Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

The product of a radical experiment carried out in Czechoslovakia in the mid 1950s, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a mixture of the modern day German Shepherd and the Carpathian wolf. Used in the decades after as a government guard and patrol dog, they are more commonly seen today as family pets, and are used in search and rescue, agility and tracking.

Physically difficult to distinguish from wolves, these dogs are strong and athletic, with a dense, insulating coat and a thick, luxuriant tail. Notoriously difficult to train, they can be stubborn and independent, and require a patient, dedicated and enthusiastic owner who is willing to put in a significant amount of time with them.

About & History

This is a dog breed that undoubtedly deserves a place in the canine history books. Not called the Wolfdog because it closely resembles a wolf, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is the result of an experiment that bred actual wolves (Canis Lupis Lupis) with German Shepherd dogs (Canis Lupis Familiaris).

Before this experiment, scientists were unsure if it was possible to breed dogs and wolves, and there were many theories as to where the domesticated dog originated from. In 1955, four Carpathian wolves (named Argo, Brita, Lejdy, and Sarik) were bred with a variety of German Shepherds in an experiment designed by a man named Karel Hartl. Incredibly, offspring proved fertile, and were bred with each other for a decade within a Czechoslovakian compound.

The wolf-dog hybrids that were produced were physically more similar to wolves, and far more difficult to train than the domesticated German Shepherd. Despite this, these hybrid dogs were used extensively by Czechoslovakia within the military and police force, even utilised as border patrol dogs. Despite the more effort that was required to train these dogs, their popularity remained high due to their increased health and overall ability when compared to their canine equivalent.

In 1982, the breed was approved by the Czechoslovakian Kennel Club, and were granted the honour of being named Czechoslovakia’s national breed. Their international popularity increased toward the end of the 20th century, and there are thought to be close to 100 of them in the USA today.

Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs have recently been irresponsibly bred with wild Italian wolves for the sole purpose of making money, with puppies being sold on for thousands of euros. In 2017, over 200 Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs were seized in Italy in an attempt to crack down on the black market of Wolfdog exportation.

Retaining many of the same biological traits as the wolf, most females will only come in to season once a year and tend to whelp in the winter. Resilient when outdoors, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog does particularly well in cold climates. Interestingly, like the wolf, this breed will also be somewhat nocturnal if given the choice.

Appearance

Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Large Photo

Almost indistinguishable from the Carpathian wolf, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a powerful and athletic breed that possesses a well-muscled body underneath their thick fur coat. Females and males are easy to tell apart due to their size – just like wolves. Females must measure a minimum of 60cms, while males should be no shorter than 65cms. Females will weigh more than 20kg, while males will weigh over 25kg. There are no height or weight restrictions.

It should be easy to tell a female and male apart not only from their size, but also from their head. The male’s head is larger and wider than the female’s. For both sexes, their muzzle should be much longer than their skull, ending in a black, oval-shaped nose. Their ears are erect and triangular, while their slanted eyes are light brown or amber in colour. They possess a large and flat chest, while their back should be very slightly curved. Their legs are straight and muscular. Their plush and bushy tail is usually carried pointing down but will stand upwards and curved when the dog is excited.

Their coat is particularly thick and luxurious in the winter months and becomes shorter and thinner in the summer. The coat colour may be yellow-gray or silver-gray. The coat exhibits a lighter colour on the bottom of the neck and the chest, and they have a lighter ‘facial mask’.

Character & Temperament

More closely-related to the wolf than any other dog, it is understandable that these dogs are particularly wolf-like in their behaviour and temperament. Retaining their instinctive ‘pack’ behavior, they tend to socialise with other dogs by forming hierarchies; just like wolves do in the wild. Interestingly, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog does not tend to bark, instead relying on their wolf-like vocalisation, such as whines and howls.

Independent and confident, they can be reserved with people and these dogs do not actively seek human companionship or attention. Despite this, they do have the ability to live alongside families, and often show loyalty to their owners. Due to their natural instincts and raw strength, they are not suited to homes with children or other animals. They do, however, thrive when in the company of dogs similar to them, and it is advised that at least two puppies from the same or subsequent litters be kept together for company.

Very early, intense and wide-ranging socialisation is critical to ensure the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog can exist alongside people and the other animals it will meet when outdoors on walks. Alert and possessive, these dogs make fantastic guard dogs, and will be quick to warn you of any new arrival to their territory.

Trainability

Photo of Czechoslovakian Wolfdog puppy

Though used extensively in the military and by the police force, this breed is notorious for being difficult to train. Dedicated and consistent training will get the most out of this dog, but they will never be keen to please, and will often completely ignore commands if they have become bored of the task. Treats and other rewards are generally necessary to motivate the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog into action.

Naturally a pack animal, the general consensus is that this dog’s owner should assume the position of ‘leader of the pack’ and should maintain dominance at all times. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog responds well to this authority and will show respect and devotion towards their trainer.

Health

Displaying the expected hybrid vigour of a dog crossed with another species, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is prone to far less health conditions than the breed from which it originated (the German Shepherd) and can live well into their teenage years. Given their lineage, it is not surprising that they do, however, suffer from hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a condition that is incredibly prevalent within the German Shepherd community, and in many other medium to large breed dogs. It is an orthopaedic condition that leads to lifelong discomfort and mobility issues. The hips fail to form correctly, resulting in improper load-bearing and the development of osteoarthritis. This condition can be managed with weight loss, medication and physiotherapy.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has particularly high exercise requirements and stamina, and is not suited to an indoor lifestyle. Long, daily walks, as well as access to a large, fenced garden is recommended. The garden’s security needs to be tested before the dog is allowed out in it, as this dog can be an impressive escape artist, and will often roam for long distances when out. They love to be on the move outdoors and make fantastic hiking and jogging companions.

Extremely versatile, they have been successfully competed in a multitude of disciplines, including tracking, herding and agility. Failure to provide adequate outlets for the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog’s energy will almost certainly results in the development of unwanted behaviours. Incessant howling will definitely not help your relationship with your neighbours and may even land you with several noise complaints.

Grooming

This dog does not require a great deal of grooming, and regular brushing should be enough to keep their coat in good condition. Naturally clean and odourless, bathing is rarely needed. Be aware that they can shed heavily at certain times of the year.

Famous Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs

Brita (the wolf) and Cesar (the German Shepherd dog) were used to produce the first Czechoslovakian Wolfdog litter.

Cross-Breeds

While there are no well-known cross-breeds of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, there are several other wolf-dog crossbreed examples, such as:

  • Saarloos Wolfdog – Cross between a German Shepherd and a Mackenzie Valley Wolf
  • Lupo Italiano – Cross between a German Shepherd and wolves native to Northern Lazio

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