Quality of Life
Far too many wolf hybrids do not have a good quality of life.
Such a statement can easily be made about dogs, cats … all animals kept by humans. This is especially true for animals being raised for food or fur, but our interest will stay focused on the plight of the privately owned wolf and wolfdog.
If you look at what often goes wrong in the human-dog relationship, you can begin to grasp some immediate problems. People often expect their dog to understand English, to understand human body language, to automatically know what is desired of them. Yes, a dog can certainly learn many of these things, but the dog must be taught. Training is something overlooked by many people who have wolfdogs.
Through many generations of selective breeding, dogs have been genetically programed to live with people, to accept all our nuances and to actually tolerate quite a lot of harsh treatment. Most dogs have a wonderful in built margin of error such that even some of the worst treatment will not ruin many dogs. Yet, if you consider all the thousands of dogs which end up unwanted in shelters, or simply dumped and abandoned by a disgruntled owner, if you consider the estimated 4,000,000 dog bites which occur every year in North America — it is no wonder that a wolfdog, part domesticated, part wild, has trouble adapting to a captive situation in the hands of an owner who is unwilling, or unable to meet the animal’s needs.
Figure 34 represents the type of situation where far too many “wolves” and hybrids end up. Living out their lives in small enclosures with little physical or mental stimulation. Worse, others end up chained, figure 35, a potentially very dangerous situation, for a chained canine may become aggressive, or it might attack “small prey” which sometimes includes small children. Children are often bitten by dogs which live on chains.
Figure 36 is an animal which was purchased by a woman who was looking for a malamute. She read an ad for wolf-malamute hybrids and was talked into purchasing a pup from a breeder. Given little usable information about raising and socializing this pup, she ended up with a very shy animal that could not be handled, or even approached by strangers. This hybrid was euthanized shortly after this photo was taken because it had eaten the husband’s parrot.
Some breeders do try to screen potential buyers, but as can be seen in Figure 37 this does not always work. This animal was sold to a man who gave a “responsible” breeder all the right answers to his questions. When the breeder found that the animal lost a leg after falling out of the open bed of a truck, he reclaimed the animal. Apparently the owner was not as responsible as he had claimed. Stories abound about buyers whose secure pens are not as represented or don’t yet exist and may never be built. Some buyers “forget” to mention that they are parents of young children as many breeders refuse to place animals in homes where there are little kids.
Others do not survive at all
Figure 38 is an animal which was shot by a farmer in Indiana. The origin of this animal is unknown, but in all probability it is someone’s escaped or dumped pet. His toenails looked clipped. He was a young animal yet he also had tarter buildup on his teeth, suggesting a diet of dog food. Chewing through the fur of wild game keeps a wolf’s teeth quite clean. Analysis of his skull measurements, which is the only accurate means of assessing a wolf from a dog, indicated he was not a pure wolf, but a wolfdog hybrid.
Concern is mounting because such animals are beginning to show up in wolf recovery areas. Genetic pollution is one concern that biologists and wildlife officials face, Fritts (1995) but of possible greater concern is the effects generated by a socialized “pet” wolf or hybrid if there is an incident involving the public. Lacking the skills necessary to effectively hunt wild game, these animals are highly likely to choose livestock. There is also the possibility that such a “tame” animal might approach, possibly even bite, a human.
Not all hybrids end up in tragic situations
Even when the aforementioned circumstances exist, an owner with dedication and a willingness to learn can often succeed. The animal in figure 39 was owned by a man who grew tired of its “wolf-like” characteristics and simply threw the animal out of the yard. The animal was found several miles away by a couple who saw that this was not a dog. After discovering where the animal came from they decided to build an enclosure and try to give the animal a good home.
In figure 40 the animal on the left was purchased as a “75%” hybrid. The next animal purchased was advertised as a similar percentage, but this time she was the real thing. The owners then set about to learn all they could. They provided their animals with a secure, spacious enclosure had the animals spayed and neutered to reduce aggression. They kept an open mind and constantly learned from others with more experience, as well as from the animals themselves. A growing number of people make the time and effort to build enclosures which are spacious and provide the animals with a variety of options for entertainment.
The animals in figure 41 live in a complex of enclosures which includes two separate one acre sections along with smaller sections useable as holding pens. The “junk” pile they are sitting atop was originally an earth-covered artificial den – the animals kept removing the soil so the owner ended up leaving things as is.
Attempts were made several years ago by the owner to establish his place as an education facility, but legislative policies prevented this. However, there have been several other success stories where enthusiasm for the wolf has led from ownership to a recognized facility. Although Wolf Park did not get its start this way, many of today’s current wolf facilities stemmed from an interest in owning a wolf or a wolfdog.
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
|Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?