What is a Wolfdog?
A wolfdog is a dog with
recent wolf heritage. That is, a wolfdog has a pure wolf ancestor within the last five generations [that
would be the dog’s great-great-great grandparent].
NOTE: Though many
people still use the term “wolf hybrid,” this is not an accurate term. A “hybrid” is the result of
combining two different species. Following reclassification of the dog by taxonomists in 1993, the domestic
dog [Canis lupus familiaris] is actually viewed as a domestic variant of the gray wolf [Canis lupus] - i.e. the
same species. Yes, even your Chihuahua is a descendent of the wolf.
Most people want to know the
percentage of wolf in the wolfdog – 90% ? 50% ? 25% ? … which is considered genotyping. Unless you
know the animal’s heritage for many generations back, there is no way to accurately tell for
sure and more often than not, it doesn't always matter. Experienced people who work with wolfdogs are more
concerned with wolf “content.” This is usually determined by phenotyping, giving an educated opinion
based on various physical and behavior-related traits. Please be aware that content can vary between
animals from the same litter. For instance, Ramsey and Sugar are littermates with the same parents but they
look and behave very differently: same percentage – different content. Ramsey LOOKS like a Husky, yet has many
wolf behaviors. Sugar has more wolfy physical characteristics, yet behaves like a dog. Therefore, Ramsey would be considered to have more wolf content even
though he doesn’t look the part, while Sugar is all friendly dog that looks like a wolf! Many of these
unfortunate dogs get put down in shelters every day simply because they look like a wolfdog or their owners
think they have a wolfdog. [see Memorials ]
Most of the wolfdogs we see are
mixed with German Shepherd Dog [GSD], Alaskan Malamute, and/or Siberian or Alaskan Husky. Sometimes they mix
in Samoyed. The German Shepherd Dog is the closest breed to the wolf, since wolves were introduced into
the breed during the period 1900-1935. Bringing GSDs into the wolfdog line often gives offspring that shy
behavior which most resembles their wild cousins; while the Husky and Malamute will show more of the
full-coated appearance and often the calmness of the Domestic breed respectively - depending of course, on how
much wolf is in the genetics. Typically, people want something that looks like a wolf, yet is trainable
and well behaved like a dog. We get that a lot! This description best fits the "designer dogs" that are bred to
look like a wolf, yet have no wolf gentics - i.e. Tamaskan, Inuit Dogs, Utonagan and some Native American Indian
Dogs. Having wolfdog knowledge or experience is still necessary when owning or working with any one of these breeds
as they will still often display many wolfy behaviors.
WHERE DO THEY COME
Unfortunately, people actually
breed them. Yes, there are some ethical, responsible breeders out there, but very few. These keep accurate and
honest records, are particular about what they breed into their lines, avoid inbreeding, evaluate and educate
potential buyers carefully, do Home Checks, and take back the animals they sell if they do not work out for
whatever reason. But in the long run, they are still adding to the overpopulation of all canines that wind up at the pound since they have no control
over the people they sell them to (who breed!). No matter how careful you try to be, these animals do not do
well in society, and people give up on them because they take an inordinate amount of attention and time.
Since wolfdogs are rarely adopted out to the general public from most shelters, they are at the top of
the list with Pit Bulls to be euthanized. The majority of wolfdog breeders do not care what type
of temperament or health problems may be in their lines because they often breed for looks. They often
misrepresent the heritage of the animals [according to what the buyer is looking for] in order to charge
higher fees. They will sell to anyone who shows up with the purchase price, and once the sale is done, rarely
will they take the animal back if there are problems, and even if they do, they only resell the problem animal
again or use it for breeding. Sometimes wolfdogs will be sold on Craig's List and [inadvertantly] wind up
being used as bait for Pit Bull fights. This is true of many young backyard breeders who
are only interested in making money. Many people fall in love with the adorable, fluffy ball-of-fur wolfpup,
only to find out months later that they have a wolf on their hands. Then when they exasperatedly give up on
the unmanageable pup, it winds up being passed from home to home, mistreated, neglected, severely abused,
shot, or in a shelter.
AREN’T THEY REALLY WILD
THAT SHOULD BE RUNNING
Wolfdogs are not wild animals.
They are domestic animals with special needs. They were created by humans, and they depend on humans for food,
protection and companionship. A person who dumps his wolfdog in the woods believing it can take care of itself is
sentencing that animal to fear, confusion, and loneliness … and inevitable death by starvation, disease, poison, or
death by a bullet. If neighbors call Animal Control, the dog will be tranquilized, caught and most likely
euthanized. Some of the lucky ones - which are very few - are released to Rescue.
AREN’T THEY MEAN AND
Wolves are, by nature, very timid
around humans. Likewise, so are high- and mid-content wolfdogs. Should you have an intruder, your wolfdog is much
more likely to hide under the bed than to face him. A friend of mine owned a high-content wolfdog. When her home
was broken into, Luke ran out the door and down the block, leaving the intruder to his treasures. Media
so-called “wolfdog attacks” are either a misinterpretation of behavior or not perpetrated by wolfdogs at all. There has never been a
reported attack on a human by a healthy wolf in this country, unless the wolf was cornered, provoked,
ill or challenged in some way. Wolfdogs - since they have inherited Domestic Dog genes and have less fear
of humans - may growl, snap or nip at someone as a warning, much the same way they would do at another dog.
Mother dogs teach this to their pups and keep them under control by using their teeth to communicate without
actually harming them. This is one reason that some dogs are brought to the shelter to be euthanized as
"aggressive" because they were trying to "warn" a person or child to stop hanging on them, hugging them, or
harrassing them in some way. Some wolfdogs are less tolerant of excited human behavior than a Domestic Dog may
be. Also many dogs [both wolfdogs and Domestic Dogs] do not like people putting their faces in their face,
which in dog language can be interpreted as a challenge or a threat. For many children and some adults this is
the first thing they want to do - give the dog a big hug and a kiss. We need to teach our children
the appropriate way to approach a dog [any dog!] and no hugs until it is solicited by the dog. Always
allow the dog to approach you, rather than reaching out to pet.
ARE THEY GOOD WITH SMALL
WHAT ABOUT WITH
Most wolfdogs – mixed with breeds
like Malamutes, Huskies, and a number of other northern breeds – have a very high prey drive. This means that, if
it’s small, fast and squeaky, your wolfdog is going to want to chase and capture it. There are wolfdogs that have
been raised with small animals and with children and are perfectly fine with them, but you cannot count on that
being the case when you adopt an adult wolfdog. [Please remember that no dog should be left
unsupervised with small children, babies, cats, or little dogs, whether it be a Poodle, Jack Russell or a
Newfoundland puppy]. And sometimes, even though a wolfdog has been raised with small dogs or cats [prey-type animals], the
prey drive often surfaces unexpectedly, brought out by certain behaviors of the small animals or toddlers
[running, playing, quick movements, squeaking or squealing, etc.]. Often a wolfdog might be fine with his
"own" cat but when put in a situation with another dog and they both chase, injury and death can be a reslut.
Sometimes a large, energetic and overly playful dog can run over a tiny dog and injure or kill it without
intending to, and it's happened many times. For this reason, many Wolfdog Rescue groups will not adopt a
wolfdog to those who own small dogs, cats, or have small children UNLESS they know specifically if the wolfdog
is very good with them. It is for these reasons that we like to avoid generalization, since these
animals are as individual as you and I. Some are exceptional with children, while some are not. The same goes
for cats and small dogs. That is why we consider all aspects when we review your application. Our
Adoption protocol is not a first-come, first-served policy. Each animal and adopter is
carefully evaluated, and the rescue is placed in the home that best matches it's profile.
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