No, That Isn’t a Wolfdog
Growing up, we all wanted to have a pet wolf — let’s admit it. Despite the impracticality of such a thing, the concept is amazing. Bigger, stronger, and smarter than any average dog, it seems that they’d make an ideal, loyal companion, bound to your side. And growing up with books like White Fang and Call of the Wild, it seemed possible to at least meet a halfway point. But after entering the world of boarding kennels and rescues, I had a startling realization — none of the dogs I met branded “wolfdogs” or “wolf hybrids” had much, if any, wolf in their recent ancestry. In fact, I’m fairly sure the majority of them were just Husky/Malamute mixes with an upcharge from backyard breeders. When I actually met a high content wolfdog for the first time, I knew it without a moment of hesitation. The facial structure, chest shape, and oh God, the size — it was unmistakable. Her paperwork confirmed that one parent had been a German Shepherd, and the other had been partially wolf, partially Siberian Husky. She was very clearly unlike any dog I had seen before — and I had no experience with wolves or wolf hybrids. So how is it that people are continuing to mistake any dog with wolflike coloring for a wolf/dog mix?
Part of the problem? Wolfdogs sell for significantly higher prices than most dogs, even purebreds, and breeders know this. It’s often you’ll find litters of “wolf hybrid” puppies from practically unverifiable sources such as Craigslist. And it’s easy to fake. With no paperwork necessary to show a dog is a hybrid, dogs with Malamute, Husky, or even Shepherd bloodlines are acceptable fakes. If you can’t produce paperwork from the breeder showing that wolf hybrids are truly a part of the pup’s bloodline, you are most likely being duped into what is essentially a marketing scam piggybacking off of the popularity of “cool” exotic pets + the desire to own a pet that’s unlike anyone else’s. Most people seeking out hybrids are unaware that they often require specialized paperwork or are illegal entirely in their state. It’s easy for scammers to pawn off mutt puppies as wolf mixes — because often, those in the market for them have no idea what they’re actually looking for.
Most of us don’t really have any idea of what wolves are like in general. We’ve maybe seen them at a distance, tucked away in their enclosures in a zoo, but never up close and personal. To imagine a wolf, imagine a really big dog. Then imagine it three times bigger, faster, and smarter. There’s no way to feasibly care for a wolf in captivity unless you have years of experience and an immense amount of land. Now imagine the raw instinct, willingness to challenge authority, and sheer strength of a wolf — mixed with a dog. It doesn’t sound like a wise match to make — and it isn’t. Wolfdogs are significantly more prone to attacks on humans and other dogs than regular dogs, and they are hard to train and often challenge dominance. (The Center for Disease Control found that wolfdogs were behind 7% of deaths related to dog bites between 1979 and 1996.) They are far from easy pets — especially given that the breeds they are typically crossed with to maintain a wolflike appearance are not easily manageable on their own.
Is there a way to really tell if someone’s dog contains any wolf content? You’ll hear people often proudly declare this, with no proof to back it up. If the dog:
- Is under 70 pounds
- Looks like a purebred Husky or Malamute
- Is friendly and outgoing to new people
- Is very obviously just a dog!
…then it’s just a dog. You don’t have to mention to others that their dogs are clearly not wolfdogs. But as long as there are people showing off well-behaved, friendly mutts as part wolf, there will be an interested market looking to obtain the same animal — a painful misconception that hurts both animals and people. Save yourself the trouble — if you want a loving, caring, well behaved wolf hybrid… then don’t get a wolf hybrid. It’s unfair to both you and the animal — we should have never created these hybrids, who we truly cannot properly care for in captivity. But rest assured, you likely have nothing to fear from your eccentric neighbor’s “imported wolf cross.” Most likely, you could find a near genetically identical dog in your local shelter.