Can Dogs Mate with Wolves?

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Introduction

Exalted as a spiritual icon, the majestic wolf has a hypnotic effect on humans and it’s hard for some to comprehend that they are the ancestors of our companion dogs. It’s written into folklore that many moons ago, wolves connected with early-man first, and from this unexpected union, the family pooch was born. 

Centuries of breeding inspired by the ability of dogs to herd and guard sheep saw hundreds of unique breeds created for work and friendship. The split was definitive and a new species walked the earth known as "dog", until wolves were mated with their offspring to create wolf-dogs.

Signs a Wolf and Dog can Mate

Dogs have been bred to be friendly, fun-loving pals who can hang out with the kids and not try to eat the other mutts at the local dog park. Mass interbreeding has seen the wolf genes squeezed out of our woofers as they are more akin to each other than their wolfy forefathers.

It seems people couldn’t get enough of pedigree and designer dogs, so now we have a nation of wolf-dogs that, in some states, incite fear into the hearts of man. It is hardly surprising, as dogs have been reasonably tamed over thousands of years while wolves still roam in packs and are highly predatory.

Dogs and wolves are inter-fertile, which means they can mate freely with each other and their pups can be more like a wolf or dog in character, depending on the dog breed. To aid in the definition, wolf-dogs are seen to have high, mid, or low content in relation to the characteristics and traits of a wolf. For example, a wolf mated with an Alaskan Malamute is sure to result in higher levels of wolf-like puppies, while a mating with a Poodle could end with more dog-like young.

Wolf Woofers will wag their tail, howl, bob their head, and chew like any family pooch. If threatened, they'll bare their teeth, growl, and stare down the barrel of the opposing mutt. Our dogs are still distant cousins to the wolf, so their body language has a lot in common. High content hybrids probably won’t bark, much but watch your garden in the backyard, as they love to scratch and dig. The same goes for your home, as the hybrid may surprise you with their canny ability to get into the fridge and demolish this week’s groceries.

Mating a wild wolf with a mutt that likes hanging out with their pet-dad in the man cave could be a recipe for something great - or a puppy with a high prey drive that looks hungrily at the cat. Junior wolf hybrids are renowned for mouthing and nipping, so caution is recommended around children.

Body Language

Signs a wolf-dog can have similar traits to a dog include:
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Howling
  • Head bobbing
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Signs a wolf-dog can have the characteristics of the wolf are:
  • High prey drive
  • Aggression
  • Nipping
  • Mouthing
  • Cunning behaviour

History of the Wolf-Dog

Somewhere between 14,000 and 30,000 years past, Canis lupus amalgamated with homo sapiens to become hunters extraordinaire. Whether it was initially accidental or predetermined by man, a barking-mad creature referred to as Canis familiaris placed its paws firmly on planet earth.

In the eyes of all dog owners, this monumental moment was possibly mankind’s greatest achievement. Our lives have been enriched by these magical mutts that can read our emotions and alert us to illness, but sadly, humans are never satisfied. They bred out most of the predatory, aggressive behaviors of the wolf only to rekindle the wilderness theme with a new version called wolf-dog.

According to Science Mag, the early residents of Zhokhov Island, Siberia may have been the first people to breed dogs for work purposes. They needed a way to get across the ice and snow, so dogs were bred to pull their sleds. Archeologists found evidence of dogs dating back 9000 years. They also found the remnants of a wolf-dog hybrid, showing this style of interbreeding was going on as pooches were being domesticated.

Macro Evolution tells us that Edward Topsell, the author of “The History Of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents” released in 1604 talks about the Mastiff dog being a product of a wolf and dog mating. Remains were also found of this breed in an archeological dig at the ancient Teotihuacan city, Mexico. Wolf-dog breeding was recorded in Great Britain as far back as 1776, when it was said a Pomeranian mated with a wolf.

Looks like wolves had the last say in the matter of dogs, as it turns out German Shepherds (or GSDs) may have an influence of wolf-dog in their strain. A German dog breeder name Max von Stephanitz acquired a top GSD show dog named Hector Linksrhein and began a breeding program that highlighted mating with their ancestors. Entries in the original German Shepherd studbook show evidence of four wolf-crosses.

The Saarloos Wolfhound is a hybrid that was originally bred by geneticist Leendert Saarloos in the 1930’s. This discerning Dutch breeder mated a female wolf from a local zoo with a male German Shepherd, in a bid to create the X–Factor working dog. The breed was recognized in 1975 by the Dutch Kennel club and today, this wolf-dog cross is a popular companion pup in Holland and America.

In the 1950's. a military experiment saw wolves mated with dogs in Czechoslovakia. The mission was to provide guard dogs for their border throughout the cold war.

The Science of Wolf-Dogs

When Science began studying the family mutt, many folks began looking at their pooch in a different light. For too long, skeptics and supposed philosophic minds had dissed the dog as a mindless mutt - only good at taking orders.

Today we know better, as dogs are making a name as the best sniffers on earth and help the police, military, and mentally impaired. They are inspirational in the way they can detect cancer or empathize with our saddest moments. The domesticated dog is a prodigy of mankind and a unique species that we evolved. Wolf-dogs are man's desire to instill more of the wild wolf back into the Beagle, Bichon or Collie.

Although there are 500,000 plus wolf-dogs in the US, many states deem them illegal. The British Columbia SPCA believes this style of breeding undermines over 14,000 years of domestication and puts the purity of the wolf breed at risk. They are right, and wherever there is a buck to be made, you’ll find mercenary folks looking to exploit animals, regardless of the evolutionary holocaust that could occur.

Genetically, your French Bulldog is more attuned to a Labrador than a wolf, but the wolf-woofer combo is a different story. The mix of wolf and dog makes for an unpredictable outcome and controversy reigns with some saying it should not be encouraged.

Wolves mate once a year and the cubs are born in early spring. Female dogs come on heat twice a year, while a male pooch is capable of impregnating another dog at any time. Wolf-dogs can take on the breeding stance of either wolf or pooch. Changes in a wolf-dog behavior during breeding time can be perilous for those who try to intervene. Some hybrid owners have said when their wolfy-mutt reached puberty, they became aggressive.

The wild wolf side is sure to win out as they look for a mate. This is how abandoned, lost or feral dogs are impregnated by wolves.

Training a Wolf-Dog

The founder of Howling Woods Farm says training a wolf-dog depends on the amount of wolf content the hybrid has. Michael Hodanish built this sanctuary out of affection for this breed, knowing they were too often euthanized at animal shelters. He explains that mid to low hybrids can be trained as you would a domesticated dog, while those with a ton of wolfy genes can have an innate fear of humans that could make training a challenge.

According to Wolf Park, the vision some people have of owning a hybrid is romanticized by something they may have seen online or TV. The reality is that this animal may have all the characteristics of a wild wolf.  They are adamant that high content hybrids need to be taken from the mother at two weeks of age and bottle fed by people. They should then be weaned onto a meat diet similar to what a wolf would eat. This can be an expensive venture, with much time needed to carefully socialize the pups with dogs and the outside world. These pups are sensitive and could be easily stressed if they are forced to do things too soon.

When training begins, a positive reinforcement program is highly recommended with no punishment involved. Hybrids should be leashed at all times and trained for 3-10 minutes every couple of days. Wolf Park says "buyer beware", as this hybrid is not a dog and will demand a lot of time and energy. A hybrid with a high wolf content will have a strong prey-drive, so kids running around could spark their hunting instincts.

No matter how well you train your high-content hybrid, you have to be aware the wolf genes may prove too hard to control. People who take on this breed are not always aware what’s required of them and should do their homework before taking on a wolf-dog.

Safety Tips for Owning a Wolf-Dog:

  • Never leave a wolf-dog alone with a baby or small children.
  • Keep them leashed when in public.
  • Socialize your wolf-dog puppy.
  • Find out what you need to know about keeping this breed.
  • Read helpful articles about other owners of wolf-dogs.
  • Get professional training advice from someone that works with this breed.
  • Check if it is legal in your state to have a wolf-dog.
  • Be aware a wolf-dog with high wolf content could have a strong prey-drive.