The breed originated in the 1920’s when Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos started crossbreeding male German Shepherds with female wolfs kept in captivity. His first try was unsuccessful as the young wolf died of a virus. Later on as his attempts continued, some results were achieved and a couple of his crossbred dogs were trained to guide blind people or do some police work. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful in their duties as trainability didn’t improve. It’s not very likely that a Saarloos Wolfdog would be seen outside the Netherlands as the Saarlooswolfhond club tries to limit the dogs’ breeding in a mere 500 mile radius inside the country.
The Saarloos Wolfdog is a quite large dog - 76cm in height and 45kg in weight. Looking very athletic and muscular the dog even marches with grace. Their fur is short and dense. Coat comes in three colors – gray, brown and rarely white but because of the wolf genes, gray is the most common one. The dog has a powerful neck and erect ears just like the German Shepherd. Feet are long and slightly set outward, tail is dense and set low.
Character and behavior
Because of its wolf genes the Saarloos Wolfdog is pack oriented and requires a lot of space. Very often it can be shy and not respond well to obedience. It requires lots of space to roam and can develop panic attacks and anti-social behavior if not given a space they need daily. Apart from that, the dog is quiet, rarely barking. It alerts its owner in other ways. The dog does better in a pack with a leader to keep order. Breeders of this dog need at least two dogs to provide a “pack”. Although there could still be problems if one of the dogs is not well introduced to an established order in the “pack”. Be sure to walk them separately at first as excess energy needs to be drained. Both dogs need to be shown who the alpha is, so it is necessary to walk a step ahead of them and not a step back, because the alpha always walks in front. Daily pack walks are absolutely necessary. The breed can often even be aloof. It is also not recommended for breeding in an apartment.
Training and education
Owners of the Saarloos Wolfdog need to be ready with patience when it comes to training and education. They must establish order and show them that they are their leader as mentioned above, the dog is very much group oriented. A great deal of time and effort are needed for that and it is essential that the education starts at very young age. It is more likely for the dog to understand a hierarchy then.
The Wolfdog club which does most of the breeding is monitoring health of the dogs closely. That is mostly done to ensure problems like dysplasia, spondylosis and behavioral problems are set to a number of minimum. With good health care, average length of life is about 10-12 years.
Grooming and care
Grooming needs to be done on a weekly basis, but bathing is not recommended if not necessary, as skin and coat oils may be damaged.
Children and other pets
This breed is not recommended for a child’s companion. These dogs are kind with kids and other family members. They get along well with other animals, but are reserved with strangers and may even show aggression.
An interesting fact for these dogs is that they were recognized as a breed only after the original breeder Leenard Saarloos passed away. It was officially declared six years after the death of the Dutch man.