Wolf hybrids, or wolfdogs, are not the dog for everyone. While the training principles for working with a wolf hybrid puppy are the same for any dog, you will have additional challenges to face regarding local laws and your puppy's behavior.
Wolf Hybrid Puppies and Local Regulations
Depending on where you live, you will have to abide by stricter regulations for your pet than you would with a regular dog.
- Some states require you to keep your wolf hybrid completely contained with specific criteria for their cages that can include high, secure chain-link fencing and even specific criteria for their diet.
- In other states they are completely illegal to own, or they may be legal in your state but not your city or county.
- Laws change so if you intend to bring home a wolf hybrid, check directly with your local animal control office and state wildlife agency to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.
Wolf Hybrid Puppies and Socialization
One of the most critical steps in training any puppy is providing adequate socialization during their early development. Socialization is a particularly challenging part of raising a wolf hybrid puppy.
The regulations around owning a wolf hybrid can make bringing your wolf hybrid puppy out to meet people and dogs and experience places difficult, if not impossible, depending on your location. Even if your locale has more lax regulations, finding a training instructor willing to let a wolf hybrid puppy into a socialization class can be hard. Many trainers may fear the liability of allowing the pup in to a class or the backlash from other upset owners.
- Not every wolf hybrid is the same, but there is a strong tendency for these animals to be shyer and more fearful than your average dog.
- This makes socialization harder because you must move slowly and carefully in order to not make him more afraid of new things.
- Always work using positive reinforcement to help a wolf hybrid puppy see new people and places as good things.
- Work at your puppy's pace which may mean meeting people, dogs and new places from quite a distance. If your puppy is only relaxed when a new person is 20 feet away, work on rewarding them from there and then slowly work up to moving in closer.
- Consult with a behavior professional who can give you individualized advice on how to socialize a more fearful puppy so that socialization becomes a positive experience.
House Training a Wolf Hybrid Puppy
House training a wolf hybrid puppy follows the same principles as training a regular dog. Where you may have difficulties is using a crate as wolf hybrids tend to be uncomfortable with confinement and can be extreme escape artists.
Wolf Hybrid Territorial Behavior and House Training
One common issue experienced by wolf hybrid owners is related to the need of wolves in the wild to mark their territory with urine or feces. This is done to notify other wolves to stay away from valuable resources such as food or a den. Crate training can help but you will also need to monitor your puppy 24/7 to redirect them away from this strongly seated behavior.
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Sarah Filipiak of Best Pets Dog Training LLC says, "All puppies are quick to develop preferences for toilet areas." She recommends the following:
- "Be sure to establish appropriate outdoor spots right away, and feed delicious treats for the first several weeks your pup successfully uses the right spot."
- "Keep an eye on your puppy indoors at all times until fully house trained. Puppies can develop preferences for eliminating in certain areas in just a couple of accidents. It is much easier to teach your puppy the right place to go than to try to change his mind about the wrong place!"
Crate Training and Wolf Hybrid Puppies
Crate training can be an option when a puppy is small. Make sure you use a good quality, heavy duty crate such as ones made by the Kong Company.
- You may want to secure areas of the crate that can be pushed open with bungee cords, carabiners or zip ties to be safe.
- Provide items in the crate the puppy will enjoy so it's not seen as a bad place, such as a peanut butter stuffed bone, a favorite toy, and some comfortable bedding.
- Place him in the crate and close the door and toss some treats in the crate. Only keep him in for a few seconds and let him out. Repeat this process until he is eagerly running into the crate and slowly work up the time he is in there before you let him out.
- If your wolf hybrid puppy is extremely stressed by being in the crate and tries to harm himself getting out or displays anxious behaviors such as drooling, howling and more, consider using a bigger space.
- You can use the same principles as crate training with a bigger area such as a bathroom or laundry room with a baby gate on the door. In this instance, it's best to use a gate that is secured to the wall with screws and can't be dislodged easily like one placed there with pressure.
- For some wolf dog puppies, containment in the home simply won't be an option due to anxiety and extreme destructive behavior. In this case you should consider building a fully enclosed run for him to stay in when you cannot be supervising him.
- Realize as your wolf dog gets larger you will most likely need to move him to a larger outside enclosure for his own safety.
Obedience Training for a Wolf Hybrid Puppy
If you've ever trained a dog, the same learning principles apply when training a wolf hybrid to do typical obedience behaviors such as sit, stay, coming when called and more. However, you will probably experience issues related to the hybrid's instinctual behavior that will make this more challenging.
If you have a wolf hybrid that is very shy, he may be easily distracted learning in outside environments.
- Work on training him in quiet, low distraction places such as inside of your home.
- Only move toward going outside in your yard or even to a class when he's doing well with training at home.
- Note that this applies to training only, and only at the beginning. You do want to take him out for socialization as much as you can and as much as he's comfortable with.
Unlike the domestic dog, wolves have no instinctual behaviors related to working alongside humans. Your wolf hybrid is therefore much less likely to be as focused on you during training and you will have to do more work to convince him to respond to training.
- Use "high value" treats to keep his focus on being reinforced, such as cut up chicken, hot dogs, or pieces of cheese. Regular dry dog biscuits will likely not be enough to sustain his interest.
- Work in small increments of time to keep your sessions short. This helps your wolf hybrid puppy from becoming stressed and frustrated.
You should always use positive reinforcement and refrain from punishment when working with an animal. This is definitely true with a wolf hybrid that will need the extra reinforcement to be successful whether he is shy or less interested in people.
- Clicker training is a great option as it allows you to let the puppy know quickly when he's doing something right.
- Clicker training is also great for a shyer dog as you can give him more space and reward him from farther away. Click him for doing something right and toss the treat to him and work on moving in closer at his own comfort level.
Ask for Help
Because working with a wolf hybrid puppy on training can be harder than you may imagine, don't hesitate to reach out for help from a qualified training professional. The foundation you lay for your puppy's behavior now will be a big help when they reach adolescence and their behavior changes. Working with a professional who can coach you will make a big difference.
Finding a Trainer for a Wolf Hybrid Puppy
Behavior Consultant Sarah Filipiak recommends, "Locate a trainer or behavior consultant who has experience working with non-domestic canids or wolf hybrids. Verify that he or she uses positive reinforcement-based training techniques before you work with them. If you can't find a trainer local to you, many work remotely and can coach you over the internet using video chat services."
How to Take Care of a Wolf Hybrid Puppy
If you decide to bring home a wolf hybrid puppy, be prepared for a serious commitment working with their behavioral and containment challenges. The staff at WolfPark, a non-profit focused on wolf conservation and behavioral research, recommends "taking a behavior seminar for anyone even considers owning a wolf or hybrid. This would introduce you to some things you will need to know and give you some valuable tools with which to work with." Talk to other wolf hybrid owners and talk to behavioral consultants and trainers before you make this decision.