Friday, October 16, 2009
By Linda Cole
I had an opportunity to see a wolf-dog hybrid several years ago. He was a magnificent animal, taller and heavier than a wolf. His father was a pure black wolf with intense amber eyes that followed my every move. The breeder who had the wolf and a dozen or so hybrids, told me not to let them know I was scared. OK, I wasn't afraid until she said that. It was obvious she knew her animals and what she could expect from them, but do wolf-dog hybrids make good pets?
A hybrid pup comes from two hybrid dogs, a wolf and dog, dog and hybrid or wolf and hybrid. The breeder answered all of my questions and was frank about the erratic temperament of wolf-dog hybrids. When asked if these dogs made good pets, her emphatic response was no. It takes a strong person who understands how to read a dog's body language and understands completely what they are getting into when accepting the role of pack leader to one of these animals. Her concern was selling a hybrid to someone who was only looking for a “cool pet” to show off and had no idea how to handle an animal that is half wolf and half dog. She had buyers sign an agreement to return the dog to her if they could not handle the dog once it reached adulthood. She didn't want the hybrid released into the wild by an irresponsible owner.
Like any animal raised by humans, wolf-dog hybrids have never been taught how to hunt and have no idea how to catch their own food. A lucky one might learn as hunger awakens his wolf instincts, but there's no guarantee and most would likely fall to the same fate as a dog who has found himself on his own with no hunting skills. A hybrid on its own is also more dangerous than a wolf because the dog traits can work against a wolf's natural fear of humans.
It's important to understand that wolf-dog hybrid breeders never know which characteristic or behavior will show up in the pups. One pup could be more like a dog whereas a sibling could be more like a wolf. Either way, a hybrid dog will never score bonus points in a dog training class. They do not make good guard dogs and, like a wolf, are more likely to retreat and let you deal with a burglar on your own. If no one is at home, he would probably watch quietly from his hiding place while you were being ripped off.
It's not impossible to train a wolf-dog hybrid, but close to it. They are quite capable of learning commands, but respond more like a cat than a dog to training. You know the attitude of a cat, “I'll think about it and get back to you.” We are able to teach our dogs to obey us, their pack leader, because a dog's behavior is similar to an immature wolf. Dogs rely on us for food, shelter and protection. In return, they learn our commands and show their loyalty by protecting us and their home. A mature wolf doesn't have the luxury of playing and no one commands them. They have to be independent in order to survive.
Wolf-dog hybrids will never fully accept a new dog into the pack. Because of the territorial nature of wolves, a hybrid sees a new dog as a threat. It's the dog who will suffer the consequences of an uneducated hybrid owner who attempts to socialize a new dog with the hybrid. Forget about cats or other small pets, and never leave a child alone with a wolf-dog hybrid.
Wolves are beautiful animals that have gotten a bad rap throughout history. They have been blamed for attacks made by wolf-dog hybrids who have been released or escaped into the wild. There has never been a verified recorded attack on or death of a human by a healthy wild wolf in the United States. I admire the wolf who has managed to survive despite human interference, but I would never want one as a pet.
Hopefully, those who would like to own a dog with wolf-like traits will do extensive research before bringing one into their home. They need to consider all safety issues as well as the added expense in insurance cost and potential fines from accidental bites and howling at 3 in the morning, along with other possible fines. And then there are the costs related to properly containing a hybrid and even the cost of destroyed furniture and walls if it's not kept outside, but it's not a good idea to keep one inside.
Wolf-dog hybrids do not make good pets for a variety of reasons. However, a responsible pet owner with expert knowledge of how to be a strong pack leader as well as an understanding of a dog's body language and what to expect from a wolf-dog hybrid, can make owning one safe for all family members.
Read more articles by Linda Cole