Owning a Wolf or Wolf Hybrid
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Puppies Are Wonderful Sidekicks Training and Behavior Modification

Owning a Wolf or Wolf Hybrid

 
 
"You can train a wild animal; you can never tame a wild animal." - Unknown
 
Since a very little girl, I have ALWAYS been fascinated with wolves. I wanted to know everything about them. I've watched countless documentaries, and read countless articles and books about them. It seems like all the time, more information is discovered about them as people are better able to observe them in their natural habitat. In fact, I REALLY enjoyed researching the information for this post. I probably spent WAY too much time on it, but couldn't stop once I got started.
 
For the most part, a wild wolf is aloof and shy with people. Wolves will avoid humans and there are very few reported bites from a wolf.  There are NO documented accounts of a healthy wolf attacking a human. (wolf country)  In a newsletter from the Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC, winter of 1994-1995), it was reported that after studying several reports of attacks on humans from wolves, it was found that those attacks were from rabid wolves or wolf hybrids (the mixture of a wolf breeding with any domesticated dog). This report even talks about the attacks in France during 1764-1767, when 64 people (mostly children) had been killed by wolves. After these wolves had been hunted and killed, it was found that this pair of wolves were extreamely large, and from the described physical appearance are suspected to have been wolf hybrids (an accidental breeding). In another news article reporting a fatal attack on a woman in Alaska, it states that in North America, there have been only 2 fatal attacks and about 2 dozen non-fatal attacks in the last century. One reason there has been an increase in the last few years in attacks is the wolves are becoming habituated. People are feeding them at campgrounds, dumps, and other sites related to wolves.
 
From the Wolf Country Website, wolf ancestors began to develop over 60 MILLION years ago. The first gray wolf appeared about a million years ago, and 750,000 years ago migrated to North America. Native Americans migrated to North America about 18,000 years ago, and there has been evidence that dogs began to be domesticated about 15,000 years ago.  I feel like I should repeat that last part.  It has taken more than 15,000 years to achieve what we have with domesticated dogs today.  It is an ongoing commitment from reputable breeders to continue on what our ancestors from thousands of years ago started.
 
The wolf is an ultimate predator.  They can smell something close to 2 miles away, they have slightly less than 180 degree vision, and they can hear something 10 MILES away.  They have very large front feet that help in deep snow, and webbed toes to help them in the water.  They have been clocked at over 40mph for a distance of several miles.  Their jaws have the crushing pressure of more than twice the crushing pressure of a German Shepherd.  They continually test their prey before actually attacking, by chasing them and letting them go.  They do this to look for the young, the sick, the injured, and the old; they're looking for the weak!  When the attack comes, the prey is usually seized by the nose or the rump. NOT the throat or tendons of the hind legs.  A lone wolf is quite capable of bringing down a moose or elk without help from a pack.
 
The early roles of domesticated wolves would have been to provide warmth on cold nights.  They would have been able to keep things a little cleaner by eating scraps left behind.  They would have alerted early man of predators or strangers with their keeps sense of smell and hearing.  They would have assisted early man on hunts, aiding to the survival of early man.  The different traits of the domesticated wolf would have been selectively bred on the human part to help the human perform certain functions.  There are now (15,000 years later) hundreds of breeds, all designed to perform a specific function for their human.
 
As the wolf evolved into the domesticated dog, the role of the dog changed and has continued to change even today.  Dogs were used to pull heavy loads, guard the family or livestock, herd the livestock, rodent prevention, hunting, fishing, and as companions.  In the last century, dogs have even taken on the role of service dogs for the disabled, and therapy dogs for a very wide range of needs.  Dogs, like humans, are becoming increasingly unemployed; they have been losing the working role in the family, and taking on a role of solely the companion. 
 
Dogs, compared to equally sized wolves, have 20% smaller head, a 30% smaller brain, with proportionally smaller teeth.  Dogs require fewer calories, but have a thicker skin than a wolf.  Most dogs would starve if left on their own in the wild; they show the tendency to scavenge, having lost the instincts to hunt.  Wolves fear humans and avoid them; however dogs seek them out and appear to prefer human company.  Wolves are more pack oriented than dogs, and hold to their social structure with complete consistency.  Dogs revert to a loose pack structure only in times of limited resources (food, water, and shelter), and tend to scavenge more so than actually hunt.  Wolves rarely bark, and most dog owners know this is not true for the average dog.  Male dogs take no part in the raising and caring for puppies, however in a pack of wolves it is the entire packs' responsibility to care for the cubs.  Dogs do not regurgitate food for puppies like wolves do for their cubs.  Wolves learn much faster at observational learning, and do very poorly when trained with coercive techniques.  Wolves excel with positive conditioning especially with the use of food and hand signals.  Dogs perform better than wolves when voice commands are paired with hands signals and also excel in training that is centered on positive reinforcement.  Wolves are non-aggressive animals.  Their survival depends on how well they work with-in the pack.  Fighting amongst themselves would lead to starvation and so evolution has played a big part in reducing the aggression in wolves.  Aggression has been selectively bred into some breeds of dogs to develop them for guarding, protection, and even fighting.
 
Currently there are only 2 states that have no laws reguarding the ownership of a wolf or wolf hybrid, 21 states do not allow any ownership of a wolf or hybrid, and the remaining 27 states require owners to obtain varying degrees of permits for the ownership of a wolf or hybrid.  Currently the state of Maine allows ownership of a wolf or hybrid with an easy to obtain permit, however this is soon be changed; Maine is currently trying to pass a new state law banning the ownership of a wolf or hybrid without a "wildlife-in-captivity" permit, and that the said animal has to be neutered or spayed.  There are many people on both sides of the issue in Maine.
 
There is far more un-known about the wolf hybrid than there is known about them.  The AWIC Newsletter has an excellent article on this including a very detailed section on behavior.  Both dog and wolf behavior is predictable; however the two have less in common than most people think and when you combine these two animals, they become un-predictable.  There are many cases where the wolf hybrid has lived with an owner and been more docile than a Greyhound, however this is a breed without a breed standard.  The wolf can be bred with any dog breed to produce the wolf hybrid, and has a very confusing set of instincts guiding them.  Are they an ultimate hunter, or the family pet?  This confusion within the animal leads to un-predictable behavior.  Many people have had experiences on both extreams of the hybrid.
 
In a study done over the course of 30 years, it was found that the wolf hybrid was the 4th most dangerous breed.  However, the data is a little skewed since the wolf hybrid only represents .003% of the study.  There are 14 times as many Pit Bulls, 3 times as many Rottweilers, 27 times as many Huskys, and 6 times as many German Shepherds in the study.  If you were try to do a real comparison of bites, and there were as many wolf hybrids owned as Husky's (the closest of the mentioned breeds related to the wolf) there were be 1242 severe maimings and 513 fatalities in the last 30 years, making the wolf hybrid the most dangerous dog to own.  (644/266 compared to the Pit Bull, 138/57 compared to the Rottweiler, 276/114 compared to the German Shepherd) 
 
The level of aggressiveness seems to correlate with how much percentage the wolf represents in the wolf hybrid.  The more wolf in the hybrid, the less aggressive the hybrid tends to be.  Most of the attacks from wolf hybrids are directed at small children, who are behaving in a way to trigger the predatory instincts of the wolf.  The same study showed the wolf hybrid was responsible for 19 fatalities, and all but 4 of those were children under the age of 7.  Three of them were adults, and all of the adults got in the way of the wolf attacking a child or another dog; they were not the intended target.  Relative to their numbers, the wolf hybrid is 60 times more likely to maim or kill a child than a German Shepherd.  German Shepherd's, Husky's, and wolf hybrids all show similar attack ratio between adults and children (rarely attacking adults), however the wolf hybrid attacks are almost all motivated by predatory instincts.
 
In many states, veterinarians are refusing to treat the wolf hybrid, and rescues are refusing to accept wolf hybrids due to lawsuits filed against the veterinarian or rescue.  Most insurance companies do not cover a suit involving a wolf hybrid if it is owned illegally (without a permit), or if the incident happens in a state that prohibits the ownership of a wolf hybrid.
 
Ownership of the wolf hybrid is not for the average Joe.  It is something that should be given great thought, researched thoroughly, and the owner will have to go to great lengths to provide the right housing accommodations.  Depending on the individual animal this could be a great loving companion, or a legal and emotional nightmare.  It requires someone with a great deal of time, education, and dedication to meet all the special needs of this breed. 
 
"A Wolf can never be owned; it cannot be mastered." - In Praise of Wolves R.D. Lawrence
 
 

16 Comments to Owning a Wolf or Wolf Hybrid:

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Kristen on Thursday, December 26, 2013 12:54 AM
Hi I own a 63% wolf 37% malamute hybrid and he is thee best animal I have ever had. But he does live under strict rules that mimic pack mentality so it is very very important that people understand how difficult these animals are in raising and caring for. Consistency is key and the better off the owner is in knowledge of their hybrid the happier and safer the hybrid and family are. I wouldn't trade my Wolf hybrid for the world he's such an amazing creature.
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Trista on Thursday, April 17, 2014 7:37 AM
I own a 7 month old male wolf hybrid lab mix. I finished your article and find it fascinating. I also own a malamute lab mix. Neither of which are aggressive in any way. In fact the malamute mix is a female and the louder and more dominate of the two. With this said I am certainly looking forward to reading more of your work.
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stephen martin on Sunday, November 23, 2014 10:41 PM
Recently acquired shepherd hybrid 2 years age. Aggression towards other dogs dangerous. Trainer advised choke method. Within three weeks she sleeps with dog being attacked. Climbing ability surprising, scales fences. Speed another surprise. She now follows me everywhere. I feel drawn to this animal. Our relationship increasing each day. She does conform and adjusting to surroundings. Little barking, but the howling giving her roots away. Several people have one look and realize there's a wolf in there. Hope she makes it with society. Cannot be by her side 24/7 I'd rather be with her than humans. Stephen
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Jill on Monday, February 16, 2015 12:45 PM
I own 4 wolf hybrids of very high content, 99% wolf and 1% husky. I also have 14 pups ready for homes. Theses are the best animals I have ever owned. My children live them very much. They are fascinating animals.
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I think it's dangerous for you to own a wolf. You can domesticate them. It's a fact.
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Opposite to what most people think, this hybrid is just the same with having a regular puppy. They are not aggressive, opposite again to how they look. They have the beauty that most of us admire and they have the intelligence that we would want to see. I remember having 12 hybrids when I was 23 they were all lovely but now that I am 45 some of them already past away and all i have is just 8 of them. I still miss the times that I have 12 of them but I keep on loving the remaining 8 more than the best that I can
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