This week on our dog profile feature we have a very special dog to introduce you to;
Vulric, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
You may remember him from our blog post about Crufts a few months ago as his owner very kindly invited me to hang out with them at Crufts for the day! I got a first hand look at what having a wolfdog entails, the training that is needed, and how it is very hard to get from point A to point B without being stopped multiple times by people wanting to say hello to him!
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog breed is a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club and were bred by the Czechoslovakian military from German Shepherds and Wolves. The aim was to get the temperament and trainability of the Shepherd but the stamina of the Wolf to help in border control and tracking.
Vulric's owners have worked exceptionally hard on socializing, training, and managing such an incredible breed in London. These are NOT easy dogs. They require a substantial amount of exercise, mental stimulation and consistency. These are definitely not dogs for everyone! Yes, they may look absolutely stunning, but hopefully this interview with one of his owners will give you an insight into the day to day life of owning a wolfdog, and what raising a wolfdog is like.
Ever since I first met Vulric, I was blown away by the dedication of his owners to his mental, emotional and physical needs. You couldn't find better owners, and here his owner talks frankly about their experiences.
Why (and how) did you get a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog?
We were not in the market for a wolf hybrid or lookalike. We were looking for a driven, working breed and couldn't agree on what we wanted! I had grown up with a Shepherd and didn't want another one as I felt I would be comparing them to the memories of my childhood dog. We thought about Weimaraners, working Spaniels, Springers and Dobermans. We also knew that we didn't want a sled dog or a terrier.
We went to the National Pet Show, and bumped into the Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, specifically a dog named Cullen, who was so calm. In a crowd Cullen wasn't scared or bothered by people touching him and saying hi. He was even snapped at by another dog and he had no reaction at all. I was just so impressed with the calm and steadiness of this dog. I talked to the breeder who had Cullen and she asked me 3 questions:
Have you had a wolf hybrid before?
Have you owned a big dog before?
Have you recently owned or still own a dog?
I answered "No" to all these questions and the breeder told me she was sorry but she wouldn't be selling a wolfdog to me. This was really impressive to me as it was an excellent sign of a RESPONSIBLE breeder who cares for the welfare of her dogs and not just making money from a specialist, good looking breed.
Cut to a year and a half later, after I had spent this time researching more about about the breed, meeting owners and following the breed club, I saw that the breeder was advertising a future litter of puppies with Cullen as the potential sire. We spoke on the phone and it was decided we would go up to see the breeder and have an interview. This turned out to be a 4 hour interview process!
Questions the breeder asked us included inquiring about our lifestyle, how long the dog would be alone for, what our plan would be with the dog, would we work him, asking about mine and my boyfriend's relationship to see whether this would break down in the near future and the dog would be put up for adoption etc. Then we went on a walk with some of the adult dogs, who are naturally aloof, and the breeder watched us as we interacted with the adult dogs.
We passed this interview phase and after several more visits to the breeder before the litter was born, we put down a deposit for a puppy. We were not allowed to pick out the puppy when the time came; the breeder analyzed their temperaments and matched them with the most suitable owner. A puppy was born who was very brave, but very sociable and kind. He would take on the biggest puppy and not get bullied by them. He would roll over and play gently with the runt of the litter, and at nap time he would take himself away from the group to nap which showed his independence.This is how we ended up with Vulric.
What were the first 12 months like?
Hellish. I can't imagine any breed being more difficult than a wolfdog to raise.
They mouth more than any other breed I have ever met. For example, you follow the training side by side with all the other puppies in puppy class, the Labs etc, and all the other puppies stop mouthing but Vulric carries on for 3 more months and you question whether you are doing it wrong. Am I going to end up with a 40kg animal that bites?!
Once you have overcome that you are 4 months in and now at the fear stage of their development. All dogs go through a fear period but I think that as wolfdogs are naturally alert and aloof, I was very paranoid about how hard this fear stage. Before this stage, we had a well socialized and confident puppy that now would recoil away from everything. I felt very uncertain about the approach of not pushing them into situations and taking it easy as I believed this meant they were not being socialized at all. Thankfully I followed the advice of the professionals and this initial phase passed, as well as another fear period at 11 months old too.
Adolescence was definitely a chaotic time. It feels like everything you worked on and mastered had completely gone. He was challenging us, his recall completely disappeared, he was getting boisterous with other dogs and getting interested in females. One thing I would say is different with a wolfdog is the reaction of other people during this time. No-one bats an eyelid when someone can't recall their small Spaniel, but if I can't recall my wolfdog, people are terrified. We had less room for mistakes and that is a very stressful time. You train them on a long line and muzzle train just in case, but the first year was very challenging.
Was training easy/fun/challenging?
Training was hard, but very fun. Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs were bred for tracking so they are a lot more independent than other dogs. They were never bred to look at humans for direction. that make obedience a challenge. However I loved this challenge. They do not have an inherent need to please or offer different behaviours in the hope you will be happy. I have never seen that in Vulric regardless of our strong bond. I like the component of figuring out how to motivate him and how to communicate with him what I want, which sometimes you can do with clicker training but sometimes you have to be more creative.
If you find training a chore, that will inevitably pass on to the dog as well as they are so in tune with your emotions. Vulric enjoys training because I'm constantly laughing, up-beat, and enjoying it.
What is the best thing about owning a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog?
The best thing is you feel like you have to work really hard to earn their interest, their trust and their engagement. When you have built that bond, it feels really meaningful.
They are also just so incredibly smart, in a way that pet dogs I have had in the past have not been. Unfortunately that doesn't translate to learning commands quickly, but does translate to motivational learning. For example, when we removed the training bells from the door to the garden (as he was potty trained), he got upset. He had been using them to tell us he wanted to go out and play in the garden! So after about an hour of us removing the bells, he had figured out how to turn the key to the door, just by watching how we open the door!
The same for when he wants a shower. He can open a round knob door handle to the bathroom and stand under the shower. Thankfully he hasn't figured out how to turn the shower on...yet! He just loves the water.
What is the hardest thing about owning a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog?
The doubt you have when you go to puppy training classes, and follow general training advice, and then compare you and your wolfdog to companion breeds as opposed to working breeds. We train using solely positive reinforcement and it pays off, but we just have to be more patient and creative. Sometimes you feel like you are doing it all wrong and he will never be trained, but that isn't true!
Another hard thing about owning a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is to do with the way that they look. Peoples reactions to a wolf looking dog are just not adequate. I instinctively bond with other owners who have other scary looking dogs like Rottweilers and Staffies because a lot of people just go on the dogs look and not the dogs body language. Small, companion breeds tend to get away with showing any form of aggression. There are other dogs that lunge at Vulric and I find that dangerous and challenging. We have to trust that Vulric wouldn't retaliate. If you can imagine a Pomeranian lunging and growling at Vulric, but then Vulric growls or lunges back...that would be a disaster.
Sometimes it is rewarding to get the amount of attention and admiration he gets when we are out in public, but overtime it can become a weight on us. This is because often we are in a rush but we still get stopped. I do stop to talk when someone asks as I know I would do the same if I were in their shoes, and I do do that to other dog owners too. But the thing that worries me more is that his visibility and his level of training are making it deceivingly appealing to own this breed. I don't think people ACTUALLY understand that when I say we do walk him rain or shine for 3-4 hours a day, we actually do. You have to think about how your lifestyle is so affected by a wolfdog. We have given up so many hobbies because our life is centered around Vulric.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of getting a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog?
Ignore the look of a dog. Look solely at temperament and characteristics of the breed. If you want to walk 4 hours a day in the rain, then this is a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog!
Other advice would be:
Spend a long time researching the breed and meeting as many owners as you can.
Don't go off what you see online.
Don't just visit one single breeder. Not all breeders are responsible.
Go to events and talk to breeders as well as owners.
See these wolfdogs in a variety of environments.
We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs of Great Britain where we host and attend events. There is a show coming up in October so come and meet them first hand!
Vulric on Instagram: @wolfdog_of_london
And check out Vulric's new website too!
Thank you so much to Vulric and his owners for being a part of this blog series. All photos have been taken from his beautiful Instagram page!
Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are not dogs to get because they look similar to Direwolves from Game of Thrones. They take a lot of hard work and commitment to raise. I may be a trainer and have dedicated my life to dogs, but I know that I personally do not have the capabilities and lifestyle to support a wolfdog. Luckily, I have a friend who does and can hang out with this stunning guy!