"Where Paradise is Just a Howl Away"

How Much Wolf is in My Wolfdog????

Percentage and Content are two different things.

Percentage is actually a mathematical number that is only genotypical and mathematically correct when you breed a wolf to a dog. 

Anything after that generation is a guess. Genes are hard to isolate and there is no test that can do that yet, so to genotype a wolfdog is virtually impossible. 

That is when content comes into the picture and we use phenotype to help us gauge what content a wolfdog might be.

Percentage is commonly used to help narrow down where on the content spectrum your wolfdog likely sits. While these on-paper numbers can never be 100% accurate, it does help narrow things down when dealing with something as broadly based as content. 

Content is determined by PHENOTYPING. Phenotyping is the process of determining the amount of wolf in a wolfdog based on physical appearance and behavior. This process is  mostly, an educated guess based on various traits (mind you, these traits can vary even among pups of the same litter; not every pup will express the same traits)

Animals of higher wolf content should look practically identical to the wolves on the Pure Wolves page, even in a single picture, this should be evident. 

However, there are many mid-contents (mostly those of lower Fgen) who look very much like higher contents.

Purebred Nordic, Spitz and Shepherd breeds, their off-standard brothers and wolfy-looking mixes of those breeds are often identical to most low and some mid content wolfdogs. 

THERE IS NO WAY OF TELLING THEM APART UNLESS YOU KNOW YOU CAN TRUST YOUR BREEDER. And since there's no truly accurate DNA test to prove otherwise, all anyone can do is guess. And with such a wide variety of possibilities, there's no telling whose guess is the most accurate.

Fact is, there is no way to accurately phenotype a low or many mid content wolfdogs [unless you know the dogs' lineage] whether through photograph or in person. It is even difficult to tell some mids from highs.

In low and mid content litters, phenotyping varies from pup to pup, and in many cases, determining content can be a very difficult and often arbitrary task. It's basically a guessing-game.


See picture at the top of this page. That is pretty much what goes on when asking a forum of people to phenotype your wolfdog for you. It usually leads to disputes among those who respond, as everyone has a different opinion regarding content. Very few of them posses a true understanding of genetics.


In one litter of mids, you can have a pup who looks and acts just like a husky while it's brother looks and acts just like a wolf. Both pups are the same percentage, but one pup phenotypes as a higher content than the other.

The ability to predict what a pup will look or act like is highly improbable, but chances of the pups looking and acting like pure wolves increase if both parents are extremely high-content OR if at least one parent is high content. 

(mid content litters from a HC/MC or HC/LC or HC/Dog breeding should be more consistent in looks and appear wolfier than the breeding of a MC/MC).

Please visit my Pure Wolves page to see what subspecies of wolves are used
 in domestic wolfdog breeding, and also visit my page Wolfy Looking Dogs to see the breeds of dogs used to create wolfdogs

Remember, true High-Contents and Upper-Mid Contents should practically be identical to pure wolves. 


Phenotype Breakdown

When trying to determine how much is wolf is in a wolfdog, the first thing we do is LOOK at the animal and judge how wolfy it is in appearance. While this method is not always accurate in helping to determine wolf content in anything lower than a high-content, it does help us see if a lower content is being improperly labeled as a high content or pure wolf.

In this section, we are going to take a closer look at what a pure wolf looks like, and break it all down into what makes that wolf really look like a wolf, and not like a dog. 


The Head, Face and Neck

Head: Long narrow skull; very little to no dome ("stop"). Wedge-shaped.

Ear skin very thick (like shoe leather) generally more rounded than dog ears. Very well insulated, even in summer.

 Gold, amber, olive or silver eyes are set at an angle, are almond-shaped, and often heavily outlined in black. They should never be blue. 
Muzzle is thin, can be long.
Nose is black and sometimes slightly upturned; lips, gums and roof of mouth are also usually black.
Lips should be taunt, not droopy. 
Prominent ruff of fur framing the face; seen on adult and semi-adult animals, in winter.

Long , hangs low on shoulders, making shoulders appear bulky.
Heavy fur along neck is called a "
mane" or "Ruff"; it is fuller and more noticeable in winter. 

The Coat, Body and Tail

Coat should be grizzled with thick insulating gray undercoat and long, coarse guard hairs.
Colors should be well blended, not sharply contrasting like a husky mask.

Guard hairs are often black tipped in grays and adolescent arctics; and silver tipped in black-phases. These guard hairs should line a small, lighter-colored section of the upper-back called a "V-Cape". This cape should be bordered on both sides by a section of darker fur, called a "saddle", along the upper-part of the rib cage *see the arctic at the bottom of the picture*

Body: Body is long and thin with a very narrow chest.

Shoulders are bony and appear to be hunched. 

Sides are narrow. 

Back should be straight, not sloped like a Shepherd.

Tail: Tail is set low on the haunches. 

Should hang straight; and come to the hock.

Held up when being dominant, sometimes sickles slightly. The tail should not curl over the back, even when being dominant, or be crooked at the tip when at rest.

Tail should be black-tipped in younger light colored animals. Tail tip phasing white with age does occur, but a white-tipped tail should not be visible at a young age.

Black scent gland (lighter on black-phase animals) should be present roughly 6 inches from the tip of the tail. 

*note, many dog breed can also have this scent gland*

The Legs and Paws

Front Legs:
Front legs are long, thin and because they grow from a very narrow chest, they are very close together, sometimes touching.

Legs should not be heavily furred or feathered (light feathering in some arctics not uncommon)

Elbows are turned out.

Wrists are knobby; often protruding.

Paws are very large and splay out when carrying the animal's full weight.

Toes are long, with middle toes being longer and with higher knuckles than the outer toes.

Nails should be long, thick. Nails are black (with the exception of some Arctics having taupe nails).

Paw pads are black.

Toes are webbed.

Hind Legs: Hind legs are long and grow from narrow hips, causing hind legs to come close together.

Cow-hocked, causing feet to splay out and giving hind legs a jack-rabbit appearance.

Hind legs are very angled.

Feet are very large and flat.

Middle toes longer and with higher knuckles than outer toes.

Black nails and pads.

NO rear dew claw.

Toes are webbed.

The Teeth/Mouth

Canines are longer those on a dog. Molars are massive (for crushing bone).

Canines are curved

Gums and roof of mouth are usually black.


**Note: **

For an accurate phenotype, please take the following into consideration:

1) Pheno in person in order to watch the animal move. 

There are so many things that cannot be captured with a camera, such as how the animal walks, moves, stands and interacts with its surroundings. Does it run about, head and tail erect, in bold disregard of any possible danger? Or does it slink, low to the ground and investigate cautiously? How does it carry its tail? Does it single-track or double-track when walking? It also helps to touch the animal; fur texture is a good indicator. If you absolutely can NOT perform an in-person pheno, the next best thing is a video. But in order to give even a semi-accurate pheno, you must be able to see the animal move.

2) Study behavior. 
Whether in-person or via video. Study the animal's reactions to his owners, and to strangers. Study the animal's reactions to loud noises or other unfamiliar stimuli. Does the animal have a bold, curious dog reaction? Or does it scurry away in fear like a wolf? If the animal displays a fear reaction, how does it move? Does the animal bark at the strange stimuli? 

3) If at all possible, see photos of the parents, grand-parents, etc. 
How many wolf traits do you see in each parent? How many do you not see? How far back was a pure wolf used? Keeping filial generation in mind can make or break an accurate pheno.