Wolves are stunning animals which has been represented through our history, art, and culture for centuries.
And now you can bring a piece of the legendary wolf into your home... Or can you?
These are not wolves (well, not completely), but dogs that have prominent wolf features passed on from their ascendants. However, adopting these breeds comes unique challenges you need to be aware of.
What is a Wolf Dog?
Wolf Dogs & Wolf Content
Wolf dogs are any breed that has “wolf content” in their genetic makeup. This means that any cross breed with a dog and wolf is considered a wolf dog.
Wolf dogs can be described as High, Mid, or Low wolf-content, depending on how much wolf is passed on to them.
However, these types of dogs (whether low or high content) present many challenges that even an expert owner would find difficult to overcome.
Wolf dogs have a much higher set of daily needs, and you need to be prepared for the extra responsibilities with owning one (which we cover below).
Dogs with Wolf Content
Through careful selection - some breeders have successfully created dogs that look like wolves, but have the temperament of a domestic dog.
Some breeds have zero wolf content, such as huskies, which have some similarities in markings but have no relation at all. In which case, you may just want a husky or a dog that looks like one.
Then there are very low wolf content dogs. This generally means your dog is at least 4 generations removed from their wolf ascendants, while being mixed with other breeds.
If you’re considering adopting a wolf-like breed, then this is certainly the way to go. Very low content breeds still have a beautiful wolf-like appearance, but are domesticated and generally family friendly.
The Problem With Adopting a Wolf Dog
Wolf hybrid popularity is on the rise, and that's to be expected. These dog's are stunning and many owners are willing to spend money for the cool, exotic pet.
But once money gets involved it leads to a lot of unhealthy practices.
Puppy mills, unethical breeding practices, and mislabeled breeds can have you spending thousands of dollars, while you end up with the wrong kind of puppy.
Be careful where you adopt from. Many for-profit breeders will purposely misinform you, but by the time you realize it, they're long gone.
How breeders might scam you:
- Completely mislabeling the dog breed (You wanted a Tamaskan but got a Husky mix).
- Giving you a high content wolf dog (making them extremely difficult to manage).
- They cannot produce any pedigree or authentic paperwork.
- Telling you their dogs are very easy to train.
- Saying things like: "These dogs were in ___________ (TV Show or Movie)"
These victims will eventually give up and give their dog to a wolf sanctuary, but even the sanctuaries are completely full due to these practices.
Wolf Content Can Vary
A common misconception is believing certain breeds always carry a certain level of wolf-content. While Huskies and Malamutes are always zero content, the same cannot be said for other breeds.
Some areas of the world have allowed mid content wolfdogs to be added for outcrossing purposes. However, Mid and High level content puppies will be a nightmare for the average owner.
When adopting, ask about their pedigree, and get a full history of your breeder.
Many dogs or wolf-like dogs are mislabeled as wolves because they share similar markings. Often this is just a case of mistaken identity and they may just be a mix of Husky, German Shepherd, or Alaskan Malamute.
Be warned: some breeders purposely mislabel their dogs as having wolf content (or as a completely different breed) to have them appear more unique, or to sell puppies for more profit.
Illegal In Some Areas
Be aware that it’s illegal to own a wolfdog in many States and Countries, unless you have acquired a license or work with a wolf sanctuary. If you’ve acquired a dog that is part-wolf, or you have incorrectly labeled your dog as one, you may receive a visit from animal control.
Quick Facts About Wolf Hybrid Breeds:
Dogs That Look Like Wolves
1. Northern Inuit Dog
CC Image courtesy of Malfuros
Temperament: Loyal to a fault, Friendly, Stubborn, Intelligent
Females 55 to 84 pounds, 23 to 28 inches
Males 79 to 110 pounds, 25 to 30 inches
Northern Inuit Dogs were an attempt to create a wolf-like breed with the temperament of a dog. It’s speculated this dog originates in the UK during the 1980’s, by mixing Malamute, Siberian husky, and German Shepherds.
They gained main stream popularity from the series Game of Thrones, where the characters from the Stark family comes across a litter of "wolf puppies", which were actually Northern Inuit dogs.
Do they make a good family pet? Yes, but best suited for singles, or families with older children. They tend to not have patience for young children. While loyal and loving, Northern Inuit Dogs need training and assertive leadership, and is not recommended for the novice dog owner.
They have extreme separation anxiety which leads to destructive behavior when left alone - therefore cannot be trained as kennel dogs.
2. Saarloos Wolfdog
Temperament: Cautious, Shy, Gentle towards owners, Curious, Loyal, Stubborn
Size: Medium to Large
Females 45 to 74 pounds, 23 to 28 inches
Males 69 to 90 pounds, 25 to 30 inches
Created in 1935 when Dutch Breeder Leender Saarloos crossbred German Sheppherds with European Wolves to create a working dog. But what he got instead was too much wolf personality, which didn't translate well into working dogs.
Do they make a good family pet? Not exactly. While not always recommended for children, they do make excellent dogs if their specific needs are met. Saarloos are generally non-aggressive, however they require strong leadership to overcome their free roaming wolf instincts. While shy, they do need socialization with other dogs.
Because of the Saarloos wolfdog’s roaming nature, they are best suited for large open living spaces, acreages, and require daily activity.
They have very high separation anxiety, and cannot be trained as a kennel dog.
Image courtesy of Wylie the Tamaskan
Temperament: Playful, Curious, Intelligent, Affectionate, High energy
Females 55 to 85 pounds, 24 to 28 inches
Males 65 to 95 pounds, 25 to 33 inches
Tamaskans are dogs that were specifically bred to look like wolves, mixed with Husky, German shepherd, and Czechoslovakian wolfdogs. Being officially recognized as a breed in 2013, this once rare breed is quickly becoming popular in North America due to its close resemblance to the wolf and its playful personality.
Do they make good family pet? Yes, if you’re willing to put some work in. Tamaskans require a regiment of training and a very high amount of daily exercise and stimulation. Without this regiment Tamaskans will resort to destructive behavior. Early socialization is an absolute must, or they have been known to show aggressive behavior as an adult.
A common trait is separation anxiety, and when left alone they will resort to destructive behavior.
They have a very high prey drive, meaning rabbits, birds, and squirrels will peak their interest.
Tamaskans are loving, loyal, and intelligent dogs. With the right training, exercise, and socialization, make absolutely wonderful companions.
Many Puppy Mills and unhealthy litters have been showing up due to their rise in popularity. Get your Tamaskan from a certified breeder.
4. Alaskan Noble Companion Dog
Image courtesy of Brynne on Flickr
Temperament: Loyal, Curious, Anxious, Alert, Active
60 to 110 pounds, 26 to 33 inches
Alaskan nobles are a considerably new type of hybrid canine, recognized for their stunning appearance and close resemblance to wolves. They're a crossbreed of Siberian Husky, German Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute.
There are conflicting reports about whether or not these dogs carry wolf content.
Do they make a good family pet? Not enough is known about the Alaskan noble at this point. They have been reported as being very affectionate, laid back, and playful with their owners. However, these same owners have also reported apprehension, and even aggressiveness towards strangers and children.
Beyond these reports, Alaskan Nobles are known as being extremely loyal to their owners . They are very active dogs that love to explore and roam in free open space. Daily stimulation is required to occupy their intelligent minds.
Just like any dog, they require early socialization to avoid becoming aggressive as they mature. They are also known to have very high separation anxiety.
5. Swedish Vallhund
CC Image courtesy of TS Eriksson
Temperament: Friendly, high energy, playful, intelligent, loving,
Size: Small to Medium
Females 22 to 32 pounds, 8 to 12 inches
Males 25 to 35 pounds, 9 to 13inches
Vallhund translates to Herding Dog, and that’s exactly what they do. Originally developed to herd cows, and referred to The Swedish Cow Dog, this is a rare breed that is believed to have originated thousands of years ago.
Do they make a good family pet? Absolutely. They’re playful, loving, loyal, and fun. They still having some herding instinct, and are considered work dogs that need a high level of exercise and stimulation.
They are noisy, and known to bark excessively, therefore do not make good apartment pets.
Because of their high energy, they require daily vigorous activity, or else they may result to destructive behavior.
Image courtesy of Trevor Grant on Flickr
Temperament: Friendly, Intelligent, Loyal, Social, High Energy
Females 55 to 80 pounds, 23 to 25 inches
Males 65 to 90 pounds, 23 to 28 inches
Utonagan is a newer crossbreed, introduced to the UK in the 1980's, which again is a mix of Malamute, Siberian Husky, and German Shepherd. They got their breed name from a tale passed on by , where Utonagan translates to "spirit of the wolf".
Do they make good family pets? Yes, but they do need some work. Similar to a Tamaskan’s temperament, they are curious, affectionate, loyal, and playful, but require daily training and exercise. They have plenty of personality, and are very receptive to their owners which makes them easy to train.
Utonegan’s are energetic, so they need to run and require mental stimulation. Their free roaming instinct is very much alive so they are best suited for large living spaces and acreages.
They have a high prey drive, so squirrels, birds, and rabbits will definitely catch their attention.
And you guessed it - they have high separation anxiety, and will resort to destructive behavior when left alone.
Utonagan's have been known to have health issues, so be sure to research their pedigree and health tests before adopting.
7. Alaskan Malamute
Temperament: Strong, Stubborn, Intelligent, Friendly towards people.
Female - 75 to 90 pounds, 21 to 25 inches
Male - 85 to 100 pounds, 22 to 25 inches
Again, mixed with Malamute, Siberian husky, and German Shepherds.
Alaskan Malamutes carry some wolf-like markings, although their long coat and stature has some distinct differences. They originally were bred as an arctic sled dog to haul loads through Siberia or Alaska. Malamutes and are still considered strong work dogs, which makes can make them difficult to handle in a normal household.
Do they make good family pets? Yes, but they can be very challenging. Malamutes are intelligent and stubborn, which makes them strong-headed and tough to train.
Malamutes commenly end up in shelters as many owners underestimate how difficult this breed is to train. A strong assertive leader is required or else they'll assume the alpha position in your home.
Malamutes have separation anxiety, which may lead to destructive behavior when left alone. This dog is best suited for large open areas, or with owners who are willing to follow a daily regimen of running, hiking, or sledding.
8. Siberian Husky
Temperament: Friendly, Social, High Energy, Affectionate, Stubborn, Gentle
Size: Medium to Large
Females 35 to 50 pounds, 20 to 22 inches
Males 45 to 60 pounds, 21 to 24inches
Not much is known about the Siberian Husky’s history, it is believed they originated in Siberia and are an ancient breed. They were then used in Alaska during the 1900’s for dog sledding to assist in hauling loads over arctic tundra.
Huskies today are a common sight in North America, and recognized for their beautiful markings.
Do they make good family pets? Yes. Huskies are still considered work dogs however, and need daily exercise or they’ll resort to destructive behavior. They are strong-headed, and often need an assertive leader and training.
They are difficult to train due to their stubbornness and intelligence. You’ll often hear stories from husky owners about constant barking, digging, and chewing.
Huskies are a popular adoption choice for many families. They're very playful and have a gentle nature, and with a little patience and training make wonderful pets.
9. Canadian Eskimo / Inuit Dog
Temperament: Loyal, Brave, High Energy, Intelligent, Alert
Females 40 to 66 pounds, 20 to 24 inches
Males 66 to 88 pounds, 23 to 28 inches
Considered one the oldest and rarest breeds, and have been threatened with extinction. The Canadian Eskimo dog is another arctic working breed, and they reflect that with their personality. They are active, strong, and love to run and explore. This canine is accustomed to cold climates, and even prefers to sleep in the snow.
Do they make a good family pet? Yes, they are affectionate and loyal to their owners. They are best suited for a working environment, where they can get daily exercise and stimulation - which makes them excellent sled dogs.
10. Kugsha / Amerindian Malamute
Temperament: Very high intelligence, Stubborn, Free roaming, Curious, Playful.
Females: 60 to 102 pounds, 20 to 25inches
Males: 65 to 106 pounds, 20 to 27inches
The Kugsha are a rare wolf hybrid. They are an ancient breed, believed to have originated 1000s of years ago, and were used in Early America as a working breed to haul shipments through the snow.
Do they make good family pets? No. These dogs still carry wolf-like mannerisms, and do not behave like a domesticated dog. Kugsha are intelligent, but also stubborn, which makes them difficult to train. They need constant stimulation and open space because of their free roaming personality.
Kugsha are shy with strangers, but are not known to be aggressive. In the right environment, with strong leadership, they can be excellent companions.
11. Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
CC Image courtesy of Sonja Pauen on Flickr
Temperament: High Energy, Loyal, Curious, Fearless, Playful
Females 44 to 54 pounds, 24 to 26 inches
Males 54 to 60 pounds, 26 to 28inches
A New dog breed that was created to have the temperament of a German Shepherd, but the physical build and strength of a Carpathian Wolf. Originally bred to be attack dogs in Czechoslovakia in the 1980’s, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog are now used for a range of work.
Do they make a good family pet? Yes but these dogs require a high level of training and strong leadership. They can be good with children, but are suspicious of strangers. Czech wolf dogs are active and playful, and need daily stimulation to feed their curious minds. They are best suited for large open spaces where they can roam and get daily exercise.
Until 2008 this dog was classified as a "Dangerous Wild Animal" in the UK. And due to the wolf-content of this breed, they cannot be legally owned in some States or Countries.
12. Shikoku Dog
Temperament: Curious, Alert, Energetic, Intelligent
30 to 35 pounds, 18 to 21 inches
A cousin of the infamous Shiba Inu and Akita Inu, the Shikoku is a Japanese breed that shares similar qualities. While they carry many of the same physical characteristics of the Shibu Inu, the Shikoku coat/markings are darker in color and much more wolf-like. .
Do they make a good family pet? Shikoku's are enthusiastic and sociable dogs, and can certainly make a good addition to your family.
However, these are working breeds, and were often used for hunting boars. While they are a good natured dog, they still carry those working traits to this day. Exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation are required everyday, or they'll become bored and frustrated.
Also, Shikoku's have a very high prey drive, so they will chase any small creature or interesting object.