Merlin von Habbenhaus
January 29, 1998 – July 31, 2007
My logo is an image of remembrance to one of my beloved animal family members. This is Merlin von Habbenhaus. He was an exotic dog breed called a Kugsha. A working class sled dog that was breed specifically for his high content wolf genes. Yes he was a hybrid wolf, but it’s important to understand what that means!
In his book “The Wolf Almanac”, Robert H. Busch puts the topic of domestication like this:
“One of the most serious problems faced by humane societies across North America is that of the exotic pets. The lure of something different and the social need for status symbols has created a demand for exotic pets of all kinds, including the wolf and wolf-hybrids.
Some people see these animals as tangible symbols of the wilderness or have misplaced ideas about helping an endangered species by keeping one as a pet. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in one’s home. No domestic situation can fulfill the mental or physical needs of a wild animal, no matter how much that animal is loved by its owner.
A Russian proverb states that ‘You may feed the wolf as much as you like, but he will always glance toward the forest.’” So please leave him there to begin with.
Not too long after this posting I found myself debating this issue with a friend at work, who operates a wolf/wolf-hybrid rescue kennel. I was saddened by some of the horror stories I heard from her about each of the wolves she currently had on her farm/kennel. We also talked in depth about the lure of wanting to own a hybrid and how it is possible if you know a bit more about hybrids and what to look for.
First off, Robert Busch is exactly right in his view. High percentage wolf hybrids are indeed dangerous and should not be kept as pets. But in doing a little more research, I found a classification of hybrids that was a bit interesting to me. And it also puts the “hybrid” into perspective.
The Wolf -Dogs (Over 90%)
In behavior, these guys are treated as wolves due to their high content. Variations in their height and color will be apparent, but behaviors are fairly consistent with their wild wolf parent.
The High Content (F1)
An F1 is a wolfdog, where one parent is a documented wolf and the other has a grandparent that’s pure wolf. There can be great variance in the resulting offspring. These differences depend on the type of dog used in the background or crossed with the wolf. It will even depend on if the wolfdog was line bred. Again, the high wolf content is a major concern and these dogs are not the breed for pets.
These first two classifications are the wolf hybrids Robert Busch and many other behavior researchers are most concerned with. They ARE NOT pets.
The Mid Content (F2)
An F2 is a wolfdog where one grandparent or one in each set are documented as wolves and one or both parents are wolfdogs. There are many wolf characteristics in this content and it should not be treated as a regular domesticated dog. But if a puppy is brought into a family before it’s 8 weeks old, this content of hybrid can become a loyal pet. Precautions are still required. These dogs will still challenge for position in the family pack through out it’s life. This is not a dog! It’s still a wolf-hybrid that requires training of both the animal and the people who live with it.
The Low Content (F3)
An F3 is a wolfdog where one or both great-grandparents are documented as wolves, both grandparents are wolfdogs and both parents are F1 or F2 content hybrids. The same precautions are suggested as with an F2 hybrid. However, these dogs will have less characteristics than the higher content hybrids. Each animal hybrid is different, and should be treated with continued caution.
The Small Content (50% and less)
These are dogs that have wolf in their background more than 3 generations away. Most make good starters for the first time owner. If you want a dog with a wolf look, but without the wild characteristics, this is the content to consider.
Merlin was classed as an F2 hybrid. He was 8 weeks old when I brought him home from my friend at work who rescued wolves/wolf-hybrids. I thought I knew enough about wolves to accept him and raise him. I was proven somewhat wrong in that arrogant assumption. But thanks to my rescue friend, Terry and her assistance, I fumbled through the learning in the first few months and Merlin was one of the greatest blessings in my life.
But not everyone is as fortunate to know someone such as my friend Terry. If it were not for her experience and knowledge, and willingness to help on a weekly basis, things could have turned out differently. Thanks to our cooperative adjustments together, Merlin became a fantastic friend and protector to my entire family. Including my son.
From the moment we first brought him home from the hospital, Merlin loved and protected our baby. But this isn’t always the case and it’s very important for people to think about the temperament of the wolf BEFORE they introduce them to young children! Not only for the children, but for the adults as well.
When my husband would change our son’s diaper and he would cry as babies do, Merlin would stand guard and growl at my husband. But he wouldn’t do that when the same tears occurred and I was the one on diaper duty. Even if you’re an adult and think you can handle any situation, make sure you understand what those situations might be.
Being a male, Merlin saw my husband as the Alpha Male in our family pack. And like a wolf, he would challenge my husband in that role as Alpha. Because they set their positions in the pack early on, that “challenge” was never vicious. The best way to talk Merlin through his challenge, was to talk to him like a puppy and love on him. Anything else was considered to be an acceptance of the challenge and could result in a fight.
Through out my life with Merlin I can honestly say that wolves and wolf hybrids truly are not like a domesticated dog. I’ve never lived without a dog in my home. So with all that experience and knowledge of raising a dog, there were still many things I had to learn. There were also many things that I had to change, ways of doing things, feeding, training and accepting some of his eccentricities that one doesn’t have to do with a domesticated dog.
As we both learned to trust each other, we learned how live with each other. Over time I was able to hold a bone as he chewed on it with no concern. At times he would even bring a bone to me so I could help him hold it as he dug in! He loved to play, not only with me, but my husband, his little sister Destinie the Dalmatian and with our son.
What fascinated me most was that he knew the difference between playing with an adult and playing with a child. Playing with a tug toy and me, could mean my getting pulled across the floor. Literally. He was that strong. But playing with a child, he barely pulled at all and allowed them to pull as much as they could, before they got tired and went on to something else.
I encourage anyone thinking of owning a hybrid to find that special domesticated low-content mixed breed first. Make sure you have a mentor to talk with and go to with questions and concerns. The look can still be there with these low-content mixes, without the special considerations of the wolf and his characteristics. They will be great family members, give you the opportunity to learn about hybrid wolves without the extremes to worry about.
Our life with Merlin were the best years of my life as an Animal Mom. It will be hard to ever replace him. Even after nearly 7 years, I miss him every day and still think of him at least once a week.