In the beginning of the series the Stark family comes across a slain dire wolf mother and six puppies. The initial order is to kill the puppies so no more dire wolves exist in the kingdom but the children take it as a sign since the House Stark emblem is a wolf. The five legitemate children get a wolf pup each and later a sixth puppy is found, a runt, which is given to John Snow (the bastard son).
A dire wolf is an extinct species of wolf (extinct about 10,000 years ago) that dominated southern North America, Central America, and northern and western South America. Unlike the Grey Wolf and other North American species that have European ancestors, it is believed that the Dire Wolf evolved on the western hemisphere along with the coyote. It is believed that the wolf was much larger than today’s wolves (about five feet long and weighing about 240 pounds) and due to the large brain it is also believed that they were more intelligent than today’s wolf. Today they are very popular in fantasy and role playing games.
In Game of Thrones, they are Northern Inuit dogs. The Northern Inuit dog is a breed that was created in the UK in the 1980’s (it became an official breed of dog in 1998). The breed is extremely friendly, has a great nose, and they can also be known for their stamina. Despite the dire wolves actions in the show, Northern Inuits typically do not make good guard dogs nor are they aggressive, they’ll usually submit if challenged. They do become very attached to their pack and can be suseptible to seperation anxiety if left alone.
Rob Stark named his wolf “Grey Wind“.
Sansa Stark named her wolf “Lady“. Lady was played by Zunni from Mahlek Northern Inuit Dogs. (Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa in the series, adopted Lady as her own pet when the series wrapped).
Arya Stark named her wolf “Nymeria” after a warrior princess.
Bran Stark named his wolf “Summer” after he woke up from a coma.
Rickon Stark named his wolf “Shaggydog“.
Jon Snow (the bastard son) received a runt albino pup and he named it “Ghost“.
Also, Sully and Zuis (also from Mahlek) played two of the puppies.
James P Warren is credited for being the head animal trainer.