Even though wolf x dog crosses make wonderful companions for those willing to dedicate all that is necessary to maintain a wolfdog, they should NEVER be an impulse buy.  Please be aware that these are high maintenance animals and require a lot of time and patience. At a minimum, one should  have a basic understanding of the behavioral characteristics of wolves as well as the dog breeds involved in the cross. 

Often times, people buy wolfdogs for all the wrong reasons.  They are caught up in the mystique of "the wolf" and think it would be cool to own such an animal.  However, wolf-like appearance is probably one of the last things one should consider before acquiring a wolfdog.  Too late, new owners don't realize what owning a "wolf" really means and the animals end up in rescue (if they're lucky) or being put down when they aren't so lucky.

Many unprepared owners find that the "wolf" they wanted to show off to their friends cowers and hides from strangers, and that it is destroying their house, their furniture, and their yard. As the pup matures, new owners often find that the pup can have a will of its own. Many are unaware that wolfdogs can be escape artists and once they have escaped, they can be hard to catch. Some owners find that they are unprepared and/or unwilling to learn what is necessary to successfully own a wolf x dog cross. When this happens, the animal ends up in a shelter, or being put down.

WHAT IS A WOLFDOG AND CAN YOU IDENTIFY IT?

When trying to identify a wolfdog, one must take into account the history of wolves and dogs. Dogs are all descendants of the wolf and share many of the same physical and behavioral characteristics as wolves. Even after centuries of domestication, there is very little difference between a dog and wolf genetically. The mtDNA variance between the two averages approximately .2%.

The Wolf, Father and Brother of the Dog

The Wolfdog; A Factual Overview

Wolfdogs FAQ

Wolf Hybrid Awareness through Education

Quick Wolf Faq

(Physical Appearance)

Phenotyping is an attempt to identify a wolfdog by its physical characteristics.  Even though one may be able to identify certain physical attributes found in wolves, most if not all of those same characteristics are also found in dogs. Since wolfdogs are mutts and not a breed, there are no set standards that can be relied upon for identification. The three most popular breeds used in wolfdogs are Siberian Husky, Malamute, and German Shepherd.  Therefore, the difference in looks can vary greatly. The amount of wolf genes (content) contained in the animal, the number of generations bred away from a pure wolf, the type of dog used in the breeding, and the basic laws of heredity are all factors which must be considered when trying to phenotype a wolfdog.

Breeders of the Siberian Husky

Texas Alaskan Malamute Rescue

Malamute Facial Mask Chart

German Shepherd Dogs Link Page

Shiloh Shepherd Learning Center

Pictures of pups and changes in coloration as they mature:

Makwa

Tewa

Kiza

Yoshe's Pedigree

Tuffy

Identification Chart

As a general rule, the higher the content, the more the animal should resemble a wolf. However, many first generation crosses of lower content can also be very wolf-like in appearance.

Nicholas E. Federoff

America's Other Controversial Canine, The Wolf Hybrid

The Wolf Education and Research Center

Wolves, DNA Pawprinting

Wolfdog & Wolf-Like Dog Breeds

The Mammals of Texas On-Line Edition

 

(Behavior)

It is important to study the behavioral characteristics of both wolves and the type of dog(s) used in the breeding in order to understand your wolfdog. All dogs, especially northern breeds, have some wolf-like behavioral characteristics.

As a general rule, the behavior of wolves can be more intense than most dog breeds because they mature beyond dogs. It is assumed that wolves chosen to be the founding stock for dogs were those animals that retained a juvenile behavior into adulthood. Therefore, this is probably one of the characteristics man selected in order to have a more easily managed animal. Breeding for juvenile characteristics is known as neoteny. The basic principal of neoteny is to select animals that retain juvenile behavioral characteristics into adulthood and then try to reproduce that behavior within the line. This juvenile behavior causes dogs to be friendlier and more dependent upon man. However, most wolves will mentally mature past this juvenile phase. Therefore, the behavior of a wolf can be more intense and less easily dealt with than that of the average dog.

Behavioral Differences and Animal Science

The "Beta Dog Syndrome" in Dominance Aggression

When Puppies Pee (Submissive Wetting)

Bonding

Pet Behavior Resources

Cry of Wolves

The Wolfdog Resource - Behavior

The Behavior, Evolution and Ecology of Wolves

(Genetics)

Genotyping is an attempt to classify an animal through the study of molecular DNA. As previously mentioned, the AVERAGE difference of the mtDNA between a wolf and a dog is approximately .2%.   This was established by Dr. Robert K. Wayne in his paper - The molecular evolution of the dog family.  In a more recent article, Vila, et al., published a paper concerning the identification of an offspring of a Scandinavian wolf female.  In this study, genetic markers analyzed mtDNA,  autosomal DNA,  and and Y chromosome DNA to prove that the pup was a wolfdog and not a pure wolf.   Heredity (2003) 90 , 17-24.

In 1993, the wolf and dog were both determined to be Canis lupus, per the Code of International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and the American Society of Mammalogists. In other words, both wolves and dogs are the same species. It is somewhat controversial in the scientific world whether dogs are now classified as an actual subspecies of wolf, or if they are simply con-specific (a domestic variant of the wolf.) Therefore, the definition of a "hybrid being any offspring of two animals of two different species" is no longer accurate to describe a wolf x dog cross.

Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family

Can You ID your Dog with DNA?

References to Wolf/Dog Genetic History

Canid Genetics

The Canine Diversity Project

The Dog Genome Project

The Genetic Cul-de-Sac

Wolfdog Genetics

(Percentage vs. Content)

Percentage is a number set out in a pedigree. Percentage represents the possible number of wolf genes that have been introduced in a line from the time of the first wolf dog cross through the present animal. Unless a pedigree is verified, exact percentages should not be relied upon by either the buyer or breeder.

Example of percentage:

(˝ x 50% wolf) + (˝ x 100% wolf) = 75% wolf and 25% dog.

           

 The F-factor or (filial) tells us the number of generations it has been since a pure wolf has been introduced in the breeding. An F1 means that one parent was pure. An F2 means that at least one grandparent was pure, an F3 means that at least one great-grandparent was pure, etc. Many feel that after an F3, the animals should be considered as a dog.

Content refers to the amount of wolf genes that appear to be inherited and is determined by the way the animal looks and acts. Content can and often does vary from percentage and is greatly influenced by the filial number.

Why percentage and content often vary.

The most common reason why a percentage numbers do not accurately represent content is because some breeders are not truthful about their pedigrees. Some breeders will knowingly raise the percentage of their animals in order to sell their pups, while others unknowingly misrepresent their animals because they were told that the animal they bought was a certain percentage.

When a pedigree is not known, some breeders will make a best "guess" at percentages. However, when a breeder says that the animals "appears" to be about 75 or 80%, that number is only their educated guess and should not be relied upon as being factual. Though the breeder was honest in giving a "best guess," that number is often times carried forward as being a "fact" instead of an estimate.

A second reason that percentage and content differ is because wolfdogs bred to wolfdogs often produce mixed litters. Also, the higher the filial number (F) the more dog like the offspring is likely to be.

Example 1:

Pure wolf bred to a pure dog = 50% F1.

Pure wolf bred to a 50% F1 = 75% F1

Example 2:

50% F1 bred to a 50% F1 = 50% F2

50% F2 bred to a 75% F1 = 62.5% F2

62.5% F2 bred to a 90% F2 = 76% F3

The animal in Example 1 is probably going to be more wolflike in looks and behavior than the one in Example 2.

As previously mentioned, "percentage" sets out the possible number of wolf genes introduced into the breeding of a wolf x dog cross. A verified pedigree setting out percentage should accurately document a paper trail of the wolf and dog genes introduced during each breeding. Whereas content refers to the amount of wolf genes actually inherited. One needs to take into consideration the basic rules of genetics in order to more fully understand that even though a certain number of genes have been introduced, it does not necessarily mean that they will be inherited. The offspring can appear more dog-like than percentages indicate or more wolf-like than represented by percentage.

Therefore, many believe that percentage should not be relied upon as the only consideration when determining wolf-like looks and/or behavior.

Content and percentage can and do often differ when describing a wolfdog. For instance, an owner may refer to their wolfdog as being a verified 85% F4, but qualify this identification by saying that they feel that it is more accurately described as being a lower mid content. This qualifying statement tells us several things about this animal. First, according to the pedigree 85% of the genes introduced in this animal's background were from a wolf. The "F" factor indicates that it has been four generations since a pure wolf was introduced into the breeding of this animal. And lastly, the owner feels that this animal has inherited more dog like characteristics than the percentage indicates.

In order for an animal to be considered as a high content, it must have had a sufficient number of wolf genes introduced into the breeding for several generations, and inherited both physical and behavioral characteristics of a wolf. Many also believe that in order for a wolf x dog cross to be considered a true "high content," that it must also have inherited the reproductive cycle of a wolf. Whereas wolfdogs referred to as low content animals have had less wolf genes introduced and have inherited more dog-like attributes. Mid-contents are those that fall in between.

Also, one should note that looks, behavior, and fertility are all separate factors when describing a wolf x dog cross. A wolfdog can look more like a dog, yet inherit behavioral characteristics of a wolf, or vice versa. Or, a wolfdog can look and act wolf-like, yet have a fertility cycle that does not follow the wolf’s breeding season.

To confuse matters even more, wolfdogs that are bred back to wolfdogs, often produce a mixed litter of pups. Some of the litter can be very wolf-like in their looks and/or behavior, while others can be almost dog-like in either looks and/or disposition. Still others of the same litter can be any mix in between. Most feel that the more generations bred away from a pure wolf, the more dog-like the offspring will be. 

The easiest article I have read on this subject is the first one below by Jessie Zgurski.

Percentages, Content, F-Factor and Phenotyping: What They Mean and
Why they are Important to Wolfdog Owners

Percentages