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Wolfdog Facts: Behaviors, Traits, Care & FAQ
Wolfdogs, or Wolf-Dog Hybrids, are exactly what their name describes: dogs bred with wolves (grey, timber, Ethiopian, or otherwise) to create a hybrid wolfdog. Chances are that you have run into someone who owns one IRL as a pet, or you have seen them as pets or rescues on social media. The topic of wolfdogs strikes controversy and therefore makes the animals highly desirable by many in the general public.
Many people idolize wolfdogs as these mysterious, majestic creatures (which they are), but some may not point out the downsides and challenges to owning a wolfdog. We will cover all these aspects and more, so keep reading to find out.
What is a Wolfdog? Can Dogs Breed with Wolves?
Dogs and wolves are interfertile. This means that dogs and wolves can breed together and produce offspring that are normal and healthy. These wolfdog offspring can also produce puppies themselves.
A wolfdog comes from a litter of puppies whose parents were a dog and a wolf. These wolfdogs are guaranteed 50% wolf and 50% dog. The offspring’s offspring litter are not then likely to have the same kind of split-even gene pool. They carry genes from both parents, but it’s unpredictable which puppies will possess which characteristics. It doesn’t always work out that every puppy in this “grand litter” will have the same good or bad genes. For example, one puppy could act like a wolf and look like a dog, while another one acts like a dog and looks like a wolf.
History of the Wolfdog
The first known record of the wolfdog came from one breeding in Britain in 1766 between a male wolf and a female Pomeranian. These Pomeranians were not like we know them today, they were bigger-sized and work dogs more than the modern toy-type Pomeranians.
Back then, British noblemen purchased wolfdogs for scientific reasons, or they were put on exhibit in local zoos. The reasons behind breeding wolfdogs have ranged from pure leisure to professional military use.
Since wolfdogs were first bred, there have been specific wolfdog breeds that have emerged from different parts of Europe, including the malawolf, Sarrloos Wolfdog, and the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.
Wolf Hybrid “Content”
If you start reading enough about wolfdogs on the internet, you will notice people talking about what the wolf content of a wolfdog is. The levels range from low, medium, and high content. Sometimes, breeders of wolf hybrids will boast that their litter has more “wolf blood” and will therefore charge more. This cannot be 100% controlled, though, and it’s not based on science. A half-wolf crossed with a full wolf could make all kinds of variations of wolf/dog genes.
Genetic testing does exist for wolfdogs. The tests look at 3 or 4 genetic markers. The tests then tell you whether the wolfdog had wild wolf blood genes within the past 3 generations. These tests are not considered reliable, so it’s very difficult to tell whether any dog has wild wolf genes in its lineage.
Wolfdog Common Behavior
Before seriously considering buying or adopting a wolfdog for yourself, you need to learn about the behaviors of wolfdogs. They are high-maintenance as pets, so it’s a big commitment that needs some preparation. Our list does not encompass all aspects of wolfdog behavior, but some notable things you should keep in mind.
They Can Be Unpredictable
Like we’ve already mentioned once before, wolfdog puppies can differ within a litter. Just because one pup in the litter grew up to be a sweet pet, that doesn’t necessarily mean its sibling will be. Also, you might not know until they reach maturity what their personality is going to be like.
Wild wolves are independent and have minds of their own. This can cause difficulty in training, especially compared to a dog. Dogs love to please their humans, which is super useful in training them. Wolfdogs, being part wolf, are not concerned with pleasing anyone, and require some unique techniques to train them.
They Can Be Territorial and Aggressive
This doesn’t just mean that a wolfdog can consider your neighbor’s house his territory if he’s over there a lot. Wild wolves mark their territory with their pee and poop. Since wolfdogs may still have quite a lot of wild blood in them, that means that your wolfdog is liable to do this inside your house, which is also his “territory.”
A wolfdog also might get aggressive to protect a potential threat to its territory. More commonly, though, a wolfdog who hasn’t been properly socialized will be more scared than aggressive, and that can lead to biting.
They Dig, Escape, and Howl a Lot
Wolfdogs are not the pet for you if you work full time or are not around much. A wolfdog that is stuck at home is like a bull in a china shop; they will get bored and start to destroy things, primarily by digging. Feeling trapped, they will look for a way out and probably find it due to their high intelligence.
Another wolfy characteristic that wolfdogs sometimes inherit is howling. Wolves in the wild howl a lot to communicate, much like the way dogs bark at each other. There’s no exception for wolfdogs; it’s in their genes.
They are Very Active
A wolfdog needs around 3 to 4 hours of exercise a day, making them a highly active dog breed. To accommodate for this, you either need a very large area for them to run with secure fencing, or you need to be with your wolfdog for much of the day.
Caring for a Wolfdog Hybrid
Here are some things you need to know to care for a wolfdog.
They Need Lots of Exercise
Because wolfdogs are so active, you will need to give them a lot of space with the security of Fort Knox, and/or you will need to be with them often enough to give them all the exercise they need.
They Need Lots of Training
Wolfdogs have a reputation for being unpredictable and skittish. This can be mostly avoided by getting a wolfdog that’s further removed genetically from a wolf, and also with a lot of training and exposure early on in life through adulthood.
Even though they don’t respond too well to normal dog training, wolfdogs still love the training process as it helps them stretch their mental muscles. They also learn to love human interaction if they are socialized from a puppy to many kinds of people and situations.
Their Diet is Mostly Raw Meat
Feeding a wolfdog the average dog food will not sustain her nutritionally. Wolfdogs need to eat raw meat. Stick with beef, chicken, turkey, or other small game. Raw pork should be avoided, though.
Rabies Vaccine Considerations
As of this writing, there are no known rabies vaccines made specifically for wolves or wolfdogs. A rabies vaccine meant for dogs can be administered, but it may not be effective, and it could be difficult to accomplish, especially if you live in an area where it’s illegal to own a wolfdog hybrid.
If you do vaccinate your wolfdog (which is probably better to try than not), you have two options. You can go to a vet and not be totally honest about your wolfdog’s heritage and get the vaccine like normal. Or, you can sign a waiver saying the vaccine is being administered for “off label” use. Either way, if your wolfdog does bite someone, be aware that some cities will put your dog in the pound and maybe euthanize them whether they are vaccinated or not.
Wolfdogs as Pets: It Depends on Your State
So, is it even legal to own a wolfdog? The answer to that is complicated. While on the federal level it’s legal to own a wolfdog that’s 98% wolf and 2% dog, you will still have to check with your state and local municipality laws to be sure it’s legal where you live. Right now, the states that prohibit wolfdog ownership state-wide are Wyoming, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Georgia.
Having a wolfdog hybrid all to yourself seems very cool from a distance. In reality, owning a wolfdog means always keeping in mind it’s heritage. It can’t be proven how much wolf remains in a wolfdog’s blood, so you must be prepared for wild, sporadic behavior, especially if you’re getting your wolfdog as an adult, or if you know it is not trained fully.
Once you understand that wolfdogs are essentially part wild and treat them as such, the experience of owning a wolfdog can be as rewarding as a human/dog relationship. When you’ve gotten on the good side of a wolfdog, you have a trusty and protective partner for life.
Featured Image Credit: gloverk, Shutterstock
Jordin Horn is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, CBD, and parenting. Over the years, she has moved around so much that there’s been no time to settle down and own a pet. However, as an animal lover, she dotes on and cuddles any pet she happens upon! She grew up with and dearly loved an American Eskimo Spitz named Maggie and a Pomeranian/Beagle mix named Gabby. She calls Colorado home, but has also recently resided in China, Iowa, and Puerto Rico
Jordin does not like to settle for the “easy answer” when it comes to living life with your pet. She loves to research the best methods and products out there and cut through the jargon so you can see plainly what something is or how something is done.
- What is a Wolfdog? Can Dogs Breed with Wolves?
- History of the Wolfdog
- Wolf Hybrid “Content”
- Wolfdog Common Behavior
- Caring for a Wolfdog Hybrid
- Wolfdogs as Pets: It Depends on Your State
- Final Takeaways