Pet Wolfdogs

Czechoslovakian wolfdog attached to a chain,
Eric Guilloret / Getty Images

Wolfdog ownership is not to be taken lightly, as wolf dog crosses have some characteristics that can make them a challenging addition to the family. Of course some wolfdogs are much more like wolves than they are dogs and make delightful additions to the right family but they are not huskies or Alaskan Malamutes.

The Wolfdog

The terms used to refer to wolfdogs can be confusing. In the past the term wolf hybrid was commonly used.

However, the term hybrid refers to the cross of different species, and dogs have been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris, a sub species of wolves (Canis lupus). Although the term wolf hybrid is commonly used still in the literature, the term wolfdog is now becoming preferred. Government and veterinary organizations often refer to them as wolf-dog hybrids.

Today's wolfdog is still part wolf and part dog but usually you'll find wolfdogs that are several generations from the original hybridization. Gray wolves were the most common type of wolf used to develop this hybrid but wolfdogs themselves have also played a role in the creation of other, more well-known, breeds of dogs such as the German Shepherd.

Wolfdog Laws

As with any other exotic pet, the legality of wolfdogs in your area should be verified before considering adoption or purchase. No licensed vaccines exist for wolfdogs but off-label use of domestic canine vaccinations are often recommended.

It is important to note though that if a wolfdog bites someone, even if they are vaccinated with the off-label domestic dog rabies vaccine, the government will treat that wolfdog as though they are unvaccinated (often leading to euthanasia). Certain permits and enclosure requirements may be necessary depending on where you live.

Wolfdog Personality

Generally speaking, the more wolf in the mix, the more "wolfy" the dog will be. This will also depend on the number of generations that your wolfdog is away from a pure wolf. Of course, wolves are not domesticated, so socialization and training of wolf crosses is of the utmost importance. As with many other exotic pets, far too many wolf crosses end up in rescue facilities often due to unrealistic expectations from their owners. They certainly can be difficult to manage if you are not prepared to tend to their needs and behaviors. Sadly, many also end up being mistreated due to poor socialization and training. Wolfdogs, especially those with higher percentages of wolf, do tend to be destructive, especially if confined to the house (stemming from their natural tendency to dig) and are escape artists. They need to be exposed to lots of different people, locations and situations early on in their life to prevent them from being skittish and potentially fearful (which can lead to fear biting).

Training poses additional challenges as the wolf cross may not be as eager to please their human as a domestic dog.

Many groups encouraging responsible wolfdog ownership exist to educate the public on this breed but organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States deem wild animals as unsuitable as pets (a title they give to most exotic pets). The sometimes unpredictable nature of the wolfdog and the genetic differences from our domesticated dog species can pose a problem for owners who are not ready to take on the challenge. But for some people who have the time and resources a wolfdog can potentially make a good pet. They definitely aren't for everyone and they definitely aren't simply a wild-looking dog but they have an appeal that many wolf lovers are drawn to.


Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT