You may have been hearing a lot about “wolf hybrid” dogs, or wolfdogs lately. They’ve been around for a long time, but have recently come into light as a more accepted and highly sought after breed of dog. Wolfdogs are commonly hybridized offspring of wolf and breeds such as huskies, German shepherd dogs, Alaskan malamutes, and even poodles. There are even specific breeds of wolfdog bred in for a purpose- such as the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, which is recognized by the AKC. The Saarloos Wolfdog was a breed created to improve upon the German Shepherd Dog (a GSD immune to distemper) back in the 1920’s by a man named Leendert Sarloos. His work never created a dog immune to the disease, but he did create a breed that is currently recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club that is beautiful, stately, and easy to train.
More commonly however, wolfdogs are uncontrolled, undocumented, and immaturely bred hybrid dogs. These dogs are bred to appear like wolves, and even carry some of their more calm and stately wolf-like personalities, all with the friendliness and tameness that comes from a domestic dog. However, ideals rarely seem to follow intentions and commonly bred wolfdogs become bigger problems for owners than they expect. This has led to them being banned from many municipalities and training programs.
There have been studies done on wolves and living in captivity with people. Wolves are impossible to directly integrate into the typical lives of humans- one of the many things that makes domestic dogs what they are. Wolves aren’t trained easily, if at all. They literally have an unbreakable will of their own. A wolf in the home will do things that domestic dogs can be easily taught not to do, on a habitual basis. Small things like stealing food off of the table in front of everyone, stealing it from your mouth or right off of your fork, guarding favorite sleeping areas making it impossible to navigate in your own home, getting onto all furniture and knocking over everything, taking down things hanging on walls, ripping up carpet and destroying flooring, cabinets, whatever they feel necessary add up. These things will happen in behaviors of domestic untrained, unsocialized dogs, but it’s rare. With wolves, it’s normal and unavoidable. Because of this, many of these traits are exhibited in wolfdogs as well, especially wolfdogs that aren’t carefully bred (which many of them are not).
Wolfdogs typically are shy, nervous animals like their wolf cousins. They do not play. They do not do well with new people, new animals, and new surroundings. Training them is not something just anyone can do- you have to be highly knowledgeable with dogs and have the patience and consistency it takes to train extremely difficult dogs to be able to train wolfdogs. Wolfdogs need a lot of space to move outside, and require a large amount of physical activity as well as mental activity- more than most domestic dogs require. This is of course, as an adult. Puppies of wolf hybrids are very much like domestic dogs- but significant change happens after puberty. You have to be ready to handle and accept these changes if you decide to bring a wolfdog pup into your home.
Given the commitment and level of involvement wolfdog hybrids require, there are still instances where a carefully bred wolfdog would fit into the family with the right dynamics. A highly knowledgeable, gentle, yet patient and consistent leader in a family is essential. A family that can offer a wolfdog to roam with them on a regular basis for long periods of time is essential. And finally, a family that has very good stability is also essential- no moving homes often, no changing of family members often, and a family with a very glued and loyal family structure is required. If you can provide these things for a potential wolfdog pup, your family might work well with one- and you can spend years with a regal, intelligent, beautiful, and slightly wild dog that will love you just the same in return.