How To Assess Wolves as Pets: Facts About Pet Wolves

Learn About Wolf Behavior and if a Wolf Would Make a Good Pet

Bonding with pet

Wolves are wild (not domesticated) animals and therefore it is important to learn how to assess these creatures as pets. This means that they like to live outdoors, follow the rules of the pack and mark their territory. Are you considering a wolf or wolfdog as a pet? Here are some tips as to what you should consider as you make the decision. Facts about pet wolves:

  1. Wolves, wolfdogs and wolf hybrids. Crosses between wolves and dogs were once referred to as wolf hybrids but are now called wolfdogs. Keep in mind that when wolves and dogs are bred, you don’t really know what percentage “wolf” the resulting wolfdog will contain and so you should know how to assess wolves as pets. In general, the number of generations your pet is away from being a wolf in the wild affects his degree of “wolfness” as does the breed of dog in question. This means that some wolfdogs are more dog than wolf whereas others are more wolf than dog. Don’t expect that because you’ve known a wolfdog that was manageable that the one that you get will have the same characteristics!
  2. Wolves will constantly test you for dominance. Throughout their lives, wolves are always trying to become alpha, which means that they will regularly test you to see who is dominant. You must regularly let your wolf or wolfdog know who is the alpha……you! Should your wolf think that he is alpha, he will be very hard to control. That being said, physical punishment is never appropriate for wolves and wolfdog mixes.
  3. Wolves are difficult to train. While dogs have been living with humans for anywhere from 15,000 – 100,000 years, wolves have not. This means that they do not have the desire to please the owner that dogs do. Because they are loyal to the pack instead of the human, wolfdogs are much harder to train. And while training is more of challenge, it is even more necessary. Without it, you will have an unapproachable wild animal on your hands. Even with training, more time and effort are required to produce results. 
  4. Wolves are social animals. Wolves are used to living in a pack and wolf behavior exhibits that. They do not like to be left alone. If you will be gone from your home for stretches of time, your wolf needs to have another dog or wolf to hang out with while you’re gone. It is cruel and unusual punishment to leave a pack animal without a companion.
  5. Wolves need to be socialized. Wolves and wolfdogs need to become accustomed from birth on not just to adults and children but to noises, household settings and other animals. If they have not had a chance to become accustomed to the stimuli they regularly encounter, they will become fearful and therefore aggressive.
  6. Wolves are different than dogs. Owning a wolf requires much more work than dogs—more training for wolf behavior, more dedication, more time, more space, more patience. Ownership of these wild animals is not for the inexperienced nor the faint of heart.
  7. Wolves like to mark their territory. In the wild, wolves mark their territory and in your home, they are likely to do the same. They are not easy to housetrain nor do they enjoy spending time indoors. They also do not defecate in one area as dogs tend to do. You will need a lot of outdoor space for your wolf or wolfdog to roam.
  8. Living accommodations. When you are assessing whether or not to get a wolf, remember that wolves are used to living outdoors in dens. They like to dig, howl and run. You will need lots of space that is completely fenced. Your fence will need to go beneath the ground so that the wolf will not be able to dig out. Be sure to consider your neighbors in your decision, especially when it comes to the question of howling. While howling is a natural expression for a wolf, try explaining that to the neighbors at 3 a.m. when they come knocking on your door to complain.
  9. Veterinarian treatment. Wolves can be difficult to take to the vet. Many veterinarians refuse to treat wolves or wolfdogs, and in some states, it is against the law for them to do so. Additionally, the rabies vaccine is not approved for use with wolves, so even a wolf that has been vaccinated is considered at risk for rabies.
  10. Wolves are carnivores. "Where's the beef?" Wolves need to have a diet supplemented with fresh meat. Consider the issues of access and cost.
  11. Legality. Some people fail to consider the legalities of pet wolves when researching facts about pet wolves. The legality of owning a wolf varies from state to state. In many states, you must have a permit to own a wolf. You can also expect to be visited by enforcement officials to make sure that your paperwork is in order.
  12. Wolves as watchdogs. Wolves are not good watchdogs. At most, they will bark once to let the alpha know that something is amiss......that would be you. Once you've been alerted, the wolf considers his job done.

Many wolf and wolfdogs end up at the pound after well-meaning owners find them difficult to manage, mainly because people didn't do enough research ahead of time. A wolf can be very cute as a pup, and an entirely different animal upon maturity. If you are seriously considering a wolf as a pet, please do yourself and your future pet a favor by thoroughly researching the dangers and responsibilities first.


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Nice article, good advice. Too many people enter lightly into wolfdog ownership, and the animals end up in rescues or euthanized. To anyone considering bringing a wolfdog into your family, please do your research first!
- Nicole Wilde, author Living with Wolfdogs and Wolfdogs A-Z: Behavior, Training & More

By Nicole Wilde