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Do Wolfdogs Make Good Pets?

Like Pit Bulls and pornography, wolfdogs can be tough to identify, regardless of laws passed to limit them. Several years ago, the USDA released a report estimating that there were about 300,000 wolfdogs in the US; how they came to this metric is unclear, as the numbers are impossible to nail down. Some people deny their pets’ heritage, while others claim their 100 percent dogs are part wolf. In fact, experts say that the vast majority of animals sold (or bragged about) as wolfdogs actually possess very low wolf content, or none at all.


Part of the problem is that there’s no clear definition of what a wolfdog is, says Nancy Brown, director of Full Moon Farm (fullmoonfarm.org), a wolfdog rescue and sanctuary in Black Mountain, N.C. Most experts use the term to describe an animal with a pure wolf in its family, no more than four or five generations back. But there’s no way of proving any animal’s pedigree, as there is no breed registry (and no such thing as “papers” for a wolf or wolfdog, no matter what those who breed them contend). Genetic testing is theoretically possible but, as it is reserved for wildlife management and law-enforcement agencies, is essentially unavailable to individuals. Phenotyping — having an expert evaluate an animal’s physical and behavioral characteristics — remains the most accessible way to identify a wolfdog. Unfortunately, few are trained in phenotyping wolfdogs and, as a result, many dogs are erroneously labeled.


Even if you could draw its family tree, there’s no way to predict an animal’s “wolfiness,” says Stephen L. Zawistowski, PhD, executive vice president and science advisor for the ASPCA. “I’ve seen ads for animals that are ‘98 percent pure wolf,’ but these are bogus numbers,” he says. “These claims are based on the misguided belief that genes blend like food coloring: if you take half red and half blue, you get a nice, even purple.” In reality, he says, genes “blend” more like marbles. Say you have a dog, represented by 20 red marbles, and a wolf, represented by 20 blue ones. If you breed the two, you’ll get 10 marbles from each parent, so you’ll have half of each color; this is an F1 (Filial 1, or first filial generation) cross. But in subsequent generations, you’ll get a random assortment of red and blue from each parent. So the individual offspring of two F1, 50/50 wolfdogs (an F2 cross, a generation removed from full wolf) could have anywhere from three-quarters wolf genes and one-quarter dog genes to three-quarters dog and one-quarter wolf — yet all will be considered one-half wolf. Thus, he says, you can see enormous variations among wolfdogs, even those who come from the same litter.


Knowing an individual animal’s filial number — the number of generations it is removed from a pure wolf — is probably the best way to speculate about its future behavior and potential problems, says Kim Miles, vice president of the Florida Lupine Association (florida lupine.org), a wolfdog advocacy group. “Wolfdogs aren’t easily pegged because they’re essentially a combination of wild and domesticated animals.” According to Miles, the biggest difference between a wild and a domestic animal is its tractability, or the ease with which it can be managed or controlled. “A dog is like a 12-year-old child, and a wolf is like a 35-year-old man. The dog will generally do what you want it to, but the wolf will do what you want only if he wants to do it himself.”


Experts agree that the vast majority of wolfdog breeders are selling dogs with little or no wolf content, despite the fact that the animals fetch as much as $2,500 apiece. Moreover, the majority of “wolfdogs” being kept as pets — and being surrendered to shelters and sanctuaries — are all dog, too. “I’d say about 70 percent of the so-called ‘wolfdogs’ out there are not wolfdogs at all,” notes Ken Collings, director of Wolfdog Rescue Resources, Inc. (wrr-inc.org), a national rescue organization headquartered in Stafford, Va. “Individuals take Malamutes, Shepherds and other dogs and cross-breed them until they get an animal who looks like a wolf. And because most people [who want a wolfdog] are uneducated [about them] and have no idea what they’re looking at, they buy it.”


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Submitted by Beware Pseudo S... | December 5 2012 |

No dog can be a quarter wolf. Dogs and wolves are different species, and one of the defining traits of a species is the ability to mate with one another and produce fertile offspring. Cross-species hybrids are infertile and cannot mate (that's why a donkey and horse can make a mule, but mules themselves can't make more mules). So yes, half-wolves do exist, but if anyone tells you they own a quarter-wolf dog, they're misinformed.

Submitted by Susan M. | May 30 2013 |

The statement above is incorrect, because dogs and wolves are *not* different species. The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus. Dog-wolf hybrids remain fully interfertile with both dogs or wolves beyond the first generation.

Speciation is a *process.* The definition of a species as a population being unable to produce fertile offspring with a different species is useful, but is in some cases arbitrary. The coyote, Canis latrans, is classed as a different species than the wolf (and by extension, domestic dog). In the case of coyote-dog hybrids, it can take several generations of interbreeding, not one, for health and fertility problems to manifest. There is reason to believe, however, that the coyote is much more interfertile with the wild wolf than with the domestic dog, and that ongoing hybridization is going on in the wild between coyotes and wolves in some areas of North America. Genetic analysis of the red wolf of the southeastern U.S. indicates it is a hybrid species - a combination, over many generations, of wolf and coyote.

Submitted by Kira | October 1 2013 |

A great reference is a book called PART WILD by ceiridwen terrill. She covers her experience with the wolf-dog she owned and actually DOES the research in understanding the orgins of wolves and dogs, and if they are linked. She visits research facilities and so on.

Submitted by David | June 7 2013 |

A wolfdog is fertile and can reproduce. Dogs and wolves both have 78 chromosomes. Your mule example refers to a hybrid with an uneven number of chromosomes, but even then there are gender scenarios that can result in A fertile donkey/Horse hybrid....

Submitted by gini lound | April 19 2014 |

Wolves and dogs are NOT seperate species. Therefore a wolf and a dog can mate and produce fertile offspring and their offspring can mate and also produce fertile offspring.

Submitted by Kierstin | June 23 2014 |

Yes you can have a quarter wolf if you breed a wolfdog with a dog and it will be a quarter wolf

Submitted by Bo Stern | August 13 2014 |

Wolves and dogs are totally the same species and there exists numerous combinations from as little as 10% to 90% wolf as bred by reputable breeders throughout the U.S and they are not infertile! you need to check your facts before posting such nonsense!

Submitted by Isabelle | January 3 2013 |

I own a wold/husky hybrid. Her name is Lisha. The wolf in her does NOT make her wild, or crazy, or even dangerous. Instead it makes her intelligent, beautiful, and courageous. It really kills me a little bit every time I hear someone calling her evil, or dangerous. Lisha is my life. DEAL WITH IT!

Submitted by Mik | January 12 2014 |

But is your dog a safe good dog? All wild animals are good but like the article stated people dont know what there getting into.

Submitted by Isabelle | January 3 2013 |

I own a wold/husky hybrid. Her name is Lisha. The wolf in her does NOT make her wild, or crazy, or even dangerous. Instead it makes her intelligent, beautiful, and courageous. It really makes me so sad every time I hear someone calling her evil, or dangerous. Lisha is my life. DEAL WITH IT!

Submitted by Marysue | January 14 2013 |

That's better than being killed by Lisha, I suppose.

Submitted by Wolf-dog owner | November 4 2013 |

I agree that not all people would be the best owners of a wolf-dog. Anyone that is planning on making a wolf-dog their pet needs to be prepared for the amount of work essential to caring for a hybrid. They need constant attention when it comes to training, entertaining, and maintaining their fur coat. This dog is not for the unexperienced. They are big (120 lbs) so they need a lot of room. They also need CONSTANT watching while they are young. This is not because they are unpredictable, but they are extremely mischievous. They love trouble. And by trouble, I mean stealing couch pillows to take outside to play with. My family has a wolf-dog and he is one of the most caring dogs I have ever known. He is five years old and is 3/4 wolf. His grandfather was full wolf, so he's not that far from pure wolf. However, despite the common misbeliefs, he has been a great addition to our family. He loves all people and all dogs. He loves attention and his favorite thing is when someone comes to our house and he gets to greet them. He also loves our cats. He plays with them (allowing them to beat him up), lets them eat his food, and panics when they get outside. When they come back home, he checks them out, sniffing life crazy, to make sure they are okay. Wolves have gone through many decades of negative stigmas. What most people don't know is that they are not evil creatures. At one time, they lived as companions of humans. Yes, they are predators, but they kill to eat, not to just kill.

Submitted by lisa | May 3 2014 |

I have to say thank you for your post. I have two wolf hybrids and they are truly the best animals I have ever owned. They love kids and go to great lengths to protect anyone who comes at the family and friend in an aggressive manner. They don't attack. We have a 5 year old and a friend of his came over from down the street. The dogs sniffed her understood that she was a friend and proceeded to protect both children from the dog down the street, a boxer who was owned by the little girls grandmother. She was an aggressive and unpredictable dog and they sensed it right away. They never once harmed the dog only chased it from the property. They stopped at the line of the property when they where satisfied that the dog was far enough away and came back. They have been trained this way. They display this training in a way that has made other dog owners almost jealous from what I have witnessed. We took a lot of time and caring into training these animals to be passive towards people and unless you show a aggression they leave you alone. They are by far the best dog I have ever had the pleasure of having as member of our family.

Submitted by Jill | June 2 2014 |

And what training program is this?

Submitted by sherra | July 7 2014 |

Thank you to all who has the positive outlook on the wolf/dog hybrids. They are by far the best companions I have ever came to know. My family and I have always had wolfdogs as not our pets but as part of our family. Never once have they turned on my parents my sisters or myself. But like any animal cats dogs chickens ect there are cases where there is a uneven tempered one in a bunch but it because of the misleading reports of this wonderful creature because it is something unknown. The worse dogs I have ever encountered was the smallest of breeds. They just dont have the bite of a the larger of the canines. So needless to say because you hear of how bad these hybrids are you should never judge something you have no idea what it is they are like. Take it from all these people who have lived with these outstanding creature's and all of the positive words we all have to say all from first hand experience bu yet you judge on something you have never had the wonderful experience with of having.

Submitted by juli | July 10 2014 |

I grew up with a wolf dog... Her name was Baby and she lived was from CA but when I was 3, we moved to PA in the middle of some woods. Whenever my brother or I got lost in the woods, mom would ask her where we were and she would find us. One time she brought a dead deer home, so we kept the antlers. She was by far the best and smartest dog we've ever had, and I wish I could have another wolf dog but I won't until I move back to a woodsy no hunting zone. I feel like Baby was more human than wolf or dog.. Her pups were smart, but they didn't have the same wolf in them than she did. But I still loved them the same, too :)

Submitted by s sullivan | July 17 2014 |

I'm on my second wolf hybrid the first was only like 40% he lived to be 14 yrs,old what a great dog!!! The one i have now has more wolf she is timid and a good girl
the only trouble she gets in is opening the frig. digging big dens and she is a little stubborn i take her to the dog park with the other dogs she is a little shy at first with her tail between her legs after 15 minutes she plays with the other dogs and never gets aggressive It's not like little red riding hood and the big bad wolf!!!

Submitted by Cindy | July 19 2014 |

My 18 year old son had his heart set on a hybrid wolf dog. Being a mom, I was against any breed with the word "WOLF" in it. They have (had) such a bad reputation. So against my better judgment I went to take a look at this puppy and his mom and dad. I talked to the owner (breeder) and shared my feelings toward this type of dog. I mean after all I do have 4 boys and our family always has children at our house morning, noon and night. I was warned by all my friends and family to avoid this type of dog. After sharing my hesitations with the breeder, she convinced me that I was misinformed. She has been breeding this type of dog for years. She raised her boys and now grandchildren around wolf hybrids and never once had any problems. I was thrilled to hear someone with such positive feedback. We ended up getting this beautiful puppy at 6 weeks old (with an agreement that we could bring him back any time within the first year, no questions asked).
Waylon, is an 8 month old bundle of joy. Besides a bout of pooping and peeing all over the house, which we nipped in the butt quickly, he is amazing. He does tend to follow our Jack Russell/rat terrier (20 pound) behavior. He has no idea that he weighs 60 pounds, so he jumps on us, jumps on the couch, and does everything our little dog does.
He has gotten into a little bit of trouble, eating our mattress and grabbing the cereal off the table, but we get on him and he is learning. I do have to say that he absolutely needs a bone to keep his mouth company AT ALL TIMES, so he stays out of trouble.
I trained him without a lease for many hours a day at the park. I used positive reinforcement with treats. So he sits, stays and comes when we call him. I have noticed that he is very shy with other people and dogs. That is a "wolf" trait that is very evident. It makes it easy to train him because I know that he is a big chicken. He loves to run (and run and run). His actions resemble a cat more then a dog. He needs to be entertained 24/7. That is where my 4 boys come into play. They are amazing with him.
All in all, I would recommend this type of dog for someone that has a ton of time to spend with such an active dog. I haven't seen any "wolf" type behaviors YET. I do notice that he loves to chase birds, bees and butterflies on our walks. I also notice that our house is cleaner because the boys know that whatever they leave out, the dog will eat...lol
I'm so disappointed that people are talking negatively about this type of dog. I believe that any dog is capably of any behavior. It all depends on the situation and the way the dog is raised. Not all dogs are perfect and not all owners are perfect...

Submitted by Sasha | August 19 2014 |

Yes, people are talking about this type of "dog" because this not just a dog, it is part wolf. If this were a discussion on the dangers of owning a pit bull, then your arguments would be relevant and I would agree that "any dog is capable of any behavior". But wolf dogs are not just some breed of dog, they are the result of humans reckless mixing a wild and domesticated animal without knowing the outcome. Essentially, people are recklessly undoing thousands of years of domestication.

Submitted by Ann | September 17 2014 |

That's a lot of "reckless" in your reply. But if you think owning a part-wolf is reckless, I suggest you stay away from the communities that like to own exotic venomous snakes and spiders, or the people that own male iguanas - the iguanas can't kill you unless the bite festers, but I've seen several people with facial scars they'll have for life. Not to mention the cockatoo, a "wild" animal that will be far, far more aggressive towards people than a wolf. Again, it can't kill you. Does that make it less reckless to own an animal prone to biting?

Even in the wild, I've only heard of wolves attacking people when they're hungry and they outnumber the person. Neither situation is likely to happen domestically.

Of course they're not an "easy" pet to own - neither is a venomous snake. But that doesn't mean everyone who owns one is reckless. It just means uneducated people who own one are reckless.

Best solution would be to create a legal identification for what wolfdog is and then a licensing system that required education for owning one. That would hopefully weed out the people who want one because it looks cool.

Submitted by Hazel | September 11 2014 |

I read this article and was amazed that someone who has never raised or lived with a wolf dog has decided to write about them. I was raised with malamutes as a child and remember my dog going into the woods and bringing back it's own meal, but my mom would leave that dog in her station wagon with groceries,(including meat) and he would not touch it.
Many years later I decided to get a hybrid for a pet, because I have found so many breeds that I had owned quite obnoxious behavior wise.
Keiko is Siberian/timberwolf. I am amazed and entertained everyday. The one difference I noticed is that her legs are long and thin, and she trots all the time, she doesn't walk. She also is thinking all the time, calculating, and...planning. She can open the back door, and has trained us to pick up our phones and shoes...because their perfect chew toys. She is also very timid and loving. I found the gas man this morning calling for her so he can visit with her through the fence.
These animals have the ability to bring out something in us that closer to a partnership than ownership. For all the negativity out there by people who don't have or understand these animals, I am sad. In fact my husband and I are looking to get another hybrid to complete my family pack.

Submitted by rob | September 15 2014 |

I'm so glad so many real owners have taken the time to post here. As for the article, I was impressed until I read something about wolfdogs being a danger to children and small dogs. The absolute truth is most dog bites are on children and wolfdogs don't even rate in the top ten worst offenders when it comes to serious and fatal bites(Pits and Rots make up half of all fatal bites). Further, any uncontrolled and not well adjusted large dog can be a danger to small dogs; Pits are way more likely to be trouble with other dogs than wolf crosses! In truth, a well adjusted wolfdog would be dangerous to a bad drunk, or any other loud aggressive fool. I've had several various contents of these magnificent animals for 30 years now and the one thing I purport, they are not all alike! Much like people, to group them all as being evil or otherwise is a huge generality. To not affirm that all dog problems exist on the other end of the leash is blatant ignorance.

I do not deny how they can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but so can any number of things. I don't deny how the wolfdog shelters are full, yet I would hope everyone of concern would be better served by education rather than the biased idea that no one should have or breed them.

There is nothing new about wolfdogs; not only were our original dogs pure wolf, but for centuries people who wanted a Northern dog with greater possible strength, endurance and immune system have been mixing breeds including wolves to find a better mix. What is new is the idea that higher content is better! When I first got into this it was after 20 years of guard dog experience and I read somewhere that one reason police dogs were so big is they had recent wolf blood. In those days from my experience a popular mix was f4 66% Belgium Shepherd. These were sold by good breeders who not only insured the parents were picked for temperament but that the prospective owners knew exactly what to expect. These breeders were the masters before the mayhem.

The real problem I believe is the government failed to regulate this mix from the start. IMO the outline for the permit for Falcons(referring to BC Canada)is really on the mark. You see, you can't own a Falcon until after you own a Hawk. Much like I believe you shouldn't be allowed a high content until after you've owned a low to mid content without incident. That said, I contend strongly the best dogs are Mid/lower content and past F2.

Have a Dog day, the right way.

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