This got pretty funny when the wolves grew bigger (about 15 kg) and started going out in the night to take showers in the rain (the door to the outdoor enclosure being always open) and then returning and jumping on the caretaker. The wolves were socialized to dogs - those of their caretakers - as well as to humans.
From their caretakers, the wolves have learned the appropriate responses to several signals (e.g., sit, down, give paw, roll over). This aspect of communication is important in minimising stress associated with such procedures as treating an injured paw and in facilitating the wolves’ participation in the Center’s research in cognition, communication, and human-animal interaction. The wolves are not only trained to signals; they also are taken out for walks on a long leash, to get them used to different environments. The wolves are also habituated to transport-boxes and cars so they can be taken to places such as the veterinary clinic with minimal stress. As a result of their intensive socialization and training, the wolves enjoy working with their caretakers and perform experimental tasks of their own volition. .Another important benefit of participating in research is experiencing variety and activity--the best enrichment for captive animals. The studies at the Wolf Science Center aim to shed light on the cognitive abilities of wolves and their differences from dogs’ cognitive abilities and on dog domestication.
Although the caretakers work positively with the wolves and establish an exceptional position among them, they,do not want to be integrated in the wolf pack as members because they do not want to be treated as pack members in conflict situations. The dogs, however, educate the wolves on a canine level and reprimand them if necessary. Ekhaya, my Rhodesian Ridgeback girl, was included in socializing the wolves, but she was more a playmate than an educator. Because of her insecurity, I stopped taking her into the wolf-enclosure as soon as the wolves became bigger and heavier than she. She no longer felt comfortable when four 30kg wolves wanted to play with her, and apart from that, one cannot predict how the wolves will react when a dog appears insecure in a conflict situation. The other dogs of the Wolf Science Center crew still join the wolves in the enclosure after 1 ½ years, but they do not show any signs of insecurity.
In spring 2009, the Wolf Science Center moved to Ernstbrunn and was expanded. Six new wolf puppies were hand-raised and are now forming a larger pack together with the three adults (One of the original wolves, lovely Taya, died in 2009). As the wolf pack has grown in number, so has the number of associated humans increased, Many more international trainees, diploma students and now also doctoral students are working at the Wolf Science Center.