Can a Dog Join a Wolf Pack? What Dogs Can and Can’t Do With Wolves

Many dogs will try to run away in their lifetime. It may be caused by thunder, fireworks, the ice cream truck, or their need to find a mate. Unfortunately, many of these dogs will not find their way back home and may spend months or years in the wild, where they can actually encounter wolves and wolfpacks.

But given that dogs are basically domesticated wolves, can dogs find a a new home with their wild relatives?

Can a dog join a wolf pack? Dogs can not join wolf packs. While dogs share 99.9% of their DNA with wolves, dogs and wolves have such wildly different behaviors that dogs can never join wolfpacks. Wolves are likely to attack and kill any dog that tries to befriend them or even get close to the pack.

So even though dogs and wolves may look very alike, the looks is where the similarities end. Wolves are the opposite of dogs in many aspects, and they will never allow a dog to join ranks of their pack.

To understand why a dog can never join wolfpack, how do wolfpacks work, and what will happen if a dog tries to approach, befriend, or even mate with a wolf, keep on reading….

How Does a Wolf Pack Work?

Similar to dogs, wolves are very social animals, but they are only social with their own species. The basics of how a wolf pack works are the same to how any family of wild animals work.

A wolf pack is just a name for a family of wolves. Wolves usually live in packs to consist of an adult male and female as well as their offspring of various ages. Wolf packs can vary in size from three to twenty wolves, but rarely more than that.

As you can expect, inside the wolf pack there is a definite social structure as well as rules of conduct that everyone understand and follows. The adult male and female are the alpha, which means they are the leaders of the pack and their word is the law.

The dominant (alpha) wolves are the only wolves that can breed and produce in the pack. They are also the first to get to eat from the kills. As you can expect, the alpha wolves protect the younglings and care for them. Wolf pups grow very quickly and they will leave their den after only three months of birth. Pups will then start travelling and hunting with the pack.

The social structure of the wolf pack is dynamic and can change from year to year according to the new pecking order of the pack. A wolf that’s lower in the hierarchy or the pecking order can shoot their shot by challenging the alpha wolf for the leadership of the pack.

Whichever wolf loses this challenge will leave the pack to find another mate and start a new pack on their own. Wolves that can not raise in the ranks of their own pack and are constantly picked on by the other wolves in the pack will also leave the pack to become lone wolves or form their new pack.

Notice how in both situations I didn’t say that they’ll join a new pack? That’s because it’s extremely rare for a lone wolf to get accepted into an existing pack. Wolves will not accept other wolves into their packs easily, and they will absolutely never accept animals from other species (like dogs) into their ranks.

Wolf packs are an extremely complicated social structure that has taken thousands of years to develop, and there is much more to it. You can find more sources at the end of the article if you’re interested in learning more about the social life and behaviors of wolves.

Can Wolves Be Friendly With Humans (Like Dogs) ?

wolves vs dogs to answer can a dog join a wolf pack

It’s common knowledge now that dogs are direct descendants of the gray wolf. Dogs are basically domesticated wolves that split from their ancestors somewhere between 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. But while 40,000 years is not much in terms of evolution, it is still considerable enough that now dogs and wolves are very different from one another.

Dogs do, in fact, still retain some of their ancestral behaviors, but there are not many dog-like tendencies in modern wolves. There have been many studies trying to find the latter, but the most these studies could discover was that humans-raised wolf pups can become attached to their human caregivers in a way that’s reminiscent of wolves.

The studies also found that these wolves can become more comfortable around strange humans, but not as comfortable as dogs could be. The most recent studies also were able to prove that wolves could retain this familiarity and attachment to their caregivers even as they became adults similar to how dogs do.

This was groundbreaking because earlier studies were unable to prove that wolves could form any kind of attachment with humans, but these recent studies proved that it was, indeed possible, for wolves to form attachments and even display signs of affection towards their human owners and for those feelings to last into adulthood.

This brings us into a very important question; can humans have wolves as pets?

Can Humans Have Wolves as Pets?

Humans can not have wolves as pets. While these recent studies have shown that wolves can show affection and attachment towards their owners, modern wolves can never be as domesticated as dogs and will not be as friendly or trusting around humans as dogs are.

So, if you are thinking of owning a wolf pup, I’m telling you right now; Do Not Do it. You can not have a wolf as a pet. It’s extremely risky and you will be putting your life (and the lives of anyone who lives close to you) at risk.

Why are these studies on wolf domestication so important, then?

The reasons these studies on wolves and the similarities and differences between wolves and modern dogs are important are that they help us understand both dogs and wolves better which will allow us to connect more deeply and strongly with dogs and will allow us to work on the human safety issues that are faced by zoos and conservation areas.

What happens if a dog tries join a wolf pack?

If a dog tries to join a wolf pack, the wolves will definitely not accept the dog and are very likely to attack and even kill the dog if it tries to join the wolf pack, befriend any pack members, or come uncomfortably close to the pack.

As explained before, wolf packs are extremely complicated social structures and wolves rarely accept lone wolves into their own packs, so scientists believe that wolves will immediately attack any dog that may come uncomfortably close to the pack.

The Relationship between dogs and wolves today

Dogs and wolves today are more foes than friends. Dogs have decided to become friends with humans a long time ago, and this companionship has proved to be a very beneficial one for both sides.

From the side of dogs, humans provided and cared for the dogs they liked. We provided shelter and food for dogs while they provided companionship and protection to us.

In the old days when people had farms and used to farm for a living, people kept dogs to protect their houses, families, and livestock from wolves, and dogs were actually quite successful at their jobs. In fact, some of those breeds still exist today, and you can learn about dog breeds that can fight off wolves here.

By the way, wolves were a real problem to livestock in the old days, and there are some very interesting stories surrounding this topic. My favorite is about The Beast of Gévaudan and the Terror in the French Countryside in 1764. You can learn the whole story in this awesome animated video from Extra Credits down below;

Can Dogs breed with wolves?

Dogs can breed with wolves and produce viable offspring. This offspring is referred to as the wolfdog hybrid can produce offspring themselves. Dogs and wolves can interbreed in nature in theory but is extremely rare in nature because of the territorial nature of wolves.

In other words; yes, wolves can breed with dogs but it mostly happens because humans force it to happen. Here is a picture of what this offspring (the wolfdog hybrid) looks like;

Cute, right?

What is the wolfdog hybrid like?

The wolfdog hybrid is part dog and part wolf, and it can share the physical and behavioral traits of both or either parent. Raising and caring for wolfdog hybrids is very difficult and dangerous due to the wolfdog’s inconsistent and difficult-to-predict behavior.

So, while they may look as beautiful as huskies, they make for terrible pets. If you’re interested in wolfdog hybrids, believe me, it’s not worth it. Get a husky, they are easier to train and live with, even though they can be drama queens.

Can Dogs live with wolves?

Dogs can not live with wolves. Wolves will not accept dogs as parts of their packs and are likely to attack dogs that try to live close to them. Wolves are too wild and independent to live with dogs.

Interestingly enough, dogs and wolves can understand each other in some way. Dogs and wolves exhibit similar social behaviors such as greeting other members of the species by licking their faces or smelling their behinds.

The conclusion on Wolves and Dogs

Wolves can never be dogs. Wolves will never be as trusting of humans or as comfortable around us as dogs are. Wolves are naturally way of humans and fear our presence and our environments. Wolves are also fiercely independent and self-sufficient.

Dogs on the other hand are not like that. Dogs are completely domesticated by now. They are not only trusting of humans and comfortable around us, but are sometimes more comfortable around us when they’re stresses than they are are comfortable around their own kind – according to recent research.

Dogs can develop deep emotional bonds with their humans in a way that’s unlike any between any two other species. They can understand humans on a level that is not possible between any other species on the planet.

Dogs are dependent on us for food, shelter, safety, and emotional support, and are willing to protect us in any way possible even if they get hurt or killed in the process, something that can never be said about any other species.

It’s true; we really don’t deserve dogs, but we are so darn glad they’re here.

Related Questions

Would a wolf eat a dog?

A wolf would kill and eat a dog, but this is not very common. There have been recorded incidents of wolves attacking dogs even when people are around and incidents of wolves killing and eating dogs. Wolves are wild and very aggressive.

Would a wolf kill a dog?

A wolf would kill a dog. Wolves are very aggressive towards domesticated dogs even when the dog is on a leash or even when humans are present. If you live in an area with wolves, you must fence your property well and learn to protect your dog in case of a wolf attack.

It’s also very important to keep your dogs inside the property and to never let them run after a wolf into the wild because this is how wolves lure their preys into traps where the rest of the pack will be waiting to ambush the dog.

Do Wolves attack big dogs?

Wolves can attack big dogs but this is rare in nature. Encounters between a domesticated dog will sometimes result in play behaviors and other times will result in the wolves aggressively attacking the dogs. Wolves are very aggressive towards domesticated dogs and you should protect your dog.

Helpful Resources

Differences in greeting behavior towards humans with varying levels of familiarity in hand-reared wolves (Canis lupus) Dorottya Júlia Ujfalussy, Anita Kurys, Enikő Kubinyi, Márta Gácsi and Zsófia Virányi

Assessment of attachment behavior to human caregivers in wolf pups (Canis lupus lupus) – A Study by Nathaniel J.HallaKathrynLordbAnne-Marie K.ArnoldcClive D.L.WynnedMonique A.R.Udelle

The Family Dog Project

The Social Wolf (Living With Wolves Project)

The Wolfdog hybrid

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

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