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What are Wolf Dogs or Wolf Hybrids?

Updated on December 15, 2013
Wolf hybrids also known as wolf dogs are increasing in popularity.
Wolf hybrids also known as wolf dogs are increasing in popularity. | Source

Wolf hybrids, also known as wolf dogs are becoming more and more popular. If you are looking for a canine companion with a wolfish appearance, you can't get any closer to wolves than with these fellows, but extreme caution is needed before falling in the "fascinating trap." So what are wolf hybrids? Are they really wolves? Domesticated wolves? Or are they simply dogs with a wolfish appearance? For starters, keep in mind that genetic research suggests that dogs diverged from wolves approximately 14,000 years ago which explains why wolves and dogs are dissimilar in many ways. Yet, they're the same species, with the same amount of chromosomes and the ability to mate with one another with no problems.

A wolf dog is simply the product obtained from the mating of a gray wolf (canis lupus) and dog, a sub-species of the gray wolf (canis lupus familiaris). Because of this, since you cannot get a hybrid from crossing the same species, the term wolf hybrid is quite inaccurate so the right term is wolfdog. Also, consider that wolfdogs aren't purebred dogs

While wolfdogs look very wolf-like, unlike wolves, they have smaller heads, larger, pointier ears with less fur and more distinctive markings. Compared to dogs, some wolfdogs have longer teeth and a superior sense of smell that can rival even some of the best scent hounds. To maintain a wolfish appearance wolves are mostly bred with German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes and/or Siberian Huskies. So why are so many people choosing wolf dogs? What are some implications in owning them?

The Implications of Owning Wolf Dogs

Wolfdogs aren't your average dog. They are high-maintenance dogs that require experienced owners capable of providing oodles of room to roam and loads of exercise. This is a dog that should never be caged or restricted to a yard all day or closed in an apartment. Sadly, there are many wolfdogs in dog rescues because of poor choices. Make sure you educate yourself on this dog's needs; these dogs are not for the couch potatoes out there or the faint of heart! Following are some tips and implications of owning wolfdogs.

*Note: these behavior traits are not common to ALL wolfdogs. Generally, the lower content wolfdogs will be less wolf-like and more dog-like in their behaviors.

  • Hyper Vigilance

If you live in a rowdy home where kids play wildly or squabbles are at the order of the day, you may want to think again in getting a wolfdog. These fellows don't do well in noisy environments, where kids scream, move erratically and chaos abounds. Because wolves in the wild must be alert of their surroundings at all times in order to survive, hyper vigilance runs in this dog's blood. And don't think loads of socialization during the pup's critical period will help this dog bloom into a confident, well-adjusted fellow, some wolfdogs remain wary and cautious for the rest of their lives no matter what.

  • Training Challenges

Wolfdogs can be challenging to house train because once they mature, they tend to mark just about everywhere. You can't blame them; in the wild wolves tend to mark to delimitate their territory so this instinct can be quite strong and resistant to extinction. When training in the real sense of the word, these dogs can be stubborn and hardheaded. When training them, you want to emphasize what's in for them. And then there's that prey drive...yes, this deserves another section.

  • Prey Drive

Wolves need to have prey drive if they want to thrive and survive in the wild. That's the price you'll need to pay for if you want a wolfish dog. Anything Fluffy like a cute hamster or grandma's cat can be at risk with these dogs. You'll need to watch out for small dogs too, especially if they start whining or yelping when frightened. This can trigger a case of predatory drift.Yes, there are stories of wolf dogs raised to accept cats, but you should never lower your guard with these guys.

  • Proper Containment

Don't think that an average 5 foot fence will work with these fellows. For them it's just an issue of figuring out if they should either dig under, jump over or chew a hole. Some are capable of even jumping an 8 foot fence! These Houdini's require careful planning if you want to keep them for longer than half a day. Also, they don't do well in crates and forget about leaving them home alone for a good chuck of the day.

  • Blacklisting and Rabies Issues

Wolfdogs are on many insurance carrier's blacklists along with pitbulls, rottweilers and Chows. If you're interested in these dogs, you'll need to see if your community or housing authority allows these dogs. One big issue is the fact that the rabies vaccine seems to be ineffective with these guys.. Many jurisdictions were forced to ban wolfdogs because no USDA rabies vaccine seems to be approved for wolves or wolfdogs. What does this mean? It means that should a wolfdog bite or scratch anyone, chances are high he'll be destroyed for good for rabies testing. It looks like some studies on this are still underway...but this debate has unfortunately been going for over 10 years....

Still interested? Be prepared to face many challenges! All those thinking about adopting a wolf dog should read this blog by Patricia McConnell. For those still attracted to this type of dog, thy must look for one from a rescue first. You won't typically find wolf dogs in your local shelter due to liability reasons. If your want one from a breeder, consider that too many breeders take advantage of naïve buyers selling Nordic breeds as wolf dogs. These breeders are looking for ways to make quick money by fooling unsuspecting buyers into purchasing something "special'. Don't fall for it if your want an authentic wolf dog, but most of all, study hard what you are getting in before regretting it!

Alexadry© All rights reserved, do not copy.

A Wolfdog Expert Discusses Wolfdogs

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    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I never heard of wolfdogs before. They sound like they take dedication.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Interesting hub, alexadry. They're illegal here, but I've known a couple of people who claimed to have had one. A customer of mine claimed to have had one for 11 years until it died around Y2K, and another one said hers had been confiscated by the environmental police after a neighbor dimed her out.

      Both customers said that they felt comfortable with the animal, but were uneasy when other people were around, therefor they usually kept the wolf dog isolated or under strict control when others were present. Neither had any frightening incidents, but they weren't taking any chances.

      It seems to me that there would be a lot of tension associated with owning a wolf dog. It makes you wonder how anyone could truly enjoy having one, beyond the novelty or the allure of the forbidden. Voted up and interesting.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I've met two wolf dogs and they were absolutely stunning low wolf content mixes, but your cautions about owning them are spot on. I would certainly not be confident enough that I could do one justice.

    • profile image

      Ghost32 5 years ago

      I agree with Larry, excellent Hub...but believe I'll stick with indoor cats and being friends with our local wild coyote pack that can fend for themselves without me taking on all that responsibility. :)

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Hi alexadry,

      Another great hub. Voted up and interesting. Now here's my stooopid question of the day.

      According to the rumor mill, some European breeders of German Shepherd Dogs surreptitiously use wolves--in addition to GSDs--in their programs. When you pay top dollar for one of their dogs, you may be end up with something like 1/8 wolf.

      Is that accurate?