What are Wolf Dogs?
A wolf-dog, also known as a ‘wolf hybrid’, is simply a dog that has wolf in its family history. While it is widely understood that all dog breeds have descended from the wolf, a wolfdog has pure wolf recently in its background, such as a parent or great grandparent some where in the past 5 to 8 generations (Whereas your family dog may have to go back hundreds of generations to pure wolf).
Genetically, the wolf and the dog are the same species – thus they are not actually ‘hybrids’ (for a human comparison, a wolf and a dog are no different than a person of Asian decent is different from a person of European descent) A wolf can mate with a dog and produce fertile offspring, just like two different breeds of dog can mate and produce fertile offspring. Offspring of two different breeds of dog, affectionately known as a ‘mutt’, will have characteristics of the two breeds, in varying proportions. Likewise, offspring of a wolf and a dog will have characteristics of a wolf and that particular breed, in varying proportions.
Today’s wolf-dogs are not the result of a wild wolf bred with a domestic dog. They are the result of dozens or more generations of wolf-dogs bred with wolf-dogs. Decades ago wolf breeders in the fur trade sold pure wolves to zoos, exhibitionists, and the public. While these commercial breeders no longer exist, many of these private owners still breed wolf-dogs. Most domestic bred wolf-dogs can trace their lineage back to the fur farms of the 1950’s.
No two wolf-dogs are alike.
Sadly there is still no breed standard for wolf-dogs purr say. Wolf-dogs, for lack of a better term, are ‘mutts’: wolf mixed with another breed, or several breeds, of dog.
Usually they are a combination of wolf with Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute or in some cases German shepherd, but can be mixed with other breeds as well.
Wolf-dogs will behave like wolf and the breed of dog they are mixed with, so you need to know what kind of mix you are working with. The wolf part tends to be shy with strangers, cautious, curious, intelligent, playful, watchful and energetic. They can also be stubborn, loving, independent and aloof. They are almost always very loving and loyal to their ‘family’ pack. The dog part will have behavior reflective of that particular breed in the mix. So every wolf-dog is different. Even wolf-dogs from the same litter and can look and behave differently, individually inheriting physical and behavioral characteristics from various wolf and dog forbearers. For these reasons Wolf-dog breeders work is hard they have to work with every generation to develop good lines with a look, temperament, and health suited to domestic life.
Wolf Dogs are misunderstood
Some folks believe that wolf-dogs are inherently provocative and aggressive, or that they are capable of ‘turning on you’. Just the opposite is true. By nature, they tend to be timid, loving, family (pack)-oriented and trusting of pack members. They bond strongly with their owners, to the point that if that owner can not keep them it will kill them to be gotten rid of. People must think hard before getting one it is truly a life long commitment. If you do not keep the wolf- dog you may end up killing it! Could you kill your wolf dog?
They are not aggressive and will tend to shy away from strangers rather than confront them. Most will behave similar, and proportional to, the breeds they are mixed with. Like any dog breed, however, if abused or neglected, or if tied to a tree, they learn to be defensive or aggressive. Wolf Dogs do not make good watch dogs! They believe you should protect them, not that they need to protect you. They don’t bark and tend to be fearful of strangers. Wolf dogs consider you to be the Alpha wolf of the pack – you are the leader.
The rabies vaccine is effective in wolf-dogs and must be kept up just like any other pet K9.
Wolf dogs are not for everyone
High content wolf dogs are very strong and difficult to train, require large secure outdoor pens, have special diets, and require a great deal of attention. They are very intelligent and get bored easily. While the behavior of wolf dogs is really not much different than that of the typical canine family pet, it is greatly magnified. The following traits are not unusual among high content wolf dogs, but less so with low content wolf dogs:
- May react poorly to standard dog training but so do a number of K9 Breeds.
- May dig large holes in their pens or the backyard, especially if bored or tied down just like other dogs.
- They can jump or climb a six-foot high fence, no Problem.
- They are smart and learn commands easily, but often decide to ignore them, they can be called to smart for their own good.
- They require an enclosure large enough for exercise and play. So do most dog but they settle for less.
- They will roll over and over again in the most obnoxious smelling substance known to the human nose.
- They will not respond to discipline the way most dogs do. Training a wolf dog is about as ‘easy’ as training a house cat. You must earn their respect if you expect them to listen to you.
- They are needy and do not like to be alone (they need a canine or human companion). Providing a companion often negates undesirable behaviors discussed in this section. Remember, wolves are highly developed social animals that normally live in groups; it’s not in their nature to be alone. A lone wolf is not a happy wolf.
- They require a high protein diet. Most commercially available dog foods are difficult for wolf dogs to digest due to high vegetable/low protein content.
- They may be fearful of people outside of the family pack. Taking them to public places may cause high anxiety and stress.
- They require a very high amount of socialization, often and repeatedly, from a very young age through adulthood, if you expect to take them to public places, a dog park, or even for a walk.
- They are not good off leash; they may run off in pursuit of something interesting and are difficult to call back; or they may find that obnoxious smelly stuff discussed above.
- They will bark very little, but boy do they howl.
Low content or generationally bred wolf dogs, however, tend to have behavior like the dog they are mixed with, and are much more desirable as pets.
It should be noted that with proper socialization early on, and lots of positive, loving reinforcement, both high content wolf dogs and low content wolf dogs can make wonderful companions. Some can even behave like regular house dogs, especially low content wolf dogs.