Dog lovers everywhere can appreciate the majesty of a wolf. After all, wolves are the wild ancestors of the domesticated dog, and they typically retain an aura of mystery that the goofy, fun-loving canines in your life simply can’t replicate.
However, certain breeds look to be close kin to the wolf, and they may even exhibit wolf-like tendencies. Notably, the husky breed is an alluring choice among dog owners who are looking for a deeper connection to the wild. Other people take their admiration of wolves a step further by breeding or purchasing dog-wolf hybrids.
But this practice raises a number of questions, most notably: Is there a difference between huskies and dog-wolf hybrids?
The short answer is yes, but there’s still plenty to consider. Whether you’re the proud owner of a husky or hybrid, or are just fascinated by canines in general, understanding the distinctions that separate wolves, huskies, and dog-wolf hybrids is important.
Huskies and Hybrids: Domesticated Dogs or Wild Animals?
All dogs are a subspecies of wolves, and a dog-wolf hybrid lives up to its name. Sometimes referred to as a “wolfdog,” a hybrid is a canine cross of domestic dog and any species of wolf.
Despite its wolf-like pointy ears, long coat, and general skittishness, the husky is a breed of domesticated dog and not a hybrid at all. Huskies are classified as a spitz breed, along with other longhaired working dogs, including the Akita Inu and the Alaskan Malamute.
Spitzes are characterized by fur that’s long and thick, pointed muzzles and ears, and a curly tail that may prominently droop. One of the most notable visual differences between a spitz and wolf is the eyes—wolves have almond-shaped eyes, while a husky’s eyes are round. Furthermore, a wolf’s tail does not curl.
Hybrids can be more difficult to identify as they tend to look and behave more like wolves. Genetic testing may be the only definitive way to determine if your canine is part wolf.
Behavioral Aspects of Hybrids and Huskies
It’s no secret that owning a dog (no matter the breed) can improve our mental and physical health, but training a dog takes patience and persistence. And not all breeds respond to training in the same way or timeframe.
If you need assistance in training your hybrid or husky, you can seek help from a professional dog behaviorist or enroll your canine in obedience school. Further, there are plenty of behavioral training resources available online, some of which are breed-specific.
Dog-wolf hybrids can be difficult to train, especially if you adopt one who has reached adulthood. Once wolves reach the age of maturity, their territorial nature is typically more pronounced, according to the International Wolf Center, hence why hybrids may also exhibit similar stubborn behavior, sometimes even challenging their humans in order to assert dominance.
As wolves tend to mature at a much slower rate than dogs, it can be difficult to determine when your wolfdog has reached the age of maturation. Dogs typically reach sexual maturity by the time they are nine months old, although that can vary between breeds—wolves, on the other hand, spend between one to four years in adolescence. A hybrid’s maturation age can fall anywhere within that range.
Socializing Spitzes and Dog-Wolf Hybrids
Wolves are notoriously anti-social where humans are concerned, but they’re still pack animals, just like their domestic counterparts.
Huskies and hybrids are fiercely loyal to their “pack,” and they do best in an active household with plenty of opportunity for exercise. They also respond well to routine and may be resistant to change. If you’re moving or otherwise altering your family dynamic, it’s best to ease your dog into the transition.
If you’re introducing your hybrid or husky to a new family member, for instance, be prepared for the possibility of a strong reaction. Useful tips for a smooth introduction between dog and baby include proactively addressing any behavior issues and putting up baby gates so that your excited hybrid can adapt to the new environment without feeling left out.
Important Considerations for Hybrid Owners
Parents and single owners alike should be aware that dog-wolf hybrids are often included on lists of dog breeds that bite, but an important aspect to remember is that, in reality, all dogs can bite. However, you can teach any breed that biting is not appropriate in certain instances, and wolfdogs are no exception.
The biggest issue facing hybrid owners is that of legal ownership. As of 2013, wolf-dog hybrids have been prohibited in 11 states. More than a dozen other states, including California, Florida, and Idaho, have various restrictions on private wolfdog ownership.
Even in the states that consider wolf-dog hybrids to be domestic animals, there may be county or state regulations in place that restrict or prohibit hybrids. Some hybrid owners, therefore, will falsely allege that their dog is a husky, malamute, or similar spitz breed.
While your heart may be in the right place, it’s never okay to lie about your canine’s breed, age, or size. Claiming that a dog is a particular breed in order to hide its true identity can lead to myriad problems in the future, and it’s also a violation of CKC rules and regulations.
If you’re thinking about owning a husky or wolfdog, make sure you know what you’re getting in to. Research ownership laws and regulations in your state, and be prepared to work hard at training. Owning a high-energy canine, such as a husky or hybrid, is often challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with a fiercely loyal, fun-loving companion.