Around 5 million dogs live in Germany. Dogs who have escaped their owner's control for several hours can quite often be found far away from human settlements. Some breeds such as German Shepherd or sledge dogs such as Husky and Alaskan Malamute can indeed be confused with wolves.
Moreover, there are dog breeds that are intentionally bred to have a typical wolf appearance and behaviour. The Czechoslovakian and Saarloos wolfdogs, both FCI (World Canine Organisation) recognised dog breeds, here deserve particular mention. A Czechoslovakian wolfdog caused a great stir in the east of Saxony in November 2014. The dog moved through several regional districts for at least three weeks and covered a distance of around 400 km during this time. It mostly ran along roads to get ahead quicker, also staying in settlements and, due to its wolf-like colouration, many people confused it with a wolf. Finally, a member of the public succeeded in catching the dog near Radeburg (regional district of Meißen). The animal's origin, a Polish breeder around 80 km away from the border, was identified and the dog was then returned to its owner.
The following table lists the most significant distinctive features of wolves and dogs.
|Tail||Hanging straight down at rest; never curled up; with a dark tip.||Varies with the breed, sometimes carried and/or curled up over the back.|
|Violet (precaudal) gland||Located approx. 8 cm under the base of the tail; the gland's biological function is not yet conclusively clarified.||Depending on the breed, the gland is present or only rudimentarily developed or totally absent.|
|Colour markings||Often coloured with a lot of contrast but without a mask; light-coloured patches above the eyes, light-coloured cheeks, almost white muzzle, light-coloured markings on both sides of the throat, light-coloured "saddle patch" with a dark "saddle line" on the shoulders individually variable, more or less distinctive depending on the time of year (often darker in winter).||Indistinct, incomplete or absent in most dog breeds.|
|Ears||Comparatively small and triangular, always upright.||Vary with the breed: upright, kinked or pendulous, often significantly larger than wolf ears.|
|Eye colour||Light-coloured, yellow-brown to yellow-green.||Varies widely, even blue is possible.|
|Dentition||Relatively narrow front section of the lower jaw with the incisors positioned closely one beside the other.||Wider lower jaw with larger spaces between the teeth.|
|Muzzle||Relatively long.||Shorter than the wolf's in most dog breeds.|
|Physical structure||Strikingly long-legged with summer coat giving a square body structure; horizontal back line.||A more rectangular body structure with a sloping back line in many dog breeds.|
Tracks, kills and scats
|Track||Longish oval, relatively large and strong claws; all in all very symmetrical; front paws approx. 8 to 12 cm long (without claws) and 7 to 11 cm wide, hind paws usually approx. 1 cm shorter and narrower; refer to Wolf tracks.||Paw dimensions are often similar to dog breeds of the same size but tracks are often more rounded. Claws are usually less distinct; track appears less symmetric than a wolf's.|
|Gaits||Trotting by placing its paws one directly in front of the other and with its hind feet landing in the tracks of its front feet (direct register trot) is its favourite gait; very even, energy-saving, straight mode of travel; step length for direct register trot (distance between two successive prints of the same paw): at least 100 cm or even more; uses different gaits depending on the terrain: side trot or gallop; pacing is rare.||Varying playful running style, frequent gait changes, often gallop or side trot, only a few dog breeds use direct register trot over longer distances, usually only in deep snow; step length very variable; some dog breeds love pacing.|
|Kills|| Targeted, bloodless, very powerful strangulation bite; sometimes (depending on prey animal) bites in the legs to bring down an escaping prey animal; no random bite injuries; abdominal cavity torn open, most of the inner organs (except stomach) and muscles are eaten;
distance between canines in the bite wound: 4 cm (upper jaw) and 3 cm (lower jaw); refer to Wolf kills.
|Many random bites not only in the throat area; bite injuries less powerful because dogs have less jaw pressure; kills are more bloody due to grabbing and shaking the prey several times; carcasses not used at all or only to a small extent.|
|Scats||At least 2 cm in diameter, contains hairs and bones of the prey animals, typical scent, please refer to Wolf scats.||Varies in size, even consistency, few or no hairs at all.|