About Keeping a Wolf as a Pet

Written by contributing writer
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If man's best friend seems too tame for you and you think you're ready for a pet wolf, wolf hybrid or wolf dog, read on. There are an estimated 300,000 wolf-dogs living, prowling and howling in the United States. Many have been abandoned, surrendered or euthanized by people who did not look into the facts before they leapt into the wolf den.

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Types

When researching pet wolves, you will come across the terms "wolf hybrid" and "wolf-dog." The term "wolf hybrid" is technically incorrect, since dogs were officially reclassified as a subspecies of wolf in 1993. The term "wolf-dog" is now commonly used to describe a dog with any wolf heritage within the last five generations. The most common breeds for the "dog" part of a wolf-dog are German shepherds, Huskies and Malamutes. The amount of wolf in a wolf-dog is usually expressed as a percentage. The most common method for determining this percentage is to add together the "known" percentages of wolf in a pup's parents and divide the total by two to get the percentage of wolf in the pup.

History

Intentional crossbreeding of wolves with dogs began in the 1920s with the Saarlooswolfhond. Hoping to create a stronger and more resilient German shepherd, one that was immune to distemper, Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos crossbred a male German Shepherd with a female Eurasian Wolf. Although he did not succeed in ridding his dogs of distemper, Saarloos did create a strong, intelligent and reserved breed that, like wolves, barks rarely and comes "into season" only once a year. Today, a purebred Saarlooswolfhond can cost up to £1,300.

Features

Wolves generally weigh between 36.3 and 45.4 Kilogram. Wolfdogs tend to be taller and heavier than the wolves or dogs of their ancestry. This tendency is termed "hybrid vigor." Wolves need space to roam. A wolf's natural territory ranges from 50 to 150 square miles. Wolves are highly social, and it is preferable to have at least two instead of one lone wolf. Wolves need meat. Plan on feeding a wolf 2 to 5lbs. of fresh meat each day. They also appreciate munching on bones, skin and fur. When building an enclosure for a wolf, fences should be at least 6 feet high with an overhang at the top and an inside skirt buried underground to prevent tunnelling. Wolves can live for 15 years. Having a wolf as a pet is a long-term commitment.

Misconceptions

While most criminals probably would not want to cross paths with a wolf, wolves and high-percentage wolf-dogs do not make good watchdogs. They are timid, bark rarely and should not be counted on to protect you from or alert you to danger. Wolves don't bark much but they do howl, and not just once a month at a full moon. Wolves can howl at any time of the day or night. Depending on weather conditions, that howl can be heard up to 10 miles away. Wolves are related to dogs and they look a lot like dogs but they are not dogs. They do not have the dog's desire to please humans. They do not house train easily--or at all. Their prey instinct is stronger. Their jaw pressure is twice that of a German shepherd.

Warning

If you are seriously considering acquiring a wolf or wolf-dog as a pet, check with your local animal control agency now. Many states require a special license, impose restrictions or simply ban the keeping of wolves as pets. Make sure that you will be able to get medical care for your pet wolf. Many veterinarians are not willing or able to treat wolves. A wolf or wolf-dog should never be left alone with a small child. High-pitched sounds and sudden movements--typical childlike behaviour--will trigger the wolf's prey instinct.

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