German Shepherd Wolf Mix: Why This Hybrid Dog Might Be a Bad Idea

It may seem ‘cool’ to own a part-wolf, as if you’re a character from Game of Thrones or a modern-day Mowgli. However, there’s a lot more to consider when committing to owning such a powerful animal. 

German shepherd dogs already look like wolves and are often the breed of choice when unethical breeders cross them with wolves.

Although all dog breeds descend from grey wolves, dogs are far different in temperament and trainability than wolves. Wolves are nearly impossible to train because they don’t find obeying people worth their while.

German Shepherd Wolf Mixes combine German Shepherds and wolves, and are also known as Wolf-Shepherds or Wolf-dogs. 

Although this may seem like a dream hybrid dog, there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye for the legendary wolf dog. Here’s what you should know.

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What Is A German Shepherd Wolf Mix? Breed Combinations

The first hybrid of a Wolf and German Shepherd was done in 1932 by Leendert Saarloos, and certain studies actually show that they existed in Teotihuacan a long time ago. 

Not all German shepherd and wolf mixes for sale are a half-German shepherd and half wolf. Some may be three-quarter GSD and one-quarter wolf. 

This would mean that one parent is a full German Shepherd and the other parent is half wolf and half GSD.

Some mixes are sold where the wolf is a great-grandparent or even a great-great-grandparent. The more dog DNA in the mix, the better if you want a companion animal that can be taught basic obedience. 

Unfortunately, they may all be considered wolves under the law.

Quick Facts 

HeightWeightAppearanceCoatHealthFamily Friendly?TemperamentTraining & Exercise
24 inches tall on average60 lbs on averageNot huge dogs but have an imposing presence. medium-large breeds.Prone to shedding. Colors include black & tan, grey & white, silver & white, brown & grey, tan & grey.Lifespan: 12 - 14 years. They can have several health issues including joint problems and cancer.No - definitely not recommended for families with young kids.Unpredictable temperaments. Although GSDs are easily trainable, wolves are wild animals. These hybrids should be reserved for very experienced dog owners.They need a ton of exercise, which is easier said than done. Once they reach a certain age and level of strength, walking your wolfdog in public can be difficult. Training & socializing these dogs from puppyhood will be vital.

German Shepherd Dog Wolf Mixes Are Usually Illegal to Own

Wolves are wild animals. In most places in the United States, it is illegal to own a wild animal like a wolf unless you have a special (and expensive) wildlife permit. 

GSD-wolf mixes walk a tightrope between being considered wild animals or domestic pets.

Because of the wolf parent or grandparent, the law considers the resulting mix not reliably domesticated, and thus prone to acting dangerously.

Therefore, if you want a wolf-dog mix, you may have to do a lot of research to even find a place in the world that will let you do so.

German-Shepherd-Wolf-Mix

Don’t Some Dog Breeds Have More Wolf DNA Than Others?

Some proponents of wolf-dog mixes claim that some dog breeds have more grey wolf DNA than other dog breeds.

If these breeds are allowed, then so should GSD and wolf mixes. According to Science Trends.com, a few breeds do have more wolf DNA than others.

These breeds include the Finnish Spitz, the Shar-Pei, the Siberian Husky (another breed often crossed with wolves), and the Greenland dog.

However, the ancestors of these breeds branched off from wolves thousands of years ago, and not simply one or two generations ago.

Aren’t German Shepherds Part Wolf?

Over one hundred years ago, German shepherds were popularly called Alsatian Wolf Dogs, since they were bred in the Alsace region of what is now France and looked like wolves. 

However, no wolves were actually involved in creating the breed.

Other breeds mistakenly thought to have wolves in their recent ancestry include Siberian Huskies and the Alaskan Malamute. Although descended from wolves, the last wolf in their pedigree was thousands of years ago.

German Shepherd Wolf Mixes Are Unpredictable

According to the International Wolf Center, it’s impossible to predict the behavior, trainability, and health problems in a dog-wolf mix. Even puppies in the same litter can act in vastly different ways.

Wolves rely on their instincts – It’s not instinctive for them to look for humans as pack-mates or pack leaders as dogs do.

Wolves tend to ignore people and do what they want. Any wolf-dog mix will be prone to unpredictable behavior at times, and will tend to act more like a wolf than a dog.

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Won’t German Shepherd Wolf Mixes Make Better Guard Dogs?

Wolves are intensely territorial creatures. They attack any predator in their home range, including wolves not in their packs. 

This behavior has convinced some people that GSD-wolf mixes make better guard dogs than dogs.

This, however, is a myth. According to the International Wolf Center, dogs have been bred for thousands of years to bark when intruders appear. 

Wolves on the other hand stay silent. They’re also shy by nature and are prone to flee from intruders that look bigger than they are.

Will GSD Wolf Mixes Live Longer than A GSD?

German shepherds live notoriously short lives since they’re large dogs – their average life span is from nine to thirteen years. 

This is because large dogs age faster than small dogs.

Why this happens in dogs and not other species is not known. A GSD wolf mix won’t necessarily live any longer than a dog, especially if they inherit some of the devastating health problems common in the breed.

Will GSD Wolf Mixes Be Healthier Than A GSD?

The future health of a wolf mix is harder to predict than the health of a purebred dog. After decades of study, it is now known what health problems certain breeds are prone to. 

It’s more complex with wolves since they tend to die from problems other than old age or disease in the wild.

Because German Shepherd – wolf hybrids are a genetic toss of the dice, you have no way of knowing what health problems these animals will be prone to. 

A wolf mix needs to be well-behaved in order to be treated for an illness, but the mix may even be too dangerous to treat.

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Finding A Veterinarian For A GSD Wolf Mix

Assume that any animal you adopt or buy will eventually get sick. Never assume that all vets will be willing to take in a German shepherd wolf mix as a patient. 

All the vets in your area may refuse to work on such an animal, and this is not due to prejudice against wolves. 

This is because wolves, and wolf-mixes, are different species than dogs and considered “exotic”. Although all vets are trained to help domestic animals like dogs, very few are trained in the care of exotics.

Can A GSD Wolf Mix Get The Same Vaccines As A Dog?

One problematic area for vets and exotic animal owners is that of vaccination. Rabies vaccines are crucial for dog owners. 

However, many dog vaccines don’t work on wolves and may not work on wolf-dog hybrids.

Because of the threat of rabies and the problems of the rabies vaccine working on wolf-dogs, any wolf-dog that shows signs of rabies or has been exposed to a rabid animal needs to be euthanized. 

According to the California Veterinary Medical Association, this is the policy in California.

What Are The Most Common Medical Problems With GSD-Wolf Mixes?

The two most common medical problems with any wolf-dog mix are complications from being overweight and hip dysplasia.

Being overweight can also contribute to hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is very common in German shepherds and in most large dog breeds.

Hip dysplasia symptoms like limping start when the dog is young, and gets worse over time if left untreated. This is a very painful and chronic condition that may require surgery to treat.

German-Shepherd-Wolf-Mix

What Other Medical Problems Could A GSD Wolf Mix Have?

Depending on the genetic roll of the dice, a GSD wolf puppy may be looking at a very short, unhealthy life. According to the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, GSDs are prone to bloat, epilepsy, perianal fistulas, skin allergies, lupus, and blindness.

GSDs are also prone to a deadly and incurable condition called degenerative myelopathy that hits GSDs seven years of age and older. 

They’re also at risk of developing Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency, a pancreas problem that makes them unable to extract nutrition from food.

How To Exercise A German Shepherd Wolf Mix

Since obesity is an issue for wolf-dog hybrids, getting sufficient exercise is vital to their health. 

However, this can become quite complicated since wolf-dogs cannot be walked and played with like normal dogs.

Puppies may be able to walk on a leash in the beginning. But there will come a day when they’re strong enough to ignore you and pull you across the street to go chasing a squirrel. 

Sadly, a lot of wolf-dog hybrids wind up staying permanently in an outdoor pen because they cannot be walked or trained.

How Large Can A GSD Wolf Hybrid Get?

Despite the endless unknowns surrounding a GSD wolf mix, their size is actually predictable. 

The smallest hybrids will be as small as a GSD – roughly 49 pounds.

The largest will be about 180 pounds, which is the size of a large male Mackenzie Valley wolf, the largest known wolf species.

As is common in most wolf species and dog breeds, females tend to be smaller. Neutering doesn’t seem to impact how large a GSD or a GSD wolf-hybrid will become.

GSDs are as tall as small wolves, but wolves can actually reach heights of 34 inches tall at the shoulders.

German-Shepherd-Wolf-Mix

What Colors Does A GSD Wolf Mix Come In?

GSD wolf mixes come in a wide variety of colors, but most have two or even three tones to their coats. 

Rarely are solo coats produced, but when this does occur they’re often all black, all dark brown (called liver), all red (called sable), or all white.

Canines in two or more colors blend into the background better and so are more common, even if the GSD wolf mix never has to hunt for his supper. 

Common two-toned colors include black and tan, grey and white, silver and white, brown and grey, and tan and grey.

What If The Puppy Was Trained Really Well, Will The Adult Behave?

Puppies of dogs, wolf-dog mixes, and even wolves can be trained and easily handled.

However, once the wolf-dog hybrid becomes physically and sexually mature, all bets are off. They’ll do whatever they want, which isn’t necessarily what you want.

Just when a GSD wolf mix matures differs from puppy to puppy. Dogs mature a lot faster than wolves. 

A German shepherd wolf mix could mature as early as six months, when a GSD matures, or as late as four years old when a wolf typically matures.

What About All Those Wolves In Movies & TV?

We’ve all seen movies and television shows where wolves do a wide variety of stunts. However, these are not wolves. 

They’re simply dogs with dyed coats and sometimes, added hair. Wolves aren’t reliable enough to be used in movies or on television.

According to Psychology Today, wolves aren’t completely untrainable. However, wolves will only obey when they want to and not whenever they’re cued to perform. 

The more GSD in a GSD wolf mix typically means a more trainable dog.

However, if you want an animal that obeys commands all the time, why not just save yourself the time and money, and go with a dog?

Why Wolves & Wolf-Dog Mixes Cannot Be Well-Trained

Wolf

Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to do what people want them to do. 

It’s in their genes to not only please people but to watch them constantly to see if the person is going to ask them to do something. They also ask people for affection.

Wolves are just the opposite and many wolf-dog mixes also suffer from this character flaw, especially if they’re half-wolf. 

They often won’t look at a person and don’t solicit affection from people. Since they have no drive to please people, they won’t.

If It Doesn’t Work Out, Can’t I Just Set My German Shepherd Wolf Mix Free?

Setting your GSD wolf mix free is a bad idea and incredibly cruel since the animal won’t know how to survive on their own in the wild. Hunting isn’t an instinctive ability in wolves, dogs, or wolf-dog mixes.

They have to be taught to hunt by their older pack-mates. GSD wolf mixes lack a pack since they’re usually brought up by a dog mother and so never learn to hunt. 

They grow accustomed to being given food at predictable times.

Has A GSD Wolf Hybrid Ever Attacked Anybody?

All wolf hybrids, including GSD wolf mixes, have severely bitten or attacked people and pets in the United States. 

Wolf-hybrids often attack children more than adults because children make noises resembling small prey animals.

More often, wolf-dog mixes will attack other pets than people. These are very territorial animals. 

If any other animal is perceived as being on their turf, a GSD wolf mix may not only attack but kill a dog, cat, or other animal.

What Happens If Your GSD Wolf Mix Bites or Attacks Anyone?

If your German shepherd wolf mix does happen to attack anyone on or off of your property or does manage to kill someone’s beloved pet or valuable livestock, then you’re in serious trouble. 

You’re legally responsible for the actions of your GSD wolf mix, even if they haven’t left your property.

Not only will you have to pay restitution and possible court costs, but depending on your local laws, your GSD wolf mix may be confiscated and euthanized. 

Your chances of appeal are very small, and will involve significant legal expenses.

Final Thoughts & Our YouTube Video On The German Shepherd Wolf Mix

When it comes to owning a GSD wolf hybrid or mix, the negatives outweigh the positives. 

Since you’re not dealing with a purebred dog or purebred wolf, appearance, health problems, and behavior will be impossible to predict.

The only known factors are that this is a large animal with the ability to inflict serious damage on pets, livestock, wildlife, and people, especially children. These aren’t trainable animals because they have little to no desire to please people.

You may have to keep the animal in a pen for the rest of its life. You may never be able to find a vet willing to look after the GSD wolf mix. You may have laws banning the ownership of such an animal where you live.

Then there’s the potential legal issues if the GSD wolf mix attacks anyone visiting your home, or if the animal gets out and attacks someone. 

A GSD wolf mix puppy or adult costs thousands of dollars. You will need plenty of land, fencing, and legal advice in order to keep it.

It’s just not worth the hassle to you, your neighbors, and the community at large. When it comes to any wolf-dog mix, leave it alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big do German Shepherd wolf mix get?

German Shepherd wolf mix breeds are one of the biggest dogs you can get, averaging to around 24 inches tall. In terms of weight, they average to around 60 lbs heavy when they are fully grown.

While this is slightly smaller than the average German Shepherd, this is still large for a dog. Remember, their personality will make them seem even larger than they physically are. 

This mix breed is highly unpredictable. This means that while German Shepherds are generally bigger than the wolf mix breed, they are much more obedient.

A larger and more obedient German Shepherd will seem much smaller than a GSD wolf mix that has an unpredictable and potentially dangerous temperament. 

Even though GSD wolf mix breeds might grow to be slightly smaller than a regular German Shepherd, the average lifespan of both is the same.

They are both considered medium-large breeds, which means that they can come with a variety of health issues including joint problems and cancer. 

What percentage of German Shepherds are wolf?

Technically speaking, every dog derives from wolves. While German Shepherds are notorious for their wolf-like appearance, they aren’t actually related to wolves. They were never bred with wolves. This is ironic, as one of their original names was “Alsatian Wolf Dogs”. 

It all depends on the genetics of the German Shepherd, as some might have come from a background that bred wolves into the family.

Instead, German Shepherds descend from the Canidae biological family in the same way as other domestic dogs do. This biological family includes wolves, foxes, and dingoes. 

Other breeds of dogs like Siberian Huskies and Finnish Spitz are more closely related to wolves as their ancestors had been wolves for thousands of years.

German Shepherds originated in Germany in the late 1890s, so as they are still considered a recent breed, it’s hard to say if they have much of a relation to wolves. 

How can you tell if your German Shepherd is part wolf?

If you’ve never seen past family or medical records of your German Shepherd, you will be happy to know that your dog will not be part wolf.

German Shepherds were never bred with wolves when the breed was standardized in Germany in the 1890s, which means that there is no element of wolf in their DNA. Still, they are part of the Canidae family in the same way as other domesticated dogs are. 

However, you can still commit to a genetic test to see if your German Shepherd has come from a family that attempted to breed a wolf into the genetic line. Also, when buying or adopting your GSD, the seller should make you aware of if the dog is part wolf. 

Still, if the genetic test proves that no parent was either a wolf of part wolf hybrid, it’s highly unlikely that your German Shepherd is part wolf. 

See also: Can A German Shepherd Beat A Wolf?

One Comment

  1. Why do they breed dogs with wolves especially gsds if they can be dangerous?