Guard Wolves???

I was going to blog on a completely different topic today, but then a friend sent me a link to a news story that just about blew my mind. Apparently, a prison in Louisiana has hit upon a brilliant idea to help with security in the face of budget cuts: using a “wolfdog” to patrol the prison grounds. Yes, you heard that right. Oh, and it’s not their first wolfdog. They’re actually breeding them for the purpose. Is there steam coming out of your ears yet? Because there should be.

There is so much wrong with this story that it’s hard to know where to begin. For those not familiar with wolfdogs, there is no actual breed standard. Most are mixes of wolf with Alaskan Malamute or Siberian Husky, two breeds widely accepted to be closest to the wolf in looks and behavior. With wolfdogs, the higher the wolf content, the more the animal will look and act like a wolf. And wolves are skittish. They’re afraid of humans—and good for them! It helps to keep them alive in the wild. What wolfdogs are not are watchdogs or guard dogs. As I said in one of my books about wolfdogs, they’ll watch all right…from under your bed as someone walks out the front door with your stereo.

The ironic part about this story is that the dog in the photo doesn’t even appear to be a wolfdog, but a malamute mix. I’m not sure what the line, “He’s aggressive toward certain people at certain times” means exactly, but it sounds an awful lot like a description of a malamute mix with aggression problems. That’s a dog who needs behavior modification, not encouragement to become more aggressive! In fact, a second news story revealed that the dog was given up by its owners due to aggression issues, and was “spared euthanasia…and was sentenced as a life sentence as a patrol dog” at the prison instead. The Warden had asked the judge to intervene and not put Chief to sleep. While this might have been a compassionate move, the end result is not. The Warden stated, “The dogs are afraid of lighning and thunder, but have houses of their own where they can escape inclement weather.”(Know how much lightning and thunder Lousiana gets? A lot.) The bottom line is, there are breeds such as Malinois and German Shepherds that, assuming the individual dog has the proper temperament, excel at guard and protection work. I can’t think of any possible justification for using wolfdogs for this purpose instead, much less breeding them. Chief will join six other wolfdogs who are already employed at the prison for guard purposes.

There are enough misconceptions out there about wolfdogs already. Do we really need for people to believe that they’re aggressive, too? Most are not. If anything, they have fear issues. Look, a wolfdog is not going to make a great pet for the average person. They can be a lot more to handle behaviorally than a typical dog, and they require special knowledge of proper containment and much more. That people might see this news story and think Wow, that’s a great idea, let’s get a wolfdog for protection! makes me physically ill. Added to that is the issue of breeding these “wolfdogs”— when someone sees that photo and believes that malamute mix is a wolfdog, and then goes out and ends up getting what turns out to be the real thing, they’re in for a rude awakening.

I’ve seen more wolfdogs euthanized over the years than I care to remember, all because someone thought they’d make a great pet. When the owners gave up, the dog had nowhere to go. All I can say is that I truly hope the powers that be at the prison will reconsider, and go back to using dogs who are better suited to the task at hand.

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17 Responses to Guard Wolves???

  1. Wow. I don’t even know what to say to this. Just…wow.

    Have you written to the prison? Maybe they need to hear from a dog expert to rethink their position on this.

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Nicole,
      A friend who would have a lot more pull with the prison system is looking into contacting them. Her opinion would actually carry more weight with them than mine in this situation. I have left comments on both news stories, though. I would encourage others to do so as well.
      Take care,
      Nicole

    • Unbelievable.Irresponsible doesn’t even begin to describe what this prison is putting this dog through. My only question: What can we do?

    • I sent an email to DOC of Louisiana and directed them to your blog, as well as telling them of the dangers putting the dogs and wolves in. It was the only thing I could think to do.

  2. Michelle White says:

    Thank you for taking a stand! I aim to grow up to be like you one day! I left corporate America to work with dogs, and now I don’t feel like I “work” a day in my life. I work for PetSmart as a dog trainer and am on a mission to educate people about how dogs learn and what dogs need to live happily with their humans. I have recently submitted for a position as the district area trainer, so will have an opportunity to pull a team together and touch more lives. I am inspired by people like you who take action to stop this ignorance!
    Thanks,
    Michelle

  3. It breaks my heart to see this… but doesn’t surprise me. Most humans are incredibly “limited”… yes…I’m being nice because I’d really like to say what I’m thinking which wouldn’t be appropriate for the blog!

  4. Gerrie Pols says:

    Hi, I live in Europe, Netherlands (so sorry is my English is not perfect). First of all, no dog (Germean shepard inclusive) is agressive. They were made agressive! In Europe there are a few real wolfDOGs. The Saarloos wolfdog (like my own dog Sara) and Csech wolfdogs. Both are in essence mixes from wolve with German Shepard. But they are no hybrids anymore, they are indeed real dogs. The Saarloos has more wolf aspacts and is for sure no guarddog. They rather flight then fight. The Csech wolfdog (csech republic) has more of the German Shepard caracter and is bred to guard the border. Still, they are not agressive by birth but they can be made agressive. I despice the fact that people want to breed any dog just to make them agressive! But I agree with you, if they need those kinds of dogs, they should look at the already existing dogs that have the potential to be good guarddogs. And if they really want a wolflike dog, they can better learn about the czech wolfdog. A hybride (mix of wolf and dog) for sure is not the answer, many of them will not approve and I fear for their destiny!!!! In essence the wolfdog will flight before fight and is no guard dog!

    • S.M. says:

      I was just about to come here to mention Czechoslovakian wolfdogs (Csv) that were already experimentally bred long ago (German Shepherd x Carpathian wolf) for this purpose …with varying degrees of success. Whether or not it was a good idea in the first place, the fact is that these animals exist now and are indeed an actual breed of dog with standards, etc. They make lovely companions in the right hands and with enough socialization. 🙂 Most people I know have them as pet/companion animals, but I do know they are used or at least trained for working purposes in some places.

  5. Thanks for talking about this – breaks my heart that not only are these dogs being exploited this way, but that they are actually breeding them so they can exploit more. I hope that your friend and the public are able to shed light on this and have it stop.

  6. Steve says:

    Agree with Nicole W. Simpler to build a moat and fill it with gators. Fence the outside to keep the gators in 🙂

  7. S.M. says:

    Sorry to hear this, it seems like a very irresponsible thing to do….especially since it sounds like they are also misrepresenting their ‘wolfdogs’ in this case. 😦

  8. Wow. How moronic. Although I have heard of aggressive wd’s I have NEVER seen one (towards humans anyway). How irresponsible, this breed needs NONE of this kind of coverage.

  9. Matthew says:

    now we have “government approval” for breeding wolf dogs. 😦

    hopefully your friend can get them rethinking this and quick.

    It absolutely boggles the mind that with all the press military working dogs are currently getting that anyone could even jokingly think of wolf dogs over the Malinois.

  10. Gerrie Pols says:

    Just saw on facebook your message that they do not use wolfdogs, cause they found out they were not the right dogs for the work. I am very glad to hear this. But, I wish they did not use dogs at all, in this high tech world it must be possible to think of an other way to keep the prisoners inside…. Anyway, I’m very glad to hear they will nog breed wolfdogs for this purpose.

    • Matthew says:

      high tech isn’t always a very good answer and very often introduces problems and complexities that you didn’t have before you tried to “go high tech”. Sometimes low tech is superior and the best way to go.

      The right dog breed with the right training can actually be a better solution than “high tech” in dealing with prisoners.

  11. Oh great, it HAD to be Louisiana.

  12. Wow, this is so sad to hear about 😦 I really feel for the dogs.

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