Would a wolfdog be the best search/explosive service dogs?
By - EndlessExploration
Probably not simply just because they can be very dangerous. While many are docile, many are also aggressive and can attack people and are more likely to bite.
It’s better to use fully domesticated dogs because of the reliability.
Although I understand the fear, I'm not sure that's any different than a normal dog. I've been bitten by a German Shepherd before - yet he's one of the most commonly used breeds in this line of work. Training (or lack of) makes the dog.
The thing is a wolf hybrid is still pretty wild. Dogs have been domesticated for thousands and thousands of years. It’d be more time, money, energy, and effort to train a wild animal to do the same work that we already have dogs bred to do.
I imagine you're right here. Wolf hybrids will take more work than others. But still, if they do a better job, it's worth the work. I found a video version of that study I mentioned above: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GseI0AS5Mk](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GseI0AS5Mk)
Now to be fair, I don't know that a wolf dog is significantly better. But still, if he can be controlled at an airport, and is more likely to sniff out explosives, I would want him. (But I'm obviously biased)
Genetics also make the dog. A wolfdog is not the same as a german shepherd bred from lines of working dogs.
That's true. And I don't disagree that they are genetically less inclined to obey because of this. However, They also have a better sense of smell due to their proximity to wolves. And in a situation where the best nose wins, a dog that's only a few generations removed from hunting for survival is a dog that has an incredibly keen nose.
Okay so the wolfdog has a better sense of smell, but that all goes out the window if the dog doesn't listen to you or alerts to the scent. My trainer does narcotics dog handling and it's not just about how well the dog smells, it's about the dog discerning the smell, alerting to it, and doing it in a way that's safe for the person being investigated and the handler.
It isn’t a dog though. Wolf dogs have the instincts of wolfs and the lack of fear around humans of dogs. That can be a very, very dangerous combo. Wolf-dog hybrids are unpredictable in temperament; one from a litter can be docile the other one could not be.
Well I would argue that wolves and dogs are the same species(they are totally capable of interbreeding). But more to the point, there are quite a number of dog breeds that show a lack of fear around humans. That doesn't mean they're not dogs - nor eliminate them from service work.
Ironically, wolves are generally quite timid around people, and easily frightened. This is also true of many wolf dogs. And frankly, all dogs are unpredictable to some degree. Every puppy in a little of pit bulls(for example) won't share the same characteristics. That's why service dog trainers do not accept all dogs. Each dog has it's own personality, and (regardless of breed) not all are cut out for service work.
Canis lupus familiaris and canis lupus are literally not the same species. Wolves are timid of people, dogs are not. What makes wolf dogs dangerous is that their kill instincts are there, but they don’t avoid humans like a wolf would.
Dog breeds have been bred generation after generation for consistent characteristics. There are individual personalities of course, but there is much greater genetic diversity in wolves. It’s not a matter of Fido isn’t handler focused enough to lead the blind, it’s Lobo has a high prey drive and killed the family pig because he felt like it.
There is a reason these hybrids are banned in most states. They aren’t dogs, they don’t act like dogs, you can’t treat them like dogs.
What makes canis lupus and canis lupus familiaris different species? There is certainly greater variation between the breeds of canis lupus familiaris than the two species(think of great danes and chihuahuas - they're both dogs, aren't they?). There are dogs with similar size, aggressive tendencies, and even appearence as wolves. And as mentioned above, both can interbreed. The reason we seperate them into seperate species is psychological, not scientific. If we applied the same standard to humans, we would be hundreds of species, not one.
As to behavioral issues, there's no doubt that wolfdogs can be aggressive, while not fearing humans excessively. But the same can be said of pit bulls, rottweilers, chow chows, and many more breeds. There are well-trained wolf dogs, just as there are poorly trained breeds of dog(my neighbors chihuahua, for example).
Wolf dogs may take more training, but they are certainly not untrainable. People simply have many misconceptions about them.
That example wasn’t hyperbolic: wolf dogs are fairly common where I am from. The neighbors let theirs run loose and it killed my uncle’s (very large) pig. That’s not something most dogs would do.
Here’s a [link](https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/605896/) with some good explanation of the pros and cons.
Wolf dogs are definitely not a dog most people shpuld own. They're not the average pet that chills out while your off working, and just needs the occasional walk and game of fetch. The wolfdogs your neighbors own sound like they are not being controlled or trained. And wolfdogs being very big and aggresive by nature, that is unacceptable.
But the question here is more about what wolfdogs are capable of being trained to do. It's not fair to judge any breed of dog based off of poorly trained dogs(e.g.I've had plenty of pit bulls try to attack me, but they are capable of being great dogs). There are well-trained wolfdogs.
There's no doubt that they're one of the most dangerous kinds of dogs when not trained. They're huge, and they have very aggressive tendencies. But trained and properly cared for, they also are quite impressive animals. Is that an animal that could be relied upon to sniff out bombs - I don't honestly know. There's obviously an upside, and there's also a big downside. Perhaps it would just be too much of a struggle.
If they were as reliably trainable as a dog, then a wolfdog would be viable for such work because their nose IS that much better! Unfortunately, wolfdogs do not have the domesticated eagerness-to-please that is required in a good working dog, nor do they have predictably stable temperaments. Those two factors mean it's the rare exception that's going to have the right personality and reliability to perform as needed, when needed, as opposed to ... when it wants to, and whether or not it just spotted weakness in something nearby, triggering prey drive.
For very similar reasons of not being eager to please, many Spitz dog breeds can't be used for these same jobs, it's not just wolves; many breeds can't do this kind of work simply because their headscape isn't right for it. You'll find the occasional rare exception, but if that dog, or wolfdog, can't be RELIED ON absolutely to do its job and ONLY its job when it's told to and not just whenever it feels like it, then that animal is unsuitable for the work.
This seems like a fair point. Although I feel they have many great qualities, perhaps there Just wouldn't be enough wolf dogs who for the bill to breed them for this purpose. Of course, that shouldn't rule them out from being considered altogether. But your point makes sense. A lot of dogs are needed, so they stick with the breeds that seem mkst reliable.
Sense of smell is lower the list of important attributes for a working detection dog than many traits.
Because these are public service dogs, I think it would be better to stick towards breeds that are not going to raise the Public's eye. People like to raise a big fuss about nothing.
I can just see the internet exploding with hate:
The fire department uses dangerous WoLfDoGs! < cancel culture here >
Exactly! I think this truly is the biggest reason they're not used. Wolfdogs are considered taboo, and there would be a big fuss from the public.
But I think there is plenty of evidence that they could do as good (and likely better) than other dogs.
What are you basing this on, that they’d do as well as or better than a fully domesticated dog? I’m not challenging, I’ve just never heard that. The wolf dogs I’ve been around (all two of them) didn’t seem to have a better sense of smell than, say, a Malinois or German Shepherd, but I can’t really say we did a tracking contest or anything.
ETA: nevermind - I found the YouTube video you linked to in reply to someone else. I think you’d have to weight the sense of smell vs trainability in context of what you need. I mean, if the wolf dog’s sense is only marginally better than, say, a GSD, personally I’d go with the GSD bc I’d rather have a reliable, more trainable dog that doesn’t come with the unpredictability of a wolf dog. But if the sense of smell is significantly better, it might be worth it. I dunno.
To the best of my knowledge, wolves have two attributes that are greater than all/almost all dogs - sense of smell and endurance. Tbh though, I have not found clear information about how much better they are compared to dogs.
@ChemicalDirection made a very valid point - there wouldn't be a lot of wolfdogs that would make it through training. And perhaps that's the biggest reason not to use them - there would be enough at the end to fill the need.
However, I'm just as curious as you about how much better they would do than the average search dog. Because if there's a big difference, that's worth knowing. And besides, I just think it would be cool to be rescued by a wolf when an avalanche traps me lol.
Yeah, that was good input from them, and I agree. Just based on the two I personally knew, I wouldn’t trust either to make it through training. They listened to exactly one person and that was their main handler. I can’t remember if they were more wolf than dog, but I suspect that may also play a role in trainability, but if it’s the wolf part that has the sense of smell, I’d be curious to know at what point diluting the wolf also results in a lesser sense of smell.
I’m just rambling now, but yeah, I’d love to know what you find out if you pursue this.