors.

However, there are other points of view. Before his untimely death John Fisher was questioning the belief that dogs saw themselves as part of the human pack and needed to be treated in a way that was based on the behaviour of captive wolf packs. Barry Eaton has written a booklet about this subject, entitled "Dominance: Fact or Fiction" (find out more on And Ian Dunbar also calls the usual human take on canine pack behaviour more myth than fact - The Clickersolutions website has many more articles on dealing with canine problems as well as debunking the dominance myth, a list of which can be found at .

Morgan Spector (author of Clicker Training For Obedience) has written an article entitled MOVING BEYOND THE DOMINANCE MYTH: TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF TRAINING AS PARTNERSHIP from the Tufts Animal Expo Conference Proceedings, September 1, 2001. - " Dog trainers have commonly accepted a model of training based on a supposed emulation of the behaviors of wolves, particularly Alpha wolves. Central to this model is the notion of “dominance”. This model is conceptually flawed in that it rests on some serious misconceptions about wolf behavior as well as serious misconceptions about the interactions between dogs and humans. As a separate species from dogs, humans cannot emulate intraspecific behaviors and expect those behaviors to be interpreted other than as aggression. A more accurate and ultimately more productive training model is to approach training from the point of view of symbiosis: interspecific cooperation based on some form of mutual benefit." This article can be found online at

Suzanne Clothier also calls into question the belief that humans have to be dominant over dogs and gives a different view of life with dogs in her book "Bones Would Rain from the Sky". She has a website at offer "Alternative Puppy Training For People Wanting To Develop A Truly Magical Relationship With Their Dogs" - puppy training without food bribes or force - and are very much against operant conditioning and many other training programmes.

Puppy socialisation classes are a great idea. These get pups used to other dogs, children, and people, teach them proper social behaviour, and give them some basic training as well. There should be details in your local paper of those classes nearest to you. All puppies need to be socialised in some way to introduce them to all the different aspects of the environment they may come across, including humans, other dogs, and vehicles.

Even if you take your puppy to puppy socialisation classes, do also take it out and about in your community so that it gets to know about traffic, noise, people, etc. Sitting with it in the car park of your local supermarket can be useful, for example, as can introducing it to different surfaces at home (e.g. tarmac, gravel, grass, concrete), machines (washing machine, lawnmower, car, vacuum cleaner), umbrellas, walking sticks, and so on. The wider the range of things a puppy is introduced to at an early age, the more calm and accepting it is going to be of anything new later.

The following rather poignantly suggests what can happen if you don't train your puppy:

My family brought me home, cradled in their arms,
They cuddled me and smiled at me, said I was full of charm.
They played with me and laughed with me, they showered me with toys,
I sure do love my family, especially the girls and boys.

The children loved to feed me, they gave me special treats,
They even let me sleep with them, all snuggled in their sheets.
I used to go for many walks, often several times a day,
They even fought to hold the leash, I'm very proud to say.

They used to laugh and praise me, when I played with that old shoe,
But I didn't know the difference between the old ones and the new.
The kids and I would grab a rag, and for hours we would tug,
So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug.

They said I was out of control and would have to live outside,
This I did not understand, although I tried and tried.
The walks stopped, one by one; they said they hadn't time,
I wish that I could change things, I wish I knew my crime.

My life became so lonely in the backyard on a chain.
I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.
So they brought me to a shelter, but were embarrassed to say why,
They said I caused an allergy, and then kissed me good-bye.

If I'd only had some classes when I was just a pup,
I wouldn't have been so hard to handle, when I was all grown up.
"You only have one day left," I heard a worker say.
Does this mean a second chance? Do I go home today?

There are lots of books and video tapes on dog training, and see also the sites linked below.

For more on training, and on insecurity in the dog, see the page on getting an Irish wolfhound.


Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier

The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell

The Practical Dog Listener by Jan Fennell

Cèsar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems by Cèsar Millan & Melissa Jo Peltier

Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life by Cèsar Millan & Melissa Jo Peltier

What Do I Do....When My Dog Pulls? by Turid Rugaas

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas [there is also a videotape] In the U.K. Turid's books can be obtained from Sheila Harper Canine Education, 9 The Meadows, Rugeley, Staffs. WS15 1JH, tel. 01889 802 685, e-mail: ; website: See the Links for sites where they can be obtained in the U.S.A.

Dominance: Fact or Fiction? by Barry Eaton

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller

Beyond Obedience: Training With Awareness for You & Your Dog by April Frost & Rondi Lightmark

Overcoming Dog Problems by Silvia Hartmann-Kent

Training Your Dog With Love by Silvia Hartmann-Kent

Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor

Clicker Training by Karen Pryor

Clicker Training for Obedience by Morgan Spector

Think Dog by John Fisher

Dogwise by John Fisher

The Dog Whisperer A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training by Paul Owens

The Toolbox for Remodelling Problem Dogs by Terry Ryan


moving with pets The Goodcall site with state by state details on requirements for moving with animals
traveling with pets The Truckers Report website page on travelling with pets by car or truck, with lots of links to other similar pages Robert K. Wayne (UCLA) on the Evolutionary History of the Domestic Dog Dr. P's library of information on dog training and dog behaviour A site with lots of links to clicker training sites Karen Pryor's Melissa Alexander's Alex Keir's Good Dog Works! training programme Ian Dunbar's latest website - blogs from world class experts, videos, photos and interesting articles. The site of Paul Owens, author of The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training. Jan Fennell's Dog Listener site Pat Miller's Peaceable Paws site Cèsar Millan's official website - achieving balance between people and dogs
perfectpaws The Perfectpaws website on training Sheila Harper's website for seminars on animal communication, dog behaviour and training, training books & videos/DVDs, and equipment & accessories Barry Eaton's website, mainly on training deaf dogs The Training Dogs site The site of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (U.K.) The site of the American Dog Trainers Network

In the U.K. there is a charity, Justice For Dogs, that was set up at the time of the Dangerous Dogs Act to offer assistance and guidance to owners affected by the Act, but which is now available to any person who has a dog related problem and who needs advice, guidance and help. The charity has an impressive list of Patrons, Legal Consultants, and Veterinary Consultants. It relies solely on members' subscriptions and donations from the public in order to carry out its work, so do become a member. Details and help from the founder, Ann Harpwood, tel/fax: 01544 370213.

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Updated 4/22/2017