“M”–a wolfdog owner–shares his views

Over the years I’ve had countless people approach me extolling my dog’s beauty, and more than a few have expressed the desire to go and get one just like him. This is written for them.

It’s true. My dog is absolutely stunning. He’s smart, affectionate, playful, clean, and remarkably well-behaved. He’s an amazing animal, I love him deeply, I have been incredibly fortunate to have him as a part of my life, and I would recommend that anyone considering going out and getting a wolf hybrid pup to go and have their head examined.

To begin with, I got lucky. It is an absolute roll of the dice in terms of the genetic lottery with hybrid animals. Some individuals, like mine, can become well-adjusted, fantastic companions. But for every one like mine, there’s one who never quite learns how to deal with life in civilization and a four-walled world. If you are considering purchasing a hybrid pup or otherwise supporting their continued breeding, know with absolute certainty that you are helping to doom many animals to lives of misfit misery. Better yet, go to a sanctuary and see for yourself what that really means. If you have anything resembling a conscience, I rather suspect that you’ll be unable to both follow through with this idea and sleep at night, .

But maybe you have a shred of decency after all. Maybe you’re considering rescuing a hybrid instead- really, how hard could it be?

I’ve lived with my dog for five years since rescuing him as an 8 month old pup. His first owner was wholly unprepared to deal with the dog, and, as soon as he started changing from a cute little furball into an adolescent dog with boundless needs for exercise and attention, first beat the dog then chained him out to a mailbox while asking passers by if they wanted him. When I heard about his situation he was less than a week from being taken to animal control to be euthanized.

For almost a full year after bringing him home, my life was completely dominated by the dog. He was completely unsocialized to both people and other dogs, un-neutered, and had developed both substantial fear aggression toward people and severe separation anxiety. I was lucky at the time to be working a part-time job from home most of the time and taking a light load during grad school, but even so, the little bit of time that I had to be out of the house was enough to have both of us- me and the dog- at the ends of our respective ropes.

When I say “separation anxiety” you probably think of him making sad puppy dog eyes and maybe letting out a mournful (but nonetheless kind of adorable) whimper or howl because he misses his people. You don’t think of frantic pacing and digging to get out. You don’t think of an animal in such abject psychological misery that he drools incessantly and loses control of his bladder and bowel. You don’t think of an animal so desperate to not be alone that he will bite and thrash to the point of destroying reinforced steel breeders kennels and break his teeth on the bars. You don’t think of the looks of horror and disgust you get from your neighbors who’ve listened to all of this, sure that you are abusing this animal horrifically when you’ve had the temerity to dart out for half an hour to go grocery shopping.

Likewise, while you may envy my high spirited and independent animal, the day-to-day reality of life with him for the first eighteen months was nowhere near as rosy. Every day was another contest of wills, another test. Are you prepared to physically wrestle him into his kennel to go on that grocery trip? Are you prepared to strive with ninety pounds of muscle and teeth, day in and day out, sick and tired alike? Are you willing to shove your hand in those jaws to retrieve the chicken bone you didn’t see quite in time to stop him from scarfing it up? To be jerked around like a crash test dummy every time he sees another four-legged creature?

Are you prepared to walk around bruised and bloody, to lose homes, jobs and relationships, to dedicate every day to caring for this animal?

Finally, are you willing to lie for his safety every day? To hide his true ancestry behind lies and omissions because, were his ancestry known, it would put him in mortal danger? And are you willing to live with the knowledge that, if things ever go really wrong, this animal that you’ve bled, sweat, and cried for will be killed outright, there will be nothing you can do about it, and in the meantime you will quite possibly be facing criminal charges, to say nothing of an almost guaranteed civil suit?

Bringing a hybrid into your life is not something you do lightly. It is not something you choose because you want a pretty or tough looking dog. This is something you do out of love, because you want to help to mitigate some of the misery caused by the breeding of these animals, and because you are convinced that you’re strong and dedicated enough to live up to this challenge and, as such, it is your duty to do what you can. If you’re very lucky, as I have been, your reward will be the knowledge that you’ve changed the life of a wondrous animal in need for the better.

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5 Responses to “M”–a wolfdog owner–shares his views

  1. Natalie Miller says:

    Your article is beautiful, and perfect. It is something that I will show to people that say they want a wolf hydrid. (Living in the middle of a huge city, it’s sad how often I do hear this!)

    I do have a question though, if this author does check back on this! Were you able to find a cage that could withstand his panic? I have a friend who is in a similar situation with her dog (not a wolf dog, but a mastiff mix)….he is ripping any kennel to shreds, even reinforced ones….she can’t find one on the market that can hold him.

  2. Lane Batot says:

    For Natalie Miller–One thing I learned very well keeping wolf-hybrids, was how to FENCE! And I don’t mean the “touche'” kind, either! One of th BEST options, especially for dogs that have learned to rip through almost any chain-link or welded-wire type fence(and MANY dogs, not just wolves or wolf-crosses learn to do this!), is LIVESTOCK PANELS, available at farm/feed stores like Tractor Supply, various Co-ops, etc. They come in 16 foot lengths, usually, and about four feet high–put one on top of the other for a splendid 8-foot high fence! They come in a variety of meshes, too–narrow to large–for a mastiff, I’d think any available would work. You need bolt cutters to cut them, though! These panels have been used successfully by people keeping friggin’ lions and tigers and bears(oh my!) in captivity! I have seen them framed with wood in an upscale, nit-picky neighborhood no less, that looked quite respectable aesthetically! I have used these panels to reinforce a 6-foot welded-wire fence at the base, and never had any canine get beyond trying to tear through(unsuccessfully) the 4-foot height of the panel–so I never have(yet) needed to double them in height–but that’s an option. Hope this is helpful…..

    • Natalie Miller says:

      Lane, Thank you thank you for the idea! Do you think this will work for a dog crate/kennel style thing?

  3. Lane Batot says:

    Natalie; it certainly COULD, if you wired/connected the pieces of panel with sturdy enough attachments(which in this case would include top and bottom pieces)–but I would hope that this(or any!) dog wasn’t kept confined in such a crate/cage for more than a short period. If this dog is expected to stay in the crate all day long(as I know, alas, a lot of people keep their dogs), it is little wonder it is trying so hard to get out! I’m all for crate training–I have trained all my dogs(including past wolf dogs) to accept being in a crate for brief periods–in fact I daily feed my 6 house dogs in seperate crates to prevent fights and stealing(outside sled dogs get seperated on a picket line at dinnertime–I also think it wise to teach dogs to accept being tied, even if you almost never need to control them in this way–it comes in VERY handy, sometimes!)–and consequently, they LOVE(and are even territorial!) about their crates! Not knowing more about your friend’s circumstances, it is hard to make accurate judgements here(in other words, I may not know what I’m talking about in her case), but I would try to find ANY WAY to get that dog a secure fenced area, or doggy daycare if it’s available anywhere near her(and IF she’s rich!), etc…….

  4. justus reid says:

    Oh, boy! My neighbor gave me Part Wild, as she knew I loved animals but I never told her I had bought a wolfdog several years back. I am so glad Dr. Terrill wrote the book because I was sucked into believing wolfdogs would make the best family protection package money could buy. The breeders of these wolfdogs never tell you the kind of things you will experience once you own one. There was no store-bought crate that would contain Jack, my wolfdog. He bent all of the crate frames and would be out in very little time. I wish I had known what the story was before I got Jack. All of the things Dr Terrill mentioned we went through in one form or other. He was remarkable, but was always out of the yard and would be returned by the neighbors, even brought home on a sting tied to his collar by a 4 yr old girl. I miss him terribly.

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