There's nothing more wildly striking than wolf-like dogs with grizzled thick coats and piercing eyes. While wolves and wolf hybrids can come with behavior problems and legal issues, wolfdogs and dogs that look like wolves have become increasingly popular.
Some of these are easily recognizable as our most popular breeds, such as the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, German Shepherd, and Samoyed. Others are rare, like the Greenland Dog, or surprisingly small, like the Klee Kai. Others are actual wolfdogs like the Saarloos Wolfdog or Shikoku.
Regardless of heritage, we've rounded up 31 of the most wolf-like breeds in the world. But first, where do they come from?
The first official case of a wolf being crossed with a dog happened in 18th Century England. But it only started to become common to breed dogs to wolves around the 1960s.
In most cases, Gray, Timber, or Red Wolves are crossed with German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, or Siberian Huskies to get the desired "look."
First-generation, or F1, wolf dogs have one wolf parent and one dog parent. F2 generations are bred from two F1 generation dogs, and F3 are produced from F2 generation wolfdogs, and so on.
The trouble with wolfdogs is that they tend to have serious behavioral problems. They are more independent than dogs and seek less help from humans. They are also sensitive, shy, and more prone to aggression. Often wolf dogs are illegal and need special fencing to be kept in a yard.
Thus, it is better to get a wolfdog with a low content of wolf blood, or even better, a dog who has a wolfish look but is really a dog.
What is the difference between a Wolfdog and a Wolf-Like Dog?
Wolfdogs are essentially hybrids who have some actual wolf DNA in their bloodline. Those who have been bred to be good pets have been bred away from their wolf genetics to behave more like dogs.
For instance, the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog only has 6.25 % actual wolf DNA still left but still has a very wolfish appearance. Similarly, the Tamaskan originally had some wolf in its bloodline but is increasingly being bred away from that heritage to make a better companion.
On the other hand, plenty of dogs have no wolf in them but still have a robust wolfish appearance. This includes basal breeds like the Alaskan Malamute or other breeds like the German Shepherd or Siberian Husky. These are simply wolf-like dogs or dogs who look like wolves.
While wolfdogs have wolves bred into their foundational stock, most of them have very little wolf left in their heritage. This is to avoid some of the legal and behavioral problems of a high wolf content dog.
When wolves are first bred to dogs, they create wolf hybrids. These are often produced just to be sold as exotic pets. Sadly, real wolf hybrids frequently need to be rehomed or end up in sanctuaries or euthanized.
They often have a wild nature with destructive tendencies that are too much for the average owner or even an experienced dog trainer to handle.
For this reason, if you want a pet with the magnificent looks of a wolf, it's better to get a dog or wolfdog that has been bred away from its wild nature.
So what dogs look like wolves but are safe and behave like dogs? Here's the list.
An ancient breed from the frozen North, the Alaskan Malamute is giant wolf look-alike. Although they look like Huskies, they are much bigger and are not as friendly with other animals. Thus, they need experienced owners and socialization from an early age.They love their people and are great talkers, often making "woo woo" noises just to be part of the conversation. They are also tough working dogs and need a lot of exercise. They love any sport that mimics sledding and look particularly wolfish when mixed with the German Shepherd to create the Alaskan Shepherd.
Ranked number 12 on the AKC's list of popular breeds, the Siberian Husky is probably the most common wolf lookalike. These are lively, friendly dogs who love other pets. They also need tons of exercise. In fact, the Husky is so good at covering ground, they can actually change their metabolism to run for hours. They are also elite escape artists and need secure fencing around their yard.
The first real wolfdog on the list, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, or the Czechoslovakian Vlcak, was bred to patrol borders in the 1950s. These are alert, loyal, and superior working dogs. They are excellent at tracking or search and rescue. However, their high work drive and sensitive but independent natures mean they are not recommended for first-time dog owners.
The Saarloos Wolfdog was bred by a Dutch breeder who thought that German Shepherds had become too tame and domesticated.He bred his GSD to a Eurasian Grey Wolf, and so the Saarloos Wolfdog was founded. This is an athletic dog with an extremely wolfish appearance.These dogs need plenty of socialization to avoid behavioral problems.
The Kugsha is also called the Amerindian Malamute or American Husky. Not much is known about this strikingly lupine wolfdog's background, but they seem to be mostly a mix of wolf and Malamute. These are sensitive working dogs, not suited for the average home. They can get along with other dogs but need an experienced owner who can deal with their strong guarding instinct and high energy levels. They need a lot of attention and are prone to separation anxiety if left alone too long.
Arguably one of the world's most beautiful dogs, the Samoyed hails from Siberia and has the thick white coat to match. Amiable and loving dogs, they fit in well with families and get along great with other animals. They can be a little stubborn and strong-willed, so they need gentle, positive training to shape good behavior. Like most of the other dogs and wolfdogs on this list, a Sammie needs a ton of exercise. But the area that needs the most maintenance is its magnificent white coat. Owners report grooming upto an hour a day!
An extremely new breed, the Tamaskan was founded in 2006 in Scotland using the Utonagan and Finnish sled dogs. The Tamaskan has an open studbook in the United Kingdom, which means new breeds and bloodlines are still being introduced all the time. This is done to achieve the strict breed standard of a dog that looks like a wolf but is an adaptable companion dog able to settle in with families.Since this is a breed-in-progress, there is still some variation in temperament. However, most Tams are sensitive, active dogs who are friendly with both people and other dogs. Owners report that they can be destructive if they are under-stimulated or under-exercised.
Shikoku (Japanese Wolfdog)
The Shikoku, or Koki-Ken, is a medium-sized dog from the Kochi Mountain ranges in Japan. They were once prized hunting dogs for Japanese hunters called the Matagi. They have sharper features than the other spitz dogs, such as the Samoyed or Akita. They also come in red and black sesame colors, closely resembling the red agouti coloring in a red wolf. These dogs are intelligent and more trainable than other native Japanese breeds. However, they can still be stubborn, and they thrive when hiking through rugged terrains. Shikokus are alert, watchful, and closely in tune with nature. So, they do best with active, outdoorsy owners.
The Pomsky is a breathtakingly gorgeous little dog with a zest for life. This is the first dog on the list suitable for owners who live in apartments but still want a little wolf-lookalike at their heels. A designer dog bred from the Pomeranian and the Husky, this is a friendly little creature with a thick coat that needs some maintenance. Even though they don't need much space, they are still quite active and will enjoy regular walks and playtime, and sports like agility.
The Greenland dog is an ancient husky-type that arrived in North America 1000 years ago from Siberia. Today, Greenland takes extra care to protect the dogs' purity. It has started several projects to keep the dog from going extinct and staying true to its sledding heritage.This is a strong, big-boned working dog that has stayed true to its primitive roots. It prefers staying in a pack environment and needs an owner who can win its respect by being a reliable pack leader. Once the Greenland Dog accepts his owner as pack leader, they are incredibly loyal guardians.
Native American Indian Dog
The Native American Indian Dog (NAID) are known for their exceptional intelligence and large size. These are dogs that are bred to resemble the historical description of the extinct Native American breeds, with a distinct wolfish appearance. They are large to giant dogs who are known for being gentle and social. They also love children. NAIDs are protective of their families and don't like being left alone for long periods. They are also working dogs and thrive with a job or activity like sledding or long hikes in the wilderness.
The American Blue Bay Shepherd is a wolfdog created by breeding Old German Shepherds with wolf hybrids. Some eight other breeds were also involved in their development, and they feature a distinctive blue or slate grey coat. These are gentle and sensitive dogs but have high energy levels and need a lot of exercise. They are also extremely affectionate and make an excellent family dog.
Despite the name, the Aussie, or Australian Shepherd, actually originates from the United States. A herding dog, this is one of the most intelligent and trainable dogs on the list. They flourish in dog sports, including herding, agility, flyball, and obedience. They are a versatile breed that needs a home that can stimulate their minds and keep their bodies active.
More of a mastiff-type dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is best known for protecting homesteads and livestock from predators in the Caucasus Mountains. This has earned them the name "wolf killer." These are fiercely protective and powerful homestead guardians that are not suitable for first-time owners. In fact, they frequently make lists of one of the world's most dangerous dog breeds.They can be loving family dogs but need intensive socialization and are best not kept with smaller dogs or children.
The King Shepherd is bred mostly from German Shepherd stock and contains other breeds such as the Great Pyrenees and Alaskan Malamute. These are giant, intelligent dogs that can perform various tasks, from being a good playmate to a child to a protection or rescue dog. They can live in an apartment so long as they are exercised enough. King Shepherds are also affectionate with kids, strangers, and other dogs.
Like the King Shepherd, the Shiloh Shepherd is also bred mainly from German Shepherds and Alaskan Malamutes. This a gentle giant whose emotional intelligence makes them excellent support and service dogs. They are also known to be great with kids. Shilohs are very attached to their families and should not be left alone for long periods.
Perhaps the first dog that springs to mind when you think of dogs with a wolfish appearance, the German Shepherd may actually be a descendent of a wolfdog. Although they were primarily bred from local German herding dogs, it is widely believed that the first German Shepherd was one-quarter wolf. Today, the German Shepherd is a versatile breed, so it is crucial to research bloodlines before purchasing. Working bloodlines do best in the military or police. Show bloodlines are beautiful but can come with health and temperament problems such as nervousness. However, there are plenty of reputable breeders who breed marvelous and trainable companion dogs. This breed often suffers from health issues, so be sure to do your background checks before getting a puppy.
Rare outside their native Finland, "Lappies" are medium-sized spitz-type dogs. They are brilliant, healthy, and trainable. The Lapphund shows a strong aptitude for herding, obedience, agility, and any kind of pet therapy work. These dogs also often have unique markings on their face, such as "spectacles" around their eyes. They are unique, easy-going dogs who are great for active families, although they need a lot of grooming.
The Swedish Vallhund looks like what would happen if you crossed a wolf with a Corgi. Despite their short little legs, these dogs come from working stock and do best when they have a job to do. They are bright, friendly, and affectionate family dogs. Despite their medium-size, they are active and will do better with space to romp than in an apartment.
East Siberian Laika
The East Siberian Laika is a Russian spitz-type dog used for hunting. There is some variation in their looks since they have regional differences. In general, they are a large, rangy dog with a wolf's sharp, pointed features. These are tough and fearless dogs who enjoy working and are trainable. However, their hunting background means they can be independent and stubborn. They also need to be carefully socialized with smaller animals.
Alaskan Noble Companion Dog (ANCD)
Still a "breed-in-progress," the Alaskan Noble looks precisely like a wolf, often black in coloring with striking yellow eyes. However, this is not a wolfdog. Instead, it was bred with German Shepherds, Huskies, Malamutes, and other breeds to give it its distinctive wolfish features. Apparently, greyhounds were added to create the long, pointed nose and range the other dogs didn't have. Although the breed is not completed, they are designed to be athletic companion dogs with good temperaments.
Alaskan Klee Kai
Famously owned by actress Sophie Turner, the Klee Kai looks much like a mini Dire Wolf. The name "Klee Kai" is derived from an Inuit term for "small dog." Indeed, they do look exactly like little huskies. A new breed, these are smart, active small dogs with a high prey drive. They need a lot of attention to their coats and a productive outlet for their energy.
Canadian Eskimo Dog
Also called the Canadian Inuit Dog, Qimmiq, or Qimmit, the Canadian Eskimo Dog is a sledding dog from the Arctic. There are currently only an estimated 300 dogs left of the breed, and they are in danger of extinction. These are large, hardy canines with a rugged build and thick coats. They have a strong prey drive and are good hunters. They are also loyal, affectionate, and devoted companions that should be protected as a breed.
Most famous for playing the young dire wolves in Game of Thrones, the Northern Inuit is a new breed that stems from various wolf-like dogs. Their ancestry includes Malamutes, Huskies, German Shepherds, Samoyeds, and more. These are large dogs and, despite their appearance, have no recent wolf blood in their heritage. Like their offshoot breeds, the Tamaskan and Utonagan, these are Velcro dogs that need stimulation, exercise, and to be close to their family. Being left alone for long periods may lead to separation anxiety.
Another dog with its roots in the Northern Inuit Dog, the Utonagan is also bred to look like a wolf. Like the Tamaskan, these are generally healthy family dogs who are usually friendly with everybody. They also have high grooming and exercise needs. The main difference between the Utonagan and the Tamaskan is that the Tamaskan is more strictly bred to look like a wolf. At the same time, the Utonagan often has a longer coat and can come in a broader range of colors.
Seppala Siberian Sleddog
A medium to large-sized sledding dog, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog shares much of its ancestry with the Siberian Husky. But, since they were never bred for the show ring like the Siberian Husky, these dogs remain more primitive working dogs, more suited for pulling sleds in cold climates than companion dogs. The most famous example of the breed is Togo, the hero sled dog who braved blizzards to get a life-saving serum to children in Nome, surrounded by Tundra.
The Belgian Tervuren is one of four Belgian Shepherd Dogs, distinguishable by their coats. These are the Tervuren, the Laekenois, the Groenendal, and the Malinois. The Malinois, in particular, is fast overtaking the German Shepherd as the working dog of choice in the military and in protection work—it was a Malinois that took part in the raid of Osama bin Ladin. Like the Malinois, the Tervuren is among the smartest and most trainable dogs in the world. They love to work and are incredibly versatile, able to fit in as well as a therapy dog as they can be ruthless protection dogs. The Tervuren's long coat makes them a little more wolfish than their Malinois cousins. Although these are devoted family dogs, their high energy needs and active minds make them a better dog for experienced owners and trainers.
Looking a bit like a black wolf, the Groenendael is very similar to the other Belgium Shepherds in size, temperament, and intelligence. Like the Tervuren, it has a long coat, but it is always black instead of fawn or sable. These are perfect dogs for law enforcement and for rescue. Their sensitivity means they also work well as therapy or emotional support dogs. An elegant breed, these dogs do thrive when they are challenged with training and a job to do.
Similar to the Alaskan Shepherd, the Husky is a mix between the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute. The significant differences between the parent breeds are size and friendliness with other animals. While Malamutes are often dominant dogs that can be aggressive with other pets, Huskies are known for being exceptionally friendly with all creatures. The Husky can take after either parent in this respect. It should also inherit the traits both breeds have in common, such as high-energy levels, an aptitude for sledding-type sports, thick coats, and a need for secure fencing. In general, they are good family dogs and love children.
The Lupo Italiano, or the Italian Wolfdog, was apparently founded by mixing a German Shepherd male with a female Apennine wolf. Although pictures show distinctive wolfish features, such as high-set pointed ears, very little is known about this breed. They often have German Shepherd coloration. DNA analysis does not seem to support that it is a true Wolfdog. Nevertheless, the Italian Government has invested in it as a successful anti-poaching and rescue dog.
The Chinese German Shepherd, or Kunming Wolfdog, is believed to have started in the 1950s by breeding military wolfdogs with German Shepherds. The aim was to create one of the ultimate working police and military dogs. They are highly trainable and intelligent but not suited for the average home. In terms of appearance, they are similar to the German Shepherd but slightly sleeker and extremely athletic. They have a high prey drive and need thorough socialization.
If you are looking for something exotic and unique to add to your family, be sure to do your research. Many wolfdogs and wolf-like breeds are high maintenance, with specific needs for training and stimulation. Therefore, many end up in shelters. It's always worth looking for a wolfish breed to adopt, as there may just be one that's perfect for your lifestyle and home.
International Wolf Center. “Wolf-Dog Hybrids.” International Wolf Center, 29 Oct. 2020, wolf.org/wolf-info/basic-wolf-info/wolves-and-humans/wolf-dog-hybrids.
Maglieri, Veronica, et al. “Wolf-like or Dog-like? A Comparison of Gazing Behaviour across Three Dog Breeds Tested in Their Familiar Environments.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 6, no. 9, 2019, p. 190946. Crossref, doi:10.1098/rsos.190946.
Rossberg, Max. “Wolf to Wolfdog.” European Wilderness Society, 13 Apr. 2020, wilderness-society.org/the-history-of-the-czechoslovakian-wolfdog/.
“Siberian Husky – Tales & Tails.” KDF8, sites.psu.edu/passionkaylinfussell/2017/02/23/siberian-husky/.