In our research we need to collaborate with animals, which are relaxed in the presence of humans, i.e. neither are fearful, nor integrated too tightly in their social affairs. We want to consider ourselves friendly cooperation partners. Not less, but also not more. This seems to work well with our kind of friendly rearing and respectfully interacting. Only in this state can they focus on their tasks and show their full cognitive and mental potentials.
As wolves are naturally shy of people, WSC scientists, together with WSC animal trainers, hand raise wolf and dog pups alike. Wolf pups open their eyes after their 12th day of life. To achieve a trustful relationship, handraising has therefore to start at day 10 or sooner. During the raising period, humans interact exclusively positively with them in a cooperative way; they are never punished or dominated. Both wolf and dog puppies have regular contact with our well socialized private dogs and are regularly visited by our adult WSC wolves or dogs. WSC wolves and WSC dogs do not get in contact with each other, neither during raising nor after. Starting with the age of five months, the wolf and dog puppies are integrated into our existing packs. Mostly, but not always this works well, our animal partners have the last say in this.
Handraising also helps our wolves to cope well with the conditions in the park: they generally remain relaxed even at the presence of unknown people visiting them in their packs (in the company of experienced WSC personnel), visitors observing them from outside the enclosure, noisy children, or leashed dogs.
Of course, our research dogs would not have to be hand raised for any of the reasons mentioned for the wolves. But for the sake of a “fair” comparison between wolves and dogs, we try to treat our animals the same way. Therefore, also all our dog puppies are hand-raised very much the same way as our wolves.