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If you have a soft spot for large dogs, Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are two breeds you have likely considered. Although they are somewhat similar in size, they do vary in many important ways.
Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are two very large breeds of dogs.
- Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest breed of dog. They can range from 30-35 inches tall and approximately 110-160 pounds.
- Great Danes can be from 28-32 inches tall and 100-180 pounds.
Be sure to consider that large dogs require enough space to move around in your home and adequate space in your vehicle. You should be capable of handling a large dog during their daily activities but if they are ever sick or injured, you may need to carry them.
Personality and Training
Irish Wolfhounds are gentle, intelligent dogs who love spending time with their human companions. They are not aggressive or suspicious and do not make good guard dogs. They are also intelligent and are relatively easy to train, although they have a high prey drive that will need to be managed.
Irish Wolfhounds are quite sensitive and should be trained with positive reinforcement techniques.
Great Danes are usually incredibly gentle, good-natured dogs. They love to please their owners, which makes them easy dogs to train. They also normally get along well with children and strangers but sometimes have a tendency to become protective if they feel as though their owners are in need of defending.
If you have spent time with Great Danes, you may already know that they tend to believe that they are lapdogs, and often try very hard to fit their enormous bodies on top of humans.
For both of these breeds, early socialization and training can make a large impact on their personality and obedience later in life. So help them socialize while they are young, and expose them to new sights and sounds. This will help them to develop excellent social skills and become well-rounded, friendly, and well-behaved as possible.
Irish Wolfhounds have relatively low energy levels but do need a fairly high amount of exercise. They may stay fairly sedentary if not taken out for exercise, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they don’t need exercise to stay healthy. They also have a very high prey drive, so they need to be kept in a secure area or on a leash. A home with a large fenced yard would be best for them.
Great Danes can act quite lazy at times, but they still need daily exercise. Walks several times per day should be sufficient.
For both of these breeds, their bones and joints do not fully develop until they are mature (18 months for Irish wolfhounds and 2 years for Great Danes), so be sure to keep exercise limited until that age. After reaching maturity, they will be able to exercise more vigorously.
Extensive exercise should also be avoided around mealtimes because of the risk of bloating.
Great Danes have a short smooth coat that doesn’t shed a lot throughout the year. Weekly brushing is recommended. They do shed more once or twice a year, and brushing should be done daily during this time.
Irish Wolfhounds have a double coat with a wiry outer coat and a softer undercoat. They shed a very minimally throughout the year and don’t blow out their coats during the year like many other double-coated breeds.
Both are fairly easy to groom and their fur doesn’t mat, but they do require brushing once or twice a week. A more thorough brushing should be done twice a year to remove all dead hair so that they will not begin to look shaggy.
Irish Wolfhound beards can get dirty from eating, and gets wet regularly when drinking, so it should be washed regularly.
Like most breeds, Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes regularly need their nails trimmed and their teeth brushed.
Irish Wolfhounds deal quite well with colder weather but are less tolerant of hot weather.
Great Danes do not tolerate the cold very well and are good candidates for doggie sweaters when they go for walks in the winter.
Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are generally fairly healthy, but they can be somewhat prone to certain health conditions including the following.
Great Danes & Irish Wolfhounds:
- Bloat/gastric dilation-volvulus (GVD)
- Hip dysplasia
- Bone cancer
- Heart disease
- Sensitivity to anesthesia
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Liver shunt
- Fibrocartilaginous emboli
- Joint issues (hip and elbow dysplasia, in particular)
Both of these breeds have slightly shorter than average life expectancies, with Irish Wolfhounds living an average of 6-8 years, and Great Danes for an average of 7-10 years.
Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds require high-quality food that is age-appropriate. They should avoid eating human foods, especially bones and fatty foods, and of course, should avoid the many human foods that are unsafe for dogs.
Relating to nutrition, bloat is a serious (and potentially deadly) issue for these breeds. Bloat takes place when a dog’s stomach becomes too full, they eat too quickly and/or when they exercise too much after eating.
This condition can cause the stomach to become distended with gas or air, and then twist. This can lead to very severe symptoms including shock, heart failure, and death.
To prevent bloating, be sure to feed them multiple meals per day and to prevent them from exercising for approximately one hour after eating.
Symptoms of bloat include a distended abdomen, excessive salivation, retching, and acting either restless or lethargic or weak. If you notice your dog showing these symptoms, seek veterinary care as quickly as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can large dogs live comfortably in apartment buildings?
Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are not ideally suited to living in apartments or small spaces. They are very large and need space to spread out.
Are Great Danes/Irish Wolfhounds lazy?
Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds may appear lazy when spending time around the house, but both breeds require adequate daily exercise. Once they are outside, both of these breeds will usually act much more energetic, especially the Irish Wolfhounds, as they get very excited whenever they spot something that could potentially be prey.
Is owning a large dog much more expensive than a small one?
Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are both large dogs and therefore have some added expenses when it comes to food costs, boarding fees, and vet bills.
Are large dogs safe to have in a home with small children?
No one can guarantee the safety of an animal around a child, however, Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are often very friendly, gentle dogs, and can usually adapt well to living with children.
The most important thing to remember with any dog is that proper training and socialization will help greatly with their ability to get along with children, other pets, strangers, or to cope with new or stressful conditions.