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.
Do wolfdog puppies mature at the same rate as regular dog pups?
In terms of critical periods, however, dogs have an expanded window of opportunity to begin socialization to any creature or situation. We find with pure wolves (and wolfdogs of high wolf content), that we must begin the socialization process by 21 days of age, and sooner is better. At Wolf Park we begin at 10-14 days, as the eyes open. The wolf pups receive little to no contact with adult canids during this time - from about 2 weeks of age until 6 weeks of age. After that time until about 4 months of age, only limited contact with adult wolves is allowed.
With dogs you can start to handle the pups later and still produce animals that are not too fearful of people and novel stimuli. They can grow up with their mother or other dogs and still not bond too strongly with them to the point of avoiding human contact. This more lengthy time of beginning socialization has to be due to the process of domestication which has been changing dogs genetically for hundreds of generations. With wolf pups we merely tame them (which means reducing their flight distance to zero) but cannot, by how we raise them, domesticate them, since domestication takes generations to effect.
Many people assume it takes a wolf longer to sexually mature than a dog, but we don't really find that to be true. Many wolves come into estrus their first winter (at about 10 months of age) and male pups may be fertile their first winter. So this seems to be on par with a dog of similar size. This has been documented both in captive wolves and wild ones.
Wolves seem to close their social circle in their first year, meaning wolves they don't know before this time are often treated aggressively. With dogs, which are in many ways highly juvenilized wolves, many can make friends with new canids throughout their lives. In many ways dogs never fully mature to the level wolves do, at least in terms of intensity of behavior.
We find small prey drive is present in young wolves, but large prey drive seems to need to be developed in the first year of life. The urge to chase anything that moves is present in almost every canid pup, but these pups need to learn by observation and practice, and the intensity of prey drive is much stronger in wolf pups at any age, than in dog pups.
Pups with or without wolf lineage will try to form a rank order even from an early age. However, in wolf pups this seems to be more important and a lot more energy will be used. We have seen pretty serious encounters in wolves as young as 6 weeks of age, resulting in a dominance relationship that lasted into adulthood.
I also observed a 6 day old wolf pup leave the nest area to defecate, and we've seen pups howl as early as 9 days. Since I haven't raised any dog pups from that young an age, I don't know how they compare in these areas.
From what I have seen both wolf and dog pups' eyes open at about 10-14 days of age. Both can accept semi-solid foods at around 2.5 to 3 weeks of age, but still nurse. Weaning age can depend on individual as much as whether it is wolf or dog.
Hope this is informative!
Take care, Jill
These little guys seem to be very physically precocious and can get into major trouble during the time regular dog pups are still bumbling around blindly and grunting for Mama. Jillian, full of charisma, was posing like a tiny glamour girl at 3 weeks. Our little coyote/jackal babies were climbing curtains at 4 weeks. I am pretty sure their foster mom started thinking seriously about hiring an exorcist.
Things seem to slow down a good bit once the pups enter that difficult adolescent stage. Their fear periods seem to be more dramatic and more prolonged than what I have ever seen in dogs (and remember I work with stockdogs who are known to be slow to mature, are sensitive and reactive to stimuli and very likely to be neurotic as a result.) Constant socialization and positive training is critical during these periods. Puppies can have a scary experience and eventually mature out of it. Wolves, coyotes and wolfdogs tend to hold on to these scary experiences and allow them to become phobias.
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