What to Know About Wolfdogs and Wolf-Dog Hybrids

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 22, 2022
4 min read

A wolfdog is a canine animal with a mixture of wolf and dog ancestry. They can be very unique-looking animals, and their dog-like appearance makes them seem easy to keep. Yet, owning a wolf-dog hybrid is challenging, as they are large animals that can turn aggressive if not taken care of correctly. Here’s what you need to know.

Wolfdogs, also called wolf-dog hybrids, are animals that are part wolf and part dog. Both species share an evolutionary past, making them very physically and behaviorally similar. This shared ancestry has also allowed them to be interfertile — meaning that they produce viable offspring when they breed.

It’s important to know that there isn’t a breed standard for wolfdogs. Instead, wolfdog enthusiasts utilize the term “content” to refer to the wolf-to-dog genetic ratio of a specific animal. For example, a low-content wolf-dog hybrid will display more dog traits than wolf traits, both physically and behaviorally. If you’re considering getting a wolfdog, make sure to ask the breeder for more information about their animal's content.

Wolfdogs are almost exclusively a consequence of human intervention in dog-wolf interactions. Experts suggest that, in nature, wolfdogs are extremely rare, as wolves are territorial and monogamous animals. As such, they usually won’t react well to dogs being near them or their territory.

Many people seek to get a wolf-dog hybrid for security purposes, as they believe that a wolf will be able to defend them better than an average dog. Others, instead, simply want to get a wolfdog for its looks. Yet, experienced wolfdog enthusiasts point out that wolf-dog hybrids won’t always live up to expectations.

In fact, wolfdogs usually make for worse guard animals than most dog breeds. Plus, wolves aren’t domesticated animals — meaning that wolfdogs won’t usually be as friendly and docile as dogs.

When getting a wolfdog as a pet, it’s crucial to always remember that you’ll be dealing with a partially wild animal. Although you may be tempted to think that these canines have the same behavioral traits as a dog, their wolf-like conduct will eventually appear. At that point, many owners will find the animal hard to manage.

Moreover, keep in mind that wolves are social creatures by nature. Therefore, wolfdogs will miss that much-needed interaction with the pack when kept in captivity, which could affect the animal’s behavior.

The difficult behavioral traits of wolfdogs make them hard to manage for uninformed owners that haven’t properly researched these canines. Wolfdogs can cause problems due to their partially-undomesticated nature. Consequently, many wolf-dog hybrids end up living in deplorable conditions, often spending their adult lives in small cages. Even then, the behavioral traits of wolfdogs can still cause many problems. As such, keeping a wolfdog should only be attempted by veteran well-informed canine enthusiasts.

Wolfdogs aren’t easy animals. Their partially-wild nature makes them somewhat exotic animals that require specific, complex and expensive living conditions. Nevertheless, here are some of the fundamental aspects of keeping a wolfdog:

Wolfdog diet. While dogs are known for eating almost anything you put on their plate, wolfdogs require a more strict diet. They’re mostly carnivore animals, requiring an eating plan consisting of mostly raw meat, bones, and nutritional supplements. Experts suggest that an appropriate wolfdog diet could cost over $5,000 a year.

Wolfdog life expectancy. Like dogs, wolf-dog hybrids will usually live between 12 to 14 years. However, poor living conditions, such as an incorrect diet or lack of exercise, could lead these canines to pass away much younger.

Wolfdog personality. Surprisingly, wolfdogs are shy animals. In fact, experts point out that they have neophobic tendencies — meaning they will be afraid of new experiences. This characteristic wolfdog temperament makes them prone to stress, which could harm the animal physically and mentally.

Wolfdog size. The size of wolfdogs can vary depending on their ancestry, but a good rule of thumb is that they resemble large dogs in size. Unfortunately, this adds yet another difficulty to keeping wolfdogs, as they require large enclosures and a considerable amount of exercise.

As we already mentioned, wolfdogs are difficult, expensive, and generally complex animals to keep, bringing many complications into your life. Only experienced canine enthusiasts should attempt to keep them, and most experts discourage getting them as pets and breeding them for that purpose. If you’re still on the fence about getting a wolfdog, try to consider the following downsides:

  • You’ll need to install an expensive, large, and escape-proof enclosure in your home
  • Wolfdogs require a diet that can cost you over $5,000 a year
  • Wolf-dog hybrids crave social interaction, so it’s crucial that you also have a similarly-sized dog to keep them company
  • Keeping a wolfdog will severely limit your vacations, as they can’t stay at boarding kennels

You also need to be aware that wolf-dog hybrids are potentially violent and aggressive creatures. This is especially common during a seasonal behavioral change known as “Winter Wolf Syndrome.” Once a year, wolfdogs enter a reproductive stage where they’ll often turn more territorial and aggressive.

Also, you should strongly consider discarding the idea of keeping a wolfdog if you live with children. These canines are large animals and could severely harm small kids while trying to play with them. Furthermore, a wolfdog may get aggressive if it feels that you’re trying to take the kid away from it.

It’s important to remember that, like many other exotic animals, wolfdogs are prohibited in certain jurisdictions. So you’ll have to check your local laws to see if owning or buying a wolf-dog hybrid is legal where you live.

Even if it’s legal, most jurisdictions will ask you to acquire special permits to keep a wolfdog. As with all other aspects of wolfdogs, it’s essential that you perform deep research to get all the legal information you need.