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I WOULD LIKE TO OWN A WOLFDOG. NOW WHAT?

First of all you need to make sure you are allowed to keep one where you live. Without giving your name or any personal information, contact your local Animal Control. Wolfdogs are illegal in many counties. Even if it is legal to own one in your town, you may be required to have a specific containment or a special permit. Be sure to check it out before you adopt. If you are not ABSOLUTELY sure [with DNA testing] that your dog has recent wolf heritage, it’s best not to “label” your dog as a wolfdog by telling all your friends and neighbors that you now own a wolfdog. If you do, your veterinarian will document your dog's medical records as "wolfdog" and that could spell trouble. Friends may think it's cool... until the wolfdog nips somebody and then your sweet dog becomes "an aggressive and dangerous wild animal" and you wind up in court, the dog in a shelter. Unfortunately many county Animal Control deputies will confiscate and kill wolfdogs - or dogs they think are wolfdogs - for the slightest reason.

 

 

Second do your homework. Learn all you can about wolfdogs so that you are able to decide whether a wolfdog would be a good match for you, your family, and your lifestyle. There are some basic characteristics that are common to wolfdogs that you should be aware of, i.e. separation anxiety; desire to escape and roam the neighborhood [hence the label “escape artists”]; predator/prey behavior [i.e. with cats, small dogs, toddlers]; dominance with other dogs and/or humans; sensitive digestive systems, to name a few. Some love to howl and many neighbors don't appreciate that. A simple complaint by a neighbor can result in confiscation. You want to make sure that you are willing to sacrifice much-needed time, energy and patience … a lot for the first few months, and then regular daily exercise and training months for come. Let’s look at a few of these characteristics that they share …

 

 

Separation Anxiety – Many wolfdogs do not do well when left alone in the home for any length of time. This anxiety causes them to be so nervous that they get destructive, have digestive upset, or try to escape. It is not uncommon to hear of a wolfdog crashing through a plate-glass window or screen door to get out. It is also not unheard of to come home to find diarrhea from one end of your home to the other because the poor animal was so upset about being left alone. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Wolfdog will often “shut down,” that is, will not be able to eliminate until it is relaxed and in a comfortable environment. That is why you can walk your Wolfdog for hours and he will come home and poop in the house! Wolfdogs do best with someone around most of the time as they are by nature very social animals and like to have a companion. Remember, they are pack animals! Some can do just fine when left with another canine [in an escape-proof containment area], but for short periods of time. Someone that works at home, or that can take them to work with them is even better. Though you may have another canine, it still doesn’t mean you can leave the wolfdog in the house without human supervision! Be careful about leaving your dog in the care of an inexperienced person [pet sitters, Doggy Day Care, etc.]. An excited environment or the wrong body language can create permanent distrust or provoke a warning snap.

  

 

Exercise and Fencing - Wolves in the wild normally travel hundreds of miles to find food, to mate and den, to follow migration of prey, and to socialize! This behavior is passed down in their genes to the wolfdogs, and even to some Domestic Dog breeds [Huskies are notoriously known as escape artists]. Even a very happy wolfdog craves to roam the neighborhood to meet his neighbors, chase squirrels [or other opportunistic prey], run fast and blow off energy, and just find out what’s out there. They are highly intelligent and often figure out how to open gates, find weak spots in fencing, or dig out. They have very strong jaws and can tear open standard fencing [9-gauge chain link is recommended to prevent this]. They can jump over a 6’ fence easily from a standstill, and many can jump and climb a 7-8’ fence as well. We usually recommend an “overhang” at the top of the fence to prevent jumping and climbing, and a dig guard to prevent tunneling out. [See Adoption Requirements ]

 

 

Predator/prey drive – Many wolfdogs wind up in shelters because their owners failed to provide an “escape-proof” environment. This is because once out of their property, the neighborhood cats, ducks, geese, sheep, calves and small dogs are easy to chase, capture, and often suffer injury. Owners can be held liable for monetary damages, not to mention the emotional damage that severe injury or death of a beloved pet can cause. If a wolfdog nips or scratches a neighbor [even in play], it can be confiscated and killed, and the owner is held liable. Loose-roaming dogs are often killed or injured on the highway, by other dogs, or by irate neighbors.

 

 

Dominance - Wolves in the wild have a very special hierarchy. They build their social structure based on dominance. It is important to work with these behaviors so that the wolfdog understands his position in your “family pack.” This must NOT be done with yelling, hitting or punishing – which only causes resentment, confusion, lack of trust, and contributes to more anxiety and unwanted behavior. Instead, it should be handled with patience, consistency, proper body language and a firm but gentle dominance on your part. It is often recommended to bring your wolfdog to Dog Training Classes very soon after adopting your new companion so you can learn the calm, assertive techniques that work! Classes will not only teach you how to handle your wolfdog with confidence, but will desensitize your canine so that he is sociable and well behaved around other dogs and strange environments. Most important, a controlled training environment helps create a bond between handler and canine. You can find many good books and videos on dog training in Shopping ].

 

 

Adopting Siblings - Many people would like to adopt two dogs so the dogs will have someone to play with when the owners can't be around. This is a fine idea, as wolfdogs especially love to have canine companionship. Adopting siblings can be another matter. Often one of the siblings will be very submissive, and the other very dominant. As they mature, the dominant one may tend to bully the other, keeping the submissive pup in a fearful state of anxiety, preventing it from socializing properly with other dogs and even people. It may not be very apparent to the novice and often the submissive pup is not allowed to blossom into his full potential. Another thing that can happen is they become so bonded that separating them can be an ordeal. For instance, going on separate walks. One pup may throw a temper tantrum and injure itself if left behind. This also makes it very difficult if they have to be separated later in life. A large wolfdog throwing a temper tantrum is a lot different from a little puppy tantrum! It can be a very traumatic and depressing ordeal for them if the separation is long or permanent. Another thing to keep in mind is hierarchal challenges between the two. Just like human brothers and sisters, there will often be sibling rivalry, and an experienced hand is needed to prevent spats.

 

Continued next page ..

 

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