Dog Breeds that Look Just Like Wolves

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted to own pet wolf-- and not just one, but a whole pack of howling, hunting canines who I could call my own. As I matured, though, I realized that owning a pet wolf simply isn't a humane or realistic decision. As the ASPCA notes, it is arguably unethical and potentially dangerous to own any non-domesticated animal (perhaps with the exception of birds). Almost no average owner can handle the high needs of caring for a pet wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid. Luckily for those of us who would really like to own dogs who at least resemble their lupine ancestors, there are many completely domesticated dog breeds that look exactly like wolves. Here are just a few.
The Tamaskan is a very rare breed of dog originating in Finland and very closely resembling a wolf. In fact, the resemblance is so uncanny that Tamaskan dogs are often cast as "wolves" in films-- and viewers never notice the difference! Like their lupine ancestors, they have a tendency to howl and to bond very closely with their "packmates," which can include humans, other dogs, and even small, delicate animals like cats and rabbits. Bred for working (not hunting) these beautiful wolf-like dogs don't have strong hunting instincts but maintain the grace and appearance of their ancient ancestors.

Northern Inuit
A combination of Siberian husky, German shepherd and Alaskan malamute, the Northern Inuit was selectively bred for the last 30 years to resemble wolves, but has no direct wolf ancestry. The breed standard has strict requirements that ensure that all breed-standard Northern Inuit dogs closely resemble wolves (so much that it's virtually impossible to tell many of them apart from their wild counterparts). The name "Northern Inuit" is a misnomer, as this breed originates in Britain, far from the historic territory of the Inuit peoples.

The utonagan breed is actually a splinter of the Northern Inuit breed, originating from the same stock of Siberian husky, German shepherd, and Alaskan malamute dogs. The breed standard for the utonagan is a bit more lenient than the Northern Inuit, so they may not bear the same indistinguishable resemblance to wolves as their cousins the Northern Inuit. Utonagans tend to be lean and agile and enjoy living in large "packs" that include several other dogs or many human family members.

Alaskan Malamute 

These beautiful dogs look very similar to wolves and have remained essentially unchanged for centuries. Originally domesticated by a Northern tribe known as the Mahlemuts, malamutes have long been valued as sled dogs and family members. They tend to be extremely athletic, friendly, and intelligent. Unlike newer wolf-like dog breeds, Alaskan malamutes are formally recognized by all major kennel clubs.
Siberian Husky
A cousin to the malamute, the Siberian husky was bred over many centuries by the indigenous people of Russia, who domesticated them from wild wolves. Siberian huskies maintain the strong hunting instincts of their ancestors and aren't generally a good fit for apartments and homes with cats, but they can be amazing, gentle companions when given adequate space, work, and exercise.
Samoyeds are another masterpiece bred by the indigenous people of Siberia. They were bred centuries ago to herd reindeer and pull sleds, but they were also valued for their kind and affectionate nature. Samoyeds look stunningly like arctic wolves, with thick, white coats and wolf-like body shapes. These smart, hard-working dogs do best if they're given lots of activity and stimulation to keep their big brains and agile bodies occupied.
Shiba Inu
Easily mistaken for a wolf at first glance, the shiba inu dog hails from Japan, where it was bred from wild, mountain-dwelling wolves as a hunting breed. Shiba inus tend to be strong, compact dogs and are more independent than other dogs that resemble wolves. Unlike some other wolf-like dog breeds, a shiba inu doesn't require constant interaction for its mental health. The shiba inu is highly adaptable, making it one of the only wolf-like breeds that can do well in an apartment (provided it is given enough exercise).
For most, if not all, of us, it isn't an option to own a pet wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid. We're very lucky that we've managed to spend thousands of years domesticating the dog, while still maintaining several bloodlines that closely resemble dogs' wild counterparts. If you're interested in adding a wolf-like dog to your family, check with local animal shelters and rescue groups first before looking for breeders. Odds are high that an animal perfect for you is already out there-- and in desperate need of a home.