TAKING CARE OF YOUR IRISH WOLFHOUND PUPPY
I’ve put together some general instructions for taking care of your Irish Wolfhound puppy. These notes are broad in scope, but things I have learned and found successful over the past 15 years. I am always willing to answer any questions you may have; so please give me a call. However, it is your responsibility as an Irish Wolfhound owner to become knowledgeable about the breed in general and your puppy, in particular. Also, you need to make sure your veterinarian is familiar with the breed, or, at the very least, has treated other large breed dogs and/or sight hounds.
A. Bowls and Utensils
Before your puppy arrives you will need to acquire appropriate food and water bowls. Food and water bowls/buckets need to be large for the adult wolfhound. Meanwhile, young puppies need temporary food and water bowls while they are eating small amounts. Remember they will not be tall enough to reach food and water in larger and deeper containers. I suggest a stainless steel bowl because puppies tend to chew on plastic ones. Their water bowls should be sturdy and difficult to tip over or jump into. I recommend something about 12 inches high.
Wolfhound pups and adults drink large amounts of water so any containers need to be large enough to accommodate their needs. A two-gallon bucket works well for an adult. Whether you choose a stainless steel or heavy rubber bucket, the water needs to be changed at least once a day and the bucket thoroughly cleaned with a stiff brush. This should be done even more frequently during hot, humid weather.
Some breeders and authorities recommend raising the pup’s bowl until the rim is level with the puppy’s elbows. This method of feeding keeps the pup from splaying his front legs while eating. However, as with everything, there are differing opinions as to whether raised feeding bowls provide any health benefits. Some recent studies indicate that raising the feeding bowls increase the possibility of bloat instead of decreasing it. I personally do not raise bowls for my pups and dogs, but I know other breeders who do. Research this topic for yourself. See the comments on bloat at the end of these instructions regarding raised bowls.
If you decide to raise the bowls, there are commercial products available or the stand can be as simple as a cardboard box. As the pup grows, you can easily increase the height of a cardboard box.
B. Feeding puppies
1. Up to 6 months old
Initially you want to stick to my feeding schedule, type of food, and recommended amounts for your new puppy. I feed my puppies four times a day, at 7:00 a.m., 12 Noon, 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Dry food is given at all meals except the 6:00 p.m. feeding, which is supplemented with canned dog food and diluted with water. For your pup, I recommend starting with a third of a can and gradually increase this amount to an entire can. For dry food, I use and have been very successful with Purina products. Pro Plan is Purina’s top of the line dog food and it is prepared for a “Giant Breed Puppy.” Purina’s “One” for Large Breed puppies is a good food for skin and coat. As to amount at first, I recommended 5 cups for each feeding and see if your pup eats all of the food. If most of the food is eaten, you need to increase the amount until there is a little amount of food left in the bowl. If food remains, cut back the amount back to 4 cups, then 3, as required.
If you choose to use something other than Purina, you must gradually switch from Purina to your brand of choice. Regardless of the brand and its price tag, I believe no commercial dog food contains the nutrients essential for the rapid growth of wolfhounds. Therefore, I add either fish oil and wheat germ to their daily feedings. Or, I use a nutrient supplement called, “Missing Link.”
There are a number of food supplements on the market. But, whatever you add, remember, puppies need to grow as slowly as possible and over as long a period of time as possible. This allows for the formation of well-calcified, high-density bone, tendons, ligaments, and muscles to keep pace with the skeletal growth. Therefore, puppies:
- should not be fed on high protein puppy foods as these encourage rapid growth over a short period of time
- should never be given calcium or vitamin D supplements when they are on a complete diet, as any distortion of the correct balance between calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D may cause serious harm to the skeleton and soft tissues.
2. Six to 10 months
Once your puppy is six months old, you can reduce the number of feedings from four to three with the quantity of food from the fourth feeding split between the other three. Some people prefer to eliminate the 10 p.m. feeding and others remove the mid-day feeding. It is important to maintain a balanced food intake during the day. My veterinarian recommends removing puppy food and feeding adult food once the pup has reached six months old.
3. Ten to 13 months
At this age, you can reduce your puppy’s meals to two per day, approximately 12 hours apart, and add the food from the third meal to the remaining two meals. Two meals are more thoroughly digested than one big meal. And, never, never feed a wolfhound less than two meals a day in order to avoid bloat or gastric torsion or other stomach ailments.
4. Thirteen months to 2 years
These young wolfhounds still need plenty of food divided into two meals a day. They are still developing and filling out in physique. It can be difficult at times to keep sufficient weight on a tall, active young hound; it may be helpful to return to three meals a day to maintain a good weight.
Female wolfhounds are physically mature by two to two-and-a-half, but male wolfhounds are still filling out in width and depth until three or four years old. Feeding should continue on a minimum of twice daily. Although the wolfhounds have rather small stomachs, their large frames require substantial nourishment. I also supplement my wolfhounds’ food with table scraps, but don’t overfeed with human foods. Use common sense.
In all these phases, you should note that weather and the health of your puppy will impact the amount of food your wolfhound ingests. When the temperatures soar, your wolfhound, like yourself, will eat less than when temperatures plunge. In winter, you will probably see a marked increase in how much is eaten. The wolfhound is a silent sufferer. If your wolfhound is not eating and there is no plausible explanation, contact your vet immediately to find the cause of any malady as lack of appetite may be a symptom of something more serious.
A. Exercising a puppy
It is important for you to monitor your puppy’s exercise because the great height and weight of a wolfhound puppy, combined with the fact that the growth plates in the leg bones and joints are still very soft and malleable, makes the bones and joints easily damaged and distorted by repeated jarring, concussion, twisting, and any hard knocks and bangs. The puppy should play and exercise, but you must limit and control the kind of activities and how long a period it is safe for the puppy to be active. Don’t leave it up to the puppy; puppies will continue to play long after irreparable harm has been done. It is better to curtail activity now and build muscles later when the body is not growing so rapidly. Remember:
- Playtimes should be a maximum of 20 minutes
- Play areas should be limited so the puppy cannot run flat out as this can damage growth plates and joints, accentuating any weakness in hocks, pasterns, and feet
- Never stop the puppy suddenly nor turn quick as this can damage growth plates and joints and sprain ligaments and tendons.
- Never allow the puppy to jump off objects – the sofa, beds, out of the car, steps. You must control and support the puppy getting down from a raised surface, taking about half the weight yourself in order to prevent damaging the joints in the front legs.
- Never allow the pup to go up or down stairs or flights of steps to prevent damage in these areas.
- Never allow the pup to jump or stand upright on the hind legs until the wolfhound is a year old.
- Never allow the pup to walk on rough or hot terrain of sand, gravel and rocks.
- Don’t let your puppy run and play with adult dogs, even if they are smaller, because the adult dog will be able to maneuver faster than the puppy, who will over-extend to keep up.
Short walks on a lead can begin at around three months, but they should be very gentle and informal for no more than 10 minutes in duration. Don’t let the pup pull on the lead; keep the pup walking in straight lines with the hind feet following in the tracks of the front feet, and make certain the distance covered is not enough to make the puppy tired – usually between a half a mile and a mile depending upon height, age, and sex-tall, leggy males need less exercise than small, chunky females.
1. Exercise before eating – After a puppy reaches nine months, it is important you do not feed him too close to exercise. To ensure respiration and heart rates are back to normal, wait at least a half an hour after exercise before feeding. Also, allow the pup to have a moderate amount of water to drink before eating.
2. Exercise after eating – After a puppy reaches nine months, playing after meals must be curtailed because of the increased risk of bloat or gastric torsion. Wait at least two hours after eating before letting the wolfhound play or exercise. Plus, rest and relaxation after eating allows for digestion to take place with few problems.
B. Ten to 13 months
1. If your bitch is a small, robust pup, you can start to slowly exercise her.
- Gradually increase the road walks to several miles.
- Let her run loose in a big field three or four times a week for 20 minutes.
By one year of age, her growth plates will be closed and you can begin exercising her as an adult wolfhound.
2. Tall, leggy bitch puppies and most male puppies benefit from a more cautious exercise plan.
- Keep road walking to about a mile for the round trip every other day.
- Allow 15 minutes of free galloping and playing on alternate days.
The growth plates on these pups close around 13 or 14 months of age.
3. Once growth plates have closed, you can start to build up the daily exercise until you cover about four or five miles on each walk along with free time to run in a big field. Generally, wolfhounds are content with two or three miles of exercise per day, preferably a mixture of free running and road walking.
I cannot emphasize enough the value of early socialization. The best time to socialize an Irish Wolfhound pup is between six and twelve weeks of age. I have made certain your pup has been exposed to different kinds of socialization experiences before leaving my care. From the time of birth until arriving in your arms, the pup has been handled, snuggled, talked to, and caressed. Not only has it received personal and individual attention, it interacted and was cared for by its Mom, reared with its litter mates, played with other dogs. Exposure to its outdoor surroundings include both pleasant and inclement weather conditions, jumping, climbing, digging and howling. The pup has experienced indoor sounds, like the sounds from the TV, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, and telephone as well as loud noises created by dropping aluminum pans to the floor and slamming doors. It has received attention from adults (male and female), children, the vet, and strangers.
You want your puppy and your adult wolfhound confident, comfortable and well balanced in situations involving adults, children, other dogs and animals within and outside your home environment. You want it calm when traveling in your car, whether to the vet or across country. However, until your pup has received the last of its puppy vaccinations, you should curtail any exposure to unfamiliar surroundings and animals so as to reduce any health risks. After that, organize each new experience for your pup in a gradual manner so that the pup is not seriously frightened. A slow, progressive introduction to new things will work successfully for both you and the puppy. Remember the pup is still very young and tires easily.
I strongly recommend that you find a puppy socialization class in your neighborhood. There are several organizations that conduct these classes. Your vet might be able to suggest a local program or someone to contact for information regarding puppy socialization classes.
Whether a new puppy or an adult, the wolfhound is very sensitive to your voice and posture and is tuned in with your thoughts. Talking in a quiet voice, gently demonstrating what you want and expect, and keeping your working sessions short and intermixed with play will ensure a bond that you have never experienced with any other breed. Relax and have fun.
I have wormed your pup according to my vet-recommended worming schedule as indicated on the health record provided, using both Nemex-2 or Panacur at various ages. During your initial vet check, take a feces sample to determine if another worming is necessary. You should worm your wolfhound at least twice yearly for life or more frequently depending upon the area in which you live and the number of other dogs and animals which come in contact with your wolfhound. I recommend alternating the type of wormer used so that worms resistant to one drug will be killed by another medication. Discuss the types of wormers with your vet. Heartworm prevention is a must and not to be administered only through summer months when mosquitoes are most active. Heartworm prevention is a year-round program.
Your pup has been inoculated with at least one puppy vaccination, or possibly two, depending upon when you adopted the pup. Check the record provided to determine what vaccinations your pup has received to date. The pup needs at least two vaccinations for Parvo prevention and three for complete immunization. Remember to keep your puppy away from any other dogs outside the immediate household (or areas where other dogs, cats, rats, and mice have defecated or urinated) until two weeks after the final vaccination. During the vet check, discuss when the next vaccinations and boosters are to be administered. I recommend your pup not receive its Rabies shot until at least five or six months of age. See comments at this web site regarding vaccinations: http://www.dogsadversereactions.com/
V. HEALTH WATCHES
You should become familiar with a number of health issues, but I have limited my comments to two topics:
A. Bloat: Canine bloat is a very serious problem. If you suspect your dog of having bloat, contact your vet immediately. Every second counts! If caught and diagnosed quick enough, initial treatment will involve inserting a tube in to the stomach wall to remove the gas. If necessary, the vet will then operate, attempting to untwist the stomach. Secondary treatment will involve treating shock, dehydration, fatigue, and other complications resulting from the distension of the stomach.
Bloat is a generic term for two diseases.
1. Gastric Dilation-Volvulus is the accumulation of gas and fluid in the stomach (usually after eating) that cannot be expelled by burping. It can and often does escalate into Gastric Torsion. Your vet can treat gastric Dilation-Volvulus by inserting a rubber tube down the dog’s throat into the stomach, so it is important to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
2. Gastric Torsion is a rapid enlargement of the stomach, caused by the twisting of the stomach in such a way that it is impossible for contained gases and fluid to escape. It is a very serious, time critical disease, which left untreated, will cause a very painful death. It can only be treated by immediate surgery.
3. Causes of bloat – Although studies have been done, the cause is still a mystery. Large-chested dogs are more commonly affected by bloat.
However, suspected causes include, but are not limited to:
- activity directly before of after eating
- eating large meals in one sitting
- gulping too much air while eating
- eating too fast
- eating kibble that swells excessively when soaked in water
- drinking excess water after a meal
- unproductive vomiting
- frequent attempts at unsuccessful bowel movements or urination
- excessive painting
- excessive drooling
- a larger than normal stomach
- a stomach that “thumps” when tapped
Additional resources/articles regarding bloat:
Note: These links are provided for general information purposes only. They are not intended to replace your regular veterinarian’s advice, diagnosis or treatment.
B. Surviving Analesthesia
It is important that you and your vet become informed and educated about the proper method for administering analesthesia to your wolfhound when the dog must be rendered unconscious, whether for surgery, teeth cleaning, x-rays, or any simple or complex procedure. Many healthy sight hounds have died because of over-medicating of analesthesia. Generally the dosage for analesthesia is determined by body weight, which is not a concern for most dogs. But, because the sight hound has so little body fat, the body cannot absorb either gaseous or non-gaseous general analesthesia, including barbiturates, based on its weight. Any analesthesia administered to your dog should only “twilight” the dog and not produce unconsciousness.
Discuss this factor with your vet prior to any required procedure. There is a fairly new anesthetic called propofol. It requires no pre-med or induction agent and a short recovery time. I cannot stress the importance of this warning enough. You and your vet must learn the risk factors of analesthesia for Irish Wolfhounds.
RECOMMENDED READING LIST
I suggest the following books about Irish Wolfhounds for reference and reading enjoyment. This list is far from inclusive. Therefore, if you know of other titles that you would like to pass along to me and other Irish Wolfhound enthusiasts, please give me a call:
1. The Magnificent Irish Wolfhound, by Mary McBryde. (Note: This is the European version of Mary McBryde’s book published in the United States under the title, “The Irish Wolfhound: Symbol of Celtic Splendor,” which is currently out of print. The only source I found for the The Magnificent Irish Wolfhound was on the Web site for Amazon.UK.
2. How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, by Clarice Rutherford & David H. Neil.
3. The Tellington TTouch, by Linda Tellington-Jones.
4. Sight Hound, by Pam Houston.
5. Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, by James M. Giffin, MD and Lisa D. Carlson, DVM.
For a more complete reading list, including reference books, mysteries, children’s stories, romance, and many articles and essays, visit the Web site for the Irish Wolfhound Club of America and click on Booklist.
Welcome to my Irish Wolfhound family,