If you own an Irish Wolfhound, then you know that the breed is generally a quieter, more introverted breed of dog to own. Despite their large size, Irish Wolfhounds are known for being gentle and passive. Though they have ancient roots in hunting and war, the modern Irish Wolfhound is a gentle giant, and one of the most desirable pet companions for those who love big, relaxed dogs. Irish Wolfhounds aren’t usually barkers, nor are they particularly vocal. That being said, one of the unique breed traits of the Irish Wolfhound is the deep, wolf-like howl that they will occasionally let loose around other members of their breed. A chorus of Irish Wolfhound howls can sound just like a pack of wolves, and is truly a sight to behold. Here are some of the reasons that these dogs howl.
The Root of the Behavior
Irish Wolfhounds are one of the oldest known breeds of dogs in recorded history. They were given as gifts to conquerors, and used as status symbols for nobility throughout medieval history. Throughout human history, Irish Wolfhounds have made appearances in several wars, praised for their size and hunting abilities. Although there are several reasons why dogs howl, the Irish Wolfhound’s tendency to howl seems to be closely related to its deeply-rooted hunting instincts. Many Irish Wolfhound owners will know that although these dogs are generally regarded as quieter, less active creatures, their hunting instincts are strong. Small creatures that cross your dog’s path are often particularly at risk of being caught and killed, even if your dog has never exercised his hunting instincts before.
Most hunting dogs fall into general classifications of hunters based on their hunting style. Irish Wolfhounds are a type of sighthound, meaning that they use their line of sight and speed as the primary methods of capturing prey. In order to effectively communicate during hunts, Irish Wolfhounds howl in order to announce their position and discover the position of their peers. Dogs in general tend to howl as a means of communicating over long distance. Irish Wolfhounds, however, relied on howling for more than just hunting. Ancient writings and historical documents show that Irish Wolfhounds were sent on long-term missions during which time they would howl to communicate with their pack, which could sometimes be spread out over several miles.
Today, when your Irish Wolfhound howls, it is not due to war times or to the nature of the hunt. Your dog is simply acting upon his instincts to communicate his location with other dogs, although Irish Wolfhounds seem to prefer to respond only to their own breed. Like any dog, it is possible that your dog will howl at sirens or intruders, but the general temperament of the Irish Wolfhound seems to limit or discourage this kind of howling. Most people who take care of Irish Wolfhounds experience the gentle giant side of this majestic dog, and will only hear the howling on occasion.
Encouraging the Behavior
In most cases, Irish Wolfhounds don’t vocalize frequently. Even if you have a particularly vocal Irish Wolfhound, you will know the general pattern of your dog’s howling, and will be able to tell when something is wrong. If your dog begins howling an unusual amount, or frequently begins to howl for no apparent reason, it is possible that your dog is hurting or not feeling well. Irish Wolfhounds are particularly prone to injury due to their size, and will often experience joint pain related to too much exercise or less than ideal laying down and sleeping conditions. Your dog may or may not display other signs of physical pain, so it is best to take your dog in for a checkup if you notice howling with a combination of slowing down a bit.
Other reasons that your Irish Wolfhound might howl include separation anxiety and sound triggers, typically sirens or alarms. Unless your dog has been through a major traumatic experience in its life, it is unlikely that separation anxiety will be an issue for Irish Wolfhounds. They tend to be less prone to mental health issues, although as with all dogs, not enough early socialization and restrictive or isolated environments can give rise to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. If your dog is responding to sirens or other sounds, simple behavioral training should help to condition your dog to stay calm and quiet.