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Book Review
Irish Wolfhounds:
Complete Pet Owner's Manual
by Nikki Riggsbee

Review by: Kate Connick, July 2006

If you were thinking about adding an Irish wolfhound to your home as a pet, I'd encourage you to first read Nikki Riggsbee's Irish Wolfhounds: Complete Pet Owner's Manual. A deceptively well-done book, this very basic introduction to life with a wolfhound is concise, informative, palatable, and packed with eye-catching color photos.

One won't find an exhaustive analysis of history, pedigrees, famous champions, or the breed standard. Rather, the emphasis is on the wolfhound as a pet, and everything in the book speaks to that. That author does a delightful job of presenting the basics of the breed, its training, care, grooming and health concerns, as well as a quick summary of formal activities that one might participate in with his hound.

Although it may offer no surprises to the experienced wolfhound owner, that is not the target reader. The book is written for the prospective pet owner, and it gives enough information to steer that reader in the right direction. An Irish wolfhound rescue group or breeder would be wise to insist on this as prerequisite reading.

Riggsbee repeatedly emphasizes the challenges of owning a giant dog, inserting a growth table and pointing out, "This dog is as big as another person in your home." No countertop is outside his reach. He is physically powerful. His stools are impressively huge. "When he stands in front of the television, he not only blocks the screen entirely from your view, but the remote control won't work." These things may seem obvious, but they are the mundane considerations that someone doesn't necessarily think about when contemplating a new dog. Most compellingly, the author insists, "Most Irish Wolfhounds that end up in the pound or in rescue are those acquired by people not prepared to deal with a giant dog. They claim that the dog got too big, too hard to handle, or too expensive." There is no excuse to part with a giant dog for those reasons. As Riggsbee tries to point out, the size, strength and expense of an enormous dog should not come as a surprise.

The author is similarly forthcoming when discussing other drawbacks of this large sighthound, including the unlikelihood of reliable recalls, the risk to small animals, and the need for secure fencing. An independent minded, soft tempered, short lived, laid back non-watchdog isn't everyone's idea of the perfect pet. The realities of health and longevity are thoughtfully discussed, with helpful descriptions of common concerns including heart disease, osteosarcoma, growth-related orthopedic concerns, hygromas, bloat and torsion.

The writing style is straightforward but never dry or tedious. The author's sense of humor is apparent but not overdone. The photographs, brevity, and effective writing make this book immensely readable, and no book is useful without that. Every question may not be answered, but the most significant ones are nicely addressed. The novice will finish this book with the sense that he has received a comprehensive crash course on Irish wolfhound ownership.

If you are considering acquiring an Irish wolfhound, read this book first. If it makes you doubt your decision, the author will have done her job in saving at least one wolfhound from being selected impulsively. If it doesn't make you reconsider your intentions, you will find yourself better prepared for more in-depth reading and learning after having digested this colorful primer. Inexpensive and attractive, this also makes a suitable book for gift giving.

Irish Wolfhounds: Complete Pet Owner's Manual, by Nikki Riggsbee.
Published by Barron's Educational Series, 2005. ISBN: 0764130277

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