The Dutch Saarlooswolfhond is an unusual breed of dog in that it is bred from both wolf and domestic dog blood. There don’t appear to be any breeders in Australia at this time so if you’re set on having one, the chances are you’ll need to import.

Established in the early twentieth century, the breed is the result of the crossbreeding of a German Shepherd and a Mackenzie Valley wolf. The intention of the cross-breeding was to develop a breed that was an enhanced version of the German Shepherd, and one that would have a more docile temperament. The breed is named after its original breeder, Leendert Saarloos. It remains extremely difficult to find outside of the Netherlands in part because of strict breeding controls set in place by the Saarlooswolfhond Club.

A Commanding Appearance

As its lineage might indicate, the Saarlooswolfhond is quite a large dog, standing almost 80cm at the shoulder and weighing up to a substantial 40 kilograms. The breed is distinctly wolf-like in appearance, with a head with wolfish proportions, a muscular and powerful body and limbs, and with a coat and markings that are indicative of its wild heritage. Saarlooswolfhonds have large, upright ears like those of a German Shepherd, and have a thick and powerful neck. The breed’s coat is thick and short, protecting it from the harsh weather conditions of its homeland. The coat can be one of a number of colours in appearance, with hues of blue, silver, red, tan, black, and even white possible. Feathering on the coat can be seen around the ruff area, and also on the tail. The dog’s feet point outward, giving it a strong stance.

Personality & temperament

Because the breed is still relatively new, the wolf-like traits inherited from its original pedigree still appear. This means that the Saarlooswolfhond is quite pack-oriented, and that it typically does not thrive when kept alone without other dogs for support and companionship. In addition, certain personality traits such as the distemper that is often a problem for German Shepherds continue to manifest in the dog. The breed can also be fairly reserved and quiet, and some deem Saarlooswolfhonds to be antisocial and unsuitable to be kept as household pets. For this reason, breeding associations tend to be quite strict about casual breeding.

Health issues of the breed

Like German Shepherds, Saalooswolfhonds can suffer from hip dysplasia. They can also suffer from additional spinal problems, and these should be monitored for when purchasing or breeding a pup. Still, a healthy dog can be expected to live for between 10-12 years.

Keeping a Saarlooswolfhond

Saarlooswolfhonds have a coat that is easy to manage, and do not require an extensive grooming regimen. Their coat can be groomed using the same type of comb often used on dogs such as German Shepherds; this only needs to be undertaken every now and then. The dog’s ears should also be cleaned on a regular basis. Bathing is unnecessary as it can affect the health of the coat and skin.

In terms of temperament, Saarlooswolfhonds can be more of a challenge. They can be highly cautious around unknown or new people, although if properly trained and socialised from an early age are friendly enough around people and other dogs, although they are not recommended as companions for small children. Some dogs are prone to having a poor temper; and most exhibit a tendency towards pack-oriented behaviour.

This pack-oriented behaviour can also make training a Saarlooswolfhond problematic. The dogs are known for having a strong will, and for being distracted by scents. They are also inclined to roam and escape, making them difficult to manage. They need an “alpha” human to keep them in place, and benefit from the company of a pack. However, their strong mentality can make them unreceptive to the idea of dealing with new introductions into the family. For this reason they make a poor choice for those living in a household with limited space.

Like many other wolf-descended breeds, Saarlooswolfhonds are recommended only for experienced dog owners who have sufficient knowledge of dog training, and who can provide ample space and an exercise regimen sufficient for this breed’s needs.