Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
position of the National Wildlife Federation
The idea of owning a wolf or a wolf-dog cross is appealing to some people who profess a great love and respect for wolves. They want to share their lives and homes with a wild spirit. Perhaps they even believe that by perpetuating the genes of wild wolves, they are doing the species a favor.
The reality of owning one of these animals is often very different. While wolf puppies might be every bit as cute as dog puppies, they will grow up to be wolves, not dogs, no matter how much they are treated like dogs. With wolf-dog crosses, or hybrids, the higher the percentage of wolf genes, the more wolf-like behavior the hybrid will exhibit.
Dogs vs. Wolves And Hybrids: It took many thousands of years for humans to selectively breed canines for the traits that make modern-day dogs such delightful companions: congeniality, flexibility, and eagerness to please. It is simply impossible to instill these traits in a wild animal overnight. Many an unsuspecting wolf lover has purchased a wolf pup, only to find that it is largely untrainable (since it does not care much about pleasing its owner), and that as it grows into adulthood it becomes unpredictable, if not downright dangerous, especially around children and small animals. Many such animals end up living miserable lives on the end of a chain after a frustrated owner gives up on trying to care properly for the animal. When such an animal is cornered or frightened and reacts by attacking a human - - often a small child - - the incident reinforces the common misconception that wolves are bloodthirsty and aggressive creatures.
Often wolf or hybrid owners who are unable to cope with their "pet" elect to either pass the animal along to another unsuspecting wolf lover or sentence the animal to life at a sanctuary (many such facilities exist, but most are already overcrowded). Some may release the animal to the wild, where it will most likely starve to death or because of its familiarity with people may be involved in depredation incidents resulting in a wolf being unfairly blamed.
Some wolves and wolf hybrids do fare reasonably well with conscientious owners who are knowledgeable and well-prepared to deal with the special needs of their animals. Meanwhile, however, animal shelters are overflowing with gentle, obedient dogs of all sizes, shapes, and colors that must be killed if no homes are found for them. Given this fact, the growing trade in captive wolves and hybrids is tragic and unnecessary.