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 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 FROM?

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 ANIMALS

THAT SHOULD BE RUNNING FREE?

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 AGGRESSIVE?

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 ANIMALS?

WHAT ABOUT WITH CHILDREN?

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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