"Bad Dog!"

What Wolf-Dogs Do To Lose Their Homes

Photo © 2009 - Daniel Lazarek

Most Wolf-dogs owners have experienced the following:  Inside a house a little wolf-dog pup can be very cute until it reaches about three months of age. In the wild, the pup would be ranging well over twenty acres daily. Confined to a house he becomes responsible for trashed furniture, shredded carpets and curtains, and lots of other messes. At four months old the pup finally makes it on top the kitchen counters and the term “wolfing down your food” comes to life as the kitchen pantry is raided. As his owners attempt to relocate him to the floor, they soon discover that you never take food away from a wild animal- at least not without paying serious consequences. When exploration of the house becomes a boring daily ritual, he soon starts waging war on the family’s personal belongings. When the pup starts marking (peeing on the couches...) the house purposely, most house-breaking attempts turn into dominance struggles. With the pup now confined to the backyard, it is only time until trees, shrubs and plants are destroyed (along with all unprotected garden hoses and furniture). Play time becomes a roughhousing experience that leaves welts, scratches, and bruises. Children are no longer able to endure these rough-house sessions. A very frustrated animal now howls uncontrollably, paces relentlessly and starts to escape repeatedly.

Many people begin experiencing even more serious problems when their animal reaches one or two years old. An animal at this age is trying to determine where it fits into its “pack” and has the near abilities and strength of an adult wolf. By this point your animal has probably done one or more of the following:

These are all related to frustration the wolf or wolf-dog feels because it is not being properly understood.  Owners are also often told to treat them as a dog rather that the wild, independent creature that it is.   They end up expecting the animal to act like a dog.  When it does not, they no longer know what to do and no longer want to deal with it.  The wolf-dog’s frustration can come from lack of companionship (wolves are very pack or family oriented creatures), lack of space (a wild wolf need 10,000 acres of land each, so putting a wolf or wolf-dog in a 100 by 100 foot enclosure is like putting a small child into a closet), or it could be that the “wolf rules of life” have been violated to satisfy the needs of the master. 

Wolf-dogs and wolves see you as just another part of their pack (a funny-looking, really tall wolf), so they expect you to understand and live by the same rules that they do.  Wolves and wolf-dogs have a natural instinct to protect their territory, their mate, and their pack; so when you go in and out of their enclosure, approach their mate or take them out if they are sick or need attention, you can leave them feeling confused, frustrated and threatened.  Once removed from their territories, wolves lose their social standing within the pack hierarchy, are generally challenged for their position upon return, and thus are extremely nervous while away.  By approaching their mate, you are possibly challenging your wolf-dog for leadership and mating rights… it sounds preposterous, but it’s true.  When your wolf-dog is happy and playing with you, it can easily sprint toward you, hit you at 20 mph, sink its teeth into your hip, do two somersaults, and expect you to say, “Wow, that’s fun!”  In many cases, it is the owner's inability to understand basic wolf communication that causes their animal unwarranted stress and possible loss of their home and/or life.

Often times, these destructive behaviors are unknowingly encouraged by the wolf-dogs owners.  Many people let their young pups free run on weekends, thinking they are being kind and helping the animal.  In reality all it does is tease the pups.  As soon as it is put back in a cage or on a chain the animal paces, digs, chews and does anything it can to get loose again. If the animal is successfully contained it waits daily for a chance to free run again. This just encourages them to try to escape.

Along with free running, the other most seemingly innocent mistake is to start playing games with your pup.  Your new little pup sneaks up behind you and grads your hair or pulls on your socks.  It’s just so cute.  But what happens when your pup grows up and wants to keep playing these games?  Your 100 lb. wolf-dog will pull you over backward and rip out your hair.  As it reaches for your socks, the wolf-dog’s huge mouth will grab your leg and pull you around.  Wolves and wolf-dogs have thick fur and tough skin to protect each other from rough-housing like this.  However, you aren’t fortunate enough to have the same protection.  While your wolf-dog believes it is being gentle and everything is done in fun, you can easily end up needing stitches. 

Wolf-dogs, despite living with people, are still wild animals.  Would you play games with a lion or tiger?  Let a hyena free run in the neighborhood?  Expect a grizzly bear not to steal food off the table?  Punish a mountain lion for peeing on the couch?  The only difference is that your wolf-dog looks like a domestic dog… therein lies the problem.  We expect wolves and wolf-dog to act like dogs.  We all know that wolves are wild animals (or we should), that they do not belong in the house, living as pets.  The wolf-dog is an aberration.  Half wild and half domestic, we can never truly know what to expect from them.  As pups, they are fuzzy, cute and innocent.  As adults, they take over the house, destroy everything in sight, tear up the yard, escape and terrorize the neighborhood.  Wolf-dogs are stuck in the middle… they are not domestic pets, but neither are they self-sufficient creatures that can survive in the wild.

So what do you do when your pup grows up and starts acting like a tornado?  What are your options?  Go on to the next section to find out: Making it Work.