Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 1, 2018
Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid

Wolf dogs are hybrids between different wolf sub-species and domestic dogs, most commonly those that look like wolves such as the Alaskan Malamute, Husky or German shepherd and are bred as military dogs or for guarding purposes. You should know that although owning a purebred wolf in the United States and most countries, wolf dogs do not apply to this legislation and there are certain bureaucratic issues that arise. At AnimalWised we want to make clear if it is legal to own a wolf-dog, by explaining their nature, the difference between them and wolves, as well as explaining why it's not the best of ideas to have a wolf-dog as a pet.

You may also be interested in: What Are Hybrid Animals? - List And Examples

The history of the wolfdog

There is historical evidence that natural breeding between these two differentiated species (we remind you that dogs and wolves have the same ancestry that dates back to more than 30,000 years) occurred in Europe at least 10,000 years ago, where the first prehistoric wolf-dogs have been documented. There is also evidence of wolf dogs in paintings of the Teotihuacan civilization in Mexico, where this hybrid accompanied warriors.

Intentional wolf and dog hybridization did not begin until the XVIII century, when the British first bred what was then known as a Pomeranian (nothing to do with the Pomeranian as we know it today) and a wolf.

During the past decade, the urge to have an exotic pet and the rise in popularity of wolf-like aesthetics have led to crossing farm wolves bred for their fur with other popular wolf-like breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, Husky and German shepherd. Breeders will often cross wolfdog with wolfdog, but wolfdog- wolf forced breeding is still happening nowadays. According to the BCSPCA, cross-breeding a wolf and dog counteracts 12,000 years of domestication, which is why they cannot be classified as dog breeds and are not recognized as such by any dog foundation such as the FCI or AKC.

Hybrids or wolf ancestry?

As mentioned in the introduction, the definition of a wolf-dog is a hybrid between a common domestic dog (Canis Lupus) with either the gray (Canis lupus), red (Canis rufus), eastern timber (Canis lycaon) or Ethiopian wolf (Canis simenisis). However, this definition can sometimes be pretty blurry, as years of inbreeding only leave the breed with the wolf-like look due to their ancestry but cannot be classified as such. Generally, the amount of wolf content in a wolf-dog can be classified as follows:

  • 1-49% low Wolf Content
  • 50-74% mid Wolf Content
  • +75% high Wolf Content (basically a wolf with some dog traits)

As a general classification, they are classified by their filial number, i.e the number of generations bred, which means that F1 will mean that it has been a wolf and wolf-dog or dog cross, F2 means that they are a second generation of wolf-dogs that have been inbred and so on. Although the classification is pretty clear, their legitimate phenotyping to discover their content can hardly be traceable, as most genetic tests are not in the reach of the general public.

The fact that it is so difficult to trace their bloodline makes it difficult to determine if they are classified as wolf-dogs or not, making it pretty difficult to establish thorough legislation on the matter. Nevertheless, we'd like to remind you that hybridization does not blur wolf-like behavior in a wolf-dog, but is just an addition to the dog's genes. This means that a wolf-like behavior can occur in this type of dogs no matter how much wolf content they have if they have been inbred.

However, there are no official certificates even though breeders may say certificates are legitimate. In fact most experts say that most breeders sell dogs that just look like wolves but have little or no wolf content. This is due to the fact that these were crossed several centuries ago with wolves, which is what makes them have their wolf appearance, but are actually 100% dog breeds. These breeds are usually the following:

  • Saarloos wolfdog
  • Czechoslovakian wolf-dog (pictured below)
  • Lupo Italiano
  • Kunming wolfdog
  • German Shepherd
Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid - Hybrids or wolf ancestry?

Legislation and permits

Now that you know a bit more about the wolf-dog's genetic factors you'll better understand if wolf-dogs are illegal or not. The fact is that, although pure wolves are illegal to keep as a pet and are protected under endangered wildlife species regulation, the Federal Animal Welfare Act defines them as domestic dogs and are under the same regulations (as long as they are five generations away from their wolf ancestors). However, each state has their own policy on the subject. It is legal to own a wolf-dog in some states of the US.The following states consider them domestic animals depending on the percentage of their phenotype:

  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Oklahoma
  • Nebraska
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Minnesota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Due to a history of attacks in humans perpetrated by wolf-dogs[1], in some states they are restricted to private ownership, are subject to minimum standards for their enclosures and will be put down in the event of a bite. The following states have restricted policies and you should thus check each of the stat'es details:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Ohio
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Idaho
  • Maryland
  • North Dakota
  • Virginia
  • South Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Mississippi

In other states in the US, it is completely ilegal to own a wolf-dog as a privately owned pet. These are the following:

  • Michigan
  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusets
  • Georgia
  • New Hampshire
  • New York (unless you have a dangerous animal permit)
  • Rhode Island
  • Wyoming

In the UK, hybrid wolves are legal as pets as long as they are three generations away from the wolf, although they fall under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which means wolf-dogs require a licence if you want to keep them at home.

A Wolfdog's care and training

Now that you know if it's ilegal to own a wolf-dog, we'd like to pinpoint why, even though it is legal in many parts of the world to own one, a home may not be the most suitable environment for these species.

At AnimalWised we consider that, if someone is infatuated with a wolf-dog, it should be someone who lives in a very secluded place. Immense forests, endless winters, and in remote places far away from civilization.

Having a wolf-dog as a lapdog is a mistake that can be paid very expensively, beyond the economically exorbitant price they ask for them[2].

If, for whatever reason, a person decides to adopt a wolf-dog, he or she must have a thorough prior knowledge of all the circumstances and peculiarities surrounding the animal and should usually be a highly experienced dog owner.

A suitable environment for a wolf-dog

First of all, you should make sure that your country's and/or state legislation allows you to have possession of it. As we've seen, there are places where it is prohibited, or limited in its genetic makeup.

If it is possible to have it legally, it is very convenient that you live with dogs. Because in this way the wolf-dog will be better socialized. Ideally, dogs should be of the opposite sex and similar size. It is essential that the caregiver has extensive prior experience with dogs.The wolf-dog has a a sense of 'pack' that is far superior to that of dogs, and needs to live in a pack for mental balance. However, this means that the rest of the dogs should accept their position as the 'alpha male'. The issue of hierarchy, an essential element in herds. Surely in their puppy stage the wolf-dog will accept their caregiver as alpha male or female, but this acceptance does not necessarily have to be eternal. At a certain point in time, when the animal is an adult they can reconsider their hierarchy. It is a fact that may or may not happen. But if the wolf-dog decides to be the alpha member of the pack themselves, you will have a big problem.

The wolf-dog needs to be fed meat (1 or 2 kg daily). They wouldn't live with regular dog feed feed. Remember they are born hunters, which is why, even if they are properly fed, if left alone to roam around they will still hunt for prey due to their instinct. This is why it's recommended to never leave them unsupervised and to take them for a walk with a double leash. One attached to their harness and the other should be a slip lead just in case they get scared or startled by something they see or hear along the way.

The way in which wolf-dogs express their appreciation is very similar to that shown by pure wolves, and far away from the ways dogs show affection. After sniffing you, wolf-dogs will try to bring their jaws close to your mouth and lick your teeth. It's their normal way of recognizing you as a member of their pack. The problem is that if you don't complete the ritual and move your face away, the animal will feel that you don't recognize them, and will try to hold the face with their teeth to finish their greeting in order for you to lick their teeth too, as a member of the pack. Wolf packs greet each other with a kind of tongue kiss, as you can see.

Wolf-dogs make good friends with children, whom they also consider puppies in their herd. The problem is that if the animal considers that the child can be hurt, or entangled a lot, it will do exactly what they would do with a puppy of the same species: they will try to grab them with their teeth by the neck, or an arm, to take them elsewhere. Obviously, the child will become scared to death and probably get hurt.This is the main reason why you should never leave a wolf-dog alone with a child, especially if they are very young.

Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid - A Wolfdog's care and training

Wolf-dog care

In order to care for a wolf-dog, you must make sure you have a proper home for them to live happily and safely in. Wolf-dogs should have a wide space to live in and run around, as they need plenty of exercise, which is why it is recommended for those who live in the wilderness. While at home they will need an enclosure of 20 by 20 meters minimum and should have high fencing, as high and mid content wolf dogs have a tendency to escape. You should also care for their environmental enrichment, giving them plenty of trees and high objects they can jump and climb on. Moreover, they should also have plenty of toys to keep them entertained and happy and a shelter for them to sleep in and hide from the bad weather.

It is not recommended for the dog to be inside a house for most of the day, as they will surely destroy furniture and objects especially when left alone. You should remember that, no matter how much of a dog is in them, they still have a wild instinct and should therefore be provided with an environment that suits their needs.

In order to socialize a wolf-dog, it is highly important to start doing so at a very early stage, as soon as 10 days after birth, so they can come into contact with with their direct family, even though they will have to stay with their mothers. The right time to introduce them to their new home and environment is during the period between seven and a half and eight weeks of age. The process when they arrive at home will be to slowly introduce them to the new people they will be surrounded by: from the milkman, postman, children, etc...

A wolf-dog's health

Wolf-dogs will have a specific vaccination schedule they will have to undergo, especially to de-worm, avoid rabies, and other possible diseases that may affect them. This is why it is highly important to find a good vet that is specialized in this animal and that is willing to be their vet for life, which is sometimes a bit difficult, as many vets refuse to treat wolf-dogs. Although they do not have major canine diseases and are generally fairly health animals, they are prone to kennel cough, coccidia and giardia, which is why you should make sure they are properly attended by a professional throughout their whole life and not neglect their health.

If you want to read similar articles to Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

  • Although they can be loving pets, at AnimalWised we don't recommend adopting a wolf-dog as a pet unless you are highly educated in ethology and wolf behavior, cannot provide them with a suitable environment and/or don't have the time to dedicate to them.

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Ronnie leech
I owned 2 hybrid wolf's before and raised German Shepherd from Germany had 8 Shepherd's at 1 time my mom had a pure wolf when we were growing up never could take it to a vet I would love to get a pure bread black wolf when I move and get my farm a friend of mines wife had one she raised buffalo for the Indians in southern Maryland is it possible for me to get a pup wolf pup black
Chasitey Warnstaff
I have a wolf-dog. Now the father was full blooded European wolf and mom was a husky/lab mix. How much wolf is in my wolf-dogs puppies? And is it illegal to own them in Iowa?
half breed

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