When it comes to wolf-hybrids, it’s a lot about the aesthetic. Most of the time, people want a dog that looks like a wolf, rather than acts like one, and there are a few breeds that fit that criteria. But if you’re looking for a little more actual wolf than just appearance, the Saarloos Wolfdog is a good option.

A Dutch hybrid

Just like the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, the Saarloos Wolfdog started as a hybrid between a wolf and a German Shepherd. It was a Dutch breeder by the name of Leendert Saarloos that started this initiative, back in 1935. The first litter was the result of mating a German Shepherd with a female wolf from the Rotterdam Zoo, and while it wasn’t quite what Saarloos wanted, subsequent efforts went better. The goal was to bring some of that wild, hard-working independence into the ― in his opinion ― too docile German Shepherd breed. And considering the intelligence and work ethic already in a German Shepherd, the cross with a wolf made the Saarloos Wolfdog quite impressive.

Saarloos himself died in 1969, but others continued his legacy. In 1975, the Dutch Kennel Club recognized the breed and named it the Saarloos Wolfdog, in honor of its creator. Outside of Europe, and especially its home country, the Saarloos Wolfdog is considered a very rare breed, and isn’t recognized by the AKC.

Size and appearance of the Saarloos Wolfdog

Given that it’s a wolf-German Shepherd hybrid, the Saarloos Wolfdog resembles the latter quite a bit. You’ll recognize the markings and face shape, but the colors tend to lean more towards gray, white, and light brown. The Saarloos Wolfdog stands 24-30 inches tall, and has a lifespan of 10-12 years. Their build is strong, their gait is steady, and while they do have the friendly face of a domestic dog, there’s still a wolflike sharpness in their eyes. This dog has a broad, powerful neck, and long legs with feet that turn slightly outward. In terms of grooming, the coat is short and coarse, with a dense undercoat. You’ll manage with just brushing a few times a week.

The Saarloos Wolfdog is shy and independent, but also very intelligent and loyal.

Temperament and personality

It’s impossible to face no challenges when your dog is part wolf. The Saarloos Wolfdog prefers to be part of a pack of other dogs, and needs adequate space to roam and be active. Unlike the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, they can be quite shy, a trait typical for wild animals such as wolves. They’ll bond closely with their family but be wary of strangers, which makes them very protective and loyal. They don’t do well with kids, though, and are definitely not for first-time owners. Make sure to maintain a social atmosphere, as the Saarloos Wolfdog doesn’t do well with isolation, and make sure they know exactly who’s in charge (ie. you).

All of that said, the Saarloos Wolfdog is very intelligent, although don’t expect it to respond perfectly to obedience training. When they learn, though, they learn quickly. This breed isn’t aggressive by nature, but they can be dominant, so make sure that they get proper socialization and enough stimulation to keep them happy and content.

Things to consider

Any hybrid between a domestic animal and a wild one is going to be a challenge, and the Saarloos Wolfdog is no exception. But if you’re prepared to dedicate the time and effort needed to keep them active and stimulated, and you have a pack for them to be part of, this might just be the dog for you.