|You have requirements for your dog, and your dog has requirements for you! Many folks choose a dog based on impulse, or on looks alone. But considering how long your new addition will live (10-15 years, on average) and what will likely be his fate if you decide he really isn't what you wanted...you owe it to that pup to make an informed choice.
So, what do you need to know before bringing home that wolfdog pup? You'll want to do a lot of reading up on wolfdogs, study wolf and dog behaviour, and talk to other "owners". Then, ask yourself several questions:
* Why do I want a wolfdog, as opposed to a similar breed such as a husky or malamute? What would I be gaining, besides the ability to brag that "he's part wolf"? The novelty of that will wear off, and you'll want to be sure that when it does, there are enough things you love about these animals to take its place.
* How much wolf content is best for me? You might be thinking "the more wolf, the better! I'd get a pure if I could find one!" Think again. If you've never had a dog before, you don't want a wolf. (In fact, you don't even want a wolfDOG, of *any* content.) If you've never lived with a "tough" northern breed (and loved it!) you definitely aren't ready for a high-content wolfdog. You might enjoy SAYING you have a "pet wolf", but trust me, it is the ONLY thing you will enjoy... and the animal will pay the price.
* What is your home situation? Do you have young children? Again, I would not recommend a high content animal. They tend to be a poor choice with children, for a variety of reasons.
* How secure is your fencing? You will need adequate fencing--and by 'adequate', I mean secure enough to keep *your* particular wolfdog contained. A low content GSD/wolf might be fine with a 6 foot perimeter fence... a husky/wolf or high content probably will not. A full wolf should have a minimum of 8 foot fence, plus dig-proofing. Look HERE and HERE for some containment ideas!
* What do you plan on doing with your new companion? A high content--with a lot of effort put into his upbringing--might be great company for someone who spends lots of time at home...and wolfdogs have been known to enjoy hiking, agility (for lower content animals) and weight-pulling. But, if you are looking for a dog to do high-level obedience, or to greet customers, or be the life of the party...you are better off with just that--a DOG. Remember also that not all high contents can ride in the car, even if started on it very young; severe carsickness is common.
* How about YOU--your physical strength, and your strength of character? These animals are extremely powerful. If you are a petite gal of 115 pounds, you will be much better able to control a 70# wolf/husky, than a 125# wolf/mal or high content. In addition, your wolfdog will test you repeatedly... and the more wolf in your animal, the more frequently and intensely he is likely to test you. Are you very secure in your alpha-ship? ;)
* Do you know how to tell if the animal is really "94% wolf"? Have you done your homework? Many breeders don't know what they have, or will misrepresent the content to sell the pups for more money. Remember, too, that "percent" is a relatively meaningless term unless it is a first-generation cross...and many a "99% wolf" is, genetically, mostly dog. Can *you* tell an almost-wolf from an almost-dog? Check out Wolf Park's Identification of Wolf Content page for more info.
* Do I know what I'm getting myself into? This is the biggie. Depending on the amount of wolf, and the breed(s) of dog, there is a wide variation in behaviour from one wolfdog to the next. Wolfdogs often have a lot of bad points that will, to many people, outweigh their good ones. Not all animals will display all of these bad habits...however, YOUR wolfdog could display any or all of them, so it is important to consider the worst case scenario. If your cute little Wolfie grows up to do all the things listed below, will he still have a place in your family?
~They are highly destructive...not just sneakers and the kids' action figures, but upholstery and woodwork.
~Difficult to housebreak. It may take longer; and they may never be 100% reliable.
~Many are not good with small animals (including cats), or small kids. Some have a strong prey drive, and should not be left unattended with either.
~They don't have the common sense the gods gave a beagle. They must *learn* not to climb on the counter or fridge, not to jump out of a moving car. Wolf intelligence is geared more towards problem solving and getting what they want, than towards many of the things we take for granted in domestics.
~Did you want a watchdog? Forget it. Most don't bark, and they will not defend you or your stuff. YOU are the alpha, that's your job. Many are downright afraid of strangers and will run away if they approach.
~Did you have a nice yard? (Past tense) It will soon look like a mine field. And keeping them IN that trashed yard is another challenge...they will dig under, jump, climb over, or break through the average "suburban" fence. Getting them a buddy will help-- a lot! --if you are willing to have multiple dogs. Chaining them is absolutely OUT-it does significant emotional damage and there is strong evidence that it can make them aggressive as well. Most wolfdog bites involve chained animals, and unsupervised children.
~They howl, and it carries for miles. You might think it's beautiful... I do... but will your neighbors think so at 3am?
~Chances are, you'll never have a reliable recall, or a fully obedient dog. Much like cats, they tend to obey you 'when they feel like it'. They are willful and independent, so if the the dog that jumps when the owner snaps his fingers impresses you, maybe you'd be better off with a more compliant breed.They can be trained, but it takes more time and dedication than with a domestic dog.
~Many wolves and high content animals are pretty much *born* food-aggressive (as opposed to most domestic breeds, who rarely have this problem if raised properly). They *can* be trained out of it, but many folks believe a "wolf is a wolf" and aren't willing to push the issue. If you wait too long to start teaching them that this is unacceptable, they will be *very* big & scary, and you will probably decide that it isn't worth it.
~Some wolves and high-contents get what's known as "winter wolf syndrome"--usually only the intact/breeding animals, but not always. They get growly & disagreeable in the fall, and will "protect" their chosen mate, even from YOU. Some owners cannot go in the enclosure with their hormonally-charged wolves until the breeding season has passed. If nothing else, this is a FINE reason to get your high-content animal fixed!!
~Are you willing to provide a better diet than grocery-store kibble? Wolfdogs need a meat-based, high-protein, non-soy, minimal corn, low grains diet, which should at least be supplemented with raw meat and lots of bones. A raw foods diet is preferable, especially for higher content animals.
~Are wolfdogs legal in your state? County? Town? Look HERE and HERE to find out. Will your neighbors complain? Can you find a veterinarian who will treat your little bundle of joy? Many will not.Then there is the political issue over the RABIES vaccine...at present, there is no legal rabies vaccination for wolfdogs.
If you've thought all of these things through, and can honestly provide answers that are compatible with sharing your life with one or more wolfdogs, it's time to look for a responsible breeder! Choose one who offers a lifetime of support for the questions you are bound to have; ask her lots of questions. Join an email group or (if you have one) a local wolfdog association. Plan to spend the life of the animal--- 10 or 15 years ---learning about them (and yourself!), and rearranging your life to accomodate them. Dogs may be willing, even eager, to "do it your way"...but with wolfdogs, one needs to learn to compromise.
Now, what your wolfdog (and any responsible wolfdog breeder!) requires of YOU:
A large, properly-fenced enclosure (with lower and middle content animals, it may be possible for someone who is home all day & willing to spend much of their time with the animal to have it indoors full time; however, a fenced yard is still highly recommended).
Knowledge of what having one entails (ie "all the Bad Stuff") and knowledge about wolf behavior and needs in general. Includes the ability to "speak dog": this is beneficial for domestics, but a *necessity* for wolfdogs.
Another canine to keep it company, unless [see that "home a lot" stuff above...] Even so, a companion canine is preferred.
The financial means to feed it, and familiarity with a raw foods diet.
Some dog experience, preferably northern breed, but exceptions made for a knowledgeable owner of other breeds. You definitely don't want one if you've never lived with dogs, as the combination of "first-dog issues" plus "wolfdog issues" will be overwhelming.
A non-materialistic mentality, i.e. won't freak the first time a piece of furniture is gutted, and take the animal to the pound.
A strong enough personality to be the alpha; if you are a pushover or like to consider your dogs "equals", you'd best stick to less primitive breeds.
Willingness to train the animal in at least the basics...the last thing wolfdogs as a whole need, is owners who let the animals run wild.
A love of canines strong enough to overlook the problems that come with this sort of animal; NOT to ignore/allow the bad behaviors, of course...just to forgive the dog for his mistakes, of which there will be many.
In a nutshell, it all comes down to attitude, knowledge/research, commitment, and the financial means to support a special-needs animal. As a very responsible breeder once told me, "A wolfdog is not a pet, it is a lifestyle". And how right she was!