Wolf Hybrids are not dogs!
Do not get a wolf hybrid, unless you have no neighbors,
plenty of time on your hands & live in a state where hybrids are legal!

Photos by Bill Woodall, West Branch of the Ausable River, 01/28/07

Cree at  9 months, and about 100 lbs.

The Lowdown on raising a wolf hybrid!

Bill and Cindy were up for the weekend in January of 2007, and after several days of light snow and sub-zero temperatures, Sunday "soared" up to about 15 degrees. With the sun finally burning through the clouds at mid-morning, we strapped on snow shoes, and headed up the frozen river from Ausable Loj with Sammy and Cree.  These are some of the photos Bill took on our hike.  The last four, with Wendy and the dogs, were taken a couple of days later by Steve, early in the morning.

Click on Photos to Enlarge
Colvin and Blake

Wolf Hybrids: Choose with your brain & not your heart

Actually, wolf hybrids make very loyal and affectionate pets. The problem with keeping and caring for a hybrid, is that the vast majority of folks who want to keep one as a pet, are not set up to do so. Hybrids require lots of love and attention, and plenty of exercise. Hybrid keepers need unbounded patience, plenty of free time and lots of space.

Hybrids, like wolves, express their curiosity and exercise their jaws, by gnawing on things, for example, your dining room table. The minute you stop stroking them, they're off to explore and wreak rascally havoc. If you think the family pooch likes to chew on things, prepare yourself for a whole other level of canine destructiveness, from a dog who doesn't distinguish between throw-toys and valuable antiques. They also mark their territories methodically and continuously, whether they are outside or in your living room, which means they are harder to house-train than your average dog. Incidentally, the higher "percentage" wolf your hybrid is, the more do these "wolfie" traits predominate. At the same time, to my knowledge, there is no "wolf-percentage-detector" test yet, so when you obtain a wolf-hybrid, what you see (or have been told), is not necessarily what you get, and therefore an unreliable indicator of what you have. There is a world of difference between a huskie who is 25% wolf, and a wolf who is 25% huskie.

This means that while your home may survive supervised visits by the hybrid indoors, they must live outside, and they're going to require a spacious, escape-proof enclosure, and a companion to hang out with. Cree used to live with a couple of pound-hound brothers named Sammie and Roscoe. Now, he lives with a wolf pup named Zeebie, and the manner in which Zeebie's presence has altered Cree's behaviour is both amusing and instructive. See  http://www.adirondackwildlife.org/Predators_in_Popular_Culture.html. By the way, escape-proof means high enough so that they can't leap over the fence, deep enough so they can't dig under it, and sturdy enough so that they can't chew through it, because they will definitely try all three. If you're thinking a six foot high anchor chain fence, think again. Cree's large enclosure has an 8 foot high fence, a broad, dig-proof inside perimeter, but also has room for him to break into a full sprint, while playing with his pals.

In addition there are legal issues in many states. New York, for example, requires special licenses from the DEC, and from the USDA, to keep a canine that is any percentage wolf. Many states treat wolf hybrids legally as dogs, but others do not. Even assuming that you are set up to safely and humanely keep hybrids, better check local and state requirements.

Just a word on timing, dominance, etc.: Cree was slightly larger than Rosie, the family pug, when we got him, and while he arrived with the patience-trying traits of a wolf pup, nipping fingers around food, etc., he clearly saw himself as the "pack" puppy. Wendy and I were Mom and Dad, while Sammie, Cree and Rosie were big brothers and sisters. Cree was very deferential to us, and submissive to the other dogs (except during rough-housing), even though he was much larger than the others within six months. To this day, when his invitations to rough-house are rejected by Roscoe, a scrawny 60 pound mutt who now resents being at the bottom of the pile, Cree grovels on the ground before him, while Roscoe stands stiffly above, growling and threatening, a comic scene if ever I've seen one. By the way, we sometimes call Roscoe the porcupine dog or Ahab, because he just doesn't get it. He probably owns the world record for being quilled, and has never read Moby Dick.... the whale always wins! In any case, the arrival of the 6 week old Zeebie turned Cree into a doting, long-suffering older brother over night.

Hybrids, like wolves and corvids, are incorrigible thieves. When I was constructing an insulated, heated dog house for Cree in his pen during that first Autumn, he was keeping me company, and I noticed that my tools were never where I had last put them down.  I spent as much time searching for my tools, as I did using them to build the dog house. Cree disdained the completed dog house, preferring to sleep either on top of it, or in a den he had excavated underneath, thus turning the completed dog house into a fine roof for the den!

Continued below.....

Colvin and Blake
Hybrids make terrible watch dogs, because wolves don't bark, are wary of strangers, and their survival instincts tell them to flee unfamiliar people. Our "watchdog" is Charlie, a Pilgrim Goose, who is loud and obnoxious in his vocal disapproval of any and all visitors, including us. Wolves survive by staying hidden. We learned during a Summer in Alaska that you can live surrounded by wolves, hear their howling every night, and never see more than an occasional fleeting glimpse of one.

You'd better have understanding neighbors, or better still no neighbors, because your hybrid will want to howl, when the mood strikes him, and your neighbors may not find the experience as haunting and melodic, not to mention convenient, at 2:00 AM, as you might.  Our nearest neighbors are a 1/3 of a mile away, are themselves nature lovers who don't mind the occasional choir, and we're landlocked on our property in such a manner that we'll never have closer neighbors. In fact, the Adirondack Mountains is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the United States. In addition, we run our business out of our home, so we are basically always around to investigate whatever gets Cree's attention, whether it's the howling of the local coyote pack, the raucous squawk of a raven, or the piercing scream of a bobcat. Our bedroom and our office is bounded on two sides by the wolf enclosure, such that we are almost never out of visual and/ or audible range of Cree and Zeebie.

You'll need time to exercise your hybrid. Cree and Zeebie hike with us at least two miles every day, rain, shine, warm weather or sub-zero. This is not only healthy and fun for all involved, but it helps build both trust and dependency in your pet. Our first hybrid, "Chino" hiked all over these Adirondack High Peaks, and was an ongoing good-will ambassador for properly-raised wolf-dogs, because people saw how calm and good-natured he was.

Continued below....


It may seem absurdly obvious, but it's important that you (or someone in your "pack") be stronger than your hybrid. Cree, for example, was 100 pounds at 9 months old, and like all wolf pups, he was willfull and uncompromising, particularly around food. There are occasions when you must simultaneously demonstrate gentleness and superiority in physical strength, so that you have an understanding with your pet. Refusing to be pulled, for example, when Cree is on a leader, reminds him who is stronger, and therefore who has control. At the same time, requiring him to sit when he receives a reward, not only teaches him to practice dexterity, consideration and restraint while taking food from your fingers, but it reminds him who takes care of him. The irony is that wolves, being on the whole probably smarter than dogs, are capable of learning these lessons well. Cree is much easier to feed by hand than our mutts, who are more over-anxious, and more likely to snap at your fingers when you are offering food.

We've all read horror stories about wolf-hybrids who turn on their masters, or injure a neighbor, but here as in all other topics, we find the news media selling the news, rather than reporting it. Dogs (and wolf hybrids) are like people in this respect: who they turn out to be depends on how they are raised, and how much guidance and consideration they've been shown. With the two hybrids we have kept, we have never seen the slightest aggressive gesture towards people, their general reactions ranging from friendliness to indifference to wariness and departure. Actually, over 30 years, we've had many large dogs from malamutes to mutts, and have yet to have an aggressive dog, so we have to conclude that unwarranted aggressiveness is taught to dogs by masters, circumstances or both.

Consider the wildlife lover who loves the idea of having a "wolf", procures a wolf hybrid from a breeder, then discovers they can't keep him in the house, and they don't have room outside for a large escape-proof pen, never mind a suitable environment in which to exercise the animal. What you won't read in the sensationalized stories about hybrids, which occasionally run in the media, is that the hybrid ends up in the backyard on a chain (which they will almost certainly escape from), or a small enclosure, which frustrates the hybrid and teaches him to be defensive. The owner has a typically busy life, with tons of responsibility, which doesn't permit much time for the hybrid, who grows lonely, despondent, bored and finally, like any chained or constantly restrained dog, aggressive. Then one day, the chain breaks, or a stranger wanders into the yard.

While this doesn't happen often, and while attacks by wolf-hybrids represent an insignificant percentage of attacks by domestic dogs generally, the media never fails to pick up on these instances, since an attack by a dog which is part wolf is much more sensational than an attack by, say, a german shepherd or a lab. What happens much more frequently, and which you will never read about, is that many owners realize too late their mistake in procuring and failing to control a hybrid, and the animal ends up being quietly euthenized, or adopted by an overburdened hybrid rescue center.

It has to be added that there are unfortunately, some folks who want to have a hybrid, not because of romanticized notions about owning a piece of nature, but because they want a dangerous and intimidating dog. The mixing of wolf and canine genes will indeed result in a dog with, literally, a more powerful and dangerous bite potential, the fact remains that the higher the percentage of wolf in the hybrid, the more likely the hybrid will be wary and fearful of strangers, and therefore not as likely to be effective as a weapon for intimidation. Keep in mind that the alleged instances of verified attacks by wild wolves on people are so sketchy and infrequent, its pretty clear that wolves uniformly fear people, and leave the area when people are detected. Every wolf  I've seen in the wild, whether in Canada or Alaska, was fleeing at high speed. If you want to see wolves, go to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, seek out the wolf spotters, and they'll tell you where to look. Yellowstone has such long fields of vision, you should be able to see wolves at a distance.

If owning a wolf hybrid sounds like a situation for which you won't have enough free time, get a husky or a malamute. They're a lot like wolves, and they can live inside! Steve

Cree Puppy Shots

While we are on the subject......

How did we develop dogs out of wolves?

All dogs were unnaturally selected out of wolves. At the risk of caricaturing a long and complicated process that began over 100,000 years ago, what probably happened was kind of like the following: Wolves first experience with homo sapiens, Cro-Magnon hunter gatherers, was having their kills taken over by these behaviorally omnivorous humans, so unlike any other predator that we successfully could drive away wolf-size and smaller predators from their prey. At the same time, wolf packs patrolling their territories for prey must have encountered our crude nomadic gatherings, which consisted of little more than a large campfire, and temporary natural shelters. We also no doubt set up bone piles, collections of animal remains discretely deposited a hundred yards or so away from the fire, to draw off dangerous predators and scavengers, as it wasn't cool to eat meat off the bone, and then drop the bones ten feet from where you slept. Anatomically, we are frugivores still evolving into omnivores, and because our teeth were not so efficient at stripping meat off bones, we left a scavenger's treasure trove of good food at the bone pile, whose odor would also draw the fearsome short-faced bear (twice the size of a grizzly, as fast as a horse and a strict carnivore), saber-tooth cats, hyenas, dire wolves, etc. Out of pure economic self-interest, Gray Wolves became our unwitting early warning system for dangerous predators like the cats and bears, when they noisily defended the scrap-rich bone pile.

This was very likely the beginning of dogs, as it turned out that canids are not only emotionally transparent the way we are, but that wolf packs are structured very similarly to human families. (See http://www.adirondackwildlife.org/Wolf_Frolic_April_2010.html  Whenever someone says that wolves are like dogs, I usually point out that they have it backwards: dogs are like wolves.

Next step in the development of dogs, probably involved some of the bolder wolves, observing that the camp fires were the sources of the bone piles  started hanging around the camp fire,  probably taking direct hand-outs from bored teenagers.  Our ancestors no doubt also came upon orphaned wolf pups from time to time, and with their wilder brethren, these wolves grew up learning that scraps from the people around the campfire, or from the bone pile, would get them through periods of poor hunting. Finally, some of these wolves probably began shadowing or encountering human hunters. at a time when hunting large ungulates like buffalo and horse was incredibly dangerous and up close for our ancestors, with the bow-and-arrow still 50,000 years in the future. Large prey would be distracted by the presence of attacking and harassing wolves, making it much safer to slip in with our crude spears and clubs. Naturally, an animal who was wounded by human hunters might draw an immediate attack by the opportunistic wolves, seeking to capitalize on prey made more vulnerable by an attack by another hunter. This was probably followed by a  loud negotiation featuring threats and growls, over the spoils of the hunt. Over time, and I mean thousands of years, these disputes began to dissipate as it became clear to wolves and human hunters alike that, measured by the results, we made a pretty good team.

Wolves, as with most higher mammals, are like people in that they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Breeding like-to-like, or for specific physical and personality attributes, along with population isolation due to distance and the expanding and receding glaciation over the tens of thousands of years during which the Pleistocene began winding down, brought us the many varietes of modern dogs.

Final kicker? Not only did running the genomes prove that all dogs come from wolves, but the oldest DNA evidence of gray wolves becoming dogs, goes back 130,000 years, while the oldest archaeological evidence of dogs, i.e., no longer physically wolves, goes back only about 15 to 30,000 years, so the so-called history of humans with dogs may actually be more a history of humans with wolves. Ironically, our persecution of wolves with traps and firearms, both legal and illegal, has resulted in wolves being very wary of people, while also being the unwitting progenitors of our "best friends" Of several good books on how wolves became dogs, probably the best are Temple Grandin, "Animals Make us Human", and Mark Derr, "How the Dog became the Dog". Steve


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