A wolfdog, 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
(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 and a dog will have characteristics of a wolf and
that particular breed, in varying proportions.
Today's wolfdogs are not the result of a wild wolf bred with a domestic dog. They are the result of dozens or more generations of wolfdogs bred with wolfdogs. 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 wolfdogs. Most domestic bred wolfdogs can trace their lineage back to the fur farms of the 1950's.
No two wolfdogs are
is no breed standard. Wolfdogs,
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 German shepherd, but can be mixed with other
breeds as well.
Wolfdogs will behave like wolf and the breed
of dog they are mixed 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
wolfdog is different. Even wolfdogs from the same
litter and can look and behave differently, individually
inheriting physical and behavioral characteristics
from various wolf and dog forbearers.
Some folks believe
that wolfdogs 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 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.
The rabies vaccine is entirely effective in wolfdogs. For more information please visit the Howling Woods Farm Wolfdog Rabies Vaccination Page.
Wolfdogs are not for everyone
High content wolfdogs 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 wolfdogs
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 wolfdogs, but less so with low content
- react poorly
to standard dog training
- may dig large holes in
their pens or the backyard, especially if bored
or tied down
- can jump or climb a six-foot high fence
- are smart and learn commands easily,
but often decide to ignore them
- require an enclosure large enough for exercise
- will roll over and over again
in the most obnoxious smelling substance known
to the human nose.
- do 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.
- 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.
- require a high protein diet.
Most commercially available dog foods are difficult
for wolf dogs to digest due to high vegetable/low
- may be fearful of people outside
of the family pack. Taking them to public places
may cause high anxiety and stress.
- 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.
- 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.
- bark very little, but boy do they howl.
Lastly, they bond strongly; should you
ever give them up, they could languish. At best,
they would not bond as easily with their next
human companions as they did with you. A decision
to bring a high content wolfdog into your home
is a major lifetime commitment. Giving one up,
no matter how good a reason, would likely result
in it's death; it would most likely never make
it out of the shelter.
content wolfdogs, 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 wolfdogs and
low content wolfdogs can make wonderful companions.
Some can even behave like regular house dogs,
especially low content wolfdogs. Also, it's best
to get a rescue, as the behavior you observe it less likely
to change with age: what you see is what you get.
Wolf dogs are poor watchdogs!
They don't bark and tend to be fearful of strangers.
Wolfdogs consider you to be the Alpha wolf of
the pack - you are the leader. As far as they are concerned, it's
YOUR job to protect them.
by Michael Hodanish, Howling Woods Farm