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.
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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