The Physical Differences Between a Wolf & a Dog

Written by petra turnbull
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The Physical Differences Between a Wolf & a Dog
Wolves have physical features that distinguish them from a dog. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wolves and dogs share the same ancestors and have many similarities, even though one remained wild while the other became domesticated. There remain, however, several physical differences between a wolf and a dog.


The teeth are one of the most distinct differences between wolves and dogs. Both have the same amount of teeth, but the wolf's teeth are longer and they have stronger molars, which are used in killing and eating prey. Compared to dogs, the wolf's jaw is also substantially stronger, exerting as much as 680kg. per square inch of pressure, approximately twice as much as the jaw of a German shepherd.


Both wolves and dogs have two kinds of fur. Long hairs create an outer coat of fur, and a collection of softer, shorter hair builds the undercoat. In wolves, the undercoat grows thick during late autumn and winter to keep the wolf warm through the winter. Once a year, during spring, the wolf sheds its coat. Dogs shed during spring, but also shed in autumn. Some dogs, including the German shepherd, will shed all year long.

Body Structure

Wolves have a muscular, narrow chest, while dogs have wide chests in the shape of a barrel. Wolves generally have longer legs than dogs, which gives them a longer stride and enables them to walk longer distances than a domesticated dog. Due to its physiology, the wolf's back paw often lands in the print made by the front paw on the same side, which gives the impression of a straight line. Dogs are usually not able to align the hind legs to their front legs, and their tracks usually run in meandering zigzag lines.

Pre-Caudal Gland

Wolves carry a pre-caudal gland at the base of their tail, which enables them to mark other wolves within their pack. Domesticated dogs do not need the security of a pack, and the pre-caudal gland is absent in the dog species.


Female wolves only come into heat once a year, from February to March, while female dogs come into heat every 6 months, and are therefore able to give birth twice as often as the female wolf. While wolves regurgitate food for the young, dogs do not have this characteristic.

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