Recently, some particularly upset individuals severely ridiculed the Dire Wolf Project on one of the breeder's Facebook pages. Most of the disagreement was about the biased belief that the Dire Wolf Project dogs do not look anything like the wild wolf after thirty years of breeding and so the Dire Wolf Project cannot be breeding properly and must be solely out for money based on the Dire Wolf name.
Due to the heightened nature of the whiplash battle of wits from the opposition, we were not able to have a descent conversation, so it was thought that others may have heard something similar about the Dire Wolf Project or perhaps have thought a similar thing and a post on this topic might be relevant. Also, we figure a more rational and logical thought process might be experienced regarding the points that were brought up if we could present our rebuttal all in one place.
First of all, there are three issues with the breed thrown together in the one argument above. Let's take those three issues separately so that we can keep our thoughts organized.
1. The Dire Wolf Project should look more like the wolf than it does after thirty years of breeding, because the Dire Wolf Project dogs do not look anything like a wolf.
2. The Dire Wolf Project is not breeding properly.
3. The Dire Wolf Project is only out for the money associated with the Dire Wolf name.
When responding to the first question, the initial reaction is always to ask a question back to the person who imagines it should take no time at all to breed an entire breed of dogs that look like a Dire Wolf... "How long do you think it should take to change the combination of ten different breeds, bred specifically for hundreds [thousands?] of years to not look like the wolf, into one entire population of dogs that look like wild animals... keeping in mind that health issues arise and they take time to fix as well as the fact that we are changing a group of dogs bred with working temperaments into a group of dogs bred solely for non-working temperaments?" Furthermore, since no one has ever accomplished breeding only domesticated dogs to look like the Dire Wolf, it would seem that someone who is actually working at it would have a much better idea of how long the timeframe takes than someone who just happened to dislike the Dire Wolf Project and has an opinion. Not to mention the fact that the Dire Wolf Project is more interested in matching the exact bone and body structure of the extinct, prehistoric Dire Wolf than simply breeding dogs that look like wolves.
Now we turn to the second thought that we are not breeding properly. The definition of "breeding properly" is pretty broad, but let's imagine they are referring to the fact that our dogs do not have a uniform look and there is so much outward appearance diversity among them. Well, we have so much diversity in our dogs because we regularly and systematically crossbreed. We do this for the health and longevity of our breed, but also because we must improve aspects within our breed and we cannot do that by breeding within a limited group of dogs that do not have what we need. We must swing back and forth in an arc between crossbreeding and inbreeding [linebreeding is inbreeding] until we finally end up closer and closer to our end goal. It's a sort of breeding funnel. And... we must do this without compromising on health and keeping our non-working temperament intact. It is not a quick and easy task, but a difficult and arduous task to reverse domestication in appearance while advancing domestication in temperament. If one does not believe we are breeding properly, then I would challenge anyone else to do it correctly... but remember... cheating time by adding in wolf and/or wolfdog content is how ALL of the other wolf look-a-like breeds have gotten the wolf look. We are the only breeding program to have never added any wolf or wolfdog content into our breed, so if someone would like to prove that it can take a much shorter time to attain healthy, long-lived, non-working wolf look-a-like dogs as an entire breed, by all means.
Lastly, we look at the money situation. When someone does something different, the opposition inevitably speaks of money as the obvious motivator. First of all, it is not wrong to desire to achieve monetarily, but that's not the point. The point is... the Dire Wolf Project has been started and continues because we want to bring people an alternative. An alternative to the purebred dog with its increased health issues. An alternative to the large working dog temperament. An alternative to the wolfdog, which are increasingly shoved into rescues, preserves and shelters. Wouldn't it be nice to have a healthy, long-lived large family companion dog breed that holds the shadow of the wolf without any of the negative aspects of actually owning a wolf or wolfdog?
written by: Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT
June 21, 2018