With all the different looks, colors, shapes, and sizes of dog out there, it’s easy to forget that they all descend from wolves. Sure, it has taken thousands of years to get to where we are today, but wolves are still our dogs’ closest relatives. That said, while wolves might look cool, you probably wouldn’t want one for a pet ― if wolves made good pets, we wouldn’t have developed dogs. But if you’re really into the wolf aesthetic, and want the loving, goofy dog side as well, there are some breeds out there for you, where dogs look like wolves.
Why some dogs look like wolves
So why do some dogs look like wolves more than others? To put it simply, most traits that make wolves, well, wolves, have been bred out of domestic dogs over thousands of years. But they’re still in there, dogs and wolves still share DNA, so much so that a wolf and a dog can produce fertile offspring. This isn’t the case for all animal-hybrids, such as the hinny and the mule (horse-donkey hybrids), and the liger and the tigon (tiger-lion hybrids).
Interestingly, through selective breeding efforts, the wolf parts of a dog can be brought forward again. This makes them look more like wolves, even though they’re definitely still human-friendly dogs on the inside.
The cold North
You’ll find most of the wolf-looking breeds further up north. Perhaps this is because Northern breeds like the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky are some of the very oldest breeds around, a little closer to wolves than others. Or maybe it’s because more efforts have been made in these regions to produce breeds where dogs look like wolves, more so than others. The Siberian Husky is a pretty obvious choice for this list, when it comes to which dogs look like wolves. This is a popular, loving breed, but definitely needs an owner who knows what they’re getting into. Only lots of exercise and activity will keep a Husky truly happy. And the larger Alaskan Malamute definitely has the impressive size and appearance of a wolf.
The German Shepherd is a versatile, highly intelligent breed that also has the perk of being very wolflike. Especially the long-coat variety possesses a certain ruggedness about them, and the bigger type of this breed just enhances this. It’s hard not to see the wolf-resemblance when a German Shepherd lazily trots along, head held low. Other breeds where dogs look like wolves are the Tamaskan, and the Utonagan (the Northern Inuit Dog). Northern Inuit Dog is more of an umbrella term for several different breeds where dogs look like wolves by crossing German Shepherds and various Northern breeds. Northern Inuit Dogs were also used on Game of Thrones to bring the direwolves to life, and are said to have a Husky-like temperament.
Temperament actually isn’t the main reason wolves make bad pets ― they’re not vicious animals. They are, however, far too intelligent, independent, wary, and predatory to be suitable for the average dog lover. They don’t have that hardwired instinct to work with humans, to want to please them, or even pay attention to them, at all. Instead, wolves truly are wild animals, and should be treated and respected as such.
Some people have tried finding a middle-ground, though. The appearance and mystique of a wolf, but the personality and disposition of a domesticated dog. This is how hybrids come about; a deliberate mix of wolf and dog, by an ambitious breeder. Some of these hybrids are considered breeds of dog, at least internationally, but most agree that they don’t make good pets for the average person. But at least these dogs look like wolves.
An example of a recognized hybrid is the Saarloos Wolfdog, which was originally developed by a Dutch breeder in the 1930s. They were created crossing European wolves with the German Shepherd, and have since 1981 been recognized as a distinct breed by Federation Cynologique Internationale (the world’s leading international dog registry). Not only do these wolf dogs look like wolves, they’re said to have facial expressions that closely mimic those of wolves. In other words, generally a little less expressive and more standoffish than most dogs. The Saarloos Wolfdog is loving and intelligent, but independent. Another hybrid is the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, originally bred for the Czech military, and also recognized by FDI. There’s also the Kughsa, sometimes referred to as the Amerindian Malamute, whose origins are muddy.
Things to consider
Needless to say, bringing a wild animal home as a pet is not advisable. You might be desperate for a pet wolf (we’ve all had that magical fantasy), but in reality, you’ll have to settle for a lookalike. There are plenty of wonderful, strong-willed, and loving dogs out there, breeds where the dogs look like wolves. If you want a wolf-lookalike in a small, sturdy package, the Swedish Vallhund is a good option, too. Either way, remember that wolves are wild animals, and that there’s a reason we’ve kept dogs around instead, for thousands of years. Be aware of what kind of dog you’re bringing into your life, and make sure you can give them what they need, and you’ll be very happy together.