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What Is A Wolfdog?

What is a wolfdog and where do they come from?

A wolfdog is a dog with recent wolf heritage. Wolfdogs are any cross of a wolf bred to a dog, a wolfdog bred to another wolfdog, or a wolfdog bred to a dog with varying amounts of wolf DNA. The majority of wolfdogs being produced now are from wolfdog to wolfdog pairings. Wolfdogs are purposely bred and sold by breeders in many states across the United States and their foundation animals have been captive bred. Many of these foundation animals are descendants from fur farms back in the 60’s and 70’s. Note: The term “wolf hybrid,” is not an accurate term. A ‘hybrid” is the offspring of two different species. Following reclassification of the dog by taxonomists in 1994, the domestic dog (canis lupus familiaris) is actually viewed as a domestic variant of the gray wolf (canis lupus). How much wolf is in that wolfdog? This question refers to the percentage of wolf in the wolfdog. The percentage can be determined roughly through phenotyping, which is making an educated guess based on various physical and behavioral traits. The only accurate way to prove wolf content is through a DNA test, Embark being the most reliable. The animals at The Red have Embark tests. 


What are they mixed with?

Wolfdogs typically are mixed with German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, and Siberian Huskies. These breeds, added to the wolf DNA, most resemble their wild cousins and maintain the ‘wolfy look’. What is the average lifespan of a wolfdog? Wolfdogs can live an average of 12-18 years. Their lifespan can largely depend on the dog breeds in the mix and the wolf content. Wolfdogs are also at risk for many hereditary disorders due to years of backyard breeding. There are very few places that can accept wolfdog surrenders and those facilities stay at capacity, so wolfdogs are a lifetime commitment. 


Do you live in an area that legally allows wolfdog ownership?


Wolfdogs are illegal in many states. They can be further regulated by county, municipality, township, neighborhood, and HOA. Before considering wolfdog ownership, research your local municipal codes. Get proof of legality in writing. 


Where do they come from?

Wolfdogs are bred and like any breed, there are few ethical breeders and many backyard breeders. Ethical breeders will:

● Keep accurate and honest records
● Breed for health and temperament
● Evaluate and educate potential buyers carefully
● Take back the dogs they sell at any point of the dogs life
● Allow potential buyers to meet their breeding dogs
● Allow potential buyers to meet with previous buyers
● Have health and genetic testing done for all breeding animals


Unfortunately, unscrupulous breeders are why so many animals end up rehomed, in rescue, or euthanized. They often misrepresent their animals and will sell to anyone with the money. Once the cash is in hand, they won’t take the dog back no matter the situation.


What is misrepresentation and why does it matter?

If someone has a low content wolfdog or a no-content dog but publicly calls it a wolf or a higher content, this is a serious problem. Example: someone might believe that person has a wolf or a high-content wolfdog (when in actuality it may be a husky). Let’s say this person goes out and gets a wolfdog too but they get a real one with significant content. They saw their friend had a well trained ‘wolf’ that lived in the house so why is theirs so destructive and difficult? They are over their head and now they have a problem. That animal will typically end up in rescue.


No one will have a pure wolf as a personal pet. Wolves are strictly regulated. Embark tests only prove 95% wolf content, so a claim of anything higher is a red flag.

Set them free! They should be wild!

Wolfdogs are NOT wild animals. They can not live in the wild. They are domestic animals (see 9 C.F.R. 1.1), with special needs. They require humans for their food and protection, and many of them thrive on companionship. Dumping a wolfdog is sentencing that animal to a death by starvation, disease, attacks, or a bullet. They cannot be set free.


Who are they?

Wolfdogs are highly intelligent animals, planners, plotters, and they require a lot of enrichment and mental stimulation. They have a sense of self. They are intense with everything. They love fiercely in a way you can not imagine but need to experience to understand. They are high maintenance animals that have very strong individualities. They are funny and very clever. They are not good guard dogs. They will not protect you. They are fearful animals and will often run from novel things. They are suspicious and untrusting by nature and they are one time learners. So don’t blow it! They are funny characters, moody and have rules. They are a lifestyle.

What is Wolfdog ownership like?

"Theses are canines with no drives besides those that improve survival! They are complex. Their instincts and senses are strong. Their breadth of emotion is much wider than that of a domestic dog. They don’t NEED us. They CHOOSE us. The relationship I have with them is more fulfilling than my relationship with most people. They have opinions and they will make their opinions known. They play and explore and solve problems. They have a sense of self. They’re not pets, they’re companions."

- Sara Jones

Below are examples of a low-content (Lava), mid-content (Nancy) and high-content (Yicha) wolfdog.

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