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The Saarloos Wolfdog: The Sweetest and Shyest of the Wolfdog Breeds - PawSafe

The Saarloos Wolfdog: The Sweetest and Shyest of the Wolfdog Breeds

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Saarloos Wolfdog

Among the wolf dog breeds, the Saarloos Wolf dog, or Wolfhound, is one of the most lupine or wolfish of all the dogs that look like wolves. A 2015 study showed these dogs had a high genetic association with the Eurasian Wolf in particular. 

It’s not surprising then that Saarloos Wolf dog puppies and adults have a strikingly wolf-like appearance. But underneath their wild looks lies a sensitive, shy soul that is now more dog than wolf. 

The Saarloos Wolf dog is similar to the Czechoslovakian Wolf dog or Vlcak in looks but not in temperament. Like the Vlcak, the Saarloos began as a German Shepherd/Wolf hybrid. However, it was never bred for military or border patrol purposes and never achieved a working dog’s boldness or assertiveness.  

Today they are better suited to being gentle, even delicate, companions. To better understand the breed, we need to look at the Saarloos Wolf dog’s origins. 

History of the Saarloos Wolf Dog: Where Do They Come From?

The Saarloos Wolf dogs appear to have started in the Netherlands. They are an official Dutch breed, recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club.

They began in the 1930s, when Leendert Saarloos, a fan of the German Shepherd, felt that the GSD was becoming too tame. 

He aimed to breed back some of the wilder characteristics he believed were more representative of the breed.

By doing this, he hoped to breed in a romantic idea of the wolf, its power and courage, and mix it with the loyal devotion of the GSD. However, he may have misunderstood fundamental wolf nature. 

Nevertheless, to achieve his goals, he bred a male German Shepherd to a female Eurasian Grey Wolf named Fleur that he sourced from Rotterdam zoo. 

Saarloos’s exact objectives for his breed are not completely clear. It appears he wanted a dog with the superior senses and reflexes of a wolf for working purposes as a military and service dog. He also wanted the animal to function as a loyal companion. 

He continued his breeding program until his death in 1969, and it appears he aimed for the breed to work mostly as a guide dog. 

However, by the 1960s to 1970s, multiple outcrosses to wolves had produced a shy and retreating dog, mostly not suited to working life.

This is the main difference between the Saarloos and the Czechoslovakian Vlcak. As the Vlack was bred as part of a military program, they are generally bolder dogs who do better in sports. The Saarloos, on the other hand, shines as a devoted companion in the right home.

It is hard to tell precisely how much wolf is left in the modern-day Saarloos. The study done in 2015 found the dog to be a close relation to the Eurasian Wolf but did not specify how much. 

It may contain a higher percentage of wolf than many other recognized wolf dogs.

However, since the dog became recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club in 1975 and FCI in 1981, it can be surmised that outcrossing with wolves has long been stopped.

What are the Physical Features of the Saarloos Wolf Dog?

Physical Features of the Saarloos Wolf Dog
HeightBitches 24- 28 inches (60 – 70 cm)  
Dogs are 26 – 30 inches (65 – 75 cm)
Weight66 – 100 Pounds
(30 – 45 kg)
Lifespan10 – 12 years
ColorForest Red, Wolf Gray, or White
NoseBlack or Brown.
EyesYellow or Sea Green.

The Saarloos moves like a wolf, with long legs and a graceful, ground-covering stride. This wolf dog is a muscular animal with an athletic and agile build.  

It stands between 24 and 30 inches at the withers, making it usually quite a bit taller than the average Husky and possibly taller than many Malamutes. 

However, it does not have a Malamute’s bulky shape and is a much sleeker, rangier dog. 

But as it can weigh up to 100 pounds, it still quite a large pup!

Their ears are high-set and erect, and they have eyes that are slanted, almond-shaped, and are usually a striking amber or yellow. Some gray individuals have sea-green eyes.

The Saarloos comes in three accepted colors, namely, wolf gray, forest red, or white. Of these, white is the rarest. 

Their nose corresponds with the coat color. Forest reds have a red or brown nose, while whites and grays have a black nose. 

Like most wolf dogs, they had a thick, double coat, meant to withstand cold weather. Their tail can also be sickle-shaped or straight and is generally quite bushy. 

Please note, this is not a hypoallergenic dog.

General Care of the Saarloos Wolf Dog

Saarloos Wolf Dog’s General Care
SheddingHeavy shedding during warm weather.
Needs a Seasonal blowout.
ExerciseModerately active. Should be walked at least once a day
HousingSuited for colder climates. Needs space, but should live indoors, close to the owner.
TemperamentCan be shy and nervy. Wary of strangers. Deeply devoted to the owner. Extremely sensitive.
TrainabilityShyness and sensitivity make this a challenging dog to train.


The Saarloos is a medium energy wolf dog. They need regular activity and mental stimulation to avoid behavioral problems. Still, they do not usually do not need the excessive exercise that most other wolf dogs do.


The Saarloos Wolf dog is a companion animal and should be kept indoors, close to its owners. They do appreciate having space to romp and should have a yard.

Food & Diet Requirements

The Saarloos should do well on a quality kibble with high-protein content. They may also do well on a well-formulated raw diet. But be sure to speak to your vet about your dog’s specific nutritional requirements.


The Saarloos Wolf dog might need a bi-annual “blow out” when it sheds with the changing seasons. Although a thorough daily brushing may be enough. 

Regularly grooming your Saarloos with a gentle brush will help keep their coat shiny for the rest of the year. A good brush distributes its natural oils and removes dead hair. 

It’s also a great bonding time for you and your dog, something the Saarloos values deeply.

Be sure to trim your dog’s nails about once a month with a good nail clipper or grinder

Ears should be cleaned regularly to avoid ear infections. And good dental hygiene should be monitored since decaying teeth can cause respiratory and heart problems later in life.



This is a medium energy breed. It needs adequate exercise, such as a 45-minute daily walk, and it thrives on mental stimulation such as a little daily obedience training. However, it is also happy to spend a day with you on your couch.

Severe Health ProblemsHip and Elbow Dysplasia
Degenerative Myelopathy
Mild to Moderate Health problemsPituitary Dwarfism
Rare Health ProblemsCancer

As the Saarloos is descended from the German Shepherd, many of its hereditary diseases are also common in the GSD.

Reported to be an overall healthy dog, the Dutch General Association for Friends of the Saarloos Wolf dog ( Algemene Vereniging voor Liefhebbers van Saarlooswolfhonden or AVLS) says that breeding dogs should be screened for the following:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Pituitary dwarfism
  • Epilepsy
  • Eye abnormalities
  • Degenerative Myelopathy.

In 2010, concerns were raised about the Saarloos Wolf dog’s gene pool being too small. Studies were done, and the high risk of inbreeding was deemed to jeopardize this beautiful wolf dog’s future. 

A plan was constructed to insert new bloodlines into the breed by outcrossing different breeds and steadily breeding the best and healthiest offspring back into the official Saarloos breeding stock. This is planned to take place over four generations.

The breeds identified for the outcrossing program were:

  • Ibizan Hound
  • The White Swiss Shepherd
  • Siberian Husky
  • Northern Inuit Dog
  • Norwegian Elkhound

What is the Saarloos Wolf Dog’s Life Expectancy?

Generally, a healthy dog, the Saarloos can be expected to live between 10 and 12 years.

The Trainability of the Saarloos Wolf Dog: Temperament and Intelligence

Leendert Saarloos never managed to breed the working dog he set out to produce. Instead of a courageous and highly trainable breed, the close-to-nature characteristics of the Saarloos were not what he expected. 

This dog is extremely sensitive, with little compulsion to bite strangers. Therefore, it does not make a good guard dog. It is shy and can find more boisterous dogs a little overbearing. It is also wary of strangers. 

This is a highly emotional dog, and breeders need to implement early neurological stimulation in puppies when they are three days old until twelve weeks. The process involves gently increasing the amount of stress they are exposed to from a very young age to teach them coping skills.

This is an intense socialization program meant to prevent the Saarloos from becoming too nervous or fearful as an adult. 

While they are trainable, their high emotional state and delicate sensibilities can make the process challenging. They need a consistent, light touch, and they should never be overburdened with high expectations. 

All training sessions should be kept short and positive. 

The Saarloos also have a high prey drive. They can easily take off after the neighbor’s cat in the middle of a training session. For this reason, it is essential to make sure they are always well-secured in their yard or on a walk. 

no-pull harness will protect their necks from damage while walking, and be sure to keep your dog secured when traveling as well. 

Are Saarloos Wolf Dogs Dangerous?

The Saarloos is typically shy and wary of strangers but not dangerous.

However, this wolf dog might not like strangers to come and pet it and should be kept away from children who might squeal or throw their arms around. Loud body language is likely to spook them.

Although this is not a dangerous dog, it is given to nervousness. 

Therefore, any breakdown in its early socialization or problems in its home dynamic can create an actively fearful dog. 

A fearful dog may react aggressively when it feels pressured.

Therefore, while this is not a dangerous dog, care needs to be taken to prevent it from feeling overwhelmed or not being properly socialized.

Sociability with Other Pets

The Saarloos is a pack animal and prefers the companionship of other dogs. 

Preferably, the other dog should also be a Saarloos. 

If not, a more empathetic and sensitive breed like the Golden Retriever or Cocker Spaniel may be best. 

They may find the bolder breeds such as a Rottweiler or Pit Bull to be too overbearing. 

They also have a high prey drive and may not be suited for homes with smaller animals.

Suitable Home: Are Saarloos Wolf dogs good pets?

The best home for a Saarloos is where the owner is home more often or not, with another canine companion or two. 

It should be a quiet, peaceful home environment with a moderate amount of daily exercise.  

There should be access to space, but yards should be well-fenced to curb the Saarloos’ instinct to roam. 

These dogs may not be the ideal company for rambunctious or young children.

They are emotional dogs and quickly develop behavioral problems and separation anxiety if left alone too long.

Because they are pack animals and devoted to their owners, anybody looking to buy a Saarloos should understand that giving the dog up for adoption can be incredibly painful for the animal and result in behavioral issues. 

Therefore, owners are advised to consider carefully before buying. These are dogs that need to stay in their family for life.

How Much Does a Saarloos Wolf Dog Cost?

This is a scarce breed and may be hard to find in the United States. If found, Saarloos Wolf dog puppies may cost between $ 800 and $ 2500. 

In the United Kingdom, they can go for around $ 1,200.

However, suppose you are an experienced and compassionate person, with the time for a Saarloos’ specific needs. In that case, it may be better to look for one in a shelter.

In What States is It Legal To Own a Wolf Dog?

Laws concerning wolf dogs and hybrids differ wildly from state to state. While in some states such as Alaska and New York, owning a hybrid is strictly prohibited, others only place restrictions. 

Some states may limit the amount of wolf DNA allowed in the dog, while others seem to consider dogs that look wolfish to be wolves. 

At the moment, it appears that it is legal to own a wolf dog or hybrid in the following states:

  • Arizona 
  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia 
  • Wisconsin

Even if you live in these states, it is best to check your city or county’s local bylaws before acquiring a wolf dog.

Can You Get Wolf Dogs in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to have F1 generation wolf dogs. That is a hybrid with one full wolf parent. 

According to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, any wolf dog needs to be at least an F3. Meaning it has to be three generations away from its wolf parents to be legal in the UK. 

Luckily, this means that wolf dogs like the Saarloos and Czechoslovakian Vclak are legal in the UK.


While the Saarloos never reached its objective of being a working dog, it is a sweet, sensitive animal. For an experienced, patient, and compassionate owner, they will find a devoted companion in the Saarloos.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


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.