Archive for the ‘Interesting Wolfhound Stories’ Category

Life With Irish Wolfhounds

By Donna Eliassen

Life With Irish Wolfhounds back in the days when I had more time on my hands, I used to write for Suite101.com – my topic was about my experiences living as the “mother” of 2 mischievious Irish Wolfhounds.

THE BEGINNING

“Yet noble descendant

Of fierce fighting sire

You are playing tonight

With my child by the fire.”

Excerpt from Hound of the Heroes by William Dammarell)

One does not so much “own” an Irish Wolfhound, as be “owned by” an Irish Wolfhound. I am currently “owned” by two, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are typical of their breed and are a never-ending source of amusement and joy. Once you’ve been “owned” by a Wolfhound, you’ve been touched by a special magic, and you’ll never be the same. But be warned! They are addictive! You can’t just stop at one!Â

I am an owner, not a breeder – the thought did cross my mind, but I had to be honest – I’d make a lousy breeder – I’d never be able to give any of my “grand-puppies” away! Not for any amount of money!Â

“I will give thee a dog which is got in Ireland. He is huge of limb and for a follower equal to a man. Moresoever, he hath a man’s wit and will bark at thine enemies but never at thy friends. He will see by each man’s face whether he be ill will or well disposed towards thee. He will lay down his life for thee.”

(The Icelandic Saga of Njal; A.D. 970-1014)Â

I am now an experienced Irish Wolfhound “mummy”. A great deal of time and expense has gone into my “education”, but now my furry children have me well trained. I don’t claim to be an expert on Irish Wolfhounds and all I want to do is share the wonderment that is ownership of one of these magnificent animals. You can laugh with me or laugh at me… nothing phases Irish Wolfhound owners… we’re well-trained, you see!Â

If you’re one of the hundred or so who has ever stopped me in the street to slobber all over one of my dogs and ask me “where can I get one?”, you may want to consider just what you’d be getting into if you DID get one. So let me begin at the beginning…Â

So you want to adopt an Irish Wolfhound!

Years ago, when my husband and I first saw “Chewbacca” (the “Wookie” who travelled around the universe with a youthful Harrison Ford in Star Wars), we looked at each other and said, “I want one of those!” Alas, the Wookie was a mythical creature, and to our knowledge, nobody was breeding them here on earth.Â

Then one day we came across a photo of an Irish Wolfhound, standing with his face to the wind. The resemblance was uncanny. “There’s our Wookie!” We cried simultaneously, and without any preparation, promptly decided to adopt one. Ah, those were our innocent days!Â

Irish Wolfhounds are noble animals; gentle giants, whose basic nature is that of your typical “couch potato”. They love their comfort as much as you do. They make perfect “nannies” for your children and have the patience of a saint. Nevertheless, ownership of such a large dog brings plenty of responsibilities, as well as immense pleasures – as we were soon to find out.Â

First there was the added expense of having to trade our beloved Mercedes for a large four wheel drive station wagon – to fit the dogs in. Next came the sofa repairs, although, as there is no longer any room on the sofa for us, I just cover the ripped areas with a blanket and hope for the best. Fencing has had to be strengthened, and I’ve lost count of the number of times hubby has replaced the flywire in our screen doors. Our once smooth suburban lawn (well, it used to be a lawn – not sure what you’d call it now), is looking decidedly rustic. Actually, it looks like a horse paddock. As for my carpet and walls, well, let’s not go there, but please don’t be offended if I never invite you into my house.Â

I love my gentle giants, and so what if they’ve almost ruined the garden, the carpet, the walls, the sofa, and nearly sent us bankrupt with the food and vet bills – I couldn’t imagine life without them. They have many wonderful qualities which enable me to feel this way. They share every aspect of our lives, and like nothing more than to help “mother” in her home office, and “father” in the garden. In fact, our two Irish Wolfhounds have been quite industrious this summer, helping father with garden renovations. I do believe they are trying to build a swimming pool at one side of the house. It must annoy them so when father keeps filling it in again. They play very nicely with our daughter too. They particularly like to sneak into her bedroom at night and select a toy each to romp with outside. They never destroy the toys. I always find them in pristine condition, albeit a little wet and icky from the experience.Â

Our initiation into Wolfhound parenthood began with the adoption of Wookie, a grey male. (What else did you expect we’d call him?) Our daughter was around two years of age, so we felt like we had two babies to take care of. Wookie was a real clown, and to describe him as clumsy would be putting it mildly. When Wookie was only six months old, we realised that sharing our small house with him was going to be a challenge. Wookie’s tail could clear a table with one swish, and leaving food on the kitchen bench was inviting trouble. Unlike other dogs, who can only smell the delicious leftovers sitting on the sink and dream about it, Wolfhounds can see it, and reach it.Â

Soon after the arrival of Wookie, we found ourselves adopting a “rescue” dog. (Sadly, some people don’t research the requirements of owning one of this breed, and realise later that they should have bought the miniature poodle instead.) Standing at approximately 90cm (almost 35 inches) tall at the shoulder and weighing in at 78 kilos, she was, and is, a sight to behold. We guessed her age to be around three years, and we decided to celebrate her “birthday”, with chocolate cake, every St. Patrick’s Day. Wookie took a shine to her immediately, and although Guinny, as we decided to call her, sometimes found him to be a bit of a handful, she developed a fondness for him, and the two became firm friends.Â

Guinny, we discovered, loves a nice cup of coffee. Not the plain black stuff. She likes hers white with two sugars, and no, of course we don’t give our dog coffee! We don’t need to. She helps herself. I always know she’s been at my coffee by the telltale spills around the cup, or if I miss that (sometimes she cleans up after herself to hide the evidence), I know she’s been there by the strange taste left behind in the cup.Â

Irish Wolfhounds are warm and affectionate with sensitive, gentle natures. I don’t know whether I’d recommend them as guard dogs, although owners can be confident that if attacked, their Wolfhounds would defend to the death. The sheer size of these animals, combined with their deep, impressive barks, is probably enough to scare off most would-be burglars, but I don’t know whether that would work at my house. I can just see it now. There they’d be, standing at the fence, each with their own favourite toy held firmly in their powerful jaws. My two fearless defenders of home and hearth… “Don’t come in here or my teddy will get you!”Â

Owning an Irish Wolfhound is an honour. To be accepted and loved by one in return, is truly a gift from God. My own furry children are a never-ending source of amusement and companionship, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of my experience. (Talking of scratching… is that a flea?)Â

MY FIRST DOG SHOW

We were planning to show our large male wolfhound, Ahrran, that is, until my husband and I attended a few dog shows, assisting our Wolfhound breeder friends to show theirs. But all of this may never have come about after our first experience at a serious dog show, and it had nothing to do with the fact that Ice Breaker stepped on the Judge’s foot, which resulted in her hopping around on one leg uttering words I can’t repeat here. (She continued the judging limping around in barefeet.)Â

Well, it was the something or other Classic, a prestigious annual event attended by pedigree owners Australia wide. There was a Judge from Canada, two from the USA, and one from the UK. We weren’t showing any of our dogs. We were there to help the breeders. My husband, Tom, we were told, is the only human on the planet capable of “handling” Camille (a strong, stubborn Irish Wolfhound female.) I was there to video the event. My three year old daughter, affectionately known as the munchkin, was there to be entertaining and ensure I did not get bored! This was the day Camille got her nickname… Propeller-head.Â

I did not know the first thing about video cameras, and if somebody had had the decency to explain to me about the little red button, I would not have missed the first round in the ring! When I finally got the camera rolling, a very rude man in a white shirt with rolled up sleeves kept standing in the way. Eventually, I had to ask him if he could please keep to the left, preferably staying put by the dividing fence, and I couldn’t figure out why this politely put request deserved such a look of contempt. Well, how was I to know he was the Judge!Â

Rude Judges and red buttons aside, I soon had sufficient footage to bore the socks off even the most avid animal devotee. After “half time”, it was my turn to watch the remainder of the dogs who had not made it into the finals, along with all the handbags and other paraphernalia while everyone else went off to line up for the next round, or go to the restroom, or wherever else it is people go to at Dog Shows. Munchkin and I felt suitably equipped for this small task. All we had to do was sit there. Right?Â

Wrong! Some prankster decided to switch on the oval sprinkler system, throwing the entire event into chaos. I made a quick grab for the handbags, the video, and the munchkin, and dragged them all out of the way. The sprinkler near us thoroughly drenched Red, who becoming displeased with this unexpected shower, tried to get away and tangled his back leg up in the leash in the process. Irish Wolfhounds are powerful animals, and we wrestled a bit before I managed to free him.Â

The munchkin thought this was a delightful game and started prancing around the dogs like a bouncing nutcase. Camille, who never likes a fuss at the best of times, panicked and upset the water bucket, successfully drenching the mattress she was sharing with another bitch. This distressed Camille even further, so much so that she required to empty her bowels immediately. This required a mad rush to find the little poo pouches and scoop it up before she stepped in it, which she did anyway. Then I had to go and empty the pouch in the little “bins” provided on the grounds.Â

“Stay here”, I instructed the munchkin, who promptly ran off in the other direction. My screams fell on deaf ears. Apparently, we were now playing hide and seek.Â

When I returned, the munchkin then required to go to the bathroom, an impossibility seeing as there was nobody to mind the dogs or the belongings. “But mummy, I have to go now!” She insisted, crossing her legs and pleading with a pained expression. We were a long way from any restroom, but behind us where the cars were parked was a small patch of bush. That would have to do. I quickly dashed her over to the privacy of a large gum tree, let her do her stuff, then bolted back to the dogs, only to discover that the largest one had somehow manage to pull the star-picket to which his leash was attached, out of the ground and was heading for a sexy little Afghan he’d had his eye on earlier and obviously planned to know better.Â

“Come back!” I hollered after him. “Stay here!” I yelled to the munchkin. “Stop that!” I yelled at Camille, who once again had found it necessary to relieve her bowels. “Wheee!” squealed the munchkin, “This is fun!”Â

I had his amorous Lordship securely tethered again just in time for the return of the breeder’s other handler, who barked, without so much as a hello, “What the hell have you done with the water bucket? Are you stupid? These dogs are thirsty! You’re supposed to be watching the dogs! Not just sitting there have a nice time!”

DOES YOUR OFFICE ASSISTANT DROOL?Â

My home office is small, well okay, it’s not really an “office” – it’s the spare room which my computer shares with the ironing board and various junk which is too precious to throw away. It used to be the nursery, and the walls are still decorated with murals of Beatrix Potter characters. (Jemima Puddleduck and Peter Rabbit watch over everything I do.) It is one of the smallest rooms in the house, apart from the bathroom and laundry, and therein lies the problem.Â

Never mind that I, who has never suffered claustrophobia in my life, endure frequent bouts of feeling trapped or suffocated by mountains of ironing, or paperwork piled up on any spare flat space to be found, too much furniture, and a collection of toys my daughter insists my office needs. It’s my office co-workers I’m worried about. Once they’re “in” the office, they have to do a 3 point turn, or go in “reverse” to get out.Â

Personally, I’d prefer to work alone, but I suppose I should consider myself blessed in that I have so many willing helpers. Firstly, there is Ahrran, a “drooler”. He likes nothing better than to stand behind my stool, rest his hairy chin (which is usually wet from a recent drink) on my left shoulder, and watch what I’m doing on the computer. Little droplets of drool run down my arm, and his whiskers tickle my neck. I find this a little distracting. Not as distracting, however, as when he decides that his own slobber is annoying and gives his head a good shake. I have now learned to “drool-proof” my important papers by keeping them in plastic folders. I have plastic everywhere. It makes it very difficult to find things fast, but at least it keeps them dry.Â

Ahrran would like to learn to type. He is a remarkably intelligent hound when he wants to be, but this is a little over ambitious even for him. Occasionally, he will rest his paw on my left hand while I try to type – “try” being the operative word here. His giant paw is quite heavy, and rather than allow me to type, he simply flattens my hand to the keyboard and wonders why the “fun” stops each time. Then he looks at me questioningly, with his beautiful big, brown eyes, as if to say, “Well, come on! What are we stopping for? Let’s type!”Â

I’m becoming quite adept at typing with the assistance of furry paws and furry noses in the way. And I’ve yet to perfect the art, but I’m practicing typing with a large furry nose pumping my left elbow up and down, while I try to match the rhythm with my right elbow. (If I can get two elbows going, then I’ll be able to fly!)Â

Wookie, bless his soul, had a “thing” for the printer cable. (“Mine!” he thought, in typical wolfhound puppy fashion.) I had to ensure it was always switched off at the power socket just in case. He also took a fancy to a bright blue ring binder file. (“Mine!”) And whilst I managed to salvage the inner documents, I couldn’t do much with the rest of the file so I threw it away, much to his disgust.Â

Guinny likes to hover near my right elbow – that’s the side I keep my coffee cup. When I’m not looking, she pinches a quick slurp – she’s very partial to white with 2 sugars. Ahrran hovers at my left elbow, and when they’re both in the office, it is strictly standing room only.Â

The other night both of them decided to visit me at the same time. Bump goes the right elbow: kjolauiojuqwekrn;wlkdfh;, Bump goes the left elbow: fjl;iaweuopriqje;roij;dicj and in addition to a few Martian phrases appearing in my document, my finger accidentally hit the delete key and I lost all the work I hadn’t saved! That’s another thing I’ve learned now – save regularly!Â

Curious one night, Guinny wandered in and began sniffing some papers on top of my filing cabinet. They were tax receipts, which I’d just put in date order ready to do the quarterly tax report. “Er, Guinny…” I started to say. Too late! She pushed her snout into the middle of the pile, and with one mighty toss of her magnificent head, sent a flurry of papers floating around the room. Then she beamed the biggest smile at me, waiting for my reaction. (Normally, it’s the tail-end that I have to worry about. One wag can rearrange my filing and send flying anything that’s not weighted down with something heavy. Just one wag in the right direction sees me darting around the office grabbing at papers, open boxes of paper-clips, business cards, whatever! Guinny, for some reason, thinks “mummy” is extremely funny when she hops, skips and jumps around the office making funny noises while she tries to catch flying objects, floating papers, and completed assignments yet to be covered in plastic!)Â

Anyway, now I’m simply the figurehead of my home business. Guinny is in charge of the filing, Ahrran is learning to type, and I’m learning to levitate. Everything is covered in plastic, and all the junk is pushed up against the walls to make room for 3 point turns, reverses, u-turns and all the other manoeuvres which are essential when navigating the office. And if you’re looking for my daughter, try looking under the desk. She learns quickly!Â

WOLFHOUNDS AND TEDDY BEARS

I love my two Irish Wolfhounds, but I’m undecided whether they are furry, juvenile delinquents, or overgrown teddy-bears with minds of their own. They have mastered the art of getting their own way and have this particular human family trained just how they want us. Still, I am filled with awe for this incredible breed. When one hears talk of the origin of breeds, invariably wolves and greyhounds, and even the Australian dingo, spring into the conversation. But no breed commands the respect and fascination as much as the Irish Wolfhound. We literally stop traffic when we take our hounds for a walk, and if I was paid for every time I heard, “Where’s their saddles?”, I’d be a very rich lady now.Â

The earliest recorded history of the Irish Wolfhound dates back several thousand years. (And some days when I’m cleaning up after my “furry children”, this is how old I feel!) Wolfhounds were first reported accompanying their masters, who rode on horseback, to war, and later these same creatures were used to hunt and kill wolves. (I can’t see it, quite frankly. My couch potatoes exerting themselves? No, obviously these historical references refer to other people’s Wolfhounds – not mine.) The Celts are attributed with the original ownership of very large and powerful hunting dogs, believed to be the descendants of the Irish Wolfhound, and skeletal remains found in parts of Ireland and Britain have proved the existence of a very large dog belonging to the Greyhound family. Since these earliest days, the Wolfhound has undergone quite a few transformations, and were it not for the dedicated efforts of a certain Captain Graham, this magnificent dog would not be around today.Â

I am prone to think about these things when I watch my two furry beasties galloping around the back yard, ears flapping in the wind, teddy bears in mouth. My Wolfhounds are gentle giants, but I wouldn’t recommend you try to part them from their beloved teddy bears, which they pinched from my daughter’s bedroom and refuse to give up. You can take my TV and my stereo, by all means. Take my video too. Just don’t touch the teddies! If anybody ever wanted to break into my home, these two would probably help them carry the furniture out. A breeder once gave me some sound advice. If I want my beasties to spring into action and save my life, or my furniture, I need only throw myself on the floor and scream blue murder. If my Wolfhounds think my life is in danger, then, and only then, will they live up to their reputation: “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” Apparently, harming the human family of a Wolfhound qualifies as extreme provocation. I should think so!Â

I did have a taste of this protective instinct not long ago. Guinny, our Wolfhound “daughter” who stands at 35 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs in at approximately 78 kg (which qualifies her to the title “Father’s little girl”), was not familiar with the game of “kung-fu crocodiles”. We were really getting into the swing of things, kicking and air-punching these imaginary monsters with all the appropriate sound effects, when Guinny appeared at our side wearing a very stern expression. Guinny, despite her many talents, does not have much of an imagination. To be fair, she has never seen a crocodile, let alone an imaginary one, and the rules of the game were lost on her. She was concerned that her pet girl (our daughter), might be in harm’s way. With a grip slightly stronger than her normal playful “bite”, she grabbed first my arm and pulled me away, and then my husband’s arm. In a very gentle, but persuasive manner, she made it clear that this game was totally unacceptable, and if we valued our arms, we should desist immediately. Not that my husband and I really minded. We weren’t overly fond of this game anyway, besides, such games attract unwanted attention from the neighbours, and these things can be a little embarrassing to explain.Â

Generally, though, both our Wolfhounds show a strong preference for cuddles and affection, and if you’re partial to a cuddle with something soft and furry, owning a Wolfhound is like… having your own life-sized teddy bear!Â

WOLFIES RULE! OKAY?!Â

Irish Wolfhounds are not like any other dogs you’ve likely owned. And even amongst the hound breeds, these guys are in a league of their own. Other dogs don’t worry them – when you’re their size, who are you going to be afraid of? Stern discipline isn’t going to be of major concern, because it doesn’t exist! (Any Wolfhound owner or breeder will tell you that the day you take your puppy home – “discipline your puppy” – but no smacking and no yelling! Yes, it does create some interesting challenges. I’ll tell you about it one day.Â

Irish Wolfhounds have a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” attitude – and this covers a wide range of things. It might be “your” dinner, on “your” plate, but to your Wolfhound children, that automatically makes it “theirs” too! Ditto the sofa, pillows, blankets, beanbag, food left lying around, toys, teddies, and anything else that takes their fancy.Â

One very lovely Irish Wolfhound, named Carina, (http://www.HoundsOfHeaven.com) has obligingly let me borrow from her set of Wolfhound Rules, which she has gathered from a variety of her Irish Wolfhound friends on the internet, and of course, Guinny and Ahrran took a look and wholeheartedly agreed – then added a few rules of their own! (Bear in mind, many of these rules are possibly “puppy” rules, although some still apply to the adult variety! So, if you’re contemplating being owned by an Irish Wolfhound, here are some popular Wolfhound Rules to consider:Â

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my mouth, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I can reach it, it’s mine.
  5. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
  6. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
  7. If I’m chewing something, all the pieces are mine.
  8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
  10. If it is on the floor, it’s mine.
  11. If it’s on the table and you’re not looking – it’s mine.
  12. If it makes any noise: squeeks, beeps, sings, or dances – it’s mine.
  13. If it is really yucky and muddy and disgusting, it’s mine.
  14. If it runs away from me, it’s mine.
  15. If it stands still, it’s definitely mine.
  16. If it’s edible, it’s mine.
  17. If it is not edible, it’s still mine.
  18. If it’s small, furry, and miaows, it’s mine.
  19. If it’s feathered, squawks and flies, it’s mine.
  20. All teddies are mine! (Ahrran and Guinny’s rule!)

Simple, really! Mind you, not ALL Irish Wolfhounds insist upon these rules – with the exception of puppies! This list is a compilation of many different Wolfhounds’ Rules, as they apply in their own households. (My thanks to Bill, Deborah, Fionna, Carina, Cynthia and all the other furry and not-so-furry contributors from www.HoundsofHeaven.com for “sharing”.)

The thing is, whether our Wolfhounds adopt some, or all of these rules, they do so in such a charming manner – who could resist! (And half the time you don’t even notice.)Â

Don’t be too alarmed about Rule No’s. 18 and 19. Wolfhounds are very easy going and get along with most household pets – but where cats and birds are concerned, it is best you introduce these to a puppy rather than an older Wolfhound, or “rescue” Wolfhound who has not grown up with them, because after all, Wolfhounds are hunters by nature – and you don’t want to give pussy a heart attack.Â

I guess what I’m saying is when a breeder talks to you about “sharing your home” with an Irish Wolfhound, you’d better take it literally!Â

I’m off now to have a coffee and a biscuit… shared, no doubt!Â

GOIN’ WALKIES

Pets are more than just home and garden accessories; they are more than winter foot warmers; they are even more than furry burglar alarms. Pets are wonderful stress relievers! It is a proven fact that pet owners live longer, healthier lives than non-pet owners, and let’s face it, if it weren’t for their heads butting your elbows, would you take time out from your busy routine to do some serious ear scratching, compare fleas, sniff tails (as opposed to roses), or generally just hang out with your furry buddies? Pets are the perfect excuse to take what is probably a long overdue break from our busy schedules. They ensure we get some exercise.Â

Dogs love to run, but they’ve nothing against a sedate walk either, however, if you’re the mummy, or daddy, of an Irish wolfhound, or any hound for that matter, chances are a sedate walk is something you are not accustomed to. Your average Hound likes speed, and your average Wolfhound is no exception. Keeping up with them is another matter. In fact, it is more than merely another matter… it is an impossibility. I know. I’ve tried. And despite popular opinion, you can’t ride your wolfhounds, (a misconception bandied about by non wolfhound owners who equate size with saddles), but wolfhounds are great to skate behind! A word of warning here – have skates; will travel – sure, but stay away from grassed areas! Skates are not designed for this terrain – you can, and will, fall flat on your face, and if on the other end of your leads happen to be Irish Wolfhounds, well, I’m sorry, they won’t stop for you! You’ll end up with a mouthful of mud, grass stains on your face, and your eyebrows relocated on your chin – not an attractive look – and one that serves no purpose at all.Â

The perfect “walk” as far as mature wolfhounds are concerned, are those which combine a little bit of road walking (on a leash, of course), and some free running time in a grassed park, which allows for pets off leads. Most people agree that a walk of between one to five miles is adequate, mind you, this depends on how fit you and your dog are! In summer, it is best to leave walks and gallops for the cool of the evening, because wolfhounds overheat quite easily – something that must be avoided. I’ve known wolfhounds to collapse and almost die from walking in the hot sun, and I’ve heard many sad tales of wolfhounds who actually have died from heat exhaustion.Â

Wookie, at just 6 months, never needed to be asked twice if he wanted to go for a little walk. By the age of 8 months, he would go and fetch his leash himself and bring it to us!Â

Puppies (and when I say puppies, I mean hounds up to the age of one and a half to two years of age), should NEVER be taken for long, exertive walks or gallops. Wolfhound puppies are delicate creatures and serious damage can be caused to them if they are pushed into hard exercise at too young an age. It’s skeleton is still growing, and excessive and boisterous play at too young an age can result in a crippled or deformed dog who will suffer in older age. It is much safer to allow your pup to exercise itself at its own pace, and stop as soon as it shows signs of tiredness. (A reputable breeder will give you all the guidelines you need when it comes to what you should and should not do with your puppy, and one thing you cannot do, is treat them like any other puppy – especially when it comes to exercise. Rearing a puppy is a topic all of its own… there is not just the special requirements of rearing one of this breed, there is the other little matter of having your house eaten – chewing shoes is for “common” dogs!)Â

And we mustn’t forget the obligatory little plastic bags all pet owners must carry with them when going out for walkies. Yes, you pick up doggy-doos with them and then pray there is a public rubbish bin nearby so you don’t have to carry it home with you. However, we’re talking about Irish Wolfhounds, so in that case, you’d better make that a large plastic bag!Â

It’s good manners, too, to put your wolfhound back on the leash if you see other dogs or people heading your way. Even though we wolfhound owners know our pets are merely playful, overgrown puppies who wouldn’t hurt a fly, some people get nervous when they see a dog the size of a small pony galloping towards them at the speed of a racing greyhound. I always endeavour to exercise my dogs in an area where people and other pets aren’t likely to be, and in this regard, I am very lucky to live near a native bush area, known as “public open space” in Australia – it is for everybody’s enjoyment, but most people prefer nicely mowed park spaces than public open spaces which are simply rugged, untouched-by-man bush areas. But my wolfhounds aren’t “most people”, and they love it. I’m not sure I always do, however, although I always try to think positive. Running through boggy sand, up hill and down, is great for the muscles, and being whipped in the face by branches is a small price to pay for good health. Isn’t it?Â

Yep – I can see I’m going to live a very long time! And so what if my face has turned an interesting shade of grass-stain green; my arms have been stretched to twice their length; and I suffer almost permanent laryngitis from screaming “Ahranny-wahnny-pahnnnneeeee! Guinny-wuinny-gin-gin! Come heeerrrre!” “Ahranny-wahnny! Gin-gin! Here!” “Ahrann! Guinny! Get back here now!” “Come here! Now!” “I’m going!” “Don’t you listen?” You get the idea. Oh, did I forget to mention to you that Irish Wolfhounds aren’t like other dogs in the respect that they will come to you when called – but when it suits them – not you! When wolfhound owners exchange “stories”, I guess the reason everyone in the group stands around wearing “those” smiles is because it just feels so good to know that other wolfie owners are likewise going to live long lives too. (If the exercise doesn’t kill us first!)Â

TO HEEL OR NOT TO HEEL…Â

A friend asked me once why I don’t take my Irish Wolfhounds to Obedience Competitions. Ha ha ha ha ha – bonk! (Excuse me – just laughing my head off.) Wolfhounds are intelligent. Of course they can do all that running and jumping and sitting stuff… but why would they want to? What purpose is there to it? If it’s so important to run in a circle, leap over fences, sit, lie and come here, then do it yourself!Â

Take Guinny for example. There was a time when the command to heel would bring her around your right leg, behind your back, to stand by your left side. I watched my husband with her and Ahrran the other day. We were out for a walk in the bush and preparing to return home. Ahrran came on command, but Guinny, standing only a few feet away, just stood there. She looked at my husband as if to say, well here I am, I’m standing still, what more do you want?! Whether I walk around you and stand by your leg, or stand here within arm’s reach, what’s the difference? Will the earth still not revolve? Will the sun still not rise in the morning? Give me one good reason why over there is better than over here!

“Heel!” My husband said in a more commanding tone. Guinny shifted her weight and stared ahead patiently as my husband walked to her side in the heel position. Then she looked at him as if to say, “Aren’t you clever!”

“This is how we heel.” My husband explained, embarrassed. My husband, the great dog trainer! He is, in fact, a qualified dog trainer and handler, and with any other dog, he can work magic… but Guinny isn’t just any other dog!Â

Wolfhounds judge each request on its merit. If your request is reasonable, they’ll consider it. If they don’t consider it reasonable, well, I’m sorry… you’re on your own. Take a simple game of fetch – throw a ball for any of our wolfhounds and they’ll look at you as though you’ve lost your marbles. As for fetching it, if you wanted it, you shouldn’t have thrown it away in the first place. Go get it yourself!Â

And the majority of wolfhounds all think this way – whether they’ve been well trained from puppyhood or not. It’s in their make up. Fortunately, this breed is generally well behaved, but still, because of their independent streak, training them is a must and the earlier you start, the better. But you can’t train these dogs like you would, say, your German Shepherd!

Training sessions need to be kept short, 5 to 10 minutes at the most. And a rule that applies whether you are training or not is NEVER speak harshly to them. NEVER! Harsh treatment doesn’t work. All it will do is depress your beautiful pet, who has the gentlest and most sensitive nature of all dogs. If you do tell your wolfhound off, they will sulk, sometimes for days, and if you are in the middle of a training session, telling your dog off will only make them refuse to cooperate at all, or walk away and leave you by yourself, which, in their opinion, is a fitting punishment for you until you learn to control yourself. Your best bet is a bribe… a little treat of some kind works wonders!Â

As I said, Wolfhounds are fast learners and get bored very quickly with the same training exercise. Once your wolfhound has learned to sit and stay while you walk away, they don’t see the point in doing it over and over again. Three or four times is all that is needed. Anything more than that and they will start to think you’re not very bright and clearly they are going through the motions because obviously YOU need to learn how to do it! Wookie used to vary his own exercises just to amuse himself. Father wasn’t amused, but Wookie figured if he had to play these daft games he might as well enjoy himself! I recall watching from the kitchen window one afternoon while Wookie was going through his sit and stay paces. Each time father turned to walk away, Wookie would get up and take a few steps forward, and as soon as father turned around, Wookie would quickly sit again and look very innocent.Â

Actually, that father has managed to get 2 out of our 3 wolfhounds to sit is amazing in itself. They much prefer to stand or lie down. Sitting isn’t particularly comfortable for these large dogs – and many of them look ridiculous too. Can you picture a horse “sitting”? Well, that’s what wolfhounds look like, except they’re fluffier! Guinny refuses to sit most of the time, and on the rare occasion that she does, she looks humiliated, as though a great indignity has been imposed on her. I remember once asking Guinny to sit. She refused. I insisted. She looked at me with a pained expression and started sniffing around the grass and then moved away. About three minutes later, she sat. On closer investigation, I discovered I’d expected her to sit on an ant’s nest. Any other dog would have done it. Other dogs don’t question, they just obey. Wolfhounds always question! They weigh up everything you ask them to do.Â

Actually, I shouldn’t complain. I have a four year old daughter who is the same. The only difference between our wolfhounds and our daughter is our daughter can ask “why”, but I have a feeling if our wolfhounds could talk, that would probably be their favourite word!Â

IRISH WOLFHOUND BREED STANDARDÂ

Like any other pedigree breed, the Irish Wolfhound is bred to a Standard, but I thought, rather than bore you with “serious”facts and figures, I’d share a very funny, tongue-in-cheek Wolfhound Breed Standard written by an ex-breeder in the U.K., Chris Shaw. She’s written her humorous standard based on the official format used for describing breed standards, and written from the perspective of one who lives with this breed and knows what an every-day “standard” Irish Wolfhound is really like!Â

“Standards? What standards?”

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Irish Wolfhound is the largest and tallest of the galloping hounds, combining power and swiftness – in other words he can steal from great heights, and just when it starts bucketing down, he will spot a hare (or anything else that moves – like a paper bag!), and no amount of screaming will bring him back until you are thoroughly soaked to the skin. On returning to his beloved owner he will use his great strength and speed to flatten you into the mud whilst licking your face ecstatically.Â

HEAD AND SKULL

Long enough to snout in the mud and broad enough to raise your elbow when you have a full cup of coffee in your hand. Pigment should be dark, but paint, mud and caked on food is permissible.

EYES

Frequently closed, but when open can spot food from a great distance. The Irish twinkle usually pre-empts mischief and deviousness.Â

EARS

Totally deaf to commands – but try unwrapping foil-covered food! Ears may also be covered in mud, butter, and anything disgusting that can be rolled in.Â

BITE

Strong enough to turn chair legs into filigree, carpets into Brussels Lace, and render brooms, brushes etc., to matchwood.Â

NECK

Long and muscular – giving hound the capability of nicking anything from a great height.Â

FOREQUARTERS

Strong and muscular – all the better for digging craters, up-rooting roses and young trees, also enables hound to dig up recently buried Hamster/Chicken/Cat to be put aside for a later snack.Â

BODY

Back – long enough to completely obscure the television. Chest – deep enough to lie in afore-mentioned crater.Â

HINDQUARTERS

Very powerful, enabling hound to “pop” over the recently constructed fence (a second mortgage may be required here to build a fence of Colditz proportions). Young hounds like to try out their strength by flattening Grandma as she walks through the door.Â

FEET

Moderately large and frequently all four in the air or up the newly painted wall. Must be large enough to carry vast quantities of mud to be distributed through the house. Nails – long and strong enough to necessitate plastic surgery on arms and legs when demanding attention.Â

MOVEMENT

Virtually non-existent when answering a command. Like grease lightening when next-doors cat appears in the garden, or food is on the table.

TAIL

Very long and slightly curved – must be carried over the back in the ring. At home, must wag violently to knock off ornaments and whack kids around the face.Â

COAT

Rough and full of mud, twigs, sticky burs and other noxious substances, especially immediately before departure to a show at 5 a.m.Â

COLOUR

Usually dirty brown (especially on white bits), it is not acceptable for the natural colour to be visible, but paint of any colour is acceptable.Â

WEIGHT AND SIZE

Normally very thin or very fat, only ever correct when the show season ends. Far too big to fit in the family car, thus requiring a third mortgage to purchase a Transit or similar.Â

FAULTS

Obedience, good manners and intelligence.Â

Of course, as with any pedigree, there is no such thing as absolute perfection. Even the most “perfect” dog has at least one fault, even if it is so tiny it that must be viewed through a magnifying glass. This explains why so many Breeders are so finicky and pick and choose mating partners from all corners of the earth – they are all in search of the “perfect” dog, or at least one who will counter-balance any fault existing in their own dogs, or introduce certain qualities which may be lacking in their own kennel.

My thanks to Kathy, Driftcot Irish Wolfhounds ( www.driftcot.co.uk ) for her assistance in tracking down Chris and getting permission to reprint her funny breed standard. I think having a sense of humour goes with the territory when you live with Irish Wolfhounds… I wonder which comes first? The Wolfhound, or the sense of humour? Or maybe the former enhances the latter!Â

AW C’MON… GIVE US A SMILE!Â

Wolfhounds do smile. Yes, all dog owners will tell you their dogs smile – but wolfhounds really do! Nobody is quite sure whether a hound’s ability to smile like a human is due to facial muscles or the nerves needed to operate these muscles, but whatever it is, it produces amazing results.Â

Just lately, our Guinny (whose sixth sense seems much more highly attuned than any dog I’ve ever owned) has needed major cheering up. Well, we all have really. Our small collie x has been diagnosed with an aggressive jaw cancer and it is inoperable. Our Vet has given her two weeks. Kelsie is fifteen and a half years old, with a strong and healthy heart, and were it not for this dreadful cancer, she would probably have another couple of good years left in her. Naturally, we are spoiling her rotten now – she can have whatever she wants. But Guinny has now become very sad. At first I thought it was due to all the attention we are giving Kelsie, but sometimes Guinny walks up to Kelsie and sniffs her – she’s never done that before.Â

I have gone to extremes to cheer Guinny up. I miss her smiles, and she hasn’t smiled since the day we bought Kelsie home from the vet (after exploratory surgery). Sometimes when Guinny is lying down, I’ll make silly “ticky ticky ticky” noises while tickling the pads of her feet – ordinarily, she senses that this is “supposed” to be funny… I think she thinks this is fun for me. Well, perhaps she’s right! But sometimes, she’ll lift her head and look at me and deliver a smile so warm it just melts my heart. Her ears will be pulled back ever so slightly, her eyes will be almost, but not quite, half closed – like she’s squinting, the corners of her mouth will be turned up (like ours do when we smile) and her lips will move upwards slightly, revealing pearly white teeth. Her eyes will have that special twinkle in them, and her tail will thump the carpet.Â

But lately, all the ‘ticky ticky ticky’ in the world has not produced the desired result.Â

Some times I have done ‘silly dances’ for her, singing silly songs and generally making a fool of myself. THIS she finds very amusing and if she could laugh, I daresay she would. Even Ahrran likes my silly dance and has taken to joining in. He looks like he’s doing Irish dancing with his front feet – a little quick tappy movement which makes everybody smile. Ahrran loves anything silly, and as this is a silly household, he smiles often.Â

Alas, even my silly dances have failed to raise a smile in Guinny.Â

Even her all-time favourite activity – botty pats – has not been enough to get a smile from her. She just LOVES botty pats! (Botty pats is our term for playing the bongo drums on her lower back – just above her tail.) Like a loaded semi trailer, she’ll turn around and back up to your knee for botty pats – but not just any old botty pats. It has to be the rhythm of the William Tell Overture – anything else will earn you a look of derision. Aah, but the William Tell Overture botty pat will bring the widest of smiles! But not today.Â

Tonight I learned the secret of how to make my wolfhound smile, when all else has failed. First I did my silly dance – nothing, then I did a little ticky ticky ticky – nothing, then I tried doing her Jane Fonda exercises with her (oh, didn’t I tell you about that? She lies on the floor and I give her a ‘workout’ with her front legs) – nothing… she just lay on her side, her expression one of extreme sadness… clearly, nothing was worth smiling about.Â

“What am I going to do with you, big girl?” I said to her, gently stroking her body as she lay on the carpet. I leaned over and kissed her nose. Then I gave her lots of mini kisses on her shoulder… then something came over me and before I knew it, I was blowing raspberries on her tummy! Like a baby! And you know what? Up came the majestic head and she looked at me in utter amazement – then something wonderful happened. Her eyes twinkled and the corners of her mouth curled up and she couldn’t help herself… Guinny smiled!Â

And that’s the trick. Next time you have a sad dog on your hands, try a few raspberries – well, even if it doesn’t work, at least it will give them something else to think about!

There are more… but don’t you have work to do?  :)

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010 Comments Off