Modern dogs can trace their genetics all the way back to the OG canine: the wolf. While some dog breeds may not look like they once ruled the wild (yes, we are talking about our smaller dog friends), nearly all domestic dogs descended from wolves. Today, the closest you can get to having a real wolf as a pet is with a wolf dog. This rare dog breed is defined as any canine with both wolf and domestic dog in its recent genetic ancestry. Wolf dog breeds can come from a variety of parent combinations: a pure wolf and a pure domestic dog, a wolf dog and a pure wolf, a wolf dog and a pure dog, or two wolf dogs. These animals are beautiful, smart, and full of love--but owning an exotic pet comes with a lot of responsibility. In some states, it's not even legal to own a wolf dog.
Luckily, it's still possible to get the look of a wolf dog without the added complications. For large dog lovers who want a pet with a wolf-like appearance, there are plenty of furry friends who fit the bill. Many domestic dogs--including German shepherds, Siberian huskies, and Alaskan malamutes--closely resemble their wild ancestors and make great companion pets. For more experienced dog owners, there are a few breeds with even closer ties to wolves that can be kept as pets. Read on to learn about the most popular wolf-like dog breeds.
1. German Shepherd
There are many different lines of German shepherds. Some are far more energetic than others, and they all need a job to do! The biggest difference lies between the working line and the companion lines. Working line shepherds need to be kept busy training, herding, or doing some other kind of activity. People looking for an active companion, on the other hand, will be thrilled with the energy level of the pet line. Shepherds are loving, loyal, gentle, and full of curiosity. While there may not be much wolf left in this pup's DNA, their overall structure gives them a wolfish appearance. They have long snouts, thick coats, and pointy ears, making for a decidedly wolf-like visage.
2. Alaskan Malamute
This cold-weather dog breed has a beautiful fluffy coat and an adorable face. Their fur-filled tails are one of their defining characteristics. These strong, formidable dogs can stand as tall as 25 inches and weigh up to 85 pounds. They are hard workers and were used as sled dogs in the arctic. They are a very intelligent dog breed, but they can be a little pig-headed and stubborn. Owners need to be firm and consistent in their training, otherwise the Alaskan malamute will decide that it is the leader of your pack.
3. Northern Inuit Dog
Made popular by HBO's Game of Thrones, the Northern Inuit dog is about as wolf-like as you're going to get. These domestic dogs have many facial features similar to their wolf ancestors. They are smart, friendly, and love to be paired up with runners or hikers due to their high energy levels. According to the Northern Inuit Society, these dogs are said to have been bred by the Inuit people by mating domestic dogs and wolves, with the goal of making family dogs who could also work hard. They came into the U.K. in the 1980s, where breeders took the dogs and bred them with Siberian huskies, malamutes, and German shepherds to create the perfect pup who looked like a wolf, but could live with a family. These days, cross-breeding with wolves is doesn't happen anymore, and only the various lines of Northern Inuits are mixed. While their appearance remains wolf-life, the Northern Inuit's personality is completely domestic.
4. Siberian Husky
We love huskies for their independent attitudes and silly behaviors. At this point, there is no one with internet access who hasn't seen these loveable floofs doing something ridiculous. However, they were bred for a lot more than viral internet videos. Huskies are working dogs who consistently win sled dog races and have been made famous by Balto's famous serum run for Nome. The breed, which hails from Siberia, has a thick double-coat that keeps them dry and warm in harsh conditions. They are usually found in black and white, gray, or tan. They can be very stubborn and need consistency in their training, and while they may not bark, they let out plenty of howls, chirps, and ah-woos!
5. Czechoslovakian Vlcak
It's not surprising that the Czechoslovakian vlcak (CSV), also known as the Czechoslovakian wolfdog, makes this list. (It truly is all in the name!) According to the American Kennel Club, these pups were bred for patrolling the border in Czechoslovakia during the 1950s. Not only do they have a high working drive and excellent stamina, but they also have an elite sense of smell, eyesight, and hearing. These days, the CSV is used for search-and-rescue jobs, obedience and agility training, herding, tracking, and other sports. They have a lot of energy and a strong will, so they always need to have a job. They are very wolf-like in appearance, and although they are domesticated, they are not the best dog breed for first-time owners.
Sammies are the ultimate happy doggos. Their mouths naturally turn upward to prevent them from drooling all over your lap! These double-coated floofs love cold weather and blend into the snow. Come shedding season, you'll think you are having your own fur flurry with their massive coat blow, but it's worth it for the breed's affectionate and fun personality. Samoyeds have a mischievous streak and will always keep you laughing.
7. Canadian Eskimo Dog
According to the Canadian Kennel Club, the Canadian Eskimo dog was bred to pull heavy loads for long distances, much like the Siberian husky. The breed was declared extinct in 1963 when there was only one stud registered to the club. However, breeders worked hard to find and establish a new breeding program. While they have made progress, there are only about 300 or fewer Canadian Eskimo dogs left. These wolf-like pups have thick fur with an undercoat to keep them warm in harsh conditions. There are a lot of differences between male and female dogs, and the males sometimes have manes on their shoulders and necks.
The Utonagan is a mix of a couple of different dog breeds, including the German shepherd, Siberian husky, and Alaskan malamute. The intent was to make a wolf dog breed that had the wolf look, without the wild DNA. The original pups were bred by Edwina Harrison, and they were called wolfdogs. In 2007, the Utonagan breed clubs were created to improve health and information sharing across the breed. However, they have yet to be recognized by the UK Kennel Club, and the newly bred "British Utonagan" has many health problems. While this breed has gorgeous gray wolf-like fur, potential owners should do some research before getting one.
9. Saarloos Wolfdog
These pups are the closest many dog owners will get to owning a wolf. According to Royal Canin, they are the mix of a wolf and a domestic dog. Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos took a male German shepherd and bred it with a female wolf to create this special breed. Since they are so closely related to wolves, they love being outdoors and need property to run and play on. Saarloos do not do well in apartments or condos. They are also not the dog for first-time owners. They are loyal to their person but like to do their own thing, carefully avoiding strangers.
According to the Tamaskan Dog Registery, this breed began in the early 1980s as a combination of many different Arctic breeds, including the Alaskan Malamute, Alaskan husky, Labrador husky, German shepherd, Canadian Eskimo dog, and Siberian husky. The resulting dog was then mixed with breeds like the German shepherd, Siberian husky, and Alaskan Malamute. The registry was officially created in 2006. Tamaskans are independent and smart, and while they do have a stubborn streak, it should respond well to consistent training.
Which wolf dog breed is your favorite? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.
READ MORE: Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Wolf Ambassadors at Washington Wildlife Sanctuary
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