Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Say No to Wolfdog Stereotypes!

One of the saddest bits of having a wolfdog is the rampant stigmatization of the "breed" - I put breed in quotes because wolfdogs aren't really a breed, but it's really the best term to use for simplicity's sake.

Wolfdogs get a bad rep in just about every section. You can blame it on scare-tactic oriented media, or people holding onto medieval fears about wolves, or people who misrepresent their aggressive shepherd/husky mixes as wolfdogs, but all in all it boils down to a lot of misinformation and ignorance and there's no one single responsible party.

Something we deal with almost constantly in Life with Bast is people's fear and prejudice against him, not only for his traditionally "scary" looks ('cuz he does kinda look like The Grim) but also for what he is. People seem to lose their minds when they hear the "W" Word. They only remember The Big Bad Wolf of their childhood and ignore the sweet, docile animal in front of their eyes.

I have a hard time being afraid of this face, but it's probably because I had to wipe his butt when he was sick as a puppy.

One of the stigmas that breaks my heart the most is "wolf hybrids are aggressive." If you look this myth up, you'll find untold amounts of webpages saying the same thing: wolfdogs have a "war" in their heads, wolfdogs are "wild animals", wolfdogs have high bite reports. The problem with all of these reports is that it is very, very hard, most of the time impossible, to verify whether the animals responsible for these reports are actually wolfdogs at all.

Misrepresentation is one of the biggest issues in the wolfdog world. Because most people have never seen a wolfdog, they don't know what they look like and can be easily fooled by unscrupulous breeders. German shepherd - husky crosses can produce animals that have a "wolfy" look to them - although, if you ask most people what looking "wolfy" means, they probably can't answer you.

Even for experienced people, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a low content wolfdog and a simple shepherd/husky cross, or even pure bred huskies in many cases. Racing line huskies can get some crazy looks to them:

Looks pretty wolfy, yeah? Most people wouldn't question that animal if it were claimed as a wolfdog, because most people don't know what characteristics wolfdogs have in order to judge.

Now take that problem to the streets. You have people all across the country throwing together shepherds, huskies, and malamutes to try to create animals that "look wolfy" so they can jack up their prices by a few hundred dollars. This leads to LOADS of people with animals that they claim as wolf hybrids or wolfdogs when in reality, the animal has no more wolf in it than your average poodle.

See how this is a problem for bite statistics?

People often mistake wolfdogs as being aggressive, and the part of this that's so sad to me is that the belief that woofers are aggressive could not be further from the truth. Wolfdogs, almost as a rule, are extraordinarily shy, timid creatures. It's one of their most defining characteristics; often, when someone claims that their "wolf hybrid" is aggressive or protective, it's one of the biggest red flags that the animal actually probably has no wolf in it at all, because it is simply not in their nature to be that way. For many breeders involved with wolfdogs, their timidity is one of their worst attributes and is something that requires very careful breeding selection to change - a process that can and has taken decades in some cases, as in the case of the very beautiful Blue Bay Shepherds.

There are exceptions to every rule, but in the case of protective wolfdogs, it's really, really rare - for all that he clearly loves me, I haven't a single doubt in my mind that if someone rushed to attack me on the streets while walking Bast, he would take off like his ass was on fire and leave me to my fate.

My, what long legs you have! All the better to save my own ass while you get stabbed, my dear.

To illustrate that Bast is not an atypical wolfdog, I asked a group of other wolfdog owners to share stories of their own woofers getting the crap scared out of them (literally in some cases).

Many of the stories are humorous...

"Remmy honestly has ever been spooked by furries [people wearing animal costumes]..."

Or in Bast's case, snowmen. This one in particular made him so scared, he wouldn't go outside anymore and just peed in the house until it melted:

I think its eyes were made of pee.
Or another friend's low content wolfdog, Echo...

"Echo is scared of rabbits and squirrels. If he sees one, he will tear off to hide behind me or try to get into the car or house."

Wolfdogs spook at the weirdest things. Anything out of the ordinary is scary and must be approached with caution:

"Aspen is afraid of cars that aren't parked in their normal spots on our street. When we go for a walk and someone has company, they park on the side of the road... That's not okay."

Other stories are not so funny and highlight how fragile these animals can be...

"Keeta pooped herself in PetSmart because someone didn't listen and tried to approach her anyways..."

Woofer owners have to have a closet full of reassurance and coping mechanisms to help especially fearful woofers...

"Try carrying a 60 pound baby that's crying and pissing on both you and herself because a stranger came too quickly up to her."

I wish these stories were atypical, but this is often the reality of daily life with a wolfdog, especially rescued wolfdogs that come from terrible backgrounds. Wolfdogs are single-event learners - all it takes is one bad owner beating them and they can be irreparably broken.

Bast is very special and unique in many ways, but his timidness and non-confrontational attitude is not. That is the way of most woofers, who would much rather be friends if you'll give them a chance.

I know everyone loves Bast's silly stories, and I do try not to be a Debbie Downer very often, but I hope that next time you hear someone saying "wolf hybrids are dangerous and aggressive", you'll remember my sweet boy and think twice about believing everything you hear.


  1. I LOVE this! This is very well written! It needs to go viral and be shared everywhere. This is a must read for sure!

  2. I absolutely love your post, I have raised them for more than 20 yrs , and yes they are the biggest scaredy cats in the world. But once they begin to trust you, you belong to them forever and they are the most intelligent, compassionate, goofy, hugging, loving, babies in the world, and I would not have it any other way. They do have their own ideas of when you are allowed to be away from them, but then they are so happy to see you again and just want to rub their bodies all over you.Keep up the writing so that more humans can see the reality of the fur babies and their most awesome personalities.

  3. As the owner of one of his nieces, Aleris wouldn't go outside for 3 weeks when we first got our new car, she was terrified of it there was nothing I could do to get her to walk by it. Had to carry her out to go potty lucky she was alot smaller than she is now I can just see it now the next new car me at 5ft trying to carrying this HUGE baby past the new ride just to go potty. You try to get them use to new things and prepare them for anything and its sorta funny that the smallest thing can scare them that you never even thought about. <3 Gotta love the big bad scardy cats!

  4. I own a super friendly wolfdog, a mid-content. He is extremely friendly to people, and to dogs, but he does spook easily. Every time he explores a new place, his legs weirdly drop close to the ground, almost like a crawl. They are *extremely* intelligent and very loving. I don't trust him around any animal that isn't human or canine though. That's where the wolf comes out. He can kill an animal (squirrel, rabbit, skunk, possum, etc...) faster and more efficiently than any dog I've ever seen. He would kill a cat in a heartbeat. He's completely trustworthy around people, dogs, and children, whom he seems to especially love.