Irish wolfhounds are large purebred dogs, originally from, you guessed it, Ireland! They have a long history of being put to work. In war times to begin with, where they would drag men off horses and chariots. From there, they have also been used to hunt large game – including boar, wolves, and the gigantic elk. Nowadays, the Irish wolfhound is a loyal companion and family pet. But are they aggressive or considered a danger due to their heritage and past? Are there any traits and tendencies you as an owner need to look out for? This is what you will want to know.
So, are Irish wolfhounds aggressive? Irish wolfhounds are generally not aggressive towards humans, and they are usually good with other pets if they have been raised with them from a young age. However, Irish wolfhounds are often aggressive or dominant towards other dogs of the same sex. Some have a strong inclination to chase cats and other smaller prey.
Bear in mind these dogs were hunting hounds who took down wolves; you must never underestimate their strength and speed.
All canines are individuals and the Irish wolfhound is no exception; some are gentler than others and have a more trusting nature.
Generally speaking, Irish wolfhounds are gentle with children, despite being the tallest dog breed in the world.
These dogs are undoubtedly commanding in appearance, but underneath is a gentle soul who love their family.
Let us now take a closer look at the average temperament of the Irish Wolfhound breed.
We will also cover whether, considering their heritage, they are considered as potentially dangerous to own.
We will also be looking at whether there are any specific causes or triggers of aggression, and some practical strategies to ensure that aggressive behaviors are not displayed if you do decide to own one.
Typical Irish Wolfhound Temperament
Generally speaking, Irish wolfhounds are gentle and intelligent and have a strong desire to bond and be affectionate with their owners.
These make excellent family dogs, doing best in a home with loving care. In doing so, you can expect a dignified, calm, sensitive, and responsive dog.
While this is the breed standard, as already mentioned, all canines do differ in temperament. The Irish wolfhound is no exception.
So, you may encounter some deviance from the nor – just as you would with any dog breed that you would own.
Nevertheless, a breed standard is there for a reason; it is what you should expect for a particular breed.
Despite their size, the Irish wolfhound is quite sensitive and are known to hurt quite easily. This is why owners need to be careful when it comes to training.
Positive reinforcement techniques come strongly recommended.
From a physical perspective, Irish wolfhounds make a great deterrent. Besides, they are very alert.
But they do not make ideal watchdogs as they are not prone to barking. Furthermore, they do not make a good guard dog as they are not aggressive or generally suspicious.
When choosing an Irish wolfhound puppy; you should keep in mind that their temperament is affected by heredity, socialization, and training.
You should therefore look for a puppy that is showing signs of a good temperament; being playful and willing to approach you. This is a good indicator that they will be easy to train and socialize – making them a suitable family pet.
From there, an owner can improve their puppy’s temperament by enrolling them in puppy kindergarten classes, inviting guests over frequently, and taking them to busy locations like parks and stores that allow dogs.
Simply taking your dog out on a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood will allow him to meet the neighbors and improve their social skills.
Are Irish Wolfhounds Dangerous?
Irish wolfhounds may look dangerous because of their imposing size; they are the tallest dog breed after all. However, these dogs are far from dangerous, at least with humans.
They are too gentle and sensitive, and they do not have an aggressive bone in their body.
With that said, they require training and socialization because of their size.
They can inadvertently knock over and hurt a small child; but this is only likely to come from a good place and will not likely ever be intentional.
It must be noted that cats and other small fleeing animals are in danger around an Irish wolfhound.
It is in their nature to chase them and be somewhat aggressive in nature around them.
This can be traced back to their former hunting days.
That being said, they are typically well behaved family members, and can coexist peacefully with other pets. This is especially true if they were introduced and raised from a young age.
Irish wolfhounds are often calm around strangers; with some being known to even try to befriend them.
Again making them largely unsuitable as guard dogs, but less dangerous in nature.
What Can Make An Irish Wolfhound Aggressive?
Irish wolfhounds can be aggressive when they see fleeing creatures like cats or rabbits. They will typically try to chase them.
Another time you may see an Irish wolfhound being aggressive is when they encounter another dog of the same sex.
Dogs have a hierarchy, and often male dogs will fight each other to determine who is the alpha.
If you’re taking your male Irish wolfhound out for a stroll – you may even observe them bark at another male dog.
Sometimes they can get quite feisty if they feel the need to protect or asset themselves as the dominant dog.
If your Irish wolfhound young or in the early stages of training and socialization, it may take some time before some of these particular aggressive behaviors stop.
With time and consistency, you can stop them or limit the general chasing of every animal, or being confrontational with other dogs.
Outside of this, Irish wolfhounds are generally not aggressive.
It must be said however, that aggression is always present and a possibility in every dog, regardless of the breed.
So while the main culprit of aggression in an Irish wolfhound is a lack of adequate socialization and training, there other factors to consider.
The most common causes of canine aggression are:
- Pain from illness or injury
- Establishing dominance
- Protecting possessions or territory
Illness or Injury
If your otherwise gentle giant is suddenly displaying aggressive behavior, chances are that your dog is sick or injured and is in pain.
Dogs can’t speak, but they have other ways of letting us know what they want or don’t want.
If you approach or try to touch an unwell dog, they may bark or growl at you; some may even try to bite. In this circumstance, your dog requires veterinary attention.
As the owner of your Irish wolfhound, you need to show them who’s in charge.
They need to see their owner being the leader of the pack. A dog who takes on this role is often not happy, and it will show in their demeanor; they prefer to be followers.
Besides, you need this for the good of your own home too.
Fear is a strong motivation for dogs, even for gentle souls like the Irish wolfhound.
When faced with a terrifying situation, a wolfhound can turn to a fight or flight response – fearful dogs may choose the former.
Fear aggression is different from other aggression types as there are usually no warning signs, as they must act out to defend themselves.
Protecting Possessions Or Territory
If your dog has a favorite toy or object, they may not appreciate it being touched, moved or taken away.
Equally, they may not like anyone sitting on their favorite chair, or their food being taken away.
Irish wolfhounds are typically not possessive or territorial.
However, it’s good to be aware of this type of aggression if you see it in your dog. It is something that arises in all breeds of this animal to some extent.
If your pet isn’t happy with you touching what they perceive as their object, sitting in their favorite spot, or taking away food, you’ll need to be careful and considerate.
Also, you’ll need to watch out for any young children who are more likely to do these things!
How To Prevent Aggression In Irish Wolfhounds
Dealing with aggression is not something that owners of this breed really need to worry about.
Although, there are some best practices for ensuring that any possibility is greatly reduced.
Let us now look at the main ways you can do so:
Establish Dominance and Social Hierarchy
Your dog must see you as the leader of the pack.
You can achieve this by making sure you enter a room before they do, eating before them, and generally doing things before they do.
They must understand that your needs come before theirs as you are the master. You are training them to respect you.
You must use every opportunity as a teachable moment, as your dog must see how high or low your expectations are of them.
As previously mentioned, dogs like to be followers, and this is true of any Irish wolfhound – regardless of how big they are.
You must demonstrate command by interacting with your puppy in specific ways.
When you are with your dog, whatever you do, be it walking through the kitchen, speaking to, or petting them.
They will judge your body language and tone of voice and will decide if you are someone worthy of their respect.
Don’t be harsh with your Irish wolfhound; use positive reinforcement to encourage the behaviors you want them to display.
You can do this by praising or rewarding them with a treat when they obey you.
They do need to hear the word no when they do something wrong – but hitting, shouting, or your own acts of aggression towards them is going to be counterproductive.
Your Irish wolfhound needs a routine. They need to know what to expect each day.
Irish wolfhounds don’t need a lot of exercise, but they need some to remain active, and sufficiently stimulated both physically and mentally.
These dogs are also intelligent, so it helps to get toys that stimulate their minds and challenge them.
Bored dogs often resort to aggressive behavior if they have nothing keeping them occupied.
It also helps to socialize your dog early on so that they get used to different experiences, sights, sounds, and smells.
They need to see other dogs in the park and learn how to appropriately greet and interact with them.
If they do display aggression towards other dogs, you will need to use your leash to control him. When they no longer bark at the sight of other dogs, be sure reward them with a treat.
You should also keep an eye on your dog, inspect them regular and monitor them for any signs of illness and/or injury.
Dogs are more likely to be aggressive if they feel vulnerable or in need to hide/conceal or protect themselves when hurt.
If you suspect anything is up with your dog, be sure to consult a vet and get them to take a look at your dog.
With appropriate and timely treatment, you’ll find that aggressive tendencies are much less likely.
Irish wolfhounds are anything but aggressive. It may sound cliché, but these dogs are gentle giants.
They are lovely with children and great with their families in general, including any other pets that live with them.
Nevertheless, you must train these dogs as early as possible.
Considering their enormous size, they must learn that you are their leader and they cannot run off when they feel like it or jump on people.
This is not acceptable, because they can easily hurt people – even if it is by accident!
These dogs are typically easygoing with everybody, and they respond well to consistent training. They are known to make a great family dog.
Irish wolfhounds are sweet and sensitive, so be careful not to correct them harshly when they make a mistake.
You are better off using positive rewards.
If you are serious about taking on this dog, you will need to be prepared for the fact that Irish wolfhounds typically remain clumsy and can be potentially destructive for up to three years. You’ll also need to be confident that you have all it takes to handle this dog and command their respect.
Sadly, Irish wolfhounds are prone to severe health problems, and they have a lower life expectancy compared to most other breeds. The average lifespan is as short as six to ten years.
Nevertheless, if you do decide that this breed is for you; you’ll be making a good decision, for sure.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.