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Wolf Hybrids

July 19, 2022

A look at bringing the wild into our world

 

The wolf has fascinated us for centuries. Their beauty, agility, stealthiness, and pack dynamics captivate us. For some, admiring the wolf from afar isn’t enough. They feel the desire to bring the wild into their homes and purchase a wolf hybrid to keep it as one would a pet dog. This blog will examine the contentious issue of owning a wolf-dog hybrid and whether or not owning a wolf-dog mix is a good idea.

 

What is a wolf hybrid?

A wolf-dog hybrid is a mammal that is part wolf and part domestic dog. This cross is possible because wolves and dogs are interfertile, which means the two can breed and produce viable offspring. Wolves can interbreed with domestic dogs, and the resulting offspring can go on and produce offspring themselves. Although hybrids could happen naturally in the wild, they are highly unlikely to occur because of the territorial instincts of wolves, which lead them to fiercely protect their pack as well as their home ranges from intruders.
 

iStock-1208985997-1.jpg

 
Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and wolves (Canis lupus) are believed to share an evolutionary past and share many physical and behavioural traits. But there are significant differences between these two animals. Wolves are wild animals. Their physical and mental state are shaped by evolutionary pressures that allow them to find food, keep themselves safe, and produce offspring[i].  Their genetics allow them to survive and thrive without human help or interaction.
 
Dogs, on the other hand evolved from wolves through centuries of domestication.[ii] Domestication is the process by which a wild animal adapts to living with humans by being selectively bred by humans over thousands of years.[iii] These centuries of selective breeding have made the domestic dog dependent on humans and allow them to fit into human homes and lives. 

 
The Challenges 

Many people acquire hybrids in hopes that they will have physical wolf qualities (the look, the howl, the size) but will mostly demonstrate domestic dog-like behaviour. The truth is that hybrids display a range of dog and wolf behaviours, and one cannot predict which ones will develop and which ones won’t. 
 
Although wolves are vilified in countless books, movies, and television shows, they are actually quite shy around humans and generally avoid us as much as possible. This is a big point to remember when discussing an animal’s behaviour that is part wolf. Over the last one hundred years here in North America, only six unprovoked wolf attacks causing injury have been documented and 21 attacks that are believed to be related to human fed wolves.[i] One of the 21 human fed wolf attacks was fatal, however, there is debate over the cause of death as some believe the wolves scavenged.[ii] Regardless, wild wolves avoid people and wolf attacks in the wild are very unlikely to happen because wolves steer clear of human interaction.
 
While all puppies are adorable and wolf pups are absolutely no exception, a lot of issues with hybrids tend to arise around sexual maturity. Sexual maturity occurs much later in wolves than it does with dogs. The change happens anywhere between 1 and 4 years of age.[iii] At this time the animal transitions from a puppy to an adult and is expected to contribute to the wolf pack. To gain status, the animal might start testing the other members of the pack to reach a higher position within it.[iv] Wolves kept as pets don’t have wolf packmates, so these challenges can go towards their human and can be seen as anything from stubborn to aggressive.

Domestic dogs reach puberty at a much earlier age and often do begin to test their owners a bit, but it is much less severe than it is in wolves. Wolf-dog hybrids have both sets of genes within them and it is impossible to accurately know whether they will challenge more like a dog or like a wolf. 

Hybrids are not domestic dogs, and one must know that owning one requires a careful commitment level that is very different than that of owning a domestic dog. Anyone who has watched a documentary on wolves knows they are on the move. A lot. The duty of exercising a hybrid is a serious time commitment. 

 

I recall watching a documentary on hybrids, and the advisor from a sanctuary recommended giving the animal 2-3 hours of supervised exercise twice a day in order to meet its needs. Talk about a full-time job! The program also explained that hybrids need to be kept in enclosures with fences at least 8 feet in height and that the fencing must also go several feet underground as they dig intensely.


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One animal featured chewed through a metal wire fence and unfortunately had to be kept in an enclosure with electric fencing to keep her contained. They also mentioned that many could climb a chain link fence. 
 
On top of fencing, space is another issue. Experts say that captive wolves and wolf-dog hybrids need at least an acre of enclosure (200’ x 200’).[i] If there are multiple animals being kept together, they need a minimum of half an acre each to minimize aggression towards one another.[ii] Most hybrids love to swim, and it is recommended to keep enough water in their enclosure so that they can submerge their bodies on hot days.[iii]
 
Because wolves are pack animals and require almost constant interaction with their pack, when one is kept in a human family, they usually begin to demonstrate behaviours that don’t jibe well with their humans. These behaviours would generally be acceptable with another wolf, but when they are placed by a hybrid on humans, they are unwanted as they are often seen as unusual, unpredictable, and can be dangerous. 
 
Wolf-dog hybrids, much like wolves, use their mouths in a similar way that we humans use our hands.[iv] They use their mouths to eat, communicate, play, and hold objects. Unlike with a domestic dog, it is not recommended to ever take an object from a hybrid’s mouth.[v] Once they have it - whatever it is – it becomes their property and will be defended.[vi]

Another surprising aspect of wolves and wolf-dogs is that they expect you as a human to interact with them as they do.[i] A hybrid is likely to be very shy around strangers but will act quite the opposite around their pack (which includes their human pack).[ii] Around their people, they will be boisterous. An example of a situation many hybrids exhibit that can cause problems is how they greet their people. Most will get up to your level, look you in the eyes, stick their nose on yours and lick your teeth.[iii] If they cannot get into your mouth, they usually will nibble on your lips or grab hold of your face in their attempt.[iv]

iStock-157293191.jpgIn the wolf world, a stranger is seen as a serious threat. A wolf hybrid that is forced to interact with strangers against their will could very likely fear-bite in an effort to defend itself.[i] Even with early socialization, it is advised to never leave a stranger and a hybrid alone together during an interaction.[ii] This would likely make it incredibly difficult to have your animal cared for if you had to go away on vacation or in the case of an emergency.

Most would consider the challenge of feeding a hybrid another negative. I found a bit of conflicting information on what to feed a hybrid. One site recommends feeding 3 pounds of meat a day on top of kibble.[iii] Another states that wolf hybrids don’t benefit from the carbohydrates found in dry dog food and recommends a raw meat and bone diet along with vegetation, including some fruits.[iv]

 
Myths 
There are several myths surrounding hybrids. First, some people say that they make good guard dogs. This isn’t true as wolves are generally shy around people. Aggressive tendencies are usually fear-induced and difficult to control.[i]
 
Some might tell you that they live longer than dogs, thanks to the wolf genes. A captive wolf lives around 12 years, which is a similar lifespan to that of a domestic dog.[ii]
 
And some might try to argue that Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and Samoyeds are all part wolf. While they are all gorgeous Nordic-style Spitz dogs that have similar features to a wolf, those are all breeds of domestic dogs, not hybrids.[iii]

 
Legal
Whether or not one can legally own a wolf hybrid as a pet in Canada depends on which province and municipality you reside in. Some allow it. Some require a permit, and others outlaw it entirely.[i]
I must say that while I’m sure that some wolf-dog hybrids have domestic dog docility, a higher percentage are likely to attack humans and other domestic animals for reasons only they understand.[ii] Many hybrids live miserable, isolated lives due to the fact that they are so misunderstood by their owners.
 
My advice for anyone who really loves wolves and wants them in their lives is to visit a wolf or wildlife sanctuary that cares for wolves and/or hybrids. Get to know more about them, and you will soon come to the realization that they are not domestic dogs, don’t have the predictability of our purebred domestic dogs, and that it is unfair to expect an animal like that to adhere to the expectations we have for our domestic dogs.
 
If you really love the wolf-like look, why not study several of the Canadian Kennel Club’s recognized purebred Spitz breeds and find one that suits your home and lifestyle?
 
I personally think that the risks towards you, your family, and society, as well as the hybrid, make owning a wolf-dog hybrid a bad idea whether or not it is legal where you live. I believe the kind thing to do is to support wild wolf territory protection as well as not-for-profit sanctuaries and to keep admiring the mysterious wolf from afar.  
 



[1] International Wolf Centre, https://wolf.org/wolf-info/basic-wolf-info/wolves-and-humans/wolf-dog-hybrids/  
[1] Ibid., International Wolf Centre
[1] Ibid., International Wolf Centre
[1] Wolf Matters, http://www.wolfmatters.org/myths-and-truths-about-wolves.html
[1] Ibid., Wolf Matters
[1] Ibid., International Wolf Centre
[1] Ibid., International Wolf Centre
[1] Mission: Wolf, https://missionwolf.org/wolf-and-wolf-dog-care/
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Ibid., Mission : Wolf
[1] Pets on Mom, https://animals.mom.com/diet-for-wolf-hybrids-3418477.html 
[1] Ibid., Wolf Matters
[1] Ibid., Wolf Matters
[1] Ibid., Wolf Matters
[1] Ibid., Wolf Matters
[1]New Canadian Life, https://newcanadianlife.com/can-you-have-a-wolf-as-a-pet-in-canada/
[1] Keller & Keller, https://www.2keller.com/library/dangerous-dog-alert-wolf-hybrids-more-likely-to-bite.cfm


 

The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.

Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

 Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch


Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.

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