Irish Wolfhound Grooming and Coat Maintenance
Like many things, grooming your Wolfhound is best started when the dog is a young puppy so that it becomes familiar with being groomed, handled and also having parts of the body checked such as ears, eyes, mouth and feet. In the early days a puppy coat does not require much maintenance, but effort put in at this stage will pay dividends later on. We would recommend a light grooming with a soft brush or comb a few times a week and also check inside the dog’s ears and mouth and ensure the puppy becomes very accustomed to having its paws checked and any dirt and debris gently removed. For the first few months a puppy’s coat is quite easy to deal with and very fluffy and soft, but this puppy fur will gradually come out and the adult coat will grow through and will be harsher in texture and require more maintenance. There is quite a variety of coat textures and types in Wolfhound adults, some dogs have easier maintenance coats which are lighter in density and not as harsh to the touch, but other Wolfhounds will develop a very dense, thick, coarse coat that demands more grooming and maintenance for it to remain in good condition. Grooming is important for any breed of dog and regular coat maintenance cannot only keep the dog looking in good condition, but it can also help to identify any potential ‘undesirables’ on the dog’s skin or in the fur and even be a first alert process for health problems, so owners need to be familiar with their own Wolfhound’s coat type and what should and shouldn’t be lurking underneath it.
Tools: It is not necessary to buy a raft of expensive grooming tools, but there are some basic brushes and combs that are required and then the rest is down to personal preference. A basic Wolfhound grooming kit should contain a dog comb of some description, a brush suitable for the individual’s coat, a stripping knife and some nail clippers. Also some method for cleaning inside the dog’s ears is essential and this can be done with moistened cotton wool, ear wipes or a proprietary ear cleaner.
A Comb can be used all over the dog’s body and needs to be big enough to easily go over the general body, but small enough to do finer areas such as the Wolfhound’s feet and legs. Many dog combs now have two different sides with differing prongs – prongs that are wider apart will take out any large pieces of dirt and debris and prongs closer together or of different lengths are better for removing smaller particles, undercoat and any mats in the fur.
There is a bewildering variety of dog brushes on the market and it can be confusing when deciding which brush is right for the job, essentially you need a brush to remove any dirt and debris and a brush to remove dead undercoat. A pin headed brush is a good all purpose tool and will remove most items from the coat and is not harsh on a dog or puppy’s skin. Many pin head brushes are cushioned at the base of the pins and have the added bonus of a bristle brush on the other side:
Removing undercoat from a Wolfhound can be daunting, especially if the dog is densely coated and easily becomes matted. The dead undercoat must be removed to allow the coat to regenerate and also maintain air circulation near the skin. Again there are plenty of tools to choose from for this grooming, but over the years we have found that the multiple blade de-shedders are the most effective and popular brands such as the Mars Coat King are frequently recommended. However, ensure that the number of blades and size of the tool is appropriate – a 10 or 12 blade tool is good for general undercoat removal on the body, but a 16 or 18 blade version is better for finer areas or if the dog is not densely coated. If you only want to purchase one blade de-shedder then go for the 16 or 18 blade version as this will also do the same thing as a 10 or 12 blade, but will just take a bit longer. Some of these tools are available in a double width, which makes grooming an adult Wolfhound a lot quicker, but please bear in mind that these items have blades on the end and they are sharp – watch your fingers and be careful on delicate/bony areas.
We would not recommend that these tools be used on the head, face, ears, legs, feet or the dog’s underside.
A Wolfhound’s feet need to be checked regularly and excess fur around the edge of the foot and also the underside of the foot needs to be removed with a stripping knife or round edged scissors. The fur on the underside of the feet and in between the pads should only be trimmed to make the fur level with the surface of the foot and parting the pads to trim deep inside the foot must be avoided. Nails will need to be checked and trimmed regularly and again this is something that is better started with a puppy, rather than leaving it until later in life. Regular small amounts of trimming on a dog’s claws is much better and easier than having to remove large amounts of nail growth as there is a nerve inside the nail that bleeds profusely if accidentally caught, but by regularly trimming the tips of the nails back, the ‘quick’ as it is known, will recede. A decent pair of guillotine style or pliers style nail clippers will do the job and can be purchased fairly inexpensively.
Irish Wolfhound ears can easily become dirty with mud or other debris and so checking them weekly is a good habit to get into, or if you notice that the dog is scratching its ears. Carefully folding back the ear flap so that the inside of the ear is visible and then gently clean with cotton wool, an ear wipe or using a general purpose liquid ear cleaner. Never be tempted to use anything sharp or pointed like a cotton bud as you can easily damage the delicate inner ear and never use powders in the ear canal or anything else that will block the ear’s mechanism (unless directed to do so by a vet).
Generally speaking, Wolfhounds do not have a difficult coat to maintain, but as with many things, regular checking and grooming will keep your dog in optimum condition. It is also a good idea to find a recommended professional dog groomer in your area as they can be extremely helpful in regular coat care, especially if you are not confident with using some of the grooming tools. There is nothing better than a groomer demonstrating best practice methods for you to then practice at home. Hand stripping a Wolfhound coat is also something that is either best left to a professional groomer, or at least ask a groomer to teach you how to do it properly, to avoid any discomfort for the dog and to avoid over-stripping areas of the body.