What Life with Wolves Looks Like – From the Perspective of Jiří Andrle

Wolves are very different from dogs in many aspects. Apart from their more or less different appearance, they did not experience long domestication and breeding. Jiří, a longtime breeder and owner of wolves, will answer our questions about how he became a wolf owner and what living with wolves looks like. 

Jiří Andrle has forty years of experience with wolves, he has been raising them and living with them for a really long time. This gives him a unique opportunity to observe their behaviour from the immediate vicinity. What are the similarities between them and dogs and what are the differences?

 

Jiří, I am very happy you decided to share your exceptional experience with us. Why did you even become interested in wolves? What brought you to this?

In 1971, I bought a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and soon came to the conclusion that it was quite different from the German Shepherd when it comes to their nature. I could see this breed has a lot of wolf characteristics and a specific nature. It follows its pack, but it is also able to decide and act separately. On the basis of that, I started looking for a wolf and later, I got an Artcic Wolf. However, as Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are crossed with European wolves, I started to look for this breed. I managed to find a bitch and the next year, I bought a male wolf. By observing them, I realized I also have to treat my wolfdog differently. The wolves have remained with us since then.

What kind of living environment do wolves need? Is a secured garden enough or do they need any special space? Can they live with us inside the house?

It depends on what you want from their breeding. We communicate with them. They travel in a car with us, lived with us inside the house, slept on the couch, ate from my hand – this kind of relationship requires that the puppies are taken early from their mother and are still partially fed directly by people. Of course, there is a need for proper safety measures, even though some of my wolves don’t want to leave their territory at all and I even have a problem to take them out.

Do they need more movement or or other activities than dogs?

I would say that wolves are even more playful than dogs. By playing in a pack, the wolves demonstrate their strength and speed to keep their position. But their game is a bit more strength focused. Injuries to people might occur, but those will be mostly unfortunate accidents and not intentional wrongdoings.

Are there conflicts between your wolves?

My wolves confirm their position among themselves. When they learn from an early age that they get to eat regularly, they quickly understand that there is no need to fight for food and there are no conflicts between them. In our household, every wolf gets one chicken for himself and that’s it.

What about gestures, how do wolves communicate with each other?

They communicate with each other through body movements, posture and eye contact. After so many years with wolves, I am normally able to understand what they want.

They say wolves don’t usually bark. Is that true?

Yes, that's true. They only sometimes bark once. But it doesn’t happen that a wolf would bark for some longer time the way dogs do. However, wolves howl.

Dogs see their master as an alpha male. How does this work with wolves?

In the wolf pack, the leader obeys me and other wolves have to obey him.

What approach is needed to raise a wolf? I guess punishments don’t have good results.

You need to be careful about your approach to wolves – a gentle method and using treats are the best. You can’t force them to create a relationship with you, there has to be mutual fondness between the two of you. They don’t learn from punishments. Wolves (as well as any animal in my opinion) remember them and if they feel sorry and get the opportunity, they will attack. When I see the wolf is not in a good mood and doesn’t enjoy anything, I just leave. You also have to take into account the fact that every creature is different. What works for one doesn’t need to be useful for another.

Can a wolf be tamed? Is it possible to train it to some extent, to teach it some commands?

We’ve tried it. Obstacles, for example, are no problem for them – jumping three meters high is fine. However, we didn’t succeed with commands such as sit, down or stay. They don't need it, the relationship between a person and a wolf is more of a partnership.

How do wolf get along with dogs?

When I go out with a wolf, even though it's on a leash and has a muzzle, and there's a small dog ahead, I'll change the direction and go to another street. Because everything small is a prey for the wolf and you can’t get rid of those instincts. There is no problem with large dogs.

Is the relationship of a wolf and a person different if the animal is wild or if it was born in captivity? Are the wolves released back to the wilderness?

The wolves in private breeding today come from ancestors who were born in captivity for several generations in a row. Practically, they wouldn’t have any chance of survival in the wilderness. My wolves are probably the eighth generation of captive-bred wolves. I think they’re almost like dogs now. Moreover, wolves learn in packs. Older wolves teach puppies to hunt and kill. Without this, wolves born in captivity could barely survive out there.

Is there a need for a special permit to breed wolves in the Czech Republic?

Wolves can be kept in the Czech Republic according to the Act on the Protection of Nature and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). All breeding stations needs to be recorded.

What age do wolves live up to?

With wild wolves, several aspects are important – diseases, irregular feeding and too much movement when trying to obtain food. In captivity, they live up to 10 years longer than in the wilderness. Our Canadian wolf lived for 17 years.

Can you imagine a life without wolves?

I couldn't live without animals; I can’t imagine it. I also had 30 cats. We always had more animals than people at home.

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