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 # 28
I really want a wolfdog puppy. What do I need to know before getting it ?
* Why do I want a wolfdog, as opposed to a similar breed such as a husky or
malamute? What would I be gaining, besides the ability to brag that "he's
The novelty of that will wear off, and you'll want to be sure that when it does, there are enough things you love about these animals to take its place.
* How much wolf content is best for me?
You might be thinking "the more wolf, the better! I'd get a pure if I could find one!" Think again. If you've never had a dog before, you don't want a wolf. (In fact, you don't even want a wolfDOG, of *any* content.) If you've never lived with a "tough" northern breed (and loved it!) you definitely aren't ready for a high-content wolfdog. You might enjoy SAYING you have a "pet wolf", but trust me, it is the ONLY thing you will enjoy... and the animal will pay the price.
* What is your home situation? Do you have young children?
Again, I would not recommend a high content animal.
* How secure is your fencing?
A low content GSD/wolf might be fine with a 6 foot perimeter fence... a husky/wolf or high content probably will not.
* What do you plan on doing with your new companion?
A high content-- with a lot of work-- might be great company for someone who spends lots of time at home... but if you are looking for a dog to do high-level obedience, or to greet customers who come into your store or office...you would be better off with just that-- a DOG. Remember also that not all high contents can ride in the car, even if started on it very young; severe carsickness is common in these guys.
* How about YOU--your physical strength, and your strength of character? These animals are extremely powerful. If you are a petite gal of 115 pounds, you will be much better able to control a 70# wolf/husky, than a 125# wolf/mal or high content. In addition, your wolfdog will test you repeatedly... and the more wolf in your animal, the more frequently and intensely he is likely to test you. Are you very secure in your alpha-ship? ;)
* Do I know how to tell if the animal is really 94% wolf, like the breeder
Have you done your homework? Many breeders don't know what they have, or will misrepresent the content to sell the pups for more money. Can *you* tell an almost-wolf from an almost-dog? Check out Wolf Park's great Identification of wolf content page for more info.
* Do I know what I'm getting myself into?
This is the biggie. Depending on the amount of wolf, and the breed(s) of dog, there is a wide variation in behaviour from one wolfdog to the next. Wolfdogs often have a lot of bad points that will, to many people, outweigh their good ones. Not all animals will display all of these bad habits...however, YOUR wolfdog could display any or all of them, so it is important to consider the worst case scenario. If your cute little Wolfie grows up to do all the things listed below, will he still have a place in your family?
If you've thought all of these things through, and can honestly provide answers that are compatible with sharing your life with one or more wolfdogs, it's time to look for a responsible breeder! Choose one who offers a lifetime of support for the questions you are bound to have; ask her lots of questions. Join an email group or (if you have one) a local wolfdog association. Plan to spend the life of the animal--- 10 or 15 years ---learning about them (and yourself!), and rearranging your life to accomodate them. Dogs may be willing, even eager, to "do it your way"...but with wolfdogs, one needs to learn to compromise. Prepare yourself for the most interesting canine experience you've ever had! :-)
You need to have a good working knowledge of wolf and dog behavior, and not expect your new pup to act like a human in a fur coat. Reading training books such as Karen Pryor's: "Don't Shoot the Dog," which uses positive training methods, should be required before living with a wolf dog.
You need to have a good background in canid body language so you are good At assessing your pup's communication. (One critical example is predatory behavior, which many people don't recognize as such.)
The ideal situation would be for a potential owner to volunteer at a facility with wolves or wolfdogs, to familiarize themselves with the care, handling and training of these animals. The problem is not all facilities are created equal, nor do all breeders of wolfdogs have much real background with behavior which they can pass on to new owners. Another problem is there aren't facilities close enough to every potential owner for them to have access. But if it can be done, volunteering can go a LONG way toward educating the potential owner. (I was fortunate enough to spend nearly 10 years living and working with socialized wolves at Wolf Park, under the guidance of some of the most knowledgable wolf behavior experts in the world! THAT taught me far more than any book could.)
Another valuable tool would be finding a mentor with experience in canid behavior. That way, as the new pup matures, there is someone on hand to help with any problems encountered.
Before you get a wolfdog pup:
1. Check legalities for wolfdogs in your area. Call your local animal control and make an anonymous inquiry.
2. Consider containment. What is your fencing like? [Some] wolfdogs can jump 6 foot chain link like it's nothing. Are you willing to modify your existing fencing with hotwire, lean-ins or to build an enclosure if necessary? This can get expensive!
3. Do you have other animals? Wolfdogs, particularly higher contents, can potentially not be a good match with cats or smaller dogs. Some are, some are not. Very small animals like birds and hamsters are a poor match with wolfdogs.
4. Do you have children and if so what are their ages? Very young children can be a poor match with wolfdogs. This is not to say that wolfdogs will absolutely injure a child, but even with doggie-dogs, small children move unpredictably, make weird noises, and generally harass dogs. Also, wolfdogs are large and strong, so again, small children and wolfdogs may be a poor combination.
These are just preliminary questions. If you think after answering these that a wolfdog might be for you, visit rescue facilities, breeders, or private parties who have wolfdogs. Read everything you can get your hands on. Be aware that some wolfdogs are represented as being higher content than they are. Spend time with these animals and see if this is truly what you want. Though sharing your life with a wolfdog can be very rewarding, it's also a huge commitment. And a puppy of any breed will require a huge commitment of time and energy to begin with.
There are several factors to consider before choosing any animal to bring into your home. Many I'm sure have already discussed the necessity for reading educational materials and being familiar with the various behavioral characteristics. However, in wolfdog crosses, one needs to go a step further.
At a minimum, one should be familiar with body language and behavioral characteristics of wolves. One also needs to know the behavioral characteristics of the breed of dog involved in the mix. Even though almost all behaviors found in wolves are also found in dogs, the degree of intensity can be much greater in wolves. Also, the various dog breeds have been bred to enhance certain behaviors and to try and breed out certain other behavioral characteristics and one is not going to get the full spectrum of behaviors possible. I would recommend that one take the time to do a web search for scientific papers which set out the various characteristics of wolves, wolfdogs, and the dogs involved in the breeding.
The above is the MINIMUM I would recommend for self-education in order to decide whether or not I wanted to go further with my decision to bring a wolfdog into my home. If you don't know the difference between content and percentage, what an F factor means, or the meaning of phrases like Winter Wolf Syndrome, pack structure, alpha status, testing, bonding, socialization, etc., then you need to do more research because these are all issues which you will have to face.
After you feel you have a basic understanding of wolfdogs, and you are still interested, then the next thing to ask one's self is do you have sufficient space for a wolfdog? Are you willing to build the pens necessary to hold this animal? Are you going to have enough time to spend with the animal? Are you aware of special dietary needs? Are wolfdogs legal in your state, your county, your city? and the list goes on...
For first time owners who have never been around wolfdogs, reading the various web sites, and factual information that so many have put on the internet is a help. But nothing compares with hands-on experience. I would strongly recommend that you spend time as a volunteer at a wolfdog rescue facility and see first hand what wolfdogs are like. If you see the problematic high content animals found in many of the rescues, I think it will convince you that a lower content animal is best for a first-time owner.
I would also recommend getting to know the breeder you choose. The choice of a reputable breeder is as important as the choice of the animal itself. If the breeder is not honest, or if that breeder will not be there in the future for you, then find another one. One of the FIRST questions I would ask a breeder is to describe the worst behavioral characteristics common in wolfdogs. Spend time calling different breeders. If there is one near you, ask if they would allow you to visit and see their animals. If the only thing a breeder is interested in is the price of the animal, move to the next name on your list. A reputable breeder should have more questions for you than you do for them. A reputable breeder should tell you that s/he does not have the type of animal which you are looking for and refer you to someone who does rather than placing an animal with you that you cannot handle.
The next thing one should do, is study the parents of the prospective puppy. Many behavioral characteristics can be inherited. Therefore, if the parents show strong aggression, avoid them. No matter how good they look, they are not worth the problems which come from aggressive lines.
When I choose a pup for myself, I spend time with the parents of the pup I hope to get. I also like to spend time with the offspring from a previous litter. I choose for behavior and health first, looks second, and pedigrees last. I feel that regardless of how good the animal's pedigree is, or how great they look, if they have the potential to be dangerous or suffer from hereditary health problems, I don't want them.
My first answer is to know they are NOT a dog. A young pup looks like, and may act like a dog -- the older they get, the more the human realizes the pup is not your Sibe, GSD, or whatever else the dog mix encompasses. Just as we don't let a new foal nibble and jump up on us when they're only 75 pounds because we know we won't want the 1200 pound adult horse doing the same, we don't let the cute pup nibble, jump, growl, etc.
Secondly, I would encourage owners NOT to play tug of war, not to lay down on the floor playing with the pups, and not to play 'scared' (hiding their faces) with them.
Thirdly, I would encourage owners NOT to allow their WD's on the bed/furniture as pups, since the adult WD's will assume they have the right to these places of 'prestige.'
Fourth, I would train my WD on general leash training, continue to socialize them with both other canines and people, and public situations.
We did a lot of the 'wrong' things with our first WD (Lewner, our 11-year-old neutered male that we got as a 3-week-old pup). It's a lot harder to change things once they've become ingrained into the pup. The bad thing is, we were told better by our breeder. We took to heart some of the things she told us, but ignored other things. Today, Lewner is a great member of the family, but considers himself ALMOST our equal.
My response is almost the same as Ginger's, with the exception that the other things that I would consider are:
1. How much do you love your "things" If you intend this animal to be inside, a great number of them might go down the pups throat.
2. Do you have the patience to housebreak? Wolfdog pups historically take longer to housebreak than other DDs. Do you have a good sense of humor if they decide to play control games with their defecation or urination habits?
3. Where do you intend to keep this animal when you are not going to be around? Are you going to have an outside enclosure? Are you prepared to build what needs to be done to contain your animal in a safe environment? Are you attached to your backyard? Are you prepared to see trenches dug in it? Do you have a indoor kennel for crate training?
4. Even in states where legal, are you prepared for the prejudice that you may face because your pup is not a DD? Do you know about WDs to the point that you can explain how wonderful they can be, and are you able to accept that others may not agree with this?
5. How will you go on vacation? Planning beforehand, who to have stay with, or where your pet will stay is a good idea- for instance, one of my vets does boarding, but has told me that they will not board wolfdogs.
6. Who will you go to for a vet? Is there anyone around you that has experience treating WDs? Some vets are very prejudiced against WDs. It took me several people before I put together the team that I now use.
7. Have you considered how you will train your WD? Are the obedience classes open to having WDs in them? One of our new moms just called me and said she was having trouble in their puppy class. Her WD was bored with the pace, and the instructor was afraid of the pup! (He's 9 weeks old!)
8. Where does your insurance carrier stand on WDs? My homeowner's insurance would be cancelled if my agent told the company that I raised WDs, let alone had one!
9. Are you prepared to be called by your neighbors in the middle of the night if your WD decides that a howl is in order?
These are all questions, plus more, that I ask prospective owners. Some think I am joking, or it won't be this way for them... Owning a WD is a privelege akin to being given the responsibility of raising another's child.
I think that one of the biggest problems is that people do not realize the Commitment that it takes to one of the animals. America seems to be a "throw away society", when a person gets tired of something, they get rid of it. Not so with one of these animals, especially the high content ones.
It IS a commitment for the life of the animal, being average of 15 (take or give) years. How many people will rearrange their lives for that long to an animal? Very few. Some will not even make that kind of commitment to their human children. It IS a very big decision.
First and most important:
It's nice to know you want a WD pup, but do you want a WD? Pups are lovely, cute, cuddly and everything else, but they have the horrible habit of growing up.
Secondly, read up about WDs, talk to people who have them, who can tell you about the joys and the heartaches.
Thirdly, how houseproud are you? And how gardenproud? WDs are more destructive than [most dog breeds].
Fourthly, read up on all you need to know to stay Alpha. It takes time, consistency and a lot of patience to stay on top of the heap. It also (without boasting) takes some intelligence to always be a step ahead. If all of this hasn't put you off, go and find a responsible breeder.
All the best
Dieta, Rascal and Storm
One of the first things a person should consider prior to adopting a WD is a psychological evaluation. First, we fail it. Then we are evaluated for patience and sense of humor; much sense of humor; much patience. And, many paper towels and other cleaning supplies. Then, decide which of your valuables you are willing to give up. Then begin saying good-bye to the rest of you belongings, including structural features (Ariel is now working on her 4th door). There are only two rules: 1. expect anything, anytime, for any reason; 2. everything belongs to the WD and he/she is entitled to everything.
Then be ready for a wonderful experience. Best wishes,
Let's see...... I have only had wolfdogs for a bit over 3 years now and am not real sure on how to answer this question but will try...
You need to have or learn to have a good sense of humor. Honestly, if you can find the bright-side of things when you come home and find that your 2 month old cute little wd puppy has de-stuffed your couch, than that is a big plus! :o)
I also think you need to look into yourself and ask yourself HONESTLY "Why do I want a wolfdog?" If it's because you think it's cool, a status symbol of some sort or you want to own something that is 'wild' then a wolfdog IS NOT for you. Wolfdogs are not the pet for everyone. I know when mine were growing there were days when I asked myself that question....... 'why did I want these little monsters?' (lol) then they would come up and give me muzzle nuzzles, howl me a greeting or bring me a treasured possession of theirs and all the whys would melt away and I knew why....... because you couldn't ask for any stonger connection then that between you and your woofer.
BEFORE getting a wd puppy, you do need to do your research.
Make sure that they are legal in your area.
Make sure that you REALLY have the time committment for a wolfdog.
Read, read and read all that you can about them. Read about the wolf behaviours and the breed of dog your woofer may be mixed with. You can never learn too much about wolfdogs.
Join a discussion group like the Wolfdoglist....... don't be afraid to ask questions no matter how stupid you may think the question is.
Do searching on the internet about wolves and wolfdogs.
Take a look at your finances - be willing and be able to make that financial committment to your wolfdog for a PROPER containment.
Be committed to taking him to the vets as needed. This is something that alot of people forget about when thinking about bringing a new pet into their house....... not just with wolfdogs but ANY animal....... Vet bills are VERY expensive and this is something you will need to put into your decision on getting an animal.
This is a lifetime committment you are talking about here. Make sure you are prepared for all the good times AND all of the bad times.
Hope this helps.
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