Some pet owners are not aware that keeping a wolf or a wolf hybrid as a pet can be detrimental to their safety. Below is an insight on what to consider when you want to have a wolf or its hybrid as a pet. The information was adopted from an article by Dr. Karen Becker, March 27, 2013.
Dr Becker’s article was interesting because it was sharing why it is not a good idea to keep a wolf or its hybrid as a pet. The point that stood out was their “genetic makeup”. Wolves are inherently wild and trying to tame them may have disastrous outcomes.
They are not sociable in the same way domestic dogs are. The way they develop from early age is different from the way domestic dogs do. And not being aware of this fact is why dog lovers make take it for granted that wolves can be kept as pets!
Evolutionary biologist Kathryn Lord of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, conducted a study on the differences of socialization development of young wolves and its puppy counterparts. The study showed that a wolf’s early “sensory” experience is different from that of a puppy in the first 4 weeks of it life. The first 4 weeks of either is very critical in its development especially how it understands its environment.
How Wolves And Dogs Differ In Their Socialization Habits At 2 to 4 Weeks
This study was conducted on young wolves and puppies of 2 to 7 weeks old. These two groups were put under the same conditions and introduced to familiar and new sights, sounds and smells. In this study both groups were able to smell at 2 weeks, hear sounds at 4 weeks and see things at 6 weeks. However they did not start to walk at the same time. The young wolves started walking and exploring their environment at 2 weeks. At this age they could only smell!
The young dogs started to walk at 4 weeks old, when they could smell and start to hear. This means the young wolves develop more of their socialization coping mechanisms than their counterparts in the same time period. This has a significant impact in the behavior of both species as they grow up. Lack of understanding this aspect may prove detrimental to wolf or hybrid wolf pet lovers.
Here is why the ability of the wolf pups to walk earlier than the dog puppies has so much bearing in their behavior – at 2 weeks old both groups were oblivious of their environment however the dog puppies could only move enough to nurse while their counterparts had a more significant advantage! They could stand, walk, climb and explore their environment and more importantly, in the process they are subjected to different stimuli and thus create a knowledge base and develop more senses. The advantage the dog puppies don’t have at this stage.
Lord goes on to explain; “When wolf pups first start to hear, they are frightened of the new sounds initially, and when they first start to see they are also initially afraid of new visual stimuli. As each sense engages, wolf pups experience a new round of sensory shocks that dog puppies do not.” Hence the difference in behavior and the wolves are more wild!
Such stimuli will “help” the wolf pups to experience fear and to learn to live in fear, a necessary element for their survival in the wild. However this would be a disadvantage to the pet or wolf lover! It is a disadvantage in that it is very likely that the young wolf would be already in a “fearing mode” by the time maybe it gets trained to be domestic. To alleviate the problem it is necessary to have the wolf pup experience human touch and smell between 2-4 weeks.
If it gets treated like a dog puppy which normally experiences the human touch and smell at 4-8 weeks, then it would be too late. It is already wild because it is during the socialization period that each species has the ability to form attachments to other species, in particular humans.
Clinical explanation from Lord – “The data help to explain why, if you want to socialize a dog with a human or a horse, all you need is 90 minutes to introduce them between the ages of four and eight weeks. After that, a dog will not be afraid of humans or whatever else you introduced. Of course, to build a real relationship takes more time. But with a wolf pup, achieving even close to the same fear reduction requires 24-hour contact starting before age three weeks, and even then you won’t get the same attachment or lack of fear.”
From the above discovery, it is apparent that it is dangerous to keep wolves or wolf hybrids as pets. It has been explained why wolves tend to fear and cannot be domestic like dogs even if they were groomed with dogs. They develop their instinctive skills earlier than dogs by experiencing fear in the critical four week period of socialization. By the time human attachment is introduced the fear has already developed and is very difficult to reverse it. It is this fear that will make the wolf (or its hybrid) remain wild and unpredictable to be kept as a pet.
One must also point out that there are many poorly socialized domesticated dogs which also react in a negative manner to environmental stimuli and react with ”fear aggression” or can even revert to a pack mentality. Having a wolf or wolf-hybrid as a pet is a great responsibility and one needs to be diligent in the handling and interactions of a wolf pet, or a wolf hybrid pet.
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