You've read up on the breed (if you have not, read About the Breed), visited some shows or breed events (contact the breed clubs for details) so that you could see wolfhounds and talk to their people, and perhaps even visited some breeders, and have decided that the wolfhound is the dog for you.
Have you fully weighed all the pros and cons? This is a big dog. That can be a big plus, because you don't have to bend down very far to stroke a wolfhound and you're not likely to tread on it because you did not see it there, but it can also have its drawbacks. It is going to cost more to keep, not just in terms of food and supplements but also in terms of veterinary costs. It is going to take up a lot of room in house and car. If a wolfhound is on the couch, there may be room for no-one else, and the same could go for the back of the car. There is a lot of dog to get wet, and large paws to track in mud, and a lot of hair to shed. There is a lot of coat to groom, not in length but in the area covered.
Have you thought about the possibility of finding yourself with a hound with a strong hunting instinct? (again, see About the Breed) because it will not be possible to tell with a puppy how it is going to turn out in that direction as in most others. If you have any doubts about this, please look at some non-hunting breed.
Are you going to be able to give a wolfhound what it needs? It is not a dog to be left crated for hours each day and then taken for a short walk round the block. Not that I would advocate that for any dog, but particularly not for any galloping hound. And like any dog a wolfhound needs exercise every day, not just at weekends or when the weather is fine.
If you have gone through all this, do you want a puppy or to take on an older dog? Older hounds can be found from some breeders (who may have had one they bred brought back for whatever reason, or have one they have either run on but which has proved not quite what they hoped for, or one that they no longer wish to use for breeding and want to put into a home rather than keep on in kennels) or from breed rescue, or, occasionally, from general rescue sanctuaries.
Bringing up your own puppy is very rewarding, but then so is taking on an older dog. One thing to remember with an older dog, though, is that you may have to deal with problems. Dogs run on by breeders may not have been well socialised, if kennelled may well not be housetrained, and may have learned bad habits you will want to change. The reasons for hounds ending up in rescue are varied, with the breakup of marriage/partnership being the most common, but also many others up to and including cruelty cases. Sheep chasing is one reason, or chasing small animals such as cats and small dogs. Other behaviour problems are another possibility, since people will take on pups without being willing to put in either the time or effort to train them in how they want them to be. Dogs don't understand what we want of them unless we teach them, and usually what is seen as unwanted behaviour is simply normal dog behaviour, or the dog trying to deal with unwarranted punishment and negative treatment from people who expect it to know what it should be doing without any explanation being forthcoming, or the dog feeling it has to be in charge because no-one else is.
Do take the trouble to go round several breeders, perhaps go to a few shows even if you are not interested in showing yourself. You can talk to other owners, as well as breeders and find out more about the breed. Caring owners and breeders will always be careful to tell you about possible problems with the breed, as well as the delights, and you should be prepared to be asked searching questions about your home, your family members, your facilities for safe keeping of a puppy, and your good intentions towards both the puppy you are wanting and the breed as a whole. Responsible breeders will ask lots of questions, possibly even ask to visit your home. If you find this intrusive, perhaps you could bear in mind that it is their care of their hounds that leads them to do this. They want their puppies to go to good, loving homes and a breeder who is careful about where their puppies go is going to be someone you can turn to at any time for help and advice.
Choosing the puppy can be difficult. It is not necessarily the case that the puppy that comes straight over to you is "choosing" you; it could be that this is the most dominant puppy in the litter and that could give you problems as it gets older. There are puppy aptitude tests that can be carried out on the puppies in a litter in order to suit each puppy to the person or family for which it is going to be the best choice. You can find out more about these tests from the relevant Links at the bottom of this page. There are people who will visit a litter in order to give the puppies the aptitute test and some breeders will call in such a person so that they can make sure their puppies go to the most suitable homes for each of them. Or you can do it yourself when you visit the litter.
Do avoid breeders who insist on your sending them a deposit before you visit the puppies. Such breeders are inclined to refuse to return the deposit if you do not have one of their puppies and you may not want one for any of a number of reasons and it is not a good start to feel pressured for financial reasons to have a puppy you are not happy with.
A list of books on the breed is given on the page about the breed on this site. A good one to start with to give you a general overview of the breed is the one by Elizabeth Murphy, but all of those listed are both interesting and helpful. In the U.K.the Secretaries of the two breed clubs - The Irish Wolfhound Club and The Irish Wolfhound Society (both of which have a web site) - can help you with details of puppies for sale and breed events. The same will be true of the breed clubs in other countries, many of which also have web sites, a list of which can be seen here.
Hounds of all ages can at times require a new home; any age from young puppies to the very elderly, although in the U.K. the average age for rehoming is 3 years. The U.K. Irish Wolfhound Rescue Trust site gives details of the breed rescue. If you apply for a rescue hound you will be visited by a Club member to check on your suitability and will also be required to fill in a form and to give a veterinary reference. The Rescue hounds remain the property of the Rescue, as all hounds taken into Rescue are signed over. Links to some other breed rescue sites can be found here.
All hounds available from the Rescue have been assessed for suitability for rehoming, which is not to say that none have problems but simply that any problems they do have should be possible to overcome.
It is natural that most people would prefer a young hound, but older hounds can bring so much pleasure and have a charm all their own. Some years ago we took in a 9 year old bitch and her 7 year old daughter and they were both a delight. They had been kept most of their lives in tiny kennels behind a barn and were terrified of the great outdoors, but soon adjusted and then thoroughly enjoyed their twice-daily walks through the fields. We had the older bitch for just over two years and her daughter another year after that, but even had we only had one or both for a much shorter period, it would have been worthwhile.
When Elsa came to us at the age of four we knew that she had cardiomyopathy, but we had some wonderful years with her before she finally went into total heart failure shortly before her eighth birthday. Our next hound, Flynn, was also four when he came to be with us. He had a number of emotional and behavioural problems but soon became a much loved part of our family and gradually healed.
Do try to organise collecting your puppy for a period when you can spend a lot of time with it. Don't get it just before you are going on holiday, before a large family gathering, or at Christmas or any other holiday when there is likely to be difficulty in dealing with the puppy properly. Do prepare before you bring the puppy home, by getting in a crate if you are going to use one, a collar and lead, some toys, grooming equipment, the kind of food the puppy has been reared on, perhaps a bed of some kind and bedding to go in it.
It is probably sensible to confine the puppy to one room of the house to begin with and this should preferably be one such as the kitchen where it will get a lot of company and it won't matter too much if there are "accidents". It is also helpful if there is a door to the outside, as that will make housetraining much easier. Obviously, it is not necessary to confine the puppy to only one room all the time, but it is easier to carry out the training if it does not have the run of the house all the time but only goes into other parts of the house when someone is there to watch over it.
Young puppies do not have control of their bowels or bladder, any more than young human babies do. It is important to spend time with the puppy so that you can take it outside frequently and it is especially important to take it out when it has awoken from a nap, when it has eaten, and any time it is nosing around looking as if it may be needing to go. It is important to go out with the puppy (not to just put it outside) and, when it performs, praise it lavishly. You can also use a command as it starts to go, if you so wish, as being able to command toileting can be helpful - for example, when you stop on a journey or before you go in the ring at a show. If you catch the puppy in the act of making a mess or puddle, you can shout "No!" and rush it outside, then praise it when it completes the job in the proper place. Do not punish a puppy for making a mess. For one thing it will not understand why you are punishing it, and for another it is not very loving to punish a puppy for something it cannot help and does not know is "wrong". Clicker training can be helpful in housetraining as with any other training. See the section on Training for more details and links.
It is unlikely that a puppy will be able to go all night without needing to pass water or stool, but it is more likely to be able to last if you take it out just as you are going off to bed and rush down to take it out immediately you get up in the morning. As soon as the puppy hears you moving about, it will be up and, being up, will need to go out. If you wait to wash and dress, you will be sure to have some cleaning up when you do get downstairs. If you put down newspapers, put them near the door to the outside and well away from the puppy's bed. It can be a good idea to crate the puppy at night, as it will try to keep its bed clean, but being in a crate does not miraculously make a puppy able to control its bladder or bowels, so you still need to be taking it out frequently and, especially, immediately you rise in the morning.
A crate is not some form of punishment and should not be used as such. It is the puppy's safe place; its den. You can put the puppy in it overnight and at times during the day when you are going to be busy and cannot watch the pup, but it should not be confined for long periods. Put water in the crate, and some toys and bedding. If you have bought a bed of some kind for the puppy, that is its safe place and den in the same way as is a crate.
Water should be available at all times, but food should not be left down. Give the puppy its designated number of meals each day (probably four to begin with), allow it no more than 20 minutes to eat a meal and then pick up the bowl and take it away. Don't keep putting down stale food for a puppy that is not eating well; you are unlikely to make it want to eat by giving it unattractive meals. Dogs are not grazing animals and it is not good for any dog to have food constantly available. It is especially dangerous for puppies.
If the puppy does not eat all of one meal, reduce the amount of the next meal, and keep on reducing the amounts of meals until the puppy does eat all of a meal. Do not then give it a second helping, but just slightly increase the amount of the following meal. If that meal is completely eaten, then the next meal can also be increased in amount slightly, and so on. The energy therapy EFT can be very useful in altering poor eating patterns. However, if the puppy is not eating and has any kind of symptoms, then take it to your vet for a check-up.
It is sensible to continue feeding what the puppy has been reared on for at least a week or two, as there are enough changes and upsets in the puppy's life without adding a change of diet to them. When the puppy has had a chance to settle in with you, then you can start changing the diet if you so wish, but do it very gradually, adding a very small amount of the new food to the old and increasing the amount of the new food by small increments daily, whilst reducing the old food by a similar amount.
A puppy of any breed needs to sleep a lot and this is especially true of wolfhound puppies (and other giant breeds) because of the extremely fast rate of growth. The natural behaviour of the young pup is to eat, then play hard for a time, then collapse into sleep and sleeping is going to take up much of its time. If you have children, please do not allow them to pester the puppy into playing for long periods. If you want your puppy to grow into a sound, healthy adult then it needs plenty of sleep and rest. If you also have smaller breed dog/s, make sure they don't over-exercise the puppy or keep it playing when it should be resting. For details on exercise see the page on general care.
Do get your puppy used to being handled. Gently stroke and touch him all over, and roll him on to his side and on to his back and especially touch his feet and get him used to having his toes separated and his pads looked at, and every part of him examined. This should include looking in his mouth and ears. This is so important and will make visits to the vet so much easier and make it simpler for you if you have to do anything to him in the future. Getting the puppy used to being massaged is a great way to get him used to being handled, as massage involves every part of the body and stretching the limbs. See the alternative health section for more details.
Puppies are learning all the time, so you may as well be teaching him what you want him to know. It has to be remembered that dogs do not instinctively know what we want of them; they need to have our wishes explained to them in ways that they can understand. If you are lucky, the breeder of your puppy will already have individualised your puppy and have given him basic training. If not, you will have it all to do yourself.
For full details on this early training with puppies, see the page on breeding, but I will give a summary here. The work was carried out by the Guide Dogs For the Blind, Inc., San Rafael, CA and the results were published in The New Knowledge of Dog Behaviour by Clarence Pfaffenberger. It was discovered that puppies that were only kept as a litter did not develop as much confidence or as much ability to respond healthily both to humans and other dogs (and, in the case of prospective guide dogs, were less likely to complete training successfully) as those which were individualised between the ages of six and twelve weeks. This was especially true of puppies that were raised with their dam or a sibling for all their puppyhood.
The individualisation simply requires taking each puppy out on its own at least three times a week if possible (but even once a week can have a good effect) and introducing it to new things - such as different floorings (including grass, gravel, tarmac, etc. as well as carpet, tiles, linoleum, etc.); different machines (vacuum cleaner, washing machine, lawn mower, car, tractor); going into the car and for a ride in the car; and as many other different experiences as can be discovered. Also some simple training such as wearing a collar and being on a lead, coming when called, sitting and lying down and being examined physically, all of which are very easily learned at this age. Each outing need be no more than ten minutes or so.
I divided my litter into two groups and did each group on alternate days. Even with ten puppies, the time spent is only an hour each day but it makes a huge difference to the puppies' development. If you buy two puppies together, be sure to individualise them in this way. Apart from anything else, it accustoms each puppy to being without the other and greatly lessens the trauma if one is taken somewhere (such as to the vets or a show) and the other is not. It also makes it a great deal easier to train them and increases their bonding with you rather than just with the other puppy.
The time of weaning is also important and three weeks (which is so common a choice, especially where the dam is being shown) is the worst possible time to wean from the point of view of the puppies' mental/emotional health and wellbeing. The third to fourth week is the time of greatest potential damage from fear and stress and any possible upset should be avoided during this period. Starting the pups on solid food at three weeks (or even before where necessary - such as the dam not having enough milk) is okay, but not removing the dam completely as is often done.
I won't go into any more detail on training here but there are many good books on training and I would recommend the books and videos by Dr. Ian Dunbar, the books by John Fisher, and Beyond Training by April Frost. Also Jan Fennell's Dog Listener books. The books and programmes that are available on the work of Cesar Millan (National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer" series) are also very helpful, only more for dealing with behaviour problems than training. Clicker training has become very popular and is a kind and positive way to train any animal. It is especially useful with dogs that enjoy food, as it is very much reward based, although other types of reward such as games and toys can be utilised instead of food. Some trainers believe that a better relationship can be forged without using food.
Understanding the body language dogs use can be very helpful and there is a book and video by Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian dog trainer, which explain all this and how you can use the same sort of body language yourself in order to calm and get the best out of your dog and any other dog.
There are so many different beliefs about how a dog should be trained and everyone needs to make their own choices but it is a good idea to look at a range of the ideas that are available so that your choice can be made on an informed basis. The Internet has made it possible to do this, because no-one is any longer limited to whatever puppy training classes are being run in their locality.
Chewing is a natural pastime for a puppy. It is the way a puppy learns about things as well as being helpful for exercising its jaws and facilitating teething. The sensible thing is to remove and put out of reach anything you do not want chewed. Give the puppy a range of toys that it can safely chew but do not give it an old shoe or slipper, because a puppy cannot be expected to know that chewing that is all right but chewing one of your brand new pair is not. Raw bones are some of the best things to give as chewing exercise, together with raw carrots, broccoli stalks, and cabbage stalks. Cardboard boxes and empty plastic water bottles make good toys, which can be destroyed without costing much, but do remove the bottles before they become broken up into pieces.
Particularly dangerous items for a puppy to chew on are: electric flexes, houseplants (especially ones such as poinsettias, the Christmas favourites), glass, plastic bags or any soft plastic, nylons (and, in particular, pop socks which can have absolutely dire results if swallowed), some soft toys which may have spiky bits in them, and anything which could splinter or break into sharp pieces, and anything small enough to be swallowed (this is especially the case with balls and similar items, which can be swallowed and block the airway, causing death) or which is poisonous or liable to splinter. It is not a good idea to give a puppy (or older dog) a stick to chew (or to throw one for it) as sticks can pierce the mouth or throat and cause severe damage, even death. One wolfhound had a serious illness resulting from a blockage caused by a man's sock, which it had swallowed. Chocolate is also very harmful to dogs, as is dried fruit such as raisins, and grapes. For more details on what can be dangerous to dogs, click here
If your puppy is having a bad time with teething, which can cause pain and dribbling as well as destructive chewing, give the homeopathic remedy CHAMOMILLA 6c, twice daily for a week. This remedy can also be helpful for older dogs which appear to have got stuck in the puppy chewing stage and are still destructive.
Cesar Millan suggests that, since in a natural environment a dog would migrate to a new living area, it is a good idea to walk a dog to its new home. So, collect it in the car but don't go straight into your house. Instead walk the dog around the neighbourhood and then to your home. Also, don't just let the dog roam through the whole house right away but take it into one or perhaps two rooms and later introduce it to further rooms one by one with you being in charge. This gives the dog a feeling of safety because you are in control and it knows it can relax. This will help it to settle much more quickly.
Apart from this, much the same suggestions apply as for puppies. Try to keep to the same foods for at least a couple of weeks and then introduce new foods gradually. Try to organise the bringing home for a day when you can spend some time with the dog.
An older dog may not be housetrained, so be prepared to train it in much the same way as for a young puppy. If it does make a mess in the house, do not punish it in any way. If you catch it in the act you can shout "No!" and then rush it outside (and praise lavishly when it completes the task in the allotted place), but if you find the mess already done, then you should just clear it up and say and do nothing to the dog.
This is a very important thing to remember at all times - a dog does not know what you expect of it until you teach it and if you shout at it or hit it because you have found a mess on the carpet or one of your best shoes chewed, it does not understand why it is being punished and all you are teaching it is to be afraid of you. Many people think that, because they yell "Who did that?" while pointing to whatever it is and a dog cringes and slinks into a corner, that the dog knows it has done wrong and is feeling guilty and ashamed. Nothing is further from the truth; the dog is simply reacting to the person's anger and it is fear it is displaying, not guilt or shame (which are human emotions, not animals'). And even when you think you have made your wishes clear, if the dog still seems not to be able to conform to your demands, it is not the dog's fault but a failure of your training.
Many dogs are insecure, and this is particularly likely to be the case with dogs that have not been properly socialised or individualised at the best time, have not been given much attention, or are from rescue organisations - there's nothing like losing your home for making you feel insecure.
Yet insecurity is a natural part of the makeup of any social creature such as dogs (and humans), because it is what makes it possible to integrate into a group and work within that group for the greatest good. However, some dogs, like some humans, have much more of a feeling of insecurity when their natural social structure is not present, because they lack the confidence to "go it alone". The natural social structure of the dog is not present when it is left on its own all day while its people are out at work or even when its people are home with the dog. All the dog's instincts are formed around working with and being with others and, although many dogs are able to integrate with and have enough of their needs met by humans to feel secure, many dogs simply cannot cope when their natural social structure is denied them, however great the comfort of their surroundings or the number of toys they have to play with.
Some people enjoy living in an isolated home in the middle of the country; other people feel they can only function properly when they are in a town or city; some people want to live in an apartment building where they are surrounded by other people because only then are their social needs met, at least in a way they can feel reasonably comfortable with. These people would be destroyed by isolation. In a similar way, some dogs can feel comfortable being on their own, some can cope with being on their own, and some are totally thrown by being on their own.
For these dogs it is almost impossible for them to function without constant company. Or so it can seem - in truth, though, the more attention and company the insecure dog receives from people, the more its insecurity deepens and the less able it is to cope without company, even for a short time. This can certainly lead to the phenomenom of separation anxiety, in which, when left alone, the dog can destroy its surroundings and/or itself, as well as constantly barking, howling, and whining. It can also lead to the dog following its person around like a shadow when they are at home and becoming distraught when left behind. This is not so much passionate attachment as insecurity, and it is because the dog cannot get its social needs met in a life with another and very alien species.
The best way of dealing with insecurity in the dog is to give it canine companionship. But if this is not possible then one can turn to the Flower Remedies and energy therapies such as EFT (see the Links at the bottom of the page). But training is probably going to be necessary as well. As hard as it may seem, not making a lot of fuss of the insecure dog is the first step towards re-training. In fact, utilising with dogs Monty Roberts' methods of healing horses by "driving" them away - that is by turning away from them and not communicating with them by body language and gestures - can be very helpful. This entails literally ignoring the dog (which means not looking directly at it, turning ones shoulder towards it, or even turning ones back on it and, if it initiates interaction, turning away from it) except to give it meals and exercise, and so on. Most people find this very hard to do, because they feel it is so unkind, but in the long term it is, in fact, the kindest way because the very insecure dog is suffering misery all the time. Jan Fennell's Dog Listener books work very much along these lines - giving the dog a structure that allows it to feel more secure. It obviously helps to speed healing by using the therapies mentioned as well. Turid Rugaas' calming signals could also be helpful. (See Links)
What the insecure dog needs is leadership in order to feel safe and to remove the burden of responsibility from its shoulders, which is what the training helps to put over, but it does help to reduce the stress levels by using the suggested therapies. For a better understanding of this problem (and many other canine problems), read Suzanne Clothier's "Bones Would Rain from the Sky", published by Warner Books, and the Cesar Millan books - "Cesar's Way" and "Be the Pack Leader" , published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
As far as training is concerned, always try and use the positive approach. In this way, rather than correcting unwanted behaviour you would teach a positive command instead. For example, if the dog gets overly excited when visitors come to the house and jumps up at them, instead of using one of the negative methods of dealing with this such as kneeing the dog in the chest or jerking it down with a check chain, teach it to sit/stay. Having taught this positive move, then enlist the help of friends to call at the house and give you the opportunity to put the dog into a sit/stay (preferably on the lead, so you have full control). When you open the door the visitor should totally ignore the dog unless it stays sitting but can then approach it and greet it. Any move out of the sitting position should result in the person removing themself without any greeting to the dog being made in any way. Even a "Get off!" can be seen as some sort of reward.
This is another thing to remember, especially about insecure dogs: they can view negative interaction such as corrections, beatings and angry shouting as better than no interaction at all.
However, you should bear in mind that some behavioural problems in dogs can have physical disorders as their cause. For example, hypothyroid can give rise to aggressive behaviour and hyperactivity, as can food allergies. Problems with the diet (especially with the wrong kind of proteins, processed foods, grains, and soya) can lead to hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, rage syndrome, and various other mental/emotional problems. Some problems, including behavioural ones, can follow surgical operations (and not necessarily immediately afterwards) for which the answer is to give the homeopathic remedy STAPHISAGRIA 30c, twice daily for two to four weeks. Behavioural and temperament problems can also be caused by vaccinosis (the ill effects of conventional vaccines). Grief can also cause problems, both physically with the development of illnesses and mentally with the development of behavioural problems. The usual remedy for grief is IGNATIA 30c but in some cases (especially for hidden grief) NATRUM MURIATICUM 30c is the better one. Grief can occur because of being separated from a companion as well as losing a companion through death, and the companion can be human or animal.
|The Irish Wolfhound Puppies website to help people looking for Irish Wolfhound puppies find their way to a responsible breeder|
|The page for EFT on this site (human and animal treatment)|
|The animal EFT site|
|Suzanne Clothier's website|
|The trainingdogs.com page on Ian Dunbar|
|The website for the Sirius dog training, founded by Ian Dunbar, with lots of information about training your puppy|
|The Cesar Millan website|
|The Dog Training Central website. An interactive resource for dog owners, with lots of articles on caring for and training your dog/puppy|
|Wendy Volhard's page for the Puppy Aptitude Test - explanation and recommendations on how to do it. The following page is linked from this page as "next page"|
|The Puppy Aptitude Test. The following page is linked from this page as "next page"|
|Puppy Aptitude Test score sheet|
|Turid Rugaas' website|
|Turid Rugaas page on calming signals|
|April Frost's Animal Visions website|
|Jan Fennell's website|
|Dog Obedience Training Lessons site, which also deals with behaviour problems|
|Dr. P's Dog Training & Behaviour main page|