Why Have a Wolf or Wolfdog?
Why people get wolves or wolfdogs is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. The reasons are as varied as people. Some want them as a macho pet, but that is actually quite rare. A lot of owners, like many dog and even some cat owners, enjoy the idea of having a special animal, something unique, something unusual, or novel. Most wolfdog owners simply love wolves and culturally what we love, we want to own.
Owners, both good and bad, can be found across all social and economic levels. Millionaires, to the poor, blue collar workers and professionals including doctors, veterinarians, lawyers — even animal control officers, can be included into the sphere of wolfdog owners. The press’s personification of a wolfdog owner as some ignorant, poorly educated and misinformed individual certainly does not hold true for many owners.
What attracts people to wolves and hybrids and maintains this attraction in adversity?
- Ego: Wanting a “macho” animal or proving one can control a dangerous beast, is a reason frequently given. Actually this is only one of many reasons people have for owning hybrids.
- Strong bonds: The bond achieved between hybrid and human is often stronger than that generally seen between dogs and humans. There are several explanations for this:
- A person must put in many more hours socializing a wolf or hybrid pup and must start before the pup is weaned.
- The socialization is a process which continues throughout the animal’s life and considerable thought and energy continue to be essential to cultivating the relationship; it will likely be a high maintenance relationship which cannot be allowed to “coast.”
- (Figure 69) The amount of social feedback a wolf or hybrid gives often has the subjective quality of being more intense, so the human feels he or she is getting more back from the animal.
- To the extent that a “sense of dedication” is seen as meritorious in our society, and given the greater investment of time, money, and effort than is typically needed to maintain and socialize a dog, the owner of a wolf or hybrid may be rewarded with a greater feeling of dedication to his animal and this may also give the owner the belief that he or she is a much better human for having made this effort.
- Romanticism: Some people want a special relationship with an animal who represents “the wild.” Some people who are consciously rebellious against human laws or social mores may identify with a wolf or hybrid because they are less tractable than the average dog. Such people may get a hybrid, feeling that they are adding a fellow rebel to the family.
Rescue: Other people simply feel sorry for a particular animal and want to intervene to save it from a bad situation or impending euthanasia. Some animals come from very bad situations indeed, such as one illegal game farm in Minnesota (see figure 70.) The problem is that in purchasing an animal from such a situation to “rescue” it, you are supporting those conditions. One should never purchase an animal where the conditions are poor, or do not meet the standards you want to set with your animal.
Blind spots and good intentions
The behavior of their animals, and their owners:
- To the extent that some wolfdog owners feels misunderstood or threatened by the community, a situation is created in which an owner may feel entirely justified in flouting the law.
- Not all individuals can accurately separate their feelings of dedication from their actual degree of competence in socializing and maintaining a wolf or hybrid.
- Some owners set themselves up for behavior problems by a belief that the social life and amount of interaction they give their animals on a daily basis is adequate to generous when it may be neither.
- Many owners may have blind spots about the quality of their enclosures. Some owners are reluctant to acknowledge that they must not only keep their animals in an enclosure or well fenced yard. Any continued toleration by their neighbors may depend on keeping children, pets and other interlopers out of their yard. In other words, setting up a perimeter fence. Essential improvements to an enclosure may be put off in the belief that they sincerely mean to make the improvements – some day.
- Some owners do not regard training or proper socialization as important, or they fail to understand the degree of commitment they must a lot for these tasks. Some unintentionally reward undesirable behavior without being aware of this, or they intentionally reward bad behavior without understanding or realizing the potential consequences later on.
- Some owners persistently regard potentially dangerous behavior as “play.” Anything from the initial stages of predatory behavior, to growling and even biting is written off by many canine owners, both wolf and dog.
Yet owners of hybrids or wolves who have such blind spots may, during their introspective moments, be completely and truthfully convinced that they are dedicated and responsible and need not change their behavior in any way. In short the road to confiscation and euthanasia of innocent animals is frequently paved with GOOD INTENTIONS.
It’s hard to be sure, but after years of working with them, I don’t think their opinion of humans is all that high…
Quality of Life
Social Testing & Predation
|Socialization & Medical Care
Are Wolves and Hybrids Trainable?
Legislation & Health Care
Why Have A Wolf or Wolfdog?