Research is important before adopting any pet, but especially so for German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) and wolves. If you are reading this article, chances are you are either considering or have just adopted a GSD-wolf mix, also known as a wolf dog.
The full extent of personality traits and training along with legal and health implications of owning a GSD-wolf mix is beyond the scope of this article, but hopefully this will give you a starting point to direct further research. One of the best resources is to find others who own or have owned wolf mixes and GSDs.
This will help you understand the unique qualities of both of these bloodlines and get a better grasp of the requirements your new puppy may need. Another good resource is wildlife education groups that can give information on a wolf’s natural instincts and habits in the wild.
Anyone that has ever owned a GSD can tell you they are literally a breed apart. German Shepherds have a rich history of interaction with humans, much of in the context of protection and performing a job first and being a pet second.
They are highly intelligent, energetic and very powerful dogs. Many are shy when it comes to meeting strangers, preferring the company of one or two special people in their household. Wolves are very similar in some ways. They are less adept at being guard dogs as they are even more shy and fearful of people, but they are still very intelligent and powerful and pack oriented.
Because of the characteristics of both sides of the bloodline, your puppy will likely require special understanding of pack mentality and socialization training no matter how much “wolf” is in his bloodline.
One of the first things to consider before getting a GSD-wolf mix is the legality of owning such a dog. Many states have outlawed the ownership of wolf-mixes outright. Others have left the legality of such up to the local governments. While some places do not outlaw ownership, many have stricter requirements for owning these dogs than other breeds of domestic dogs. Some of these require special licensing and registration and may even specify habitat requirements.
Even if your state or local government does not have any laws or requirements regarding the ownership of a wolf-hybrid dog, you can still run into trouble. Wolf-hybrids are often banned from housing areas such as apartments or communities governed by homeowners associations. Be sure to investigate these areas as well before acquiring a wolf-hybrid as a pet. Do your research and make sure you are willing to take on not only the emotional responsibility but the legal responsibility of owning such an animal.
3. Cost and Fraud
A big component of the decision to acquire a GSD-wolf mix is cost. These puppies are not cheap and if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Expect to spend anywhere from $700 to $3000 for a wolf-cross puppy. Beware that many breeders advertise their puppies as wolf mixes but in reality they are GSDs mixed with Malamutes, Huskies or some other “Nordic” breed.
Often these breeders are breeding wolf-look puppies rather than wolf-crossed puppies. Again, if you truly want a GSD-wolf mix, do your research before buying.
Ask questions. What is the generation of the puppies (F2, F3, etc.) in relation the original GSD-wolf mix (F1 generation)? Does the puppy’s age coincide with the natural breeding season of a wolf? Does the breeder have the parents and any other generations on premises? Be aware that there are no official registries for wolf breeds so any registration certificates are likely worth only the paper they are printed on.
4. Health and Medical Concerns
The health concerns for wolf-hybrids are no different than for any other breed of dog. Wolves and domestic dogs are susceptible to the same diseases and parasites. Aging related changes are similar for both as well. It is important to know the health and conformation of as much of your puppy’s lineage as possible in order to help predict what problems may occur down the line.
GSDs do have medical issues that seem to be prevalent in the breed. Hip dysplasia is probably the most well-known but there are a host of other issues that are common. GSDs are prone to certain types of cancers and neurologic issues. Talk to a vet or reputable breeder about common medical disorders to get an idea of what to look for when picking your puppy.
Preventive health care is as important for GSD-wolf hybrids as for any other dog. Routine exams and parasite screening are important. Your veterinarian will provide recommendations for routine care as your pet ages.
Controversy surrounds the vaccination of wolves and wolf-dog mixes. Most veterinarians recommend vaccination even though it is considered off-label as there is no research or proof that dog vaccines work in wolves. There is evidence from wolves kept in cavity, such as in zoos and other wildlife parks, that vaccines do provide protection.
The biggest concern again is the legality of vaccine status in wolves and wolf mixes. Mostly this applies to the Rabies vaccine. Usually there will be some stance on the legality of Rabies vaccination included in your local laws on the ownership of wolf-dog mixes.
It is important to realize that GSD-wolf mixes are not just mixed breed dogs. Despite the similarity of their genetic makeup, wolves are much difference from the domesticated dogs. Dogs are genetically hard-wired to live with people and to adapt to their social norms.
Wolves on the other hand are hard-wired to be wild animals – constantly alert to danger and hunting for food. A wolf-hybrid is an unpredictable mix of these two opposite dichotomies. As stated earlier, GSDs have a personality of their own. Just as there are variations between the personalities of siblings within a family, there will be variations between individual puppies within a breed or even a litter.
The importance of this is that when training your puppy, you have to understand the characteristics of both sides of the lineage and interpret that into a training approach. Both “breeds” are highly intelligent and able to learn, but their motivation to do something is much different. Whereas dogs have an innate desire to please bred into them through hundreds of generations, wolves have a short attention span and will often stop listening when they become bored of the task.
The challenge is to keep your puppy intellectually stimulated and interested. If you have limited experience in training dogs, it is a good idea to find a reputable trainer to help early on before your puppy develops bad habits that will be even harder to correct. A good idea is to find a trainer that specializes in working with GSDs or Nordic dogs or a trainer that works with military or police dogs. It wouldn’t hurt to consult with trainers and handlers of wolves as well. If you can find someone well-versed in the training of wolf-dog mixes, ask him or her for advice and tips.
Just as in deciding to have a child, the decision to get a puppy will involve major lifestyle changes. This is especially true with GSD-wolf mixes. A GSD-wolf puppy requires a large time commitment, especially early on. If you travel a lot and cannot take your puppy with you, you may want to reconsider getting a GSD-wolf. Because of their sensitive nature, a GSD-wolf puppy may not do well with spending large amounts of time in the company of strangers without you present.
Consistency is the key when training and socializing a puppy. Your puppy needs to recognize you and other family members as his pack and he needs to understand his status within the pack. Without this consistency it will be hard for him to adapt and handle new situations.
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Your puppy is high energy and intelligent. This is a dangerous combination for a puppy that is bored and left alone. Puppies that do not have appropriate mental stimulation and physical exercise can be a destructive force on your home. Be sure to spend lots of time with your puppy in a playing and training situation and give him an area to run and explore safely.
In addition, puppy-proof your home to protect your belongings from destruction and your puppy from ingesting something dangerous. If your puppy is to be given unsupervised time in a yard, be sure the fences are high and sturdy. GSDs and wolves are very adept at climbing and digging and if something interests them outside of the fence, they will work diligently to get to it.
As stated in the beginning, this is not a comprehensive list of considerations when adopting a GSD-wolf mix. There are many other aspects to consider. My hope is this will give you a starting point to continue your research. The more you know before adopting a puppy, the better prepared you are to prevent problems and take care of others when they arise. Good luck with your new puppy!
About the Author:
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats.