A couple of days ago over on my list (The GSD Showcase) we touched briefly on the subject of German Shepherd/Wolf breeding or the hybrid. I wanted to write a little about this subject as I found it to be interesting and disturbing at the same time. A couple of people had written that they at one time had owned this type of dog.
I became interested in this subject when I was watching a program last week on Animal Planet called “Fatal Attraction.” It is an excellent program in my opinion that shows how some people become involved out of the kindness of their hearts with wild animals. The program can be very graphic but I think it needs to be to show how serious this subject is.
I think it’s safe to say that most people that read my blog or belong to my list or other lists are animal lovers or at least German Shepherd dog lovers. Many of us have big hearts when it comes to animals. Many of us treat our dogs like they’re part of our families and some like they’re our child. It is this love for animals that can extend to wild life as well. We feed the birds, the squirrels, and even a wild cat or two. Because eating is one of the strongest needs an animal has, he will return time and time again to its food source. And if its food source is being generously handed out by a human, then the wildlife grows more tolerant of human beings and before you know it, they are standing at your back door. And the bigger the animal you’re feeding, the more brazen some of them can get to where they’re not just standing at your back door, but they’re scratching at it and even trying to break through it.
It’s tempting to feed a wild animal. You’re doing it because you love animals and you don’t see the harm in it. But feeding wild animals can have deadly consequences for both the human that’s doing it and ultimately the animal that we’re trying to help survive. We are putting ourselves and the animal in real danger. It’s dangerous for the human who may find himself the wild animal’s supper and then for the animal that will be hunted and killed. That’s why feeding wildlife in national parks and refuges is illegal. In many states, feeding certain wild animals is punishable by fines and /or imprisonment.
On one of these “Fatal Attraction” shows last week, there was a program about Wolfs and Wolf hybrids where the wolf and German Shepherd Dog were mixed. It showed a story of a woman who raised these Wolfs and hybrids. She truly loved her animals and they were like her children. It showed pictures of her and her companions up on the sofa laying there like any other “dog” would. They were beautiful animals. The videos showed some of the animals outside in a fenced in enclosure. Although they were “domesticated” by this woman, one could still see how restless and wild they still were. They played rough with the woman and the dominate alpha personality of the Wolf was very evident.
I wonder why man felt the need to breed the Wolf with the German Shepherd and what he was hoping to accomplish. I realize that dogs come from Wolfs but if man bred away from some of those negative characteristics of the Wolf, why would they want to reintroduce it in the bloodlines again? There are actually breeders who breed these two animals together and are selling their puppies to the public. Although the German Shepherd looks probably the most like a Wolf, he most certainly doesn’t have some of the characteristics of the animal. Although the German Shepherd has a strong character and you must be the “pack leader”, he is very happy to allow you to be so once you establish that rank from the time he is a puppy. The Wolf on the other hand, is extremely dominate and it’s much harder to take the “alpha” out of him. He will challenge you time and time again. Sometimes the German Shepherd will challenge you as well, but the Wolf is a predator and one should always be aware of this if you think owning a Wolf or a hybrid is the thing to do.
Most of the pictures that I’ve seen of the Wolf/German Shepherd cross look more like the Wolf than the dog. One of the main differences is in the shape of the eye of the two animals. The Wolf has a very slanted eye whereas the German Shepherd’s eye is almond shaped. Also the Wolf’s eye is very cold and has a staring look to his face. The German Shepherd’s eye is usually friendlier looking. If you have the hybrid, most of the time he has a colder stare which really makes him look like a wild animal rather than a domesticated dog.
Also the hybrid can be more skittish in temperament. They can be easily spooked by fast motion or loud noises. They can learn to love their people, but at the same time can be extremely aggressive towards strangers. This would not be one that I would invite into the house when I had company. Who wants an animal that you can’t trust? We must never lose the fact that these mixed bred animals have the characteristics of both the wolf and the dog. Because they have the characteristics of a wolf, one never knows when the wolf side of him will show up.
Much patience is needed when you train this animal. They need consistent and firm training and lots of room to roam. From what I’ve read, the Wolf Hybrid will start to show the Wolf side of his DNA when he’s about 18 months old. Prior to this, they are playful and adapt more easily to their surroundings. They are easier to train and even bond with other dogs. As they mature and their hormonal system reaches maturity, this is when you will see them begin to exhibit all of the typical behaviors of the Wolf.
I think we’ve come a long way from the Wolf in our domestication of the dog and the German Shepherd in general. With our breed, one can see the beauty of the Wolf without the aggressive predator showing it’s dominate face. The German Shepherd may look like a Wolf and may even be considered the “King of dogs” but he’s come a long way from the plains and forests of the land to be a companion, protector and unlimited source of love and affection to his master. As much I as I love the wild animals and enjoy immensely watching them on television, I’ve always said, let the wild animals alone. Let them remain wild. I hate them locked in cages in carnivals or zoos. I hate them used to entertain at a circus jumping from one platform to another or sitting up on command! There is just something so wrong seeing a wild animal caged panting and pacing back and forth for our viewing enjoyment. NOT!
From the book: "THE WOLF: THE ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF AN ENDANGERED SPECIES" - Since the dawn of history, no other living thing (save, possibly, the snake) has been as reviled by humankind as the wolf. Still, wolves and people have been drawn to each other since the beginning. Canis lupus bounds through our folklore, howls in our dreams, and--occasionally--competes with us on the hunt. As one zoologist imagines it: "Through the cold of winter the wolf made music in the mysterious darkness and sometimes, in curiosity, sat just beyond the dwindling circle of firelight and watched." The curiosity was mutual; this is the feared animal, ironically, that gave rise to man's best friend. Yet only recently has science begun to understand these complex social mammals. Enter biologist L. David Mech. Years of research during the 1960s in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park provided Mech with a level of firsthand knowledge shared by few in the field. In 1970 he compiled his findings (updated in 1980) into the preeminent document of its kind. Thomas McNamee, author of The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone, calls the book the "best single source of information on wolf biology," and refers to its author as "the undisputed king of wolf research." When government officials in the early 1990s decided to embark on an ambitious project to reintroduce wolves into their former range of Yellowstone National Park, they called on Mech's expertise. All this is to say that, if you want to learn about wolves, you cannot ignore this seminal work or its author. Chapters cover wolf evolution, range, and physiology; society and pack behavior; reproduction; hunting and predator-prey relationships; and the species' uncertain future. Like any self-respecting scientist, Mech includes all the hard data, but he presents his work in an engaging manner that is accessible to a broader audience, drawing heavily on anecdotes and personal experience. "Many people strongly dislike the wolf," Mech writes, "others rush to its defense. But no one denies that the animal is strong, powerful, intelligent, keen, and dynamic." While persecution by man has severely restricted its current status, the tide is turning, thanks to education and conservation efforts. After all, a night without a howl echoing somewhere across the landscape would surely be a colder, less alive night. --Langdon Cook
My rating: German Shepherd Dog: (4), Wolf: (4), German Shepherd/Wolf hybrid: (1)