Frequently asked questions

your questions answered


A reputable breeder will feel a duty-of-care towards their litters and prospective new owners can expect an interrogation of varying intensity and should take it as a measure of breeder integrity.

1. Is the property secured with fencing/ walling/ locked gate? (general security of the pup)
2. Where will the puppy sleep at night? (safety and socialization)
3. What other animals do you have? (early acclimatization of the pup, predator/prey issues)
4. Who will take care of and feed the puppy during the day? (abandonment concerns, pups need attention and frequent feeding in the early months)
5. Why do you want an IW puppy?
6. Would you want to breed with your puppy later on?
7. Will you take your puppy to socialization & training classes? (see below)
8. Do you have children and if so how old are they? (young children, say, <5 can be injured by a boisterous puppy) 9. Who will the puppy belong to and who will be responsible for feeding and general well being

Category: Puppy-related

This varies from breeder to breeder and (rather like asking the price of an exotic car) if the answer is important then maybe the breed is not for you! In mid-2017 a good quality puppy from a reputable kennel was in the region of ZAR15,000. Puppies are sometimes offered for considerably less in which case it is a very good idea to ask why?

Reputable breeders are motivated by reasons other than profit and will rarely have more than two litters of, say, six puppies on average from a bitch. They will keep at least one puppy per litter. Against the income from selling puppies must be set the considerable costs of raising them, the lifetime food and medical costs of the bitch and stud fees or lifetime support of the sire. The reality of Irish Wolfhounds is that (regardless of the purchase price) the ongoing cost of a wolfhound is high.

A mature male can consume three 20 kg bags of commercial food per month. Medical expenses for a giant dog can be gigantic, especially towards end-of-life. Antibiotic and other medicine dosages are a function of weight. If a Wolfhound becomes seriously ill one can expect to pay twice (or more) the purchase price of a puppy towards medical expenses.

Category: Puppy-related

A breeder may impose a breeding restriction on a puppy when registering it with KUSA. This does not prevent the new owner breeding but, unless the original breeder lifts the restriction, the offspring cannot be registered with KUSA or shown.

Breeding restrictions can be imposed for several reasons:

i. To protect the breeders line or “brand”

ii. To prevent crossing the kennel line with other lines that are judged unsuitable for one reason or another

iii. If a heritable health or conformational issue has appeared in the litter

Category: Puppy-related

Liver shunt is a condition that affects about 2% of wolfhound puppies and reputable breeders usually test for shunt at about nine weeks. After birth, a malfunction in the development of the puppy circulatory system allows some blood to bypass the liver and waste products, including ammonia, build up in the blood. Symptoms are weight loss, a coat with upright hair, apathy and brain damage leading to circling, apparent blindness and seizures.

The onset of these symptoms is affected by various factors such as diet and the severity of the shunt (degree of bypass) and may only become apparent once the pup
is in its new home. In South Africa liver shunt has been corrected surgically at least twice (and at significant cost) but puppies with liver shunt are usually euthanized.

Category: Puppy-related

Puppy Paralysis or FCE (Fibrocartilagenous Embolism) affects a small minority of Irish Wolfhound puppies and may be hereditary. It typically occurs between the ages of eight and sixteen weeks. The puppy suddenly loses the use of its hind legs due to an embolism in its spinal cord. If the puppy receives prompt veterinary attention, within about three hours, the administering of a steroid and anti-inflammatories greatly aids recovery.Once initial recovery has been achieved, physiotherapy, acupuncture and extended hydrotherapy (“doggy paddle”) usually allows a near complete recovery.

The condition occurs in wolfhound puppies, older dogs in other breeds and humans and relatively few vets have encountered it. Since time is of the essence for successful treatment a wise owner will draw attention to the possibility of FCE. It is a good idea to check if your vet knows about FCE early on.

Hounds that have had FCE should not be used for breeding.

Category: Puppy-related

Although easier said than done with a wriggling puppy, potential owners should check the puppies bite which should be a “scissor bite” (the top teeth nestle neatly against the lower teeth) or, at worst, “level” (the upper and lower teeth touch). A small minority of puppies have an overshot or undershot bite where the upper teeth are respectively materially further forward or behind the lower teeth. Apart from being unsightly a, say, overshot bite has the effect that the lower canines create holes in the gums of the upper palette. Sometimes the condition will correct itself as the puppy grows or when the adult teeth appear.

Often the condition will not correct itself so it is advisable to get an objective opinion from a vet. Orthodentistry is a possibility or the offending canines can be removed. An overshot or undershot bite is considered a fault when showing. If possible, also check the dam and sires bite.

Category: Puppy-related

Most breeders let puppies go to their new homes around 10 to 12 weeks of age. Some will allow puppies to be rehomed from 8 weeks of age but this is undesirable because:

  • Testing for liver shunt is only done at nine weeks
  • Valuable socialization skills through interaction with litter-mates, the dam and other adults only really occurs between 6 to 13 weeks.
Category: Puppy-related

Apart from the obvious information request the questions below also establish the breeder credibility

1. Can I see the 5 generation pedigrees of the sire & the dam? (to verify that the parents etc. are pedigree dogs)
2. What food do you raise your puppies and juniors on?
3. What food do you feed your adult dogs?
4. May I see the puppies’ bite (see below)
5. May I see the dams/sires bite? (see below)
6. Do you supply a feeding chart and general care guide with the puppy?
7. What age do you let the puppies go to their new homes? (see below)
8. Which vaccinations would they have had? (one should expect inoculation against parvo, distemper and a “6 in 1” inoculation, but not yet rabies, and an inoculation certificate to prove it)
9.Do you take your dogs out to shows or public places?(this builds up the parent’s immune system that is transmitted to their offspring)
10.What health problems has your kennel experienced? (a good breeder will be frank about past problems so be wary if the answer is “none”)

Category: Puppy-related

Living with a Wolfhound

Wolfhounds are quite lazy and will quite happily snooze for 18 hours a day. On a large property wolfhounds effectively self-exercise through play. For a small property, a walk twice a day is preferable and for a flat four times a day.

It is most important not to over-exercise puppies for the first year as their joints are still soft and over-exercise can bring on hip and/or elbow dysplasia. Because of the risk of bloat/torsion do not exercise wolfhounds immediately before or after feeding.

The other side of the ‘ gentle giant’ coin is that wolfhounds thrive on attention and affection. They do best when they have status in a pack and a human family is a pack to a wolfhound. So, it is greatly preferable to allow them into the house and also to sleep inside like the rest of the pack. If they have to be left outside for part of the day they must have suitable shelter, such as an outside room or shed with bedding and, preferably, a canine companion.

Wolfhounds do not cope well with being left outside full-time. If this is your intention, another breed would likely suit your lifestyle better?

Yes, and it is important to train and socialize puppies. An untrained or unsocialized 65 kg hound is a danger to all.

The great majority of them are (they are not called the “gentle giant” for nothing) however do not assume that this is a given. Irish Wolfhounds are GIANTS and whilst they may master their big bodies once they are adults, a boisterous Irish Wolfhound puppy can send an adult ‘ flying’ – and therefore could unintentionally injure a child. They are rarely aggressive towards people or children, but some (especially those with limited or no exposure to children) may be uncomfortable around children.

However, in general, if raised properly they are great family dogs. It should, nevertheless, be stressed that children should be taught to respect the wolfhound and should never be allowed to tease or hurt (pull ears and tails) a dog, even if the dog is extremely tolerant of such behaviour. This is not fair towards the animal and if the animal were eventually to retaliate the ramifications could be severe – both physically and emotionally.

Children should NEVER be allowed to sit or ride on a wolfhound. Although they may resemble a mini pony they are not horses and can suffer severe spinal injuries from even a small child’ s weight.

In general, yes. However, Irish Wolfhounds are predators and have a predator’ s instinctive attitude towards potential prey and prey-species. The intensity of the prey instinct varies from individual to individual. Small animals, including cats and small dogs, that move rapidly may bring out the prey instinct.

If you want to keep a Wolfhound with small dogs or cats they need to be exposed to these animals from a young age and learn that chasing is not allowed.

Because as a magnificent, loving, charismatic companion nothing else comes close.

General Health

Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia (HD & ED) are conditions where joints are malformed because of hereditary factors, over-exercise when young or overfeeding. The condition is infrequent in wolfhounds but is usually severe when it is present and causes the animal great pain. Because of the hereditary component of HD & ED most reputable breeders will X-ray their adult animals prior to breeding them and their HD and ED scores become part of their registered pedigree name. The FCI scale for hip dysplasia is shown below.

KUSA has no mandatory rules on parental hip dysplasia and puppy registration for Irish Wolfhounds in South Africa but does for other breeds such as the Rottweiler.

When considering buying a puppy it is reasonable to request the breeder to provide the sire and dams HD and ED ratings and/or their 5-generation pedigree.

Category: General Health

The size of a wolfhound places strain upon the heart and some heart conditions are hereditary. It is reasonable to expect the breeder to have had the parents hearts evaluated at the same time that they were tested for HD and ED and to have a veterinary report on the heart.

Category: General Health

he Irish Wolfhound’ s deep chest causes the stomach to sometimes twist and form a constriction like the link between two sausages. This causes gas to build up and inflate the abdomen. Unattended torsion is fatal and, in treating it, time is of the essence.

Rapid veterinary attention and surgery is required after which the animal usually recovers fully but torsion can reoccur. Torsion can occur as a result of stress or boisterous play before or after a meal. The symptoms of torsion are that the dog becomes uncharacteristically restless and has a taught abdomen.

Category: General Health

Wolfhounds, like other giant breeds, do not live as long as smaller dogs although, probably as a result of the availability of better diets and better medical care, life expectancy does seem to be improving. Eight years used to be considered “a good innings” but is now unexceptional. Wolfhounds now regularly reach ten years.

Category: General Health

Wolfhounds can get the same illnesses as any other dog. Their fast rate of growth from puppyhood places strain on their skeleton and bone cancer in the legs is unfortunately quite common but can be treated if diagnosed early enough. The cause of any limping should be carefully established.

As wolfhounds reach great age the nerves in their spine tend to degenerate and they lose control of their rear legs. Acupuncture can relieve this condition. Before any surgery you should check that the vet is aware that wolfhounds require less anaesthetic per unit weight than other dogs.

This is a problem experienced by all sighthounds stemming from their fat to muscle ratio which affects the removal of the drug from their systems.

An excellent source of issues affecting wolfhound health is the Irish Wolfhound Health Group based in the UK.

Category: General Health


If they get the chance, as much as they can! It is important to ensure that they are not fed too much as this places strain on their skeleton and heart and can lead to problems in later life. Small, frequent meals are preferable; four times a day for puppies and twice a day for adults is a good guide. A useful test to check for overfeeding is to feel their ribs. Ribs should only have a thin covering of flesh/fat.

If the ribs are covered by a substantial amount of flesh/fat (more than a centimeter or so) then you are probably feeding too much. If feeding commercial, dry, food the guidelines on giant breed (puppy and adult) should be adhered to. Breeders tend to have strong views on the appropriate diet for puppies and adults and it is reasonable to expect detailed advice upon buying a puppy.

If you intend to feed raw food (BARF-Bones and Raw Food) the following links are useful:

Category: Diet

– cooked bones that a dog’ s digestive system cannot process
– chicken and similar bones that can splinter and puncture the stomach/intestine
– Small bones that can be crunched into large pieces and swallowed whole that then block the stomach/intestine.

Remember that what may be a large bone for most breeds is just a snack for a wolfhound. In modest quantities large, whole, uncooked, beef knuckles that the wolfhound is obliged to gnaw on are acceptable. Once the bone has been gnawed down significantly it is best to remove it before it is swallowed.

Category: Diet