If you want a glimpse through a keyhole at life with a real wolfdog, look no further than Saaya.
This male Wolfdog has been providing his Instagram followers with a transparent insight into these majestic animals.
The two-year-old is owned by Jade Naughton, who uses Saaya’s account to educate about Wolfdogs.
A wildlife advocate, Jade and Saaya (@saayawulf) have amassed nearly 27,000 followers on the photo-sharing app.
We spoke to Jade about Saaya and Wolfdogs this week to learn more about these animals.
You can follow Jade and Saaya (@saayawulf) on Instagram here.
Questions and Answers with Saayawulf The Wolfdog
1) How did you first hear about Wolfdogs?
I was a teenager and found a picture of Lucian from Ironwood Wolves on tumblr. I was so awestruck by him and had never heard of a wolfdog and I started doing basic Google research. Then I met a Wolfdog in person and ended up volunteering at the rescue he came from!
2) What attracted you to Wolfdogs?
I’ve had a very deep love for animals but more specifically wolves since I was a child. My dad always had wolf art hanging in our home and always watching National Geographic documentaries about wolves. It’s their way of life that speaks to me. How they function as a family and only take what they need to survive. Wolves were what attracted me to Wolfdogs. But more than that it’s that Wolves were the original dogs before the modern dog. I wanted to know what they were like and the bond people would’ve made with these animals.
3) How would you explain Wolfdogs to someone who has never encountered or heard of these dogs?
They are both wolf and dog but do not behave specifically like either. All three are different in their own ways. Wolfdogs are somewhere in the middle. They are more intense with communication and certain behaviors and are self serving with higher intelligence and independence, but they are not wild animals like pure wolves and unless raised in a pack, would not have proper pack dynamics or know how to survive successfully in the wild.
4) Did you have to make any special preparations before bringing Saaya home?
YES. We actually packed up our whole lives and moved halfway across country to have him. My partner transferred jobs, I quit my job at that time and had to find work I could do from home to be with him. We had to move to a legal state and city/county and be in a home that suited his specific needs. Wolfdogs prefer colder climates so we moved to the mountains in Colorado.
5) What has surprised you about owning a Wolfdog?
Other people. I knew I was in for a change but some of the reactions and actions of other has been the most surprising and hardest part. Constantly being chased down by strangers or yelled at in public or shamed by people who are unfamiliar or uneducated about Wolfdogs is surprising and tough. Another surprise would be how calm he is. I was fully expecting off the wall amped up behavior constantly but Saaya is genuinely and overall a good Wolfdog and companion. He is able to relax and be calm more than I ever expected.
6) Are Wolfdogs good pets?
That’s going to be a solid no from me. Firstly because I do not see Saaya as a pet or treat him as a pet. Treating and seeing a wolfdog as a pet is usually how things end up going wrong. These are not pet type animals. 99% of people view their dogs as a step below them. Not like looking down on their pets but they certainly don’t see them as equal. Wolfdogs need respect in order to give it back. I respect his space, his needs, and his communication. When he’s done, we are done doing whatever he’s had enough of. With a pet, there is an expectation of obedience and acceptable behavior. I would say Wolfdogs are companions and they are not for most people. It’s a complete lifestyle change and mindset change. They don’t make good pets but they are good companions for the right people ready to make all the right choices to fit their needs.
7) How much exercise does Saaya need?
It honestly depends on the weather climate, how he’s feeling that day, what kind of exercise he’s doing. Some days we can hike for miles and he will want to keep going only resting in between and sometimes we can go to the beach or lake and he will run out his energy in a few hours. Like any canine exercise is super important and just listening to them. I can tell when he’s getting tired or when he wants to play/exercise more.
8) Do Wolfdogs require a lot of training?
Like we covered above, Wolfdogs aren’t normal pets so teaching them circus tricks isn’t necessary and they aren’t working dogs so they don’t need training for a job but teaching any canine basic training is important . Things that help keep them safe and calm and focused is helpful for unknown situations. Their training is just slightly different because Wolfdogs are sensitive and are easily offended. Offense leads to confrontation, and unlike normal dogs, Wolfdogs hold a grudge. They are not forgiving like regular dogs so mindfulness during training is important.
9) What common questions do you get asked about Saaya?
Most common is “is he pure wolf or is that a wolf”. Other questions would be am I not afraid he would hurt me? Is he aggressive? Where did I get him? How much does he weigh? Things like that.
10) What are some frustrating stereotypes surrounding Wolfdogs?
That they’re protective of their human “pack”- oh man that one gets me going! Wolfdogs are neophobic and are fearful of new things but also do not like confrontation. They are more likely to run and leave you hanging then ever protect you no matter how bonded you are.
They also do not view humans as their “pack” – that one is super frustrating when people think they are their Wolfdog’s pack or “alpha”. I’m going to make a two-for-one here. Wolfdogs are highly intelligent creatures and they understand humans are not their species. They do not see us as their pack so trying to behave like a pack member is very irresponsible. They do love us but they see us more as caretakers or providers of resources. Not their pack.
The alpha theory is definitely the most frustrating part about having a Wolfdog and hearing the stereotypes. The alpha theory is false and was debunked by the same man that coined the term. Wild packs function like family units with parent wolves and pups, and although captive packs of unrelated animals will develop a hierarchy, there is no alpha wolf. So applying that humans should be their dog or Wolfdog’s alpha is complete nonsense and extremely damaging to the relationship with your canine. David Mech is the man who coined and debunked the term Alpha for those who want to further their research.
11) What advice would you give to someone thinking about a wolfdog?
Volunteer. Research [of course] but the internet is full of misinformation and even other Wolfdog owners will often be biased in their information. Go volunteer at a Wolfdog rescue and get hands on experience. If you can’t then meet with Wolfdog owners and experience the animal you’re interested in in person for yourself. Talk with canid educators or Wolf/Wolfdog ambassadors. Talk with other Wolfdog owners just use discernment when researching and talking to other owners. Look for up to date science-based information. Know what kind of dog breeds are mixed with the kind of Wolfdog you’re interested in. Do they have more Husky dog than German Shepherd dog? Or more Malamute? Which of those breeds fits your lifestyle and wants better? Look for temperament in Wolfdogs that will fit you better. All of these things are important. If you aren’t a fan of Husky hyper activity and stubbornness but really like the German Shepherd’s drive, you’ll want a Wolfdog bred with more German Shepherd and less Husky etc.
12) Why did you decide to start an Instagram page for Saaya?
I started Saayas page to educate people. I worked in a Wolfdog rescue and I saw the sad faces that came in. I’ve seen the devastation humans cause when they get an animal they aren’t ready for or are afraid of due to misinformation and lack of education. The sole purpose of his page is to reach others and help them understand the truth about wolves and wolfdogs.
13) What are the pros and cons of an IG page for your dog?
Pros would be the reach. I can interact with people worldwide and let them see the truth for themselves. I have met some really good friends through Saayas Instagram and also learned from other people as well.
Cons would be the drama. Dog drama is seriously worse than human drama and EVERYONE has something to say. Trolling is real and it’s draining to deal with people just set out to harass you bc they’re bored. But also when you create a platform like an Instagram page you become responsible for the effect you have on others. People try to brush off this responsibility to make themselves feel better but the truth is we are responsible for how we influence others through social media. So staying on top of what you post, how you post, how you interact, and what message you’re sending gets exhausting. It’s a bigger responsibility than people think.
14) Do you have a favourite post? If so, why?
Of mine? Yeah my post of Saaya and I at the beach when he was about 5 months old… I was going through one of the darkest times in my life and was struggling in ways I never thought I would. I truly believe I would not have made it without him. And the picture depicts that perfectly with an approaching dark cloud storm and us in the last bit of sunlight before the storm. He is and always will be my shining light in the dark.
15) What other wolfdog accounts would you recommend?
Off the top of my head
• @jenniferilene (not wolfdog owner but photographer for wolfdogs and exotic animals.)
Wolfdog pros and cons
• That’s super tough to be completely honest lol. I would say a pro is that they change your life. People will try to sell you that the bond is somehow more meaningful or deeper than with a dog and that’s just silly. These animals are more independent and don’t need us. They aren’t loyal like a regular dog. So bonding with them feels more like a privilege because it’s by their choice and not out of need. You begin to view things differently when you’re forced to respect your companion. Wolfdogs kind of force you to adapt to fit their needs. But it’s a privilege to bond with any non human creature domestic or not.
• A pro for me is the lessons and things I’ve learned while having my wolfdog and living with him. Saaya humbled me and taught me patience, understanding, respect and how to listen.
• The only other pro I can think of is that I’m not allergic to Saaya. I’m allergic to some dogs saliva but wolfdogs don’t bother my skin or allergies at all. And they blow their coat usually only once a year so shedding is minimal as well.
• A major con is Wolfdogs have pretty severe separation anxiety. Sure people who just leave their Wolfdogs in enclosures all day with their companion dog don’t have this issue as much but people who actually live with their Wolfdogs like us is a huge problem. Even having a companion for Saaya he will flip out if he’s left alone inside or outside. He wants to go where the people go. So that means working from home and taking him with us 24/7. That meant giving up vacations and going out with friends and family and basically going anywhere dogs aren’t allowed because he can’t be left home alone. They become destructive when bored or having separation anxiety. Some will even break their own teeth trying to get through doors or a crate or gate etc. Not all Wolfdogs are the same but separation anxiety is very common.
• Another con is the blind hatred and fear from other people due to ignorance. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are if you have a Wolfdog out in public people are going to approach you. It’s not always bad but not everyone wants to be bombarded every time they’re in public. I know a lot of Wolfdog owners actually don’t take their animals in public for this reason. There is so much rudeness and entitlement when it comes to having a Wolfdog. So that can be even more limiting for people who don’t want to constantly be approached when out and about. And dealing with hateful or fearful statements gets hard sometimes. It’s not easy to stand there and get yelled at by random people about your animal simply bc they don’t know any better or are misinformed.
• No off leash privileges. There are some Wolfdogs trainers off leash but they’re usually low contents. The higher you go in content the less reliable their recall will be because remember self serving animals. And with the war on wolves only getting worse it’s honestly dangerous to let your Wolfdog be off leash even if they are well trained. Not only no off leash but no dog parks. That’s not because they can’t handle it it’s because if anything for any reason goes wrong it will always be the Wolfdogs fault even if it’s not. And who wants to risk that?
• So the biggest con of all is a combination of all these things boiling down to limitations. Having a Wolfdog as a companion is extremely limiting. They usually require a raw diet which is more expensive, they can’t be left alone unless in an enclosure and those are not cheap to build, escape artists, separation anxiety, hard to take in public because of other people either constantly approaching and asking a million questions or being hateful/fearful, not being able to take vacations or go do things independently, and the list goes on. If you want a Wolfdog just be prepared to be very limited in what you can and cannot do. Even the most trained and behaved Wolfdogs still limit their owners lives more than a regular dog would. They still have to adjust based on their Wolfdogs needs constantly. It’s a full time job just like being a parent to a human child. Except this child can never speak and has very large teeth lol