The Irish Wolfhound as a Pet

Mrs G. C. Shanks, the Irish Wolfhound Club Yearbook, 1927

When the Secretary asked me to submit an article on "The lrish Wolfhound as a Pet" I cheerfully acquiesced, but now that I take up my pen to write I realise the task is a more formidable one than it looks at first sight.

To begin with, I must frankly confess I do not write from an impersonal point of view. I am an lrish Wolfhound enthusiast - an ardent admirer of a strong and splendid breed.

Canine characters vary in the same way as their human masters. Some are cross, some are kind, some are selfish, some are noble, some are gracious, some are surly - none are wholly bad and none, perhaps, wholly good. But through the lrish Wolfhound race there run certain definite traits. Perhaps the strongest characteristic of the breed is their uniform gentleness of manner. Huge though these dogs are, even the smallest child seems to show no fear of them. I have never heard of them being bad-tempered, even in old age, which I think constitutes something of a record. This gentleness is not a cloak to an insipid character but the natural complement of a brave and fearless nature.

Fidelity is the prerogative of all dogs, but in none is it so marked as in the lrish Wolfhound.

You may punish him unjustly, kick him, curse him, turn him from your door and in half an hour he will be back again, patient and quiet, trying his best to understand the strange ways of human beings. But I do not recommend any but his master to try the experiment I

His sporting activities are becoming more and more widely known since the foundation some three years ago of the lrish Wolfhound Coursing Club - now, I believe, absorbed into the main club - which did a great deal to bring the dogs into the eye of the sporting public. Not that he is pre-eminently a coursing hound, in spite of his extreme fleetness of foot being heavy of build and of giant strength. His natural quarry is, as his name suggests, a more formidable enemy. His use for big game hunting is becoming universally recognised and several successful lion-tracking experiments have been carried out of recent years.

Personally I do not demand any such soul-stirring adventures from my dog, preferring him to be the daily companion of my peaceful country life.

In spite of his enormous size he is a very pleasant dog to have in the house, being neither clumsy nor careless ; and the complete absence of offensive odour, the curse of all big dogs, is an inestimable advantage if he is to live indoors.

Honesty compels me to admit that he does require a large percentage of the floor space for his slumbers, but I must add that I have always found him an excellent and uncomplaining footrest.

He is a born sentimentalist and seems to have a strong family instinct which inclines him to adopt and cherish all the small dogs of the neighbourhood. He will invite them in to play with him, when he has had enough he will escort them to the gate, wish them a very good day and stroll off in dignified solitude.

One of his greatest advantages is that while he undoubtedly benefits from much hard exercise, he only requires a comparatively small amount to keep him in perfect condition. He is an adept at amusing himself and must, I think, have a very keen imagination which peoples his world with delightful things and so saves him from boredom.

His is not an argumentative nature, he would never provoke a fight; and other dogs, looking at his size and dreaming that discretion is the better part of valour, are usually more than content to leave him alone. Thus is his master spared the task of meddling in doggy brawls.

He is keenly intuitive and extremely sensitive. A sharp word will cut him to the heart and the gentle reproach in those tender eyes brings shame to the human breast.

His love makes him jealous - a jealousy devoid of all malice. lf you bring home a new dog he will not fight it or sulk with you but make himself all the more charming so that you quickly realise he is a much finer fellow than the other dog. Should a small new baby make its appearance in your household, he will reproach you with his eyes for showering such affection and attention on so tiresome and noisy a thing. But in a few days you will discover him on guard by the pram, showing much concern for the welfare of the small one within.

In common with all his kind he has a deep hatred of cats, but if you give him a cat and tell him to take care of it for you, you need never have another moment's anxiety - that cat will for evermore be his playfellow and protégé.

He interprets the Song of Ruth in his own fashion

"Thy property shall be my property and thy loves, my loves."

For strength, intelligence, loyalty and chivalry the Irish Wolfhound stands supreme. And when the shades draw in upon his life and that mysterious "something" which makes your dog so individual and so different from the rest, goes to, the Valhalla of such things, you can in perfect truth inscribe upon his grave the words:

"A very parfit, gentil knight."


(c) 2007
Last Update: 13 Jan 2007