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How do wolves differ from domesticated dogs?
What are the cons of owning a wolf?
What are the pros (if there are any)?
What would one expect from a wolf from puppy-hood to adult-hood?

I'm not planning on owning a wolf, I'm simply curious.
 

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There are wild animals and domestic animals. There are cats that are the size of house cats, but are just wild. They do not lend themselves to domestication. African elephants are not domesticated. India elephants are, and can be used to work, and have been used for work for generations -- they are different.

Dogs cast their lot in with humans so many generations ago, that they are not very wolfish at all. When dogs were domesticated, people were much closer to the wild themselves. They lived off the land, and spent much time outdoors and with their dogs. They understood dogs, AND they did not confuse dogs with furry little children.

So many generations, centuries have passed since then, and people bred the dogs that exhibited the traits they needed -- hunting, herding, guarding, and bred out the traits that they could not live with -- aggression toward owner/family, extreme shyness. And over those years, the dogs evolved to critters that simply do not have much wild-animal in them.

To reintroduce wolves and dogs, I think it is criminal, it should be illegal. If you want size, mix in a mastiff breed. Surely you can find the traits you are looking for in dogs that already exist. High content wolf-dogs do not make good pets. They are independent, very shy, they have high prey drive, and are not very trainable. Probably a good percentage of them fail to live safely as a pet in our society, which means they are put down, or kept in strong kennels for the rest of their lives. I think it is a crappy thing to do to a wild thing.
 

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I am terrified of them...when the kids were little, someone working at our home brought his "friendly" wolf-dog with him, he wouldn't hurt anyone..we went inside. Fast forward many years, I wouldn't let my very, very friendly puppy play with one...too much risk for me. I don't think I could ever rest wondering if the wolf-dog switch would flip...


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A wolf cannot be fully trusted around children and small animals because its prey drive is genetically encoded. That cannot be eliminated through socialization/training. At best it can be suppressed. A tame wolf will inevitably challenge its owner for dominance. Dogs do it too but in the end they know always know humans are the alpha in the family "pack." Wolves are not suitable as pets because a lot of work is required to produce in them the same degree of reliability seen in dogs. And they won't always obey human commands.

Dogs are the product of thousands of years of human breeding designed to produce animals completely dependent on us for their survival and who can actually tolerate the stresses of living in captivity. That will never happen with a wolf! It should be kept in the wild where it truly belongs. Trying to turn it into an imitation dog is a disservice to such a beautiful and powerful animal. A wolf may respect us but it will never love us unconditionally and show us the devotion of a dog.
 

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From watching the wolves in Yellowstone, I think wolves are more cooperative with each other than domestic dogs are (even dogs who live contently together).

Here is the behavior I found fascinating, as explained by a park field biologist:

In wolf packs, young-adult non-breeding females routinely tend the pups born of another female while the mother's is nursing, or later, away from the den hunting--these other females guard the pack's pups from mauraders. All the wolves who hunt return with mouths full of food to the den for the pack's pups (or nursing females). The pack pups are a collective responsibility.

Young adult males who aren't strong enough to lead their own strong, well established pack will sometimes leave a pack to help a lone female raise her young sired by another male, if her mate and pack are killed -- meaning the second male will hunt for and protect an adopted family, and then later establish himself as a new breeding male, starting a new pack with that female. It's an interesting kind of courtship, caring for the young sired by another male -- the pups that are already on the ground are raised as his own.

There's a famous beautiful black wolf in Yellowstone who was picked on constantly as an adolescent by his own pack, who struck out on his own and found a female whose mate had just died. She was struggling to keep her pups alive. He hunted for her and the pups and became a great "provider." The pups all lived, and his new little pack eventually became a very strong and healthy--with him leading it well. After a few years of breeding, this new pack became a major contender for territory in that area, replacing that male's old pack as the dominant one.

ETA: for anyone with any interest in wolves, if you can put up with the cold, the winter wolf-watching Field Seminars offered by the Yellowstone Institute are wonderful -- and very reasonable, considering you are out in a tiny group with a field biologist who knows the packs there well.
 

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From watching the wolves in Yellowstone, I think wolves are more cooperative with each other than domestic dogs are (even dogs who live contently together).

Here is the behavior I found fascinating, as explained by a park field biologist:

In wolf packs, young-adult non-breeding females routinely tend the pups born of another female while the mother's is nursing, or later, away from the den hunting--these other females guard the pack's pups from mauraders. All the wolves who hunt return with mouths full of food to the den for the pack's pups (or nursing females). The pack pups are a collective responsibility.

Young adult males who aren't strong enough to lead their own strong, well established pack will sometimes leave a pack to help a lone female raise her young sired by another male, if her mate and pack are killed -- meaning the second male will hunt for and protect an adopted family, and then later establish himself as a new breeding male, starting a new pack with that female. It's an interesting kind of courtship, caring for the young sired by another male -- the pups that are already on the ground are raised as his own.

There's a famous beautiful black wolf in Yellowstone who was picked on constantly as an adolescent by his own pack, who struck out on his own and found a female whose mate had just died. She was struggling to keep her pups alive. He hunted for her and the pups and became a great "provider." The pups all lived, and his new little pack eventually became a very strong and healthy--with him leading it well. After a few years of breeding, this new pack became a major contender for territory in that area, replacing that male's old pack as the dominant one.

ETA: for anyone with any interest in wolves, if you can put up with the cold, the winter wolf-watching Field Seminars offered by the Yellowstone Institute are wonderful -- and very reasonable, considering you are out in a tiny group with a field biologist who knows the packs there well.
Intra-pack aggression I think increases with domestication because it no longer matters. Or rather, what matters in domestic dogs is so different from wild animals. Wild animals need to hunt and eat and procreate -- those are their main problems. They hunt in packs because they can bring down game that way. If they fought all the time, they would not be able to hunt and would starve.

In a domestic pack the owner brings the food and gives it to the dogs. Exercise is no comparison. There is really no competition for food -- not like in the wild, where everyone is slim/athletic and you might not eat for days. Our dogs aren't ever hungry. Food drive may be there, but it isn't a survival drive generally. As for procreating, well that and the resource of the owner are the two things that seem to be really important, reasons to fight in domestic packs.

I just don't think that you can compare apples to oranges. Dogs living for centuries with humans are a whole lot different than wolves or wild canines who have never been domesticated. Cooperation isn't going to be the same. Pack dynamics are not going to be crucial to survival.
 

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Great thread! Love all the links and theories. Reading through all this was such a better way to spend the evening than stuck watching tv shows! :)
 

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New study out there indicates that dogs and wolves are more distant relatives than we thought.
Did dogs really evolve from wolves? New evidence suggests otherwise. - CSMonitor.com
The huge shaggy northern wolves are not the likely dog ancestors. They're too big and forbidding for humans to tame and work with. A more probable candidate is either the Indian or Arabian wolf. They're about the size of a large domestic dog and they're more easily tamed. And they're more prone to bark than howl like northern wolves do. A couple of thousand years of breeding and domestication events derived from such smaller wolves and we ended up with the domestic dog. What that means is not all wolves were the ancestors of the dog, just one or two subspecies that eventually became the dog we know today.
 

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I think I started this controversy, and after reading some of these posts, I first decided not to respond, because I am not trying to raise anyone's hackles, I also believe that we can learn from each other SO much, and there is no room for bickering, etc.

However, I decided I would like to add a few words here, because I think there are too many generalities--I hate generalities, they're never accurate.

I think the question was asked, why a wolf anyway? Well, I wouldn't have a pure wolf. They are wild animals and should live where they were meant to live, I don't even like to see them in zoos. Yes, they can be trusted when they accept you as a pack member, but you have to really understand the dynamics of a wolf pack, and understand all the postering, true canine behavior, etc. A number of people have done that, with one man actually living in the wild with them. They are affectionate, loyal, intelligent, and their family structure has actually been studied to further understand human dynamics.

The canines I have posted about have been wolf/GSD crosses, with the lowest wolf content of mine being 50%. Also, I have never had over 75%--I have other responsibilities, and would not have had the time to devote--that would be a full time vocation.

In one of my posts I pointed out that I did not, and would not, debate the issue of breeding dogs to wolves. They can be bred, and the resulting offspring are NOT hybrids (hybrids are almost always sterile--mules, for example). In fact, the DNA between a dog and a wolf is so close that examining DNA of a wolf dog cannot tell you whether it does or does not carry wolf blood, it will only tell you who the mother and father are if you have their DNA. The head of our animal control, in a casual conversation with me a few years ago (not because there was ever a problem with my animals) pointed out that, yes, there were lots of good people who were responsible caretakers for wolfdogs. But the fact that we purchased them from breeders encouraged irresponsible breeders, those who sold puppies to just anyone, regardless whether they could offer a good, responsible and caring home. I couldn't offer an argument to that, although the same can be said for any large, aggressive dog breed, we see rescues and shelters full of them.

His comment did make me think, however, and the last wolf shepherd I opened my home to was a rescue.

Why do we love them as we do? Contrary to what some have posted here (and I speak from personal experience) they ARE deeply loyal, they love children they are raised with (with proper supervision, just like with any large breed), they are extremely intelligent and affectionate. No, they are not always obedient, they are not always protective (it's often like, "umm, you're the alpha, I think you should handle this, let me get behind you..."), they require a LOT of time and attention, you aren't going to get many get-away vacations--but there are humans who make sacrifices to enjoy the privilege of sharing their lives with these animals. No, they are not for everyone, but neither are GSDs, pit bulls, rotties, dobies, mastiffs, malamutes, malinois, huskies--the list could go on.

So, for the sake of being peaceful, I won't post anything more about the wolf shepherds who shared my life in the past, and I will happily sit back and learn more here about the care and training of my favorite dog breed, the working line GSD. (Sorry for the length of this post!)

Susan
 

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@Magwart
ETA: for anyone with any interest in wolves, if you can put up with the cold, the winter wolf-watching Field Seminars offered by the Yellowstone Institute are wonderful -- and very reasonable, considering you are out in a tiny group with a field biologist who knows the packs there well.

Do you have any info on this? who would i contact?
 

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How do wolves differ from domesticated dogs?
What are the cons of owning a wolf?
What are the pros (if there are any)?
What would one expect from a wolf from puppy-hood to adult-hood?

I'm not planning on owning a wolf, I'm simply curious.
I think my question is to what end? I could understand if a wolf or wolf dog made an excellant pet or sport dog or SAR dog...or cattle dog...or didn't shed...ect. I think it's their lack of purpose (being domesticated) is their demise. The only purpose would be as human status symbol. (Certainly not saying EVERY person, I don't know every person.)
 

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I think my question is to what end? I could understand if a wolf or wolf dog made an excellant pet or sport dog or SAR dog...or cattle dog...or didn't shed...ect. I think it's their lack of purpose (being domesticated) is their demise. The only purpose would be as human status symbol. (Certainly not saying EVERY person, I don't know every person.)
Unfortunately I think a lot of the time people just own wolves to say, "Look what I have!!" It's human arrogance, the same reason some people want to own bobcats or panthers as "pets."

That's not to say some people don't know what they're doing. Some people fall in love with the hybrid's personality just like we fell in love with the GSD and understand and enjoy the challenge they can present. But most people don't. And that can result in some unfortunate accidents. Because dogs are no longer domesticated wolves, they've evolved into something else entirely.
 

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@Magwart
ETA: for anyone with any interest in wolves, if you can put up with the cold, the winter wolf-watching Field Seminars offered by the Yellowstone Institute are wonderful -- and very reasonable, considering you are out in a tiny group with a field biologist who knows the packs there well.

Do you have any info on this? who would i contact?
You might also be interested in Wolf Park, in Battlefield, Indiana. Check out their website: Wolf Park
 
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