Wolfdogs

I’ve seen several posts and articles recently about wolfdogs. I’ve heard about them, seen them on TV, but never encountered one personally. I remember watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer where a couple had adopted two wolfdogs and, as the show goes, needed Cesar’s help for their uncontrollable dogs. I googled “I want to adopt wolfdogs” and I was amazed at what came up! Apparently I can get a wolfdog not too far from my house- it isn’t that far, and isn’t that hard. Like with most dangerous things it seems nowadays, just google it and you can get it in 24 hours or less!

What are wolfdogs?

It is human created. I suppose a dog could wander into the woods and fall madly in love with a wolf and Shakespeare star-crossed dog lovers create a wolfdog, but it appears that breeders purposely choose wolves and Huskies, German Shepherds, and Malamutes, etc. for breeding to create that specific look that is popular.

Genetics

That’s the outside. What about the inside? Think back to 10th grade biology and Mendel’s genetic matrices (groan…) that helped you figure out why you had blue eyes and your brother had brown eyes. People (myself included) would instinctively want to know the percentage of wolf in the animal. However, there is really no way to know this for sure. And, think of the blue-eye/brown-eye example, there is the same percentage of my mom and my dad in my brother and I. But the content is different. He and I behave differently (like blue-eye/brown-eye). So two wolfdogs from the same litter would have the same percentage of wolf in them, but one could act more dog, one could act more wolf. This is why wolfdogs are referred to as “low content” or “high content”. The content is usually determined by phenotyping by an educated professional based on behaviors and physical traits.

How are wolfdogs different?

Wolfdogs that are high content are more wolf. A wolf has a high prey drive and anything that moves fast and squeaks will be enticing to a wolfdog. This means children, other small dogs, small animals outside, etc. Wolfdogs dig, many can jump a 6’ high fence, house training and training in general is not for them, and they do not eat regular dog food- they eat meat. In many municipalities and states owning a wolfdog is illegal. There is also conflicting information about whether or not the rabies vaccination is effective in a wolfdog.

Low content wolf dogs are more like dogs and may not exhibit these tendencies; the threshold is higher. Whether or not the wolfdog is high content or low content, wolfdogs are not attack dogs or guard dogs. They form strong bonds with their owner, their pack, and when surrendered because people don’t understand the care required of this animal, suffer greatly.

They require incredible amounts of exercise. Think of a wolf pack- they travel long distances, they are not couch potatoes. A house bound wolfdog will destroy your house. They are shy around strangers, even timid. But they can be aggressive, more predominant wolf behavior, with resource guarding behavior. Yes, dogs do this too, but wolves have a lower threshold for it.

The plight of the wolfdog

When I see that more than one highly trained, educated animal professional consider that breeding wolfdogs is ethically and morally wrong, I have to pause. Breeders are doing this because people want dogs that look like wolves. More so than a Husky or a Malamute? Seriously? You don’t know what you are going to get when you shake up the genetic martini glass. And then even (benefit of the doubt) well meaning adopters can’t handle the challenge they’ve accepted and yet another dog winds up in a shelter. And this time it’s worse than a Pit Bull stigma because it likely will get euthanized. Here’s an excerpt from a blog by Patricia McConnell, PhD, and her experience with an owner who adopted a wolfdog and consequently needed help:

The wolfdog, 75% wolf reportedly, was gorgeous and brilliant and virtually unstoppable.  While we talked, she climbed on the table, then the top of the couch, chewed on my hair, began eating my notebook, then played with the coffee cups, then squatted to pee, then leapt at the blinds and pulled them down. Rinse and repeat. Of course we intervened whenever possible, but it was like trying to stop water coursing over a water fall. She had energy radiating out of her like mist rising from a lake, a jewel of a sparkle in her eyes and an overwhelming need to DO SOMETHING every single second. It did not end well.  The couple eventually realized that there was no way they could manage a wolfdog and tried to find her a place to go. The breeder wouldn’t take her back…I don’t know what happened to her, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.

There are so many dogs that need good homes. And, unless you are fully aware of how much work a dog takes in your life, your family, a wolfdog is the LAST thing you should be considering. If you already have a dog, think of all the bum dog owners you’ve encountered in your life. Would you want one of them owning a wolfdog? Probably not. Discourage this breeding practice like you would about adopting puppies from a puppy mill.

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