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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Saarloos Wolfdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Saarloos Wolfdog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Saarloos Wolfdog as their name suggests boasts having very wolf-like looks. They were first bred in the 1930's by crossing a German Shepherd Dog with a European Wolf with an end goal being to produce a dog that was more natural in their behaviours. Although not as popular in the UK, they have a big fan base in other parts of the world thanks to their wolf-like looks and their kind, loyal and biddable natures. The Saarloos Wolfdog is not recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club (January 2018) but many local breed clubs have been established with an end goal being to continue to produce healthy, well-bred puppies.
The Saarloos is still relatively unknown in the UK and finding a well-bred puppy can prove challenging. As such, anyone who wants to share a home with a Saarloos Wolfdog would need to register their interest with breeders and go on a waiting list for the pleasure of doing do.
The Saarloos Wolfdog was first bred by a Dutch breeder by the name of Leendert Saarloos during the 1930's. He was a big fan of the German Shepherd Dog, but wanted to breed dogs that boasted more natural behaviours than existing GSD's. He managed to get a female European wolf from the Rotterdam Zoo which he crossed with a male German Shepherd with a plan to create the ultimate working dog. However, he did not achieve exactly what he was hoping for with his new breed which turned out to be more reserved and cautious by nature. His dogs also lacked the strong instinct to attack.
He retained full control over his breeding programme right up until his untimely death in 1969 and the Saarloos Wolfdog was only recognised as a breed by the Dutch Kennel Club in 1975 when they were given their name in recognition of their founder. They were recognised by the United Kennel Club of America in 2006 when a breed standard was established.
The breed was recognised by the FCI in 1981 after which time a few Saarloos were trained as assistance dogs. However, most dogs were bred to be companions and family pets. Today, the Saarloos remains popular in their native Holland and in America although these wolf-like dogs are still relatively unknown in the UK and the breed is yet to be recognised by The Kennel Club (July 2016). Anyone wishing to share their home with a Saarloos Wolfdog would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred every year, but since the law changed in 2008, more Saarloos are being imported and bred in the UK as such their popularity is growing, albeit slowly.
Height at the withers: Males 65 - 75 cm, Females 60 - 70 cm
Average weight: Males 36 - 41 kg, Females 36 - 41 kg
The Saarloos is a medium to large dog that boasts an athletic body and a wedge-shaped head which gives these dogs their very wolf-like appearance. Much like the wolf, they move quietly and stealthily on their feet. They have broad, flat skulls and only a slight stop. Their muzzles are as long as their skulls and they have straight bridges to their noses. The Saarloos has a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their eyes are almond shaped and set a little obliquely on a dog's face being yellow in colour which adds to the breed's wolf-like looks although some Saarloos have brown eyes too. They typically have an alert, yet reserved and cautious look about their eyes. They have medium sized, triangular ears that boast being rounded at the tips and which are set level with a dog's eyes.
The Saarloos has a well-muscled, clean cut neck that merges smoothly into their shoulders. During the winter months, they grow a distinct ruff around their necks. They have moderately long shoulder blades and their front legs are straight, well-muscled showing a good amount of oval shaped bone. Front feet can turn out slightly.
They are slightly longer in the body than they are tall with dogs having moderately broad chests and strong, straight backs. Their ribs are nicely sprung and bellies lightly tucked up which adds to a dog's athletic appearance. Their hindquarters are well balanced in relation to their forequarters with tails being set low, wider at the base and well covered in hair which dogs carry in the shape of a sabre. Their hind legs are strong and nicely angled with dogs having quite hare-like feet with well arched and muscled toes with firm, strong pads.
When it comes to their coat, the Saarloos Wolfdog boasts having a profuse double winter coat that consists of a coarser outer coat and a much softer, dense undercoat. Their top coats are less profuse during the summer and their undercoat is usually less dense. The most common colours seen in the breed are as follows:
When a Saarloos Wolfdog moves, they do so with grace and great purpose always maintaining a good balance at all paces.
Prospective owners should be wary of any puppies or dogs that show any sort of exaggeration whether in their looks or conformation. A responsible breeder would always ensure that puppies they produce are of a good size and have good conformation. Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
Saarloos Wolfdogs are known for their "natural behaviors" and can be a wary and reserved when people they don't know are around which is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche. If a stranger tries to approach a Saarloos, the desire to run away is strong which is perfectly normal for the breed. With this said, puppies are outgoing to begin with, but as they mature, Saarloos become more suspicious of strangers and again this is very normal behaviour for the breed because they are not at all confrontational. However, rarely would a Saarloos show any sort of aggression towards anyone they did not already know preferring to keep their distance instead.
With this said, the Saarloos Wolfdog is energetic, independent and very intelligent dog that forms strong bonds with their owners. They are high maintenance, powerful dogs and as such they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the breed or the particular and very specific needs of a similar type of dog. They need a lot of time and attention, more especially when they are puppies and young dogs which is another reason why they are not best suited to first time owners.
Because they are so intelligent, in the right hands and environment, the Saarloos is easy to train and they enjoy the one-to-one attention they get when they are being put through their paces. Puppies must be taught the basics and boundaries as soon as they arrive in their new home which is essential and it's really important for Saarloos to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs, bearing in mind that they are typically and naturally reserved around strangers.
Their socialisation must include introducing dogs to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early and it must be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Saarloos is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of a dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
They make wonderful family pets and for over 80 years, these lovely dogs have bought a lot of pleasure into many people's lives, but it's important to remember that sharing a home with a Saarloos is not the same as with other breeds because they are a very special kind of dog, but not a wolf at all. The Saarloos has retained their need to be part of a "pack", as such, they do a lot better living in a home where there's another dog rather than on their own.
A Saarloos Wolfdog is not the best choice for first time dog owners because they are better suited to people who are familiar with the breed's specific needs bearing in mind that these dogs like to have company and are intelligent, high-energy characters by nature.
Saarloos Wolfdogs are not to be trusted when they are around other animals because they do have a high prey drive and will chase anything that tries to run away. Some dogs get on well with other pets, but only providing they have grown up together. However, any smaller animals and pets a Saarloos does not already know would be seen as fair game.
The Saarloos is playful and loves taking part in all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like CaniX, obedience, heelwork and agility. They also like playing interactive games which is a great way of keeping these energetic dogs occupied and therefore happy.
Saarloos need enough space to express themselves and are much happier if they have a back garden to roam around in, bearing in mind that the fencing must be very high and ultra-secure to keep a dog in.
The Saarloos has a very strong pack instinct and on top of this, they form extremely strong ties with their families which means they suffer from separation anxiety when they find themselves on their own. Having a "pack" mentally, they are much happier living with other dogs and are never as happy living on their own.
Saarloos are not known to be "barkers" and puppies can be taught to bark on command. A dog would be quick off the mark to let an owner know when strangers are about though and the same can be said if they are unhappy about a situation.
Most Saarloos love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Saarloos off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Saarloos Wolfdogs may look impressive, but they are not natural watchdogs because they are not confrontational at all. They prefer to slink away from strangers rather than stand up to them which is a deeply embedded trait found in the breed.
The Saarloos is a smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. They need to be well socialised from a young age and their training must begin early too. It also must be very consistent and always fair so that a dog understands what their owner expects of them. In short, in the right hands and environment, the Saarloos is easy to train.
The key to successfully training a Saarloos Wolfdog is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions shorter which helps keep a dog more focused on what they are being asked to do, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods because they are quite sensitive dogs by nature. However, they respond well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these smart and quick-witted dogs. With this said, toilet training puppies can prove challenging and a Saarloos may need constant reminders of where to do their business throughout their life and it can take anything up to 10 months to successfully toilet train a Saarloos puppy.
Saarloos Wolfdog puppies like all puppies are very cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they are first introduced into a new home. However, puppies may be cute, but they are quick learners which means they pick up bad habits just as fast as they do the "good" ones. As such, owners need to start out as they mean to go on which means laying down ground rules and boundaries from day one. This not only helps teach a Saarloos puppy what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, but it also establishes a pecking order which is very important with Saarloos Wolfdogs. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Saarloos are known to be very good around children they have grown up with, but can be a little wary of other children. They are best suited to families where the kids are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs and when to leave them alone. Any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet, although they can be a little aggressive towards dogs they do not know. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Saarloos would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care must be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets because of their high prey drive as such any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Saarloos Wolfdog is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Saarloos is generally a healthy dog, but they are known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Saarloos Wolfdog puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like a lot of other breeds, a Saarloos Wolfdog can gain weight when spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Saarloos are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Saarloos Wolfdog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
There are no breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Saarloos Wolfdog because the breed is not Kennel Club recognised. However, all responsible breeders would follow the standard breeding practices as set out by the Kennel Club to ensure the welfare of puppies, dams and the breed in general.
For the moment, the Saarloos Wolfdog is not a recognised Kennel Club breed (January 2018), as such there are no Assured Breeder requirements but prospective owners should always contact reputable breeders when thinking about buying a Saarloos puppy.
As with any other breed, Saarloos Wolfdogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Saarloos puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Saarloos Wolfdog puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out and make them timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Saarloos puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Saarloos Wolfdogs need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Saarloos in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Saarloos Wolfdogs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Saarloos don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Saarloos has a thick, dense double coat that consists of a harsher outer coat and a softer undercoat. However, they are not that high maintenance on the grooming front. A twice weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats tidy and to remove any dead and loose hair. They shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Saarloos is an energetic, active, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need anything from 40 to 60-minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Saarloos would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty. Some Saarloos enjoy taking part in canine sports which includes things like flyball, agility and tracking to name but three and they are known to be very good search and rescue dogs.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these active dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Saarloos puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Saarloos puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Saarloos Wolfdog must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Saarloos can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Saarloos Wolfdog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £400 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Saarloos Wolfdog in northern England would be £21.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £47.76 a month (quote as of January 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Saarloos and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Saarloos Wolfdog would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a healthy, responsibly-bred Saarloos Wolfdog puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Over recent years, Saarloos have become a popular choice both as companions and family pets which means well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Saarloos there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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