The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a breed of multi-purpose working dog developed in the nation of Czechoslovakia during the middle of the 20th Century. Developed as a result of experiments conducted in Czechoslovakia to determine whether the wolf and dog could successfully interbreed, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was subsequently bred as a working dog without the health problems common in most modern dog breeds. The resulting dog was generally in better health than most modern dog breeds, but was also substantially more challenging to train. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is also known as the Czech Wolfdog, Slovak Wolfdog, Czechoslovakian Vlcak, Czechoslovensky Vlcak, Czechoslovensky Vlciak, CSW, CSWD, and the CSV.
More is known about the ancestry of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog than the vast majority of breeds because the dog was developed in the middle of the 20th Century, and its initial development was part of a carefully recorded scientific experiment. In 1955, the Czechoslovakian government became interested in the possibility of breeding dogs and wolves. At that time, it was not definitively established that the dog was descended from the wolf, with many scientists believing that the dog had actually been domesticated from another canine such as the dhole, coyote, or one of the three species of jackal. Czechoslovakian scientists theorized that if the wolf and the dog were the same species, the dog was almost certainly descended from the wolf. In order to be considered the same species, two populations have to be able to freely interbreed and produce fertile offspring. There are many examples of two different species which can produce offspring, although these offspring are almost never fertile such as a mule (horse and donkey) or liger (lion and tiger).
To test whether the dog and wolf were the same species a carefully planned breeding experiment was undertaken. Four Carpathian Wolves (the wolf subspecies most common in Czechoslovakia) were initially captured and trained. These wolves were named Argo, Brita, Lejdy, and Sarik. Between 40 and 50 German Shepherd Dogs from several prominent working lines, including the legendary Z Pohranicni Straze Line, were selected as well. These wolves and dogs were extensively crossed. It was conclusively shown that the offspring of both male dog/female wolf and male wolf/female dog crosses were fertile the vast majority of the time. The offspring of these crosses were then bred together for the next ten years, and the fertility continued. These wolf/dog hybrids exhibited a distinctive temperament and behavior. They were also considerably more wolf-like than dog-like in appearance, although that probably had to do more with the fact that the German Shepherd, regarded as being one of the most wolf-like of all dogs in terms of appearance was the breed selected for the experiment. Additionally these dogs rarely barked and did not respond to human training as quickly or easily as most modern dog breeds. The breed became known as the Vlcak in Czech and the Vlciak in Slovak, both of which translate to Wolfdog or German Shepherd.
In 1965, the breeding experiment concluded, but the Czechoslovakian Government was not done with the wolf/dog hybrids. The Czechoslovakian Military and police forces made extensive use of dogs, especially the German Shepherd. These dogs, which were often very heavily inbred, frequently suffered from crippling health problems such as hip dysplasia which shortened their life expectancies and rendered them useless as working dogs. It was believed that the addition of wolf blood would improve the health and stamina of working dogs, and possibly increase their senses and intelligence as well. By the end of the 1950’s, the Czechoslovakian military was already experimenting with using the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog as a border patrol dog. Czechoslovakian trainers subsequently tried using the breed for a number of other tasks as well such as search and rescue, police work, cart pulling, scent-trailing, hunting, personal and property protection, and drug sniffing.
The initial results of using the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog were so promising that a breeding program was set up joining government and private breeders. Both Czech and Slovak breeders from across the country extensively contributed to the breeding program. The goal was to combine the beneficial qualities of the wolf such as health and keen senses with the trainability and friendliness of the domestic dog. The results of this program were somewhat mixed. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was often significantly healthier than many modern dog breeds, although it still exhibited most of their common genetically inherited conditions (although at reduced rates). The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog also proved much more trainable and responsive than the wolf, but it was significantly more difficult to train than most domestic dogs. Czechoslovakian handlers found that the breed was capable of learning and performing most of the tasks required of it, but that the breed was significantly less obedient and responsive than most other working breeds. In 1982, the Czechoslovakian Kennel Club granted full recognition to the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and named it a national breed.
Prior to the 1990’s, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was essentially unknown outside of its homeland, although a few breed members had been exported to other communist countries such as the Soviet Union and East Germany. In 1989, Czechoslovakia was freed from Communist rule during the Velvet Revolution. Czechoslovakia almost immediately sought closer ties with Western Europe, which further increased foreign interest and involvement with the breed. In 1993, disputes over federalism led to Slovakia and the Czech Republic peacefully separating into two independent countries. The breed’s international exposure increased dramatically in 1998 when the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) granted full recognition to the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog as a member of the Herding Dog Group. FCI recognition dramatically increased the international exposure of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, and breed members began to be imported across Europe. Although the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was equally developed across Czechoslovakia, FCI rules dictate that a single nation is given total control over breed standards, and the nation of Slovakia was chosen for this purpose.
Since the late 1980’s, a few Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs have been imported into the United States. Importation has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, and now every single year sees more breed members imported into the United States. In 2001, the American Kennel Club (AKC) entered the breed into its Foundation Stock Service (AKC-FSS) under the name Czechoslovakian Vlcak, the first step towards full recognition in that organization. The AKC has given the breed a Working Group designation, which means that upon full recognition it will be placed in the Working Group. In 2006, the United Kennel Club (UKC) granted full recognition to the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog as a member of the Herding Dog Group, under the official name Czechoslovakian Vlcak (Czechoslovakian Wolfdog). Two years later, the first, unofficial gathering of American Czechoslovakian Wolfdog fanciers met in Wintergreen, Virginia, a meeting attended by 7 owners and 6 dogs. Shortly thereafter, the Czechoslovakian Vlcak Club of America (CVCA) was founded. In the words of the CVCA, the club was formed, “In response to the need for education, responsible ownership, and ethical breeding practices within the breed. The CVCA also hopes to serve as a point of contact, fellowship, and outcome for purebred Czechoslovakian Vlcak owners and breeders…” In 2009, the breed earned its first UKC Championship Title, and later that year the first registered litter of Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs to be whelped in the United States was born. In 2010, the breed was made eligible to compete in AKC Companion Dog events. By 2012, there were approximately 70 Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs in the United States divided between 16 states.
Unlike most modern breeds, a significant number of Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are still used as working dogs, primarily in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Italy. However, the breed is falling out of favor as a working dog in favor of more easily trainable breeds. The future of this breed is probably going to be primarily as a companion animal and show dog. Although breed numbers are increasing, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog remains a very rare breed in the United States and it has not yet become firmly established in that country. It is the hope of the CVCA that this unique and rare breed will become more popular in this country while still maintaining its health and overall quality. Although the breed has not yet met enough benchmarks to be considered for entry into the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class (the final step before full recognition is granted), that is currently one of the CVCA’s primary goals.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is nearly identical in appearance to the wolf, and would almost certainly be mistaken for one. Like the wolf, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is very sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females differ dramatically in size and appearance. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is smaller than most American wolf/dog hybrids, but that is because most of those were crossed with the Timber and Grey wolf subspecies, which are much larger than the Carpathian Wolves from which this breed descends. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a medium to large breed. Males should stand at least 25½ inches tall at the shoulder and weigh at least 57 pounds. Females should stand at least 23½ inches tall at the shoulder and weigh at least 44 pounds. This breed is generally squarely proportioned, being about as long from chest to rump as it is tall from floor to shoulder. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog should be a very natural-looking and completely devoid of exaggerated features. This breed has a medium-build, neither too heavy nor too light. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a very muscular and athletic breed, although these features are sometimes obscured by the breed’s coat. The tail of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is long and wolf-like. The tail is usually carried straight down but is carried in an upright sickle shape when the dog is excited.
The head and face of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog are perhaps the breed’s most wolf-like features. The head is symmetrical, well-muscled, and shaped like a blunt wedge. The facial musculature of this breed should be well-developed and clearly visible without being prominent. The sex of this breed should be very evident from looking at the head, which tends to be either strongly masculine or feminine. The skull and muzzle are not distinct from each other and blend in almost seamlessly. The muzzle is very long and should always be at least 50% longer than the skull. Although long, the muzzle is not especially broad. The muzzle should be clean, straight, and possess tight fitting lips. This breed should have either a scissors or level bite. The nose of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is oval in shape and always black in color. The eyes should be small, slanting, and amber or light brown in color. The ears of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog are short, triangular, and stand fully erect. These ears are incredibly mobile and expressive, and clearly show the dog’s feelings and mood. The overall expression of most breed members is wild and intense.
The coat of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog varies tremendously according to the season. In winter, the coat has a tremendously thick and dense undercoat that often predominates over the outer coat. In summer, the breed’s coat is much shorter and less dense. Regardless of the season, the coat should be straight and close. The coat of the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog must cover the breed’s entire body, even places where most modern breeds have no hair such as the insides of the thighs, scrotum, and the insides of the ears. Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are found in those coat colors which predominate among the Carpathian Wolves. This breed is usually yellowish-grey to silver-grey. Dogs of these colors must exhibit a light mask and lighter shading on the underside of the neck and chest. Although more rarely seen, dark grey Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs are also perfectly acceptable. Such dogs should have a mask which is more lightly colored than the rest of the body. Occasionally, a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog will be born in an alternative coloration such as being solid black or lacking a mask. Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring and should probably not be bred, but otherwise make just as acceptable pets and working dogs as other breed members.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has a temperament which is halfway between that of a domestic dog and a wild wolf. This breed exhibits a number of behaviors common among wolves but very rare among domestic dogs. For example, this breed usually comes into heat after its first birthday and then only once a year after that, whereas most breeds come into heat two or three times a year. Unlike most domestic dogs which breed throughout the year, most Czechoslovakian Wolfdog breeding is seasonal, with the vast majority of puppies born in the winter. This breed also exhibits very strong pack instincts, and is very dedicated to a social hierarchy. Perhaps most interesting, most of these dogs do not naturally bark. This breed instead makes the wide range of wolf vocalizations including howling. Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs actually have to be trained to bark, a skill which is often very challenging for them to learn. This breed is also very independent and tends to seek human guidance and approval much less than other dogs. Like the wolf, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has a strong tendency towards being nocturnal, and many breed members are most active at night. This breed can make a very loyal, beautiful, and unique pet for the right family. However, this breed’s unique temperament makes it unsuitable for most families who would be better suited with obtaining a different wolf-like breed such as a German Shepherd or Siberian Husky.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is known to dedicate very strong loyalty to its family. This breed’s loyalty is so great than many breed members are very difficult, if not impossible, to rehome. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has a very strong tendency to become a one person dog, although it will form bonds with all members of a family if raised with them. This breed is not usually openly affectionate, and most of these dogs are quite reserved even with their families. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has a mixed reputation with children. Most breed members will be trustworthy with children that it has been raised alongside provided that the dog is under constant supervision with them. However, small children may trigger this breed’s predatory instincts, and this breed is rarely tolerant of rough play. Strange children should always be very carefully supervised around one of these dogs. In general, this breed probably does best in homes with older children (those 10 and up). Because the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog requires specialized training and care, this breed is a very poor choice for an inexperienced dog owner. In truth, only those with extensive experience handling hard-tempered breeds should seriously consider acquiring a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.
This is definitely a breed that prefers the company of its family to stranger, whom it is naturally highly suspicious of. Extensive socialization is absolutely necessary for a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog to adapt to life in human society, otherwise aggression and fearfulness issues are likely to develop. Even the best trained examples will probably never be more than begrudgingly accepting of strangers and will almost never warmly greet them. This breed can take a very long time to form bonds with a new person in their lives such as a wife or roommate, and some never do even after years of living together. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is very territorial and always on high alert, making it an excellent watchdog that will scare off most potential intruders with its appearance alone. This breed also makes an effective guard dog, although it is not necessarily as dedicated to the task as a breed such as a Rottweiler or German Shepherd.
This breed has a very mixed reputation with other animals. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is known to display substantial levels of all forms of dog aggression including territorial, possessiveness, dominance, same sex aggression and predatory behavior. This breed tends to form very strict social hierarchies with other dogs and will often be aggressive with them until this hierarchy is determined. However, this breed greatly craves the company of other canines, especially other breed members, and does much better when kept alongside them. To prevent aggression issues, it is best to keep this breed with a single member of the opposite sex, possibly with puppies from previous litters. This breed is just as predatory as the wolf, and most breed members are strongly driven to hunt and kill other animals, such as cats, raccoons, and even small dog breeds such as toys. Many breed members are never trustworthy with household pets that they have been raised alongside, and few can ever be trusted to not kill strange animals.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a highly trainable breed that has been successfully taught almost any task presented it. However, these dogs are usually extremely challenging to train. This breed is not eager to please, and will only learn a task that it sees a purpose in performing. In order to get one of these dogs to do anything, it must clearly see the reason for doing so. Additionally, this breed bores very easily and often refuses to perform repetitive tasks after a while, regardless of treat incentives to do so. Even after training is complete, these dogs often show selective listening when it comes to obeying commands. This does not mean that the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is impossible to train, but it does mean that training one will require considerably more dedication and patience than training most breeds. Because the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is so dedicated to following a pack order, these dogs will not obey anyone whom they see as being lower on the social totem pole than themselves. This means that owners of this breed must maintain a constant position of dominance over their dogs.
Wolves often travel many miles every day in search of food, and the German Shepherd is capable of doing vigorous work for hours upon hours. As one would expect, their descendant the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog has very high exercise requirements. This breed should receive no less than an hour of vigorous physical activity (more than a slow walk) every day, and would preferably receive much more. This breed makes an excellent jogging and bicycling companion but truly craves an opportunity to run around freely in a safely enclosed area. This breed is happiest when it can roam the outdoors freely for most of the day. Without proper exercise, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog will almost certainly develop behavioral issues such as destructiveness, hyper activity, over excitability, excessive howling, and aggression. Because the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog requires such a great deal of exercise, this breed adapts very poorly to apartment living and truly requires a large yard, preferably one with acreage.
There are a few other behavioral traits that potential Czechoslovakian Wolfdog owners must be aware. This breed has a very strong tendency to roam, and many breed members are dedicated escape artists. These dogs are intelligent and physically capable enough to find a way out of enclosures that most breeds could never hope to and require a very carefully secured enclosure. If one of these dogs gets out, it will likely wander many miles away very rapidly. Although it has already been mentioned that this breed howls rather than barks, owners must be aware of how loudly. The howl of a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog can carry for miles, and when kept in close quarters is very likely to result in noise complaints.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a low maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only an occasional brushing. Bathing this breed is also rarely necessary as its coat easily sheds dirt. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a naturally clean breed that is generally odorless. This breed does shed, and it sheds very, very heavily. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog sheds regularly throughout the year, but becomes an intensely heavy shedder twice a year when the seasons change. During these times the breed replaces essentially its entire coat and leaves a trail of hair almost wherever it goes.
One of the primary goals in the development of this breed was to create a dog that was largely free of the health problems which plague so many modern breeds. This breed does tend to be considerably healthier than many modern dogs, and exhibits significantly lower rates of many common genetically inherited conditions. However, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is still subject to many health problems seen in other dog breeds, especially hip dysplasia. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog does tend to live significantly longer lives than most breeds of its size, and most breed members live to between 12 and 18 years old.
Because skeletal and visual problems are known to occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have it tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog does often have a problem living off modern dog food and does best when provided a high quality diet, preferably one which consists of meat.
A full list of health problems which have been identified in Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, even if only from isolated cases, would have to include: