At the Ranch / Susan's Wolfdog

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ShastaThis is a picture of a very low content wolfdog (mostly malamute) named Shasta. I rescued this gal when she was approximately 6 weeks old. As she and I had bonded prior to the owners' need to quickly "get rid of her" and her situation became desperate, I decided to take her. I, for one, had not been seeking to own a "wolfdog" and it was at a weak point that I, against my better judgment at the time, took her for my own.

Well, given I now had her, and we were bonded and I loved her, I knew I better find out everything possible about wolfdog ownership. That was a difficult task at the time, but fortunately, I was directed to a couple of experienced & knowledgeable wolfdog owners for information.

At the time I saw her parents I was instantly suspicious at the high percentage (75%) quoted, having seen a pure wolf & how it behaved, as well as a true mid-content wolfdog several years prior. I decided to have a person knowledgeable about wolfdogs evaluate my girl as to her supposed 75% wolf content. She was approximately 10 months old at the time, and I was told the wolf was so far back there she was basically a dog.

Disappointed- a little; relieved-yes; confused- yep. How could it be that I was sold an animal that was quoted as being 75% and isn't? I learned the further back the pure wolf is and the more dog breed mixed into the wolfdog, the more doggy looking it is and the less wolfy looking it is. This certainly is the case with Shasta.

I was fortunate to see literally hundreds of pictures of low, mid and high content wolfdogs, as well as view pure wolves and high content wolfdogs. It became very clear she was not even a mid content wolfdog. First of all, you'll note that she is short 22-23 inches at the shoulder, very broad chest, wide set ears, medium size muzzle; this is the opposite of mid to high content wolfdogs which have narrow chests, close set ears, long legs that look like they are standing on stilts, and unusually long snouts, also wolfdogs usually are very quiet.

ShastaShasta is about 4 1/2 years old and is a wonderful animal, but it wasn't always that way. She was very alpha from a young age, and although I'd owned and lived with dogs my entire life, I'd never run into a challenge like her before.

She wanted to set the rules as to my interaction with her completely. Although we were bonded, the guidelines of our interaction/relationship were not set in her book- hehe. If she didn't like being moved or groomed, she would let me know instantly. I had been told about alpha rolls, scruff shakes, etc., and did the best I could using that tool at the time, but when our relationship really began to change was when she was having severe skin allergies.

It became my duty to rub ointment on her, groom her, and flea her daily, and this became a routine she had to learn to tolerate. Through patience and consistency, I began to earn her complete respect and trust and our role together changed from a contest of wills to that of mutual respect and love that continues to this day.

Shasta as a puppyLucky Shasta was such an adorable looking puppy- because she sure was a handfull. In addition to my wanting to learn everything I could about wolfdogs after getting her, another reason I pursued a knowledgeable wolfdog owner was because of her alpha'ing me continually- i.e. she had her own rules and expected me to follow them.

Shasta was approximately ten months old when I got her spayed- hoping to get rid ofsome of that moodiness that seemed to come out even more as she was maturing. I thought I saw signs of her going into heat, but she hadn't started her heat cycle yet at spaying time. Spaying her did seem to calm her down a bit though. Usually you don't see this result in a female dog- but I did see a difference in her.

Shasta as a tiny puppyIn this picture, Shasta is about 6 weeks old. As her belly appeared swollen, I suspected she had worms, and took her to the vet and boy did she ever. Shasta had beautiful markings as a pup, which have changed somewhat as she grew.

The only thing different I noticed about her behavior from that of most pups as a youngster was that when she was not in the house or backyard, she was fearful. When I'd bring her out to the front yard, it was amazing to see her reaction. It was obvious she was on full alert, bringing her instincts into full focus on what was going on around her, while most pups are focused only on play or the human- she was fully taking in her environment with every breath. If she'd had a den, she would have scrambled into it. I continued to expose her to the outside in a limited fashion as it was so traumatic for her.

Shasta puppy chewingFor the first few years of her life, she was shy around strangers. This behavior, fortunately, has subsided a lot since her younger days; it appears she has gained confidence in herself. Riding in the truck and going to the vet isn't so scary anymore. She has bonded to a friend of the family very well, but ignores people that come into the house. For her to like a person, they have to spend time with her, be rather quiet and let her sniff them. Her preference in interacting with strangers is for them to get into a crouched position, and she'll come up and sniff you from behind, she is a cautious animal. I've had to accept her as she is behaviorally in this respect.

Shasta with buddy DakotaThis is Shasta and her obnoxious buddy Dakota, he's now 12 months old. Dakota was a pound pup, a real sweetheart, Siberian Husky/German Sheperd mix. This picture appears like- oh, how cute he's giving her kissies, which is true, but she had just bared her teeth at him snarling until he gave her the appropriate muzzle licks. Occasionally, she'll give him a cheek nip/pinch if he gets really out of hand. I find it interesting that she never harms a hair on his head, as sometimes it sounds like she is killing him and I run to see what is going on, but it is always her just correcting him.

She is very firm with him, but her correction is intended to teach him manners rather than to harm him. She will lie down on the floor with him occasionally and allow him to maul her gently, until he gets a little carried away and then she instantly bares her teeth and continues to do this awaiting his muzzle licks and, once received, all is instantly forgiven. When she is on the couch, she plain doesn't want him to bother her at all. She totally views the situation differently though if he brings a toy with him, the rules change completely somehow if he has a toy in her book.

Also, as a pup she was very shy not wanting anything to do with strangers, but, if they had a toy, she would interact with the person in play. When the play stopped, she, once again, would want nothing to do with them. She is a cautious animal unless you've earned her trust. With myself, and a couple of people, she is very affectionate, a clown, completely trusting and loving.

Shasta is "owned" by Susan. To contact her, e-mail ( ) with 'Shasta' as subject.

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