Reminder: The selected responses presented below are a reflection of the collaborative effort of Hybrid Wolf Mailing List aka. Wolfdoglist members to share opinions / information about wolf x dogs, responsible "ownership" and breeding practices. This FAQ is not a scientific or veterinary resource. Some responses have been edited for brevity.
Wolfdog FAQ - Question # 42
My wolfdog gets spooked easily and is so strong I have trouble holding onto his leash. How do I exercise him if I can't leash walk him safely?
Like all dogs, wolfdogs need exercise. There are all sorts of creative ways to safely give them the exercise they need other than taking them out for walks on leash. A wolfdog playground with lots of things to do is one option. A raised platform, or stand seems to always be a favorite. Toys that they can play with, and things to occupy them are often necessary to relieve boredom. However, the pen must be of sufficient size to allow them enough room to run and play.
For ideas on building large secure pens for your wolfdogs, see Wolfdog Containment Solutions (photos included).
Well, there are a number of things you can try.
To deal with the fear-issue, I suggest slowly accustoming the animal to new situations/sights/sounds in gradual increments (always make sure each experience is positive). It's not a good idea to "force" a wolfdog into a scary situation, as they may forever remember that negative experience and never overcome it.
It might be hard to keep an experience positive if for example your wolfdog is scared of big loud noisy trucks (mine is) and you're walking down the road and one of these vehicles approaches sending your wolfdog into panic (been there) dragging you over a cliff (done that). But, you can do your best to "start from scratch", and re-introduce your wolfdog positively to a less threatening vehicle and build up from there slowly to being able to tolerate the very scary experience. The key is to keep positive, not push the issue, and be aware of your furry companion's limitations.
As for not being able to hold onto the leash... I suggest training and further socialization also using "positive reinforcement" type techniques. It honestly doesn't do yourself or the animal any good to holler, yank the leash, or use negative-feedback type prong collars, or get so frustrated that you give up walking the animal entirely.
For training purposes, try using a standard walking harness on the animal, alone or with a non-slip Martingale style (greyhound) collar. That is helpful for those animals that tend to buck like a bronco and slip out of their collars or harnesses. Also, try a Halti Headcollar or a Gentle Leader, these things really work wonders for some animals; others it doesn't tend to phase, but definately worth a good try to find out ! Heck, for training purposes, if you need to, use more than one type of collar/harness and multiple leashes on the animal (just don't let go!).
My favorite style of leash, is something called a Big Dog Grrrip (a 6 foot long 1" wide leash with another handle about a foot from the animal; two hand-loops for better grip). With this I can either have my wolfdog out at the 6' length, or shorten the reign to keep the animal 'heeling' right at my side, using both hands if need be (should a deer cross our path).
I've found that the best time and place to walk my wolfdogs is on a remote or less-used trail, around noontime in the Summer when the heat keeps most other critters laying low therefore not scurrying around causing too much distraction to my leashed wolfdog. In winter, I time our walks for when the least amount of people or other animals are around, usually in the rain or while snowing.
If none of these things work for you (which is common !)... expand the size of your wolfdog's containment enclosure and find ways of exercising the animal safely in there.
Within their enclosures, some folks rig fancy lure courses or agility courses to encourage the wolfdogs to run around. Some just toss a ball around for their animal for hours on end and that seems to do the trick. With a big enough enclosure (1 acre or more), and the right combo of animals, some run and play so much that they provide enough exercise for themselves. This is not really optimal, but, as I said, some animals don't need as much or as vigorous exercise as others do. On the trail, some folks give their wolfdogs the opportunity to exercise as part of a sleddog team, or in skijoring. Not many wolfdogs will tolerate this, but some lower contents do and it is a great way to exercise those that enjoy it. Put 'em to work if you can.
Oh one piece of advice: do be sure never to play "keep away" with your wolfdog. Stomping your feet to send the animal off running, then keeping just a few feet from you as you chase the animal... is NOT a good idea. In essence you are teaching the animal to NOT come when called. Why would you do that ? It's a poor form of exercising the animal, and just think of the ramifications.
Bottom line is the safety and ultimate wellbeing of your animal. If you find that you simply can not train/socialize/accustom your wolfdog to walking on-leash without 'spooking' and dragging you across kingdom come... then consider finding a way to exercise the animal within a large fenced enclosure. Exercise is very important, somehow figure a way to work it in.
Best wishes, Gudrun
That's where a Buddy comes in. Your wolfer shouldn't be living alone; he should have a large, well-fenced area to romp and play, and a canine pal to enjoy it with. [Some can] get plenty of exercise rough-housing & running about in their enclosure... and remember, you'll be in there playing with him as well. (Don't have a canine buddy for him? No problem, your local humane society has plenty to spare. It doesn't need to be a wolfdog, either...any large, dog-friendly breed will do.)
Of course, it's better if you still take him for his walks...just try to make sure it's in places where he is less likely to be spooked; and where even if he is, he can't pull you both into traffic or other hazards.
Also, there are aids available to help with "pulling dogs". I prefer the prong collar, myself; but others have had success with the Halti headcollar or Gentle Leader (if it can stop a horse from taking you for a drag, it can stop a wolfdog ;)
If all else fails, and you are about to be hauled away...keep your center of gravity low, so you can't be pulled off balance. Don't try to drag him off at this point; just stand firm (or sit down) and try not to let him move you. It is a big help if you can train him to sit or lie down when he gets scared (or, on command in spite of his fear); after he is calm, you can resume your walk.
Even if your wd has other canine companions, that does not mean that you do not need to get out there and spend time with them too.
Since Scott and I both work full time, I could not imagine only having one dog/wd... it'd be bored to death. So I'm glad that ours have each other to romp and play with all day while we're working. But as soon as I get home, I change into some grubby clothes, and head out back for the "games"... And despite all the running and playing that my boys did all day together, they still get all hyped up and energetic when they know its time to play with momma. We'll run and play until they (and I) are absolutely exhausted. Then I serve them dinner. Wearing them out before serving them dinner serves me a couple of extra purposes. They will all lay down to eat, and Scarf is too tired to investigate (and try to steal) the other boys dinners. And Pharlap won't try and run around after eating, which, with his propensity to bloat, is a VERY good thing. While they are laying around after their meal, it's one on one time. This is when I do any grooming that needs to be done, or give belly rubs and ear scratches (and get lotsa kisses in return). Then when Scott gets home, usually a couple hours later, we both go out for one last good run again, and then some training time.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that, even though they have each other, the dogs really seem to look forward to the time they get to spend with us. And they come to expect it, it's part of their "routine" daily activities. So if I get home late and I only have time to either play with the dogs or do the dishes, and not both, I play with the dogs, because I know they aren't going to understand it if I try to explain to them that I can't spend time with them because the dishes needed to be done. The dishes can wait 'til the morning.
I had to introduce a Gentle Leader to Ahanu while young, and he still doesn't much like it for the first 5 minutes, but it gives incredible control. It works on the same basis as a horse's halter.
For my kids that will not tolerate that (not grown up with it), I use a prong collar. I do not yank on it, not EVER, my kidz seem to know that this is a no-puller. I also sometimes use a No-Pull harness, rarely, as I find them VERY cumbersome to get on & off.
Another method, if you have animals which for one reason or another cannot be taken outside of their containments (and this does happen), is to build a "jungle gym" type thing and do Agility Training with them... It's good excersize, good bonding time, good psychological stimuli, and could help in some situations.
If one cannot take the animal out (and we have one of those)... we have taken fallen trees on the land we place posts in the ground and attach the whole length of the trees between each post creating I guess balancing beams. Looks like wolfers hangin' out in the trees at some of the height we get up to. They love to walk them until they are a number off feet off the ground. Having a playmate with the animal helps too they exercise each other the enclosure is big enough to run and run and tire themsleves out!
With our Mals and one wolfdog they are big boys and POWERFUL pullers. Sometimes I take our VERY thick Nylon horse ropes and attachments and double lined and triple stitched harnesses and attach another line onto each harness. It eases up on pulling my shoulder joints so much. Malamute Mickey has been officially weighed in at 160 pounds not bad from parents who both are over the 190 mark. .he's a Wakon Giant... the other I take out the wd Nevada is close to 100 pounds but his strength compares easily to Mickeys... he is amazingly powerful and a real sledder.
I cannot do ANY training with either unless I tire em out somewhat first and that takes a good while :0) I find using weight with the leashes just helps ease up my back and arms. Though they still pull Mickey is trained in the sleigh, it does help. It has become a great alternative somedays for us when we come home from an already active day and don't have our entire strength. But the boys want to go!! *lol*
I am actually in the process of having Gabe and Meko learn to pull in a harness so we can evetually do carting and/or weight pulling activities. They are learning to pull by using a tire hooked to their harness. It works well.
Note: see also Wolfdog Activities, Noreen's Experiences for photos of wolfdogs in harness, pulling weights and sledding.
Blossom weighs over 100# and is almost 1 year old. She is VERY strong and was difficult for me to walk with a leash. When she has a harness on it's almost impossible. When I use her Halti lead she is manageable. Also obedience training helped. She is part Mal. and headstrong, but these 2 things helped alot. This is also a good reason to have a large enclosure and other animals to play with.
I use something called a "no-pull halter" on Skidi. It doesn't attach to his head but works on the nerves in his shoulders, shutting down his front legs if he tries to pull. Works like a dream which is good since he can flap me along on the end of his leash without it (I'm not real big).
Do like I do and use their brute wolf power and have them pull you on roller blades. I use 3 animals myself and it is quite the rush. Make sure you check their paws frequently though because they can tear them. Make those boys or girls work for their kibbles or whatever you feed them.
I have used no pull harnesses at times, when my guys are especially hyper or shy. They can't pull or back out of them and the harness to seem to help control them.
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