Game of Thrones and the much-anticipated airing of the final season of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga has of course received a huge amount of attention in the press and media over the course of the last year, and lots of us have been glued to our TV screens with our dogs beside us waiting to see how the story unfolds.
One of the longest-running plotlines from the series and the one that has invested a great many dog owners in the wider GoT universe is the series’ direwolves – a mythical species of large, fearsome wolves based on a now-extinct genuine wolf variant called dire wolves, which died out almost 10,000 years ago.
As real dire wolves were of course not available to use in filming and because wolves in general are not very biddable and don’t make for reliable actors, the very wolf-like looking animals used in Game of Thrones to represent the direwolves were in fact domestic dogs of various types.
Most of the direwolves used in Game of Thrones were Northern Inuit dogs, and this is a dog type rather than a breed in its own right, which is developed from the crossing of Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes, and German shepherds.
A few other dog breeds also have a very wolf-like appearance on their own too, such as the mentioned Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute.
Because Game of Thrones has helped to bring Northern Inuit dogs and the existence of wolfish-looking dogs very much into the public awareness and invested many dog lovers in their storylines, interest in dogs of this type has increased exponentially within the UK as a result.
Many people aspire to owning a fearsome looking, large and loyal Northern Inuit dog or wolf-like dog today – but dogs of this type can be complex to care for, they’re not a good fit for everyone, and they are not a purchase to be entered into lightly.
However, all too many dog owners still go ahead with buying a new dog without doing enough research first, both into dog ownership in general and the care requirements of the dog type in question specifically.
In fact, the Kenilworth branch of the Dog’s Trust – the UK’s largest dog-specific charity and advocacy organisation – have issued a caution against buying dogs that look like direwolves as a result of seeing them on TV, and have shared some alarming statistics on the direct impact that such impulse purchases can have in terms of surrendered and abandoned dogs of this type.
In this article we’ll share some information on the impact that Game of Thrones has had on the purchasing and later abandonment or surrender of wolfish looking dogs, to help to spread the word and help to inform prospective buyers. Read on to learn more.
The Kenilworth branch of the Dogs Trust has shared some statistics from the last few years on the levels of abandonment of wolf-type dog breeds, which portrays a clear and rather alarming snapshot of the impact of impulse buying dogs of such breeds in the wake of the TV show.
In the year of 2010, which was the year prior to Game of Thrones hitting our screens for the first time, a total of 79 dogs of the Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and Akita breeds (all wolf-looking dogs in most people’s opinions) were cared for by the branch over the course of the year.
However, fast-forward to last year, 2018 – the most recent year with a full twelve months of data available – and the total number of dogs of these breeds cared for within the year leapt up to 411, or an increase of some 420%.
In contrast, the surrender of other large breed dogs like Weimaraners and Rottweilers fell 22% during the same period, indicating that across dog owners within the Kenilworth snapshot, breeds like these have become somewhat less popular in preference for wolf-type dogs in their place.
If this trend is replicated up and down the country, which is highly likely, this indicates an alarming increase in the abandonment levels of large direwolf-type dogs, which can be complex and challenging to care for, and even more so to find appropriate homes for in a shelter.
All of the dog breeds and types that have similarities in their appearance to the Game of Thrones direwolves are large, intelligent and highly active, and they can also be prone to dominance if incorrectly handled, or become unruly if their need for exercise is not met.
They’re not good choices of breed for first time or inexperienced dog owners, and many buyers greatly underestimate the time and effort required to provide dogs of this type with an appropriate lifestyle and the right care.
Dog breeds like these also need large homes and a securely fenced outdoor area to contain them, and many such breeds are excellent at escaping when you’re not looking too.
The purchase of a new dog for any reason or of any type is a major decision to make, and one that should take weeks, months or even longer to decide upon and find to finally bring home the right pup.
Finding our more about the Game of Thrones direwolves and learning about some of the dog breeds used to represent them might serve as the very beginning of the research you need to perform to make an informed choice on buying a dog of this type – but make sure you do your due diligence, meet plenty of owners of dogs of these breeds, and get to know them as well as possible before you buy one.
Also, consider checking out available dogs for adoption from your local shelter, and think about adopting a dog that needs a new home instead of purchasing a puppy.