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The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog or Vlcak: A Military Experiment Gone Right - PawSafe

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog or Vlcak: A Military Experiment Gone Right

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

In the tapestry of canine breeds, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, or Czechoslovakian Vlcak, stands out as a remarkable testament to both nature’s complexity and human ingenuity. Originating from a unique blend of German Shepherds and wild Carpathian wolves in the 1950s, this breed encapsulates the essence of survival, intelligence, and loyalty. Initially bred as part of a military experiment, these wolfdogs were tasked with guarding the Czechoslovakian borders during the tense years of the Cold War. Today, they have found a place in the hearts and homes of civilian breeders worldwide, celebrated for their protective instincts, double coats, and unparalleled working dog capabilities.

The comprehensive study by Dr. Milena Smetanová and colleagues delves into the genetic makeup of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, unveiling the scientific marvel behind its creation. Through meticulous research, the team has highlighted the breed’s distinctive genetic composition, a blend that showcases minimal wolf allele introgression within a predominantly dog genome. This equilibrium offers a unique opportunity to explore the interactions between dog and wolf DNA, providing insights into the breed’s rare, intelligent, and loyal characteristics.

As we navigate through the realms of owning, training, and caring for a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, it’s essential to understand not just their physical attributes but their spirited temperament, exercise needs, and health considerations. Whether you’re intrigued by the prospect of bringing a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog puppy into your home or simply fascinated by their history and evolution, this article aims to cover all aspects, from the initial price to the nuances of their grooming needs.

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a symphony of contrasts, a breed that harmoniously blends the wildness of the Carpathian wolf with the domesticity of the German Shepherd. Conceived in the mid-20th century, this breed was the result of a visionary experiment to harness the wolf’s robustness and the dog’s tractability. What emerged was a working dog breed unlike any other, distinguished by its rare, intelligent, and protective nature with a very different genome than other dogs.

The Wolfdog carries the legacy of its ancestors with pride, from its double coat that braves any weather to its keen sense of loyalty and protection. With a temperament that balances the line between alertness and affection, Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs have proven themselves as more than capable in various roles – from loyal family companions to diligent working dogs. However, their rich lineage and the meticulous breeding practices that have shaped them also bring forward specific considerations regarding training, exercise, and health that prospective owners must heed.

In the following sections, we will dive deeper into the world of Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, exploring their temperament, the investment in time and resources they require, and how they compare to other notable dog breeds like the German Shepherd and Siberian Husky. Our journey will also lead us through the essential aspects of their care, including exercise needs, grooming, training, and health concerns, to provide a comprehensive overview of what it means to share your life with this majestic breed.

Courageous, fearless, and strong-willed, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, Czechoslovakian Vlcak (CSV), is not a dog for the fainthearted or inexperienced. A wolfdog derived from mixing the German Shepherd with the Carpathian Wolf, it is one of the dogs that looks the most like a real wolf.

Although there is very little wolf left in the CSV, they are still tough and physical dogs. They require experienced handling to manage their superior energy and stamina. 

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, or Vlcak, was designed as a high-endurance military patrol dog. They are not for novice owners, so make sure to do your research.

History and Origins of the Czechoslovakian Vclak

Czechoslovakian Wolfdog playing in the snow

The origins of the CSV read like the plot of a science-fiction thriller.  In fact, the Vlcak or CSV is a result of a biological experiment that started in 1955. 

The idea was to combine the Carpathian Wolf with the German Shepherd and create an animal with the stamina, hardiness, and superior senses of a wolf, but with the trainability and obedience of a dog. 

The project started under Karel Hartl, and by the 1970s, the dogs were working in border patrol units. The dogs were stringently tested to produce the best working hybrids behind the iron curtain for the army.

In total, four wolves were introduced into the lines. These were Brita, Argo, Sarik, and Lady. After them, no more wolves were introduced, and the studbook was closed. 

This makes the average Czechoslovakian Wolfdog today about 94% German Shepherd and 6% wolf. 

Physical Traits of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

Czechoslovakian Wolfdog sitting on grass

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, recognized for its striking resemblance to wolves, embodies a robust and captivating presence. This breed exhibits a unique blend of agility, endurance, and physical strength, detailed in the breed standard.

How Big Does the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Get?

Adult Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs stand tall, with males reaching at least 65 cm (approximately 25.5 inches) in height at the withers, and females at least 60 cm (around 23.5 inches). Their weight is equally impressive, with males weighing at least 26 kg (about 57 lbs) and females at least 20 kg (around 44 lbs), showcasing their above-average size and rectangular frame.

Coat and Color

The coat of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a defining feature, reflecting its wild heritage. It has a straight, close-fitting coat that changes with the seasons. In winter, a thick undercoat predominates, providing significant protection against cold weather. 

The breed’s coat color ranges from yellowish-gray to silver-gray, featuring a characteristic light mask, aligning closely with the wolf’s appearance. This is usually called agouti. 

They are known to shed, particularly when transitioning between their winter and summer coats, requiring regular grooming. They are not considered hypoallergenic due to their shedding.

General Appearance

Embodying the firm constitution of their wolf ancestors, Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs have a rectangular frame, with their body length slightly longer than their height at withers, adhering to a 10:9 ratio. The head forms a blunt wedge shape, contributing to their unmistakable wolf-like appearance. 

Their amber eyes and pricked ears accentuate their alert and lively demeanor. Their muscular build, combined with a dry, well-muscled neck and a well-proportioned body, equips them for various activities, from guarding to companionship. Their movement is light-footed and ground-covering, indicative of their lively and active nature.

How Much Does a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Puppy Cost?

Cute Czechoslovakian Wolfdog puppy carrying a stick in the woods

Getting a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog puppy is an exciting journey! These unique puppies typically cost between $800 to $1,500. The price might vary based on the breeder’s location, the rarity of the breed in your area, and whether the puppies come from award-winning or specially trained parents. 

Keep in mind, the initial cost includes more than just the puppy—there are also expenses for their first vet visits, vaccinations, and other essentials needed to welcome your new friend home.

Where Can I Adopt or Find a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Breeder?

To find a reputable Czechoslovakian Wolfdog breeder, a great starting point is contacting the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America. They have resources and contacts that can help you find a trusted breeder.

If you’re open to adoption, considering a rescue organization is a wonderful option. There are organizations dedicated to the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, such as the rescue section of the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America and Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, which specialize in rescuing and finding homes for these unique animals.

Understanding the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Temperament & Training: Smart but Stubborn

Cute Czechoslovakian Vlcak dog playing in snow

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog (CSV) is super smart, but don’t expect them to always want to please you like some dogs. They’re more likely to use their smarts for their own kinds of fun—like figuring out how to escape the yard to chase the neighbor’s cat or digging up your garden.

Remember, many of these dogs are prone to howling. This is natural behavior and if you are not in position to put up with it, it may not be the right dog for you. 

Not Your Average Trainee

While their intelligence is undeniable, it doesn’t necessarily make them easy to train. They get bored easily and can be quite picky about what motivates them. Some days treats will do the trick, but other times they might not budge unless there’s a squeaky toy in it for them. They’re not fans of repetitive tasks and can lose interest quickly, especially in new places.

Despite these challenges, with patience and consistency, they can learn to participate in various dog sports. They take a bit longer to mature, so it’s more about building a positive relationship than strict training early on. And instead of aiming for high-level competition right away, it might be better to focus on basic obedience and managing their adventurous spirit.

A Unique Personality

These dogs form strong bonds with their owners but can be wary around strangers. They also have a strong protective instinct. It’s crucial to manage their socialization carefully to prevent anxiety when they’re left alone. Despite a low percentage of wolf genetics, it’s enough to make their behavior somewhat unpredictable, which can be a challenge for those not experienced with such breeds.

Social Life: Pets and Kids

With their strong prey drive and tendency to assert dominance, CSVs might not always get along with other dogs, especially those of the same size and gender.  They are extremely prone to chasing smaller animals like cats because of their high prey drive.

Socialization is key, but it’s essential to remember their wild instincts can surface under stress. So, always exercise caution, particularly around smaller animals and children.

A Study on Behavior

A study comparing Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, German Shepherds, and Labradors found interesting differences in behavior. For example, CSVs showed less fear toward strangers than the other breeds and were generally less trainable. 

Training was found to reduce aggression and fear, highlighting its importance. Interestingly, differences in behavior were also noted between dogs from Italy and the Czech Republic, suggesting that factors like breeding practices and owner expectations can influence behavior.

This study underscores the CSV’s complex nature, blending traits of ancient and modern dog breeds. It also emphasizes the role of proper training and socialization in mitigating potential issues like aggression and fearfulness.

So, if you’re thinking about a CSV, be ready for a journey that requires a mix of patience, understanding, and a willingness to learn together. They’re not your typical pet, but for the right owner, they can be an incredibly rewarding companion for committed owners.

General Care for the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

Caring for a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog requires a dedicated approach, especially due to their high energy, intelligence, and specific socialization needs. This breed is not recommended for novice pet owners, but with the right attention and care, they can be a rewarding companion.

Exercise

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a bundle of energy, necessitating at least one to two hours of daily exercise. Activities should be varied to keep them engaged and can include long walks, hikes, and play sessions in a secure area. Providing a constructive outlet for their energy is crucial to prevent undesirable behaviors.

Housing

Suitable for cold climates, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog needs a secure yard for safety and to accommodate their high activity levels. These dogs are not suitable for apartments and small living spaces.

Despite their resilience to cold, they thrive indoors with their human pack, reinforcing their nature as pack animals. Early crate training and keeping them mentally stimulated are key to preventing destructive behaviors indoors.

Grooming

Grooming a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog with its thick double coat involves regular brushing, especially during shedding seasons, to manage moderate to heavy shedding. It’s important to acclimate them to grooming from a young age, as they might be wary of strangers. Attention should be given to nail clipping, ear cleaning, and dental care to prevent health issues. In warmer climates, ensure they have ways to cool down to avoid overheating.

Socialization

Socialization for Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs should be handled carefully. Given their shyness and reactivity, dog parks might be overwhelming. Early socialization should focus on making them neutral towards strangers and other dogs, avoiding aggressive or fearful responses. This breed benefits from specialized early socialization programs that ethical breeders often provide, aimed at making them well-adjusted pets.

Food & Diet Requirements

The best food  for a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog often includes raw foods or the BARF diet, though high-quality commercial foods high in meat protein are also suitable. Consultation with a veterinarian is essential to ensure their diet meets all nutritional needs based on age, size, and health

What is the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog’s life expectancy?

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a hardy and healthy breed with a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years.

Common Health Issues in Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs

Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can have certain health issues. Breeders work hard to avoid these problems by screening their dogs for diseases. Here’s a simple breakdown of some health concerns these dogs might face:

Joint Issues: Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Some of these dogs can have hip and elbow dysplasia, where the joints don’t fit together perfectly. This can cause pain and trouble moving around. Good breeders test for this to make sure their puppies are less likely to have the problem.

Nerve Problems: Degenerative Myelopathy

This is a sad disease that can happen in these dogs, making it hard for them to move their back legs. It’s important for puppies’ parents to be tested for this condition so it doesn’t get passed down.

Eye Health: Glaucoma and Lens Luxation

Their eyes can also have issues like glaucoma, where pressure builds up, or lens luxation, where the lens in the eye moves out of place. Breeders often get their dogs’ eyes checked by experts to find these problems early.

Growth Issues: Pituitary Dwarfism

This rare condition affects how the dog grows, but testing the parents can help prevent it in puppies. It likely comes from the German Shepherd parents. 

Digestion Problems: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

In some cases, these dogs can’t digest their food well because their pancreas doesn’t make enough enzymes. This needs special care to make sure they get the nutrients they need.

Other Concerns: Heart Issues and Seizures

Though rare, some Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs can have heart problems or seizures. Regular check-ups can help catch these issues early.

Breeders are very careful nowadays to avoid inbreeding, which helps reduce these health problems. If you’re thinking about getting a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, asking the breeder about these health tests can give you peace of mind that your new friend has the best chance at a healthy life.

Is This Dog Right for Me? Understanding the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog’s Needs

Young Vlcak puppy running in snow in winter

Thinking about getting a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog? They’re not your average pooch and definitely not a fit for every home. Sure, they’re super loyal and will stick by their family like glue, but they also bring a lot of energy (and chaos) to the table.

These dogs are like that friend who loves extreme sports—a bit too much sometimes. They’re always up for a challenge and get bored super quickly if they’re not mentally or physically engaged. Imagine a dog with the energy of a toddler hyped up on sugar, and you’re getting close.

Got little kids? These dogs might love them but don’t always know their own strength, leading to some unintended rough play. Think of them as the clumsy, energetic big sibling who hasn’t learned their own power—bruises and occasional black eyes included.

They need loads of exercise. We’re not talking a leisurely walk around the block; these dogs need to run, play, and solve puzzles, or else they’ll start making their own fun—like figuring out how your fence can suddenly become an escape route.

So, who’s the ideal owner for these adventurous canines? You’ve gotta be active, sure, but also experienced in handling dogs with a lot of personality (and energy). If you’re really into the breed and ready to meet their many needs, you might just be the perfect match. Just remember, it’s a big commitment, but for the right person, it’s totally worth it.

Are Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs legal in the USA?

Laws regarding wolf hybrids differ from country to country and from state to state in the USA. 

Some states restrict wolfdogs depending on the amount of wolf in them. In contrast, other states prohibit and target dogs that even look like wolves.

Sometimes a permit is needed, and laws may also change between counties and cities. Therefore, before buying a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, it is best to check your local county and city ordinances.

Conclusion

The CSV is undoubtedly not a do for inexperienced owners. Even professional trainers may struggle with the dominant and independent natures. 

Prospective buyers of this breed should investigate whether it is legal in their state or country. They should also be sure they are committed enough to handle some of this breed’s more challenging behaviors.

When properly raised, the bond formed with a CSV can be unlike any other, so long as they respect that a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is not an average canine.

References

Karneva, K., Stefanova-Georgieva, M., Korniotis, A., Mihaylova, J. and Georgiev, G.I., 2017. Genetic predisposition to diseases of the breed Czechoslovakian wolfdog.

Caniglia, R., Fabbri, E., Hulva, P., Bolfíková, B.Č., Jindřichová, M., Stronen, A.V., Dykyy, I., Camatta, A., Carnier, P., Randi, E. and Galaverni, M., 2018. Wolf outside, dog inside? The genomic make-up of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. BMC genomics, 19, pp.1-17.

“Addison’s Disease in Dogs – Overview.” Vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/addisons-disease-in-dogs-overview#:%7E:text=non%2Dspecific.%22-,Clinical%20signs%20of%20Addison’s%20disease%20are%20usually%20vague%20and%20non,symptoms%20may%20wax%20and%20wane. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“Breed Standard – The Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America.” The Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America, czechoslovakianvlcak.org/standard. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

Smetanová, M., Černá Bolfíková, B., Randi, E., Caniglia, R., Fabbri, E., Galaverni, M., Kutal, M. and Hulva, P., 2015. From wolves to dogs, and back: genetic composition of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. PloS one, 10(12), p.e0143807.

Sommese, A., Valsecchi, P., Pelosi, A. and Prato-Previde, E., 2021. Comparing behavioural characteristics of Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers in Italy and the Czech Republic. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 237, p.105300.

“Czechoslovakian Wolfdog Breed Information: History, Health, Pictures, and More.” EasyPet MD, www.easypetmd.com/doginfo/czechoslovakian-wolfdog#:%7E:text=The%20Czechoslovakian%20Military%20and%20police,them%20useless%20as%20working%20dogs. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

Moravčíková, N., Kasarda, R., Židek, R., Vostrý, L., Vostrá-Vydrová, H., Vašek, J. and Čílová, D., 2021. Czechoslovakian wolfdog genomic divergence from its ancestors canis lupus, german shepherd dog, and different sheepdogs of european origin. Genes, 12(6), p.832.

Daniel, Chris. “BEFORE YOU BUY THAT CUTE PUPPY- DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” ACVO Public, 24 Oct. 2018, www.acvo.org/tips-treatments-tricks/lh4rhnxtdhbfnl2we8e4f8rxtz9z22#:%7E:text=The%20Companion%20Animal%20Eye%20Registry,are%20considered%20inherited%20in%20origin.

“Degenerative Myelopathy – Disease Basics.” Canine Genetic Diseases, www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/dm/basicdm.htm. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.