Is it Legal to Own a Wolf-Dog? Find out Everything about this Hybrid
Wolfdogs 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. They are often bred as military dogs or for guarding purposes. Although owning a purebred wolf in the United States and most countries is often prohibited, wolfdogs do not apply to the same legislation. Still, certain bureaucratic issues can arise. At AnimalWised we want to make clear if it is legal to own a wolf-dog, by explaining their nature, especially their differences compared to wolves. We also explain why it's not always the best idea to have a wolf-dog as a pet.
Is it legal to own a wolf?
Before we look into wolf-dog hybrids, there are some people who are seriously looking into whether it is possible to have a wolf as a pet. Perhaps this highlights the recent popularization of keeping wild-animals as companion animals. We may see videos online of humans interacting with wildlife in a way which implies co-habitation is possible. However, there are many reasons why this may not be the case.
One of the most important complications involved in keeping wolves as pets is to do with legality. There are few places in the world where keeping a wolf as a pet is legal. When this does occur, it is usually only when the owner has specific permits which are difficult to obtain. However, this will depend on different factors, one of the most important is where you live.
For example, in the state of Nevada, it is legal to own and transport wolves without a permit. Still, it is not quite that simple. The wolf needs to have been reared in captivity for the express purpose of being kept as a companion animal for humans. This goes to show that whether a wolf id legal depends on various factors and there is no blanket answer to the question.
What can be asserted in most cases is that keeping a wolf as a pet is a bad idea. Wolves are wild animals which need to be very carefully reared to be able to socialize with humans from the time they are a puppy. Even if this happens, their wild nature is difficult to handle and they can be aggressive with strangers even if they are docile with family.
Practically, wolves need a lot of space and very specific care requirements in terms of feeding, training and more. If they don't receive the right care, their well-being and any humans around them can be compromised. For this reason, many people look to wolf-dog hybrids to see if they can keep an animal which is a domestic animal, but maintains certain wolf-like traits.
The history of the wolfdog
Dogs and wolves have the same ancestry that dates back more than 30,000 years. There is historical evidence that natural breeding between these two differentiated species occurred in Europe at least 10,000 years ago. This is 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 18th century, when the British first bred a wolf with what was then known as a Pomeranian (nothing to do with the Pomeranian as we know it today).
During the past decade, the urge to have an exotic pet and the rise in popularity of wolf-like aesthetics have led to crossing wolves bred for their fur with other popular wolf-like breeds. Such breeds include the Alaskan Malamute, Alaskan Husky and German Shepherd. Breeders will often cross wolfdog with another wolfdog, but wolfdog-wolf forced breeding still occurs today. According to the BCSPCA (British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), cross-breeding a wolf and dog counteracts 12,000 years of domestication. This 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.
Wolf-dog 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. Years of inbreeding only leave the breed with the wolf-like appearance 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% medium wolf content
- +75% high wolf content (basically a wolf with some dog traits)
As a general classification, they are given a 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 is practically untraceable, 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 whetherthey are classified as wolf-dogs. This makes 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 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 for wolf-dogs. Breeders may say certificates are legitimate, but if this is the case, it is a sure sign they are unscrupulous. In fact, many 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. They have a wolf-like appearance, but are actually 100% dog. These breeds are usually the following:
- Saarloos Wolfdog
- Czechoslovakian wolf-dog (pictured above)
- Lupo Italiano
- Kunming wolfdog
- German Shepherd
In what states is it legal to own a wolf hybrid?
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. Pure wolves are illegal to keep as a pet and are protected under endangered wildlife species regulation. The Federal Animal Welfare Act defines wolf-dogs as domestic animals and are under the same regulations as many other breeds (as long as they are five generations away from their wolf ancestors). This takes breed specific legislation one-step further.
However, each state in the United States of America has their own policy on the subject. For this reason, it is legal to own a wolf-dog in some US states. The following states consider them domestic animals depending on the percentage of their phenotype:
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
However, just because a specific state doesn't have legislation regarding the legality of wolfdog hybrids, doesn't mean each country within that state doesn't. For example, in North Carolina hybrids are illegal in Durham County, but not necessarily in other counties.
Due to a history of attacks in humans perpetrated by wolf-dogs, in some states they are restricted to private ownership. The hybrids 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 check each of the state's details:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
In other states in the US, it is completely illegal to own a wolf-dog as a privately owned pet. These are the following:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New York (unless you have a dangerous animal permit)
- Rhode Island
In the UK, hybrid wolves are legal as pets as long as they are three generations away from the wolf. 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 illegal to own a wolf-dog, we'd like to pinpoint why, even when 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 the needs of the dog. If someone has an interest in keeping a wolf-dog somewhere it is not illegal, it should be someone who lives in a very secluded place. Immense forests, endless winters, and in remote places far away from civilization.
A wolf-dog is not a lapdog. Thinking they are is a mistake that can be paid very expensively, beyond the economically exorbitant price they ask for them. If you live on a suburban street or in a city, the wolf-dog will not only have a diminished quality of life. They will be more prone to behavioral issues and can pose a serious security risk to local residents.
If, for whatever reason, a person decides to adopt a wolf-dog, they must have a thorough prior knowledge of all the behavioral traits and care requirements concerning the animal. For this reason, only highly experienced dog guardians should even consider a wolf-dog as a pet.
Suitable environments for a wolf-dog
First of all, you should make sure that your country and/or state legislation allows you to have possession of it. As we've seen, there are places where it is illegal or limited by its genetic makeup.
If it is possible to own one legally, it is best if you live with dogs. 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 their 'pack' which is far superior to that of dogs. They need to live in a pack for mental balance.
However, this means the rest of the dogs should accept the wolfdog's position as the 'alpha dog'. The issue of hierarchy is an essential element in packs. Surely in their puppy stage the wolf-dog will accept their caregiver as alpha male or female, but this acceptance does not necessarily last forever. At a certain point when they are adult, the wolfdog can reconsider their hierarchy. . This will not always 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 survive with regular dog food. Remember, they are born hunters. 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. it is not the same as how other canine breeds 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. They may try to hold your face with their teeth to finish their greeting in order for you to lick their teeth too. Doing so will confirm you as a member of the pack. Wolf packs greet each other with this kind of tongue kiss.
Wolf-dogs can socialize with children, whom they also consider puppies in their pack. The problem is when the animal considers the child to be hurt or in trouble. If this happens, they will do exactly what they would do with a puppy of their own species. They will try to grab them with their teeth by the neck or arm to take them elsewhere. Obviously, the child will become scared and probably be injured. This is the main reason why you should never leave a wolf-dog alone with a child, especially if they are very young.
Caring for a wolfdog
In order to care for a wolf-dog, you must make sure you have a proper home for them to live happily and safely. Wolf-dogs should have a vast space to live and run around in. They need plenty of exercise, which is why it is recommended for those who live in rural areas. While at home they will need an enclosure of 20 by 20 meters minimum and should have high fencing. Tall and medium-sized wolfdogs have a tendency to escape.
You should also care for their environmental enrichment, giving them plenty of trees and high objects on which they can jump and climb. Moreover, they should also have plenty of toys to keep them entertained and happy. They require a shelter for them to sleep 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 likely destroy furniture and objects especially when left alone. No matter how much of dog genes they have, 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. This way they can come into contact with with their direct family, even though they will have to stay with their mothers for feeding. The right time to introduce them to their new home and environment is during the period between seven 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: 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. They should be willing to be their vet for life. This 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 healthy animals, they are prone to kennel cough, coccidia and giardia, which is why you should make sure they are properly attended by a professional.
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. Only those highly educated in ethology and wolf behavior, can provide them with a suitable environment. Even then, encouraging wolfdogs as pets supports unscrupulous and dangerous breeding. It is also n
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