Meet Wolfdog Journey!

If the thought of interacting with a wolflike creature makes your heart leap, meet wolfdog Journey, A cross of a wolf and a domestic dog several generations removed, Journey was selectively bred for social-butterfly abilities and wolflike appearance.

To Hear Journey Howl and Watch Him in Action, Click on Photo.
Courtesy of Wolf Creek Ranch

When he wags his tail, bobs his head and starts to wriggle, he’s saying, “Pet me!” People are joyfully surprised they can pet him. (To hear Journey howl click here or visit Linda Michaels YouTube Channel.)

Journey loves people, traveling and new challenges. His public appearances help to debunk the Big Bad Wolf myth and to raise awareness of our precious, endangered wolves in the wild, as well as those in rescues and sanctuaries.

Approaching his second birthday, Journey weighs in at 90 pounds and can stand at 5 feet, 9 inches. He eats species-appropriate raw food, peppered with a variety of wholistic supplements.

Journey lives at Wolf Creek Ranch with his pet parent Julie. He loves the family cats, running his acre pasture, and watching goats and llamas grazing.

Journey is also a “poster pup” for dog-walking harnesses.

“It’s a matter of mutual respect,” Julie tells us.

At four weeks of age Journey was “placed in a shopping cart and into the store he went,” says Julie. They went to busy public places each day for the first year of his life. Now he strives to meet as many people as possible. Journey was raised with and adores children.

Journey’s been seen locally at the Balboa Park Powwow, Del Mar and Lowes Surf-Dog-a-Thons, Thanksgiving Dog Day, Bates Nut Farm Kennel Club Dog Show, and the Del Mar Pet Expo.

Wolfdog ownership requires a serious lifelong commitment, thorough research, appropriate housing and acreage, early ultra-socialization, and training the Positive Reinforcement way. Just looking at and petting Journey is a bucket-list dream come true.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email:[email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n’ Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor.

Endnotes:  I wrote this article knowing it to be a controversial subject, however, I've never run from controversy if I feel there is an injustice when it concerns animals.  The literature on wolfdogs suggests that each animal should be judged individually....just as any dog ought to be as well, but even more so in the case of wolf-dogs. There is no way to make accurate statements about them as a group from what I  understand.

I did my due diligence researching statistics on bites comparing wolfdogs to domesticated breeds. Reported bites from wolfdogs are not as prevalent as some other domesticated dog breeds. BSL (breed specific legislation) is proposed for a number of breeds, including wolfdogs.  I believe that socialization and behavior modification are key, and that training trumps genetics in most cases of domesticated and wolfdogs. It's absolutely true that wolfdogs require very, very early ultra-socialization and continued frequent and regular socialization and training throughout their lives if they are to interact with the public.

If one examines the relevant research, that notably includes the fox studies in Russia, we see that selectively breeding for friendliness to human is indeed possible and may be accomplished in just a few generations...much to the surprised of the lead investigating scientists, I may add. This information is now widely available and accessible, such as here on Wikipedia, as well as documented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

Here's an except about the conclusions drawn: "The result is that Russian scientists now have a number of domesticated foxes that are fundamentally different in temperament and behavior from their wild forebearers."

There will always be individual stories that stray from the norm. However, I stand with Nicole Wilde who wrote, "Living with Wolfdogs", and "Wolfdogs A-Z". On the first page she thanks Dr. Ian Dunbar, Animal Behavior Ph.D, renowned canine expert, and Veterinarian for his encouragement.

I hope everyone understands, I'm not advocating for breeding or having these animals for the average pet owner. This animal and others I've worked with are being used to help educate the public in order to try to save our wolves in the wild. I find that a worthy cause.

The San Diego Zoo uses wolfdogs not only in their behind the scene shows but also parades them around the grounds for people to observe and enjoy. Wolfdogs can be used to help rehabilitate the Big Bad Wolf image so people CAN get close which was a thrill of a lifetime for me.

My personal experience with wolfdogs was mostly a great surprise, as I arrived with my own bias. They are extremely intelligent... wolves having brains 30% larger than the domesticated dog on average, they learn quickly.

Breeding laws vary from state to state, so it's a complicated mix of possible actual wolf-content that may be legal in your state. In California, for example, breeding wolves with dogs ended in about 1976 and since that time the lines are wolfdog to wolfdog offspring, with the content weakening across time as people mix in more domesticated dog. The idea is to LOOK like a wolf, not behave like one... although wolves in wild are generally fearful, not aggressive toward people which is largely misunderstood.

I expect the controversy will rage on!


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authorname

Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


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8 thoughts on “Meet Wolfdog Journey!

  1. Dawkta Dawg

    I suggest everyone remotely considering a wolf dog to read Part Wild: One Woman's Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dog by Cieridwen Terrell.

  2. Matthew

    I share your fascination with wolves, but wolf dog mixes are a BAD, BAD idea no matter how many "generations" removed. And there is a WHOLE lot more to the story of owning a true wolf dog mix than just "lifelong commitment, thorough research, appropriate housing and acreage, early ultra-socialization, and training the Positive Reinforcement way." though your right about the Positive Reinforcement in their training, they will NOT tolerate any of the "dominance"/fear/force/pain type training.

    true wolf dog mixes often NEVER socialize or adjust to "domestic" life, and many of the "success" stories are often because people only thought they were buying a wolf dog mix, but actually have a 100% domestic dog.

    I would strongly encourage you to read this book http://www.amazon.com/Part-Wild-Journey-Creature-Between/dp/1451634811/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365775693&sr=8-1&keywords=Ceiridwen+Terrill

    as it lays it all out, no punches pulled what having a true wolf dog mix is like. MOST wolf dog mix stories do not end well for the animal.

    people who want to see a wolf should arrange a trip to wolf park or their local zoo. NOT buy wolf dog mixes.

  3. DeLinda

    I think anyone that is against BSL should be against the "stereotyping" of the wolf dog.

    My best friend, that I've known for over 20 years, acquired a wolf dog as a puppy, and brought it home to raise with her then four-year-old child. I was skeptical of this at first (I lived with them as a nanny at this time), because I had heard nothing but bad things about wolf dogs.

    This dog was a wolf/husky hybrid.

    I treated this animal like any other puppy - got him socialized well, and only used +R for training.

    He did some incredibly off the wall things - like totally consuming my friend's couch when we were out one day - but for the most part, he was a great animal.

    My friend had to put him down in the last year, he was old and had really bad arthritis, and the vet suggested that it would be best to just let him go.

    The four-year-old child is now 20, was around that animal for 15 years - and we ALL still miss him very much.

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell the story of Max - so his legacy can continue to live on and educate more people.

    R.I.P. Max - we will always miss you!!

  4. Rebecca

    Hi Matthew,
    I was just hoping to respond to your post because I have had experience with a few wolfdogs, one who belongs to a friend that I often visit in Texas, as well as one that comes in for regular visits at the vet office I work at. I strongly believe a wolfdog is very different from getting a regular dog, and is not something that anyone should just go out and get. I do not believe it should be taken lightly to own one. However, the one wolfdog that comes into my office on a regular basis is not at all what you are speaking of, and think you may need to do a little more research before posting as well. There is no doubt that the wolfdog I know of is a true wolfdog, he definitely is. He is also a very sweet, gentle, and caring animal that does well around children, people, and other dogs. This is not to say he doesn't have wolf like instincts and tendencies, because he does and should be treated with caution. Linda is right when she says you cannot speak on behalf of every wolfdog out there. One friendly wolfdog does not make the entire breed a friendly, adoptable group, but that also doesn't mean that none are capable of being domesticated and friendly animals.

    I don't think this is an article endorsing wolfdog adoption, it is an interesting story that is raising awareness to these amazing animals.

  5. matthew

    First, wolf / dog mixes and BSL are not one and the same issue wise. They are two separate issues. I generally do not support banning "things", but creating a law against wolf /dog mixes is not even remotely the same as creating a law against say pit bulls or rottweiler.

    Second, not only have I read up on the wolf / dog question, I have briefly lived with one. wasn't my dog, but I got to work a bit with it before the owner had to make the choice to put it down because it had become a danger.

    I have run into half a dozen more over years. Beautiful animals and I feel lucky and privileged to have had a chance to be round them. One individual was VERY docile, looked wolfy, but still NOT a dog. I knew it, owner know it, and other dogs knew it and kept their distance. Another not only without a doubt looked "grey wolfish", it behaved wolf like. different individuals, different dispositions etc.

    But the fact remains, true wolf dog mixes is playing with fire, and sooner or later you play with fire long enough, you will get burned.

    wolf / dog mixes are a genetic roulette. And last I checked, no one knows how many generations out you have to go to have a true domestic animal, that just happens to look like a wolf. At this time, it is entirely possible to get an animal that looks wolf, behaves dog. or looks dog, behaves wolf. what do you propose we do with the individuals that are "too wolfy" and unsafe to be in a typical home?

    true wolf dog mixes are a bad idea. it is not right to create an animal that doesn't fit into either the domesticated world or the wild one. And as for pointing to the Russian Fox experiment, if you really wanted to follow that model to try and create a "domesticated wolf"...what do you propose we do with the individuals that don't meet criteria? turn them loose? put them to sleep? find some sanctuary to dump them?

  6. Dawn Muscarella

    What a beautiful creature. This wolf dog ambassador shows that wolfdogs can live along side us in harmony.

    I saw Journey again today and I am in love with this animal. He is so sweet and loving. That is what happens when a dog is taught in a positive manner. No need for dominance training over the dogs.

    Here are my treasured photos from today:

    Thank you Victoria for letting me show you how much we love Journey.

    Best to all, Dawn

  7. Linda Michaels, MA

    I expect wolfdog research will most likely be coming on the heels of the fox study. Afterall, the fox study was designed to try to understand the role of heritable temperament and behavior in the evolution of the domestic dog. However, I won't be designing the experiment or making decisions about the conditions or fate of the subjects.That will be the ethical concern of the principal investigators. Hopefully, we all hope that concern for animals will be paramount. It will be just about the only breeding done with good behavior in mind, rather than cosmetics, which is not without merit.

    Here's what WolfCreekRanch has to say about Journey:

    "I am sorry some feel disappointed with Linda Michaels MA Ambassador Journey article.

    Last I checked, there are thousands of so-called "normal" domestic dog breeds in rescue with a wide array of issues caused by humans - lack of proper knowledge, gentle method training, research, socialization, etc.

    I've been owned and own wolfdogs and WD rescues for over 20 years and fostered and rescued 100's of domestic dogs as well. WD's raised appropriately, based on their temperments, social desires, respectfully trained, etc., they are ALL perfect. Some skittish around strangers, some not, but all depends on how they are raised and good genetics really help. Never been bitten or had an issue w/them.

    Certainly, most people aren't cut out to have a WD, just the same as I'm not compatible w/a Dalmation or Boxer, way too hyper for me.

    Obviously, there are far more "eh" breeders and rescues out there (WD or domestic) than truly great ones who educate and screen their buyers to pair owners w/animals that will suit them well and if not, they won't sell or adopt out. Everyone is always quick to blame the animals, when it is ALWAYS the humans who make the errors.

    There are many WD Ambassadors out there, you just don't read about them often. Press is always given to the bad news, but Linda shows the good. Ambassadors like Journey are greatly needed. If you could see the smiles on the faces and in the hearts of the tens of thousands of people and other pets he has touched (not to mention the HUGE smile on his face and in his heart) AND the huge education he provides to everyone he meets every single day, you would be less quick to judge "him"and others like him. I thank Victoria Stillwell and Linda Michaels for posting this info. He has become a true ambassador for wolves in the wild - stopping the hearts of hunters w/their wives and children, taking photos with and getting kissed by him, who say they could never hunt another wild animal again. Sure, I did a college thesis on the fact the county I lived in did not accept the rabies vax for the wolf as it did the domestic dog umteen years ago. Yet they put the same rabies vax in bait for coyotes to consume and domestic dogs evolved from the wolf, yet it's not approved.

    Sure, WD's are illegal in many areas and anyone interested in a WD that lives in an illegal county or state, should move where they're accepted, just as I would do if they were ever illegal where we live.

    As wonderful as he and others like him are, we do our part to discourage people who "think" they want a WD, since we know they aren't just born like he is, by verbally communicating with these people and providing literature and info for them to further research if they still think they're interested."

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