A frequently asked question is "are Irish Wolfhounds easy to train?"
My first answer is well "yes" and "no" to which I immediately add “your dog is only as good as the person on the other end of the lead.”
The Irish Wolfhound is as you know a large, strong, and determined dog and if he wants to get on the sofa and stay there he will, unlike a small pooch you will find it a struggle to heft him off. He is also a sighthound, and if he is chasing his quarry, it is more than likely he will not hear his re-call. It is you who shoulders the responsibility of this, he is just following his instincts. So it is very important to start with some very basic training of your Irish Wolfhound puppy, it will make life easier for you both.
There are many good books out there which can help you with training. You could try a puppy and dog training class. http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/dogtraining
It is not difficult to train your Irish Wolfhound puppy/dog, however whichever method you choose, what is required is persistence, patience and repeated practice. This applies to the pair of you and your dog will unconditionally reflect your ability.
Appoint an Irish Wolfhound Trainer
Firstly you need to decide who in the family is responsible for the dog training. Dogs are notoriously quick at picking up on family power struggles and will exploit these to the end. All non executive family trainers should be just that and wait for you to issue your training manual! Secondly, decide as trainer, and in discussion with other family members, what the boundaries are, what you want and expect from your hound. How much time you want to give to training and the level of response required in return.
I have developed my own techniques over the years. I try to keep things simple, and train what is required to make all our lives easy. I use simple commands and signs which not only can I communicate to the dog, but also to other family members. Too many trainers will confuse a dog as they start receiving conflicting commands. I also realised that shouting, yelling and repeatedly giving my dog a command and not obtaining a response, was a sign of my failure. My dogs have perfect sight, more than perfect hearing and hardly ever miss a movement. Selective deafness is a sign of pushing my boundaries. I had a dog who wherever he was, he could hear the refrigerator door open and would appear. However you could call him until you were blue in the face and he wouldn’t come. We eventually worked this out, and the door was used to our advantage.
Start by thinking and choosing your simple signs and signals for each command and for each task you wish your Wolfhound puppy to do, and once you have decided, stay with them. There are standards signs and commands you can find in most dog training books or like me use a mish mash of what suits.
Come/five blasts on a whistle/ hand clapping/finger clicks - are all my recall commands
Sit/index finger held up/or pressure from hand at the top of the tail/ - are all my sit commands.
Down/click of fingers and point index finger down to the ground - are my down commands.
No/Ah Ah - are my stop leave that alone commands, delivered in a commanding tone.
In/Out- are self explanatory, and especially useful for getting dogs in and out of cars and through doorways, before and after closing doors.
“Off” too is a must with a Wolfie, as in “get off the sofa.”
Also add the dog’s name at the beginning or end of these commands to begin with. Helpful if more than one dog is involved.
We have always had a rule in our house and especially when the children were young, that if you feed the dogs human food from the table, you get to eat dog food. This worked, but those who have grown up and have been weakened by the sad soulful eyes, are often pestered at the table. A sure give away that treating has occurred. I like to eat my meal in peace, a blocking elbow works, a no or ah ah, or what seems to work like magic is a non verbal exchange of blowing on my Wolfie’s face.
When does Irish Wolfhound training start ?
The bonding starts on the way home in the car and the minute you get home you need to start training. When you hold and cuddle your puppy keep saying his name. If you get down on your hands and knees a puppy will always come to you, call their name and say come at the same time. This is a double learning experience. Sit, is the next easy command to teach. Using meal time is a good opportunity to teach this, as you hold the feed bowl up and over your dog’s head, while saying sit, the dog naturally looks at the bowl, bottom goes down and sits. Keep repeating this ritual every time you feed and once he is doing this on voice command and whilst holding the feed bowl, I then leave the feed bowl on the work surface or in my left hand and start to use the verbal command sit and my pointing up index finger ( the same gesture you use to express “just a minute” “or hold on”). You can then eventually use just the index finger without the bowl, or the verbal command. Silent commands and good responses are very satisfying. As soon as you can, add blowing a whistle, five short blasts when their food is being prepared, this is the beginning of my outdoor re-call signal. I have found shouting your dog’s name, or come in the field against the wind can be a thankless task sometimes, but five short blasts on a whistle never fails to work. Keep repeating this before feeding and add to outside play times, and use your favourite dog treat as reward of a positive response.
House Training You Irish Wolfhound Puppy
Start your toilet training the minute you get home too. If you are struggling and puppy won’t house train, this is in fact your fault. Puppies and dogs hate messing their space. You have to be disciplined in your approach to this, having regular meal times and regular going out times after eating, drinking, waking and exercising. I like to keep the pups in a large pen in the kitchen, as I find this an easier method of toilet training. They are safe, they are not running around all over the house getting excited and messing. The pen soon becomes a relaxing safe space for you all. A safe place to eat, to drink, to have toys, and to sleep. I let puppy out of the pen, out we go; he runs around and plays in the kitchen, out we go; he eats and out we go; he drinks and out we go; he wakes up and out we go. He meets new people in the kitchen and out we go. Noticed the “we” have you? Well, it pays off in the end, and as I have said once before, your dog is only as good as it’s trainer. One small tip here, when you take you dog out and whilst he is mid flow doing his business, just keep repeating “hurry quickly” or similar words. This will pay dividends for the times later on when you are in a hurry to leave the house, cold nights, or before long car journeys, your dog will know what is expected and get a move on doing his business.
If your puppy is chewing everything in sight, this again is your fault, because you are leaving him things out to chew. Scoop everything up you don’t want chewed and leave your puppy or dog with something made for him to chew i.e. raw meaty bones, deer antler, rawhide, or other pet chews. Animals naturally teethe and often require gnawing to aide this along and with keeping their teeth clean and gums healthy.
This is just a short guide to training basics for you and your pet. There is a lot of good help out there, if you wish to further the training. Training your dog can be very rewarding. Some are easier to train, some are a bit slower, and some need more time to think about a command. They all have varying degrees of intelligence and response - just like us humans! You will need to assess your dog's ability and work together accordingly.
Your Irish Wolfhound puppy will reflect back at you, so be calm, be focussed, be grounded, be consistent and be kind. Always reward good responses, this will reap you your rewards.
Irish Wolfhounds are sensitive creatures, and respond well to love and kindness.
Liver cake is a really tasty treat and training aid for your Irish Wolfhound. The Happy Hounds here just love it, improving their re-call when out in the field - In fact when they smell this in your pocket they don’t venture far.
1Lb (450g) liver.
1Lb (450g) self raising flour.
Old bread crusts etc if you have them
1 cloves of garlic.
Blitz the liver and garlic in a food processor.
Add the eggs and blend to a sponge mixture
Add water if required
Empty contents into a baking tray.
Bake at 180 degrees for 35 - 45 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Divide into pieces and freeze in small bags ready to take out when training or even showing
p.s. Liver fed "neat" either raw or cooked tends to be too rich for most Irish Wolfhounds, the same applies to heart. It may cause vomiting or scouring.