Is keeping wolves as pets a good idea?
In Missoula Montana, a man named Layne Spence was out with his three malamutes. The breed, much like the Siberian husky, resembles a wolf in both size and shape.
Enough, at least, for a hunter to mistake them from a distance. The first shot was fired without warning, aimed at one of the dogs who had run ahead of the group. That was when Spence saw him: a hunter dressed in camo about 30 yards ahead, with a rifle aimed directly at the dog.
Living with Wolves
READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: Montana Man’s Pet Malamute Shot By Hunter
Spence shouted, waving his arms, telling the hunter to stop, but his cries fell on deaf ears. With a second shot, Spence’s dog was dead. All because it resembled a wolf.
The stigma against wolves remains a powerful danger for the species, even today. If a resemblance to a wolf is enough to endanger an animal, being a wolf makes it as much a target to over-cautious people as a black cat to vandals on Halloween.
It doesn’t help that wolves, by their nature are terrible pets.
In spite of the determination of many gentle-hearted people to keep wolves and hybrids as pets, they are inherently wild animals. Even Gray Wolf Conservation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service insist that wolves are not good pets.
One problem is that people tend to mistake wolves for their cousins, the domesticated dog. Dogs have been bred over centuries to be submissive, obedient, and sociable, while wolves have spent as many centuries in the wild.
Where a dog derives pleasure from pleasing its master, wolves do not. Where a dog will react to a scolding with shame and submission, a wolf knows only to retaliate with equal aggression.
Wolves are, therefore, almost impossible to train.
In addition to this, wolves and hybrids are unlikely to behave in a familiar manner. Wolves greet each other with a form of hugging that appears to be them simply chewing on a pack member’s face.
They won’t shy away from jumping on you and licking your face. This is friendly behavior that, from a dog, might be interpreted as aggression.
More often than not, a well-meaning individual will adopt a wolf or hybrid puppy with every intention of loving it, but cannot handle the seemingly aggressive behavior, the resistance to training, and even the wolf’s tendency to destroy its environment. Many end up abandoning the animal either to the wild or to the end of a chain, where it can be closely monitored.
In situations such as these, it would have been better had the animal not been adopted in the first place. However, there are those who have adopted wolf and hybrid pups successfully.
Should you wish to do so, please keep the following things in mind:
- Pups must be adopted at about two weeks of age, especially if it is more wolf than dog. Be prepared to bottle feed it around the clock.
- Be prepared to feed it up to five pounds of meat a day for 15 years. Venison is best.
- For the first five months, minimize exposure to adult dogs, but do not completely restrict it. Wolves need other dogs so it doesn’t imprint fully on humans. Half hour visits a few times a week will suffice.
- Introduce the animal to many people, but do not take it out in public. Social stress could overwhelm and harm it.
- Leash train it, and connect the leash to pleasant experiences.
- Teach it to be submissive but do not punish it freely. Wolves are more independent and will not respond to scolding as well as a dog.
- Wolves and hybrids may attack you, so recognize the cause of the attack. Was it breeding season? Was it guarding food? Be prepared to forgive.
- Keep them away from children. They may stalk a child, and they are not going to be gentle enough to play with one.
- Make sure you have adequate facilities. An eight-foot chain link fence around your yard is a good start. If you’re going to keep it in the house, prepare for some destruction.
Wolves do not have generations of submission and a desire to please bred into them. If you fear you cannot handle any of the above mentioned factors, don’t adopt wolves or hybrids.