The Difference Between a Wolf/Hybrid and a Dog
Would you raise a lion and call it your kitty, then expect it to grow and be the same pet as your house cat? I think most of my readers will answer with a definite "no." It's kind of funny to me how many people think they can take a wolf or hybrid and raise it as a normal dog.
I write this article after doing a lot of research about the dog versus the wolf and the hybrid. I personally had an experience back in Kansas with a hybrid that was turned loose in the small town where my family and I lived. This hybrid ended up being shot by the police in our neighbor's front yard. My wife and I witnessed it firsthand. We later learned that this animal was purposely turned loose in the countryside because the owner could not handle him. He worked his way into town only to be killed. It was a sad and tragic ending to this innocent hybrid's life, all because someone thought they could raise it as a dog.
This article will show you there is a huge difference between the dog and the wolf or hybrid. If anyone reads this article and still thinks a wolf or hybrid can be raised as a dog, you would only be fooling yourself.
Is the Hybrid Wolf the Same as a Dog?
The wolf is the ancestor of all breeds of domesticated dogs. Dogs may look like wolves and are very similar genetically, but the two differ vastly. The genetic structures of these two animals create hormonal changes that, in turn, create completely different behaviors.
Scientists believe that between 20,000 and 100,000 years ago, wolves started to slowly come around human encampments. Since that time, humans began the process of selective breeding, by choosing canines that were less aggressive, less skittish, less territorial, and lack the predatory nature of the wolf. Research has shown that canines (dogs) have the hormonal systems that offer ideal traits suitable for captivity. On the hand, the hormonal traits of wild canids (wolves) are very different. These hormonal differences cause a profound difference in the behavior between the two animals.
When you compare the two, the dog is vey similar to the adolescent wolf. During their adolescent years, wolves are playful. They can adapt and are able to form bonds with other species. Most importantly, they will readily take direction and are far less territorial and less predatory in nature. However, as the adolescent wolf reaches maturity at anywhere from 18 months to 3 years of age, a transition occurs. It will begin to show the typical behaviors of an adult wolf and will be next-to-impossible to handle in captivity.
Taxonomists recognize the dog as a subspecies of the wolf, and this is an undisputed fact. The genetic makeup of the two animals are very similar, but it is an extreme misconception to think that similar genetic makeup proves that the wolf and the dog are the same animals. They are not the same!
Those who argue that wolves and dogs are the same include hybrid breeders and enthusiasts. They feel this way because the two animals share common genetic material. Let's apply this same argument to a different species. For example, 98.4% of the genetic material in humans is identical to that found in chimpanzees. However, humans and chimpanzees bear no similarity. Now, would we consider crossbreeding humans with chimpanzees to create a different species? I know this is quite a comparison, but it is necessary to prove a point: we cannot have the best of both worlds by breeding a dog with a wolf.
Determining the Genetics of a Hybrid Wolf
A hybrid is the offspring of a cross between a wolf and a dog, a wolf and a hybrid, a dog and a hybrid, or two hybrids. Hybrids are often called wolf dogs. Genetics are the only way to determine how much wolf and dog is in a hybrid.
Genetics vs. Ancestry
A breeder may tell you that the hybrid they are selling you is 63% wolf and the rest is dog. This, however, is not true. Breeders will say this knowing full well that you will not be able to get a genetic testing. No accurate testing exists that can reveal the genetic makeup of a hybrid puppy, and unfortunately, it is the genetics and not the ancestry that determines the adult personality and behavior of a hybrid.
Most of the time, breeders determine percentage by looking at ancestry, but ancestry and genetics are not the same thing. You can easily determine the ancestry of the animal if the parent's ancestry is known, but it's impossible to determine the genetic makeup of offspring that result from breeding hybrids. Let me explain.
The offspring receives half of their genes from each parent. If a wolf breeds with a dog, the puppies will genetically be 50% wolf and 50% dog. If one of those pups grows up and mates with another hybrid, then by ancestry, the results would be 50% wolf and 50% dog. However, the genetics of the second-generation hybrids would be difficult to determine. Each parent passes on thousands of genes. The puppies' genetic makeup is unlikely to be one extreme or the other, so the pup may fall anywhere between 100% dog and 100% wolf. Therefore, any time you breed a hybrid with a canine, it could result in a genetic disaster.
Differences Between Wolves, Dogs, and Hybrids
Looks and behaves almost exactly like wolves
Lower percentage ones will act more like dogs
Large feet and long legs
Shorter (depending on breed)
Never have floppy ears
Some breeds have floppy ears
Tail never curls
Tail can curl
Breeds once a year
Breeds twice a year
Only gives birth during spring or early summer
Gives birth at any time of the year
Wolves have a natural drive that makes it extremely, if not impossible, to deal with when they living in captivity. Training does not eliminate this natural behavior.
Although some dogs may at times display a similar behavior to wolves, these behaviors have been markedly altered through selective breeding in most dogs. With wolves and hybrids, however, these behaviors are strongly expressed. Not only is it unrealistic for humans to expect these animals to suppress their natural instinct, it is also inhumane.
Dominance: Wolf vs. Human and Wolf vs. Dog
Dogs, hybrids, and wolves will all accept the human as the dominant one. In the wild, the wolf learns to survive by its willingness to submit to the dominant pack members.
Wolves sexually mature by the end of their second year of life. This is about the time the wolf starts to challenge the elder wolves for the dominant role. The wolf has a very strong ambition to become dominant because only the strongest female and male members of the pack get to breed. Thus, if a dominant wolf shows any signs of weakness, it may be attacked by a subordinate younger wolf.
Wolf vs. Human
In captivity, a wolf or a hybrid views the human as the "alpha." They constantly look for clues of weakness so they can dominate the alpha. If the "alpha" human were to show signs of fatigue, frustration, or even a mild injury, it could set off a dominance battle. Of course, this could end up being fatal.
Wolf vs. Dog
The same dominance battles will also occur between wolves, hybrids, and canines. In the wild, the subordinate wolf could just leave the battle. But in the confines of an enclosure, leaving the battle is not an option, and captive animals could seriously injure or kill one another.
Normal social manners for wolves and hybrids are to lick each others' faces, bite each others' muzzles, or even straddle each other to show of dominance. These animals weigh in at about 100-pounds when grown, so the battles can look ugly.
Things That Encourage Predatory Responses in the Hybrid Wolf
- A screaming child
- A running child
- A stumbling or crying child
- An injury that shows signs of weakness
- Extreme fatigue and clumsiness
This type of predatory response can occur even if the wolf or the hybrid has been good with children up to this point. Once this type of predatory response has been triggered, the animal will always see the child as prey. This is genetics folks!
- Smaller dogs
- Other domesticated animals
Signs of Territoriality
The wolf pack will drive off or kill wolves that trespass into their territory. This assures that there will not be other wolves competing for prey. This genetically-embedded behavior does not change in captivity. This is why the wolf or hybrid becomes extremely aggressive with strange dogs.
Signs That They Are Marking Their Territory
- Scent marking (can occur anywhere, even inside the home)
- Excessive shyness
You should be aware that wolf and hybrid jaws are powerful enough to crush the femur bone of extremely large animals, such as the buffalo. If they decide that something of yours is for their chewing pleasure, discipline will not help you get the item back. Any attempt to take the item could result a serious in bite.
Note: They need a lot of daily exercise — a minimum 3 to 4 hours each day, preferably at dawn and dusk because these are their most active times. Without this daily stimulation, there will be non-stop pacing, digging, and howling.
Wolf and/or Hybrid Training
They are capable of learning commands, however, don't count on them to obey these commands. If they become bored, frightened, or feel endangered, you can forget about obedience. When they are young, they will obey you because in the wild, they instinctively obey their elder pack members. But, as adults, their independent nature will overpower their urge to obey commands. If you and the wolf try to dominate one another, it could turn into a dangerous game.
Wolves and Hybrids as Pets
There have been many stories circulating over the years about how hybrids make wonderful pets. All this means is that very little wolf genetics were inherited. Furthermore, everyone's idea of a good pet is different. Also, with most of these stories, we never hear about these animals when they are adults. Research proves that most hybrids in captivity are abandoned when they get older. But even if one hybrid makes a good pet, it does not mean they are all good pets. This is called aberrant behavior. It's not normal for a wolf or hybrid to make a good pet, and nor should it be expected.
Maturity in Hybrids
Studies show that the average age of privately owned hybrids was much lower than the average age of privately owned dogs. This is because as hybrids mature, they become more difficult to handle due to their natural predatory nature. The average age at which they mature is about 18 months to 2 years of age. It is at this age that they start to show signs of aggressiveness or even extreme shyness. If the hybrid's genetics are high on the wolf side, you will see a drastic change in behavior at about 2 years of age.
Hybrids or Wolves as Watch Dogs
Wild wolves that are non-dominant in their pack will hang back during intrusions and in threatening situations. The alpha wolves of the pack will decide what needs to be done. In captivity, the human is the alpha of the pack. Because the hybrid or the wolf you have is the non-dominant one, it will hang back and let you handle the situation, and therefore, will not make a good watch dog.
Intelligence Levels of Wolves/Hybrids vs. Dogs
Many think that the wolf or hybrid is more intelligent than the dog. Wolves and hybrids learn better through mimicry, whereas the dog learns better through abstract commands.
Comparing their intelligence levels is difficult because the intelligence displayed in one environment may not be the same in another environment. Wolves, for example, have evolved to solve problems in the wild, while dogs have evolved to solve problems associated with humans. Neither of these two animal species deals very well with problems they encounter outside of their environment.
Normally, crossbreeding dogs does not result in an overwhelming amount of health problems. Some of the few most common health problems are:
- Hip Displasia
- More prone to eye infections
I might add, these issues are often the result of ignorant breeding practices. A simple solution is simply not to crossbreed.
Neutering the Hybrid or Wolf
Neutering should certainly be done at a young age, if possible. Neutering may lower the intensity of their attempts to become dominant. You will notice that neutering really only helps with their behavior during the mating season.
A Closing Statement
Ask any longtime breeder of hybrids and they will tell you that a hybrid is not for everyone. If you take one on as a pet, you must be prepared to handle it much differently than you would a dog.
Don't expect your relationship with the hybrid to be a master-pet relationship like it is with a dog. It cannot be expected to be obedient, and it is not a good family pet. Hybrids are not and should not be considered a dog; they are in essence a wolf.
In closing, I hope this article has been interesting, if not, at least informative. A lot of research and study was put into this article. Many portions were also based on years of professional studies about wolves and hybrids by experts in the field. I would love to see some comments and discussion about this topic. Please let me know if you have any questions.