Many times I have been queried about the responsiblity that is needed to fully rehab/raise a wolf. This is a difficult question and one that still has me torn as to the feasiblity to contain and acclimate a feral creature to perform as a functioning member of a family; what is the reason that one would feel the need to domesticate the most beautiful and spirited of nature’s beings?
My story is one that may help other’s to fully understand the pros and cons of such an endeavor.
For many years, I was a founding member of a group specializing in saving and, in many cases rehabilitating animals that were neglected, either because of poverty and ignorance or the need to house a large animal to protect the home and property of less than trusting adults. My forte was wolves.
Pitbulls and Rottweillers were the norm that my animal rescue found to be the protectors of families, primarily because of their individual temperments and their total disdain for intruders. These “bullies of the canine world” do show aggression and a very territorial nature. They are bred to fight and intimidate.
But this blog is about wolves so we will specifically be entering their realm. There are many misconceptions dealing with their protective nature but also to their ability to protect the home. These are false conceptions and have ultimately hurt the breed. Wolves, by their very nature, are shy and although their extraordinary size does tend to make one think twice about their mischief and power however, they are gentle and demure by nature.
I was the resident foster person for the four wolves that were collected by my organization and, being that I have always felt a general kin-ship with their species, there are a few things to realize if you come across a wolf cub that is up for adoption.
1.Wolves are wild by nature. They don’t live by the same domesic training that a Poodle or a Yorkie would adhere to. For instance, you can not sidle up to a wolf and expect he will sniff you and decide that you’re a good person. Trust and respect is what they look for. A dog is rather trusting and they crave love. A wolf will make you earn trust. Milk bones and chewy bones won’t cut it. They have an innate sense for finding truth (and trepidation) within their caretaker. Fear is seen as weakness and the handler will suffer at any attempt to connect to a wolf or to bond in a meanful way.
2. You must adopt a cub when they are barely 5 weeks old. This will give the new owner a better chance to bond to the wolf. Wolves must be bottle fed at that age or, if they are a bit older, have the “owner” tacticly feed them while the wolf is snarling and being territorial regarding the contents of the bowl of hamburger/high protein food that they are given. The best way that I’ve found to accustom a wolf to his “cub feeding” is to lay on the floor and literally play in the food. This way, they become used to you being in close proximaty to their food supply and consequently getting them used to your scent and that you mean them no harm. Expect nips and snarls….handled easily by taking them gently by the neck, rolling them over until their tail curls beneath them-this is the ultimate act of submission; one you will be dealing with an almost considerable time.
3. Next I’d like to address safe housing for these magnificant animals. I’ve seen timber wolves, artic wolves, and red wolves who all have an innate ability to climb kennel fences in excess of 8 foot high. I’ve seen wolves who will burrow out of any enclosure that is not protected by basic enclosures that have been arduosly studied and erected by consciences lovers of their ilk. This may be a great time to discuss the basic structure–an inescapable housing that they will not flee from. I’ve found that prior to taking on the immense responsiblity of “keeping a wolf”, it’s imperative to be prepared. A kennel or a large yard will be a wonderful start. Be aware that the kennels should be at least 9 to 12 feet high, as they are master climbers. For this sort of housing, flooring the sub-floor with chicken wire at the bottom and the top, will deter escape, as they hate the feeling of the wire in the soil and will know that border that the wire above them is inescapable. Many people will electrify the outer perimeters of the inside of the fence but this allows for shock to the animal and, possibly mistrust to the human who installed such a thing. Keep in mind that wolves are intune to the containment and observant as to a means of escape. They build a trust in their “owners” and this could be seen as an ultimate betrayal from them. Chicken wire on the top and bottom of the kennel has worked great for me.
For a kennel or a yard (also equipped with the same precausions), this is something that is far more humane and kind to the animal. I used to release live rabbits to them once a week so that they wouldn’t loose their sense of the wild. This is unquestionably the saddest draw-back of keeping a feral animal. They lose themselves to what is desired by their keepers yet important to the hunting instinct of the animal. To maintain a bit of the hunting aspect that they have innately ingrained in the brain from years of being hunters and opportunists, this gives them a great thrill.
4. Children should be kept at bay when their sounds are high pitched (babies), because they sound much like injured animal and, being and ingrained instinct, they should be monitored when around children. Once a child is acepted as family–pack–the wolf will protect and monitor the childs movements. For instance, if a toddler wanders off from a grouping, do not be surprised when your wolf will literally “round” up that child to nudge him gently into the abandoned play-group.
5. If you want to have a wolf as a “house pet”, be aware that they will miss you if you run an errand. They will chew door jams, sheet rock, doors, etc…to find you. They will panic and become quite destructive. One way to alleviate this issue is to have a kennel set up for his containment and to give him a treat upon your departure.
1. You will never, ever find an animal as loyal, trustworthy, or intelligent as a wolf.
2. You will, after having one, wonder what exactly you were thinking by getting a dog for a companion. These big babies will make you glow inside and their eyes are pools of emotion and sadness, especially when you are sad.
3. They make spectacular house-pets and very easily house-broken because of their superior intellect, as compared to a dog.
4. They get along with cats and kids alike. After a reasonable time, members of the house, be they other animals or children, will become the wolf’s pack.
My wolves were all set free because I greived for their lack of freedom. I kept one (Remus Sirius Black II) because he truly owned me! He was the most beautiful and sweet natured animal that I’ve ever come accross. He loved my kids (ages 17 and 16) and it would have torn my soul to let him go. He died at home with his stuffed bunny by his side.
Wolves have been given a bad rep due to their size and atrocious stories of their ferocity. Personal experience with both neglected wolves and “spoiled rotten” wolves attest to a quite different conclusion. Yes, they’re big and yes, they can be destructive but have you ever see a Dalmaton left to his own devises?
If anyone has any questions as to the rearing and the care of wolves, please contact me via comment and I will be glad to oblige in answering to the best of my ability.