Wolf Paw vs Dog Paw – How to Differentiate the two

As a camper, you don’t want to set up your tent in an area with lots of wild animals. If you do not examine the area’s condition and what types of animals are in it, you might be risking your safety. One of the most important things to learn when camping outdoors is how to differentiate wolf paw vs dog paw, as their prints are very similar.

You might also be interested in: How to Humanely Kill a Bird

Camping in a forest may give you thrills and adventures. But take note that there are some wild animals, such as bears and wolves, that could suddenly attack you. To protect yourself from a possible wolf attack, you need to know what wolf tracks look like.

How to differentiate wolf paw vs dog paw

If you haven’t seen a wolf before, you may think that wolf tracks are similar to dog tracks. Although they look almost similar, there are still subtle differences that you need to keep an eye on.

Fortunately, the Western Wildlife Outreach claimed that campers – whether amateurs or professionals, can easily distinguish whether the paw prints belong to dogs or wolves with 100% accuracy.

Some of you may find it unbelievable that modern canines today are related to wolves, specifically the gray variety. In line with that, many think that these two animals have the same extinct wolf ancestor. But take note that wolves and dogs are different, especially when it comes to their behavior and evolution.

To keep yourself safe when camping in the woods against wolf attacks, here are some factors that would help you to determine whether a paw track is made by a wolf or a dog.

Wolf VS DOg Paw Size

One of the key differences you should be mindful of when determining if it is a dog or wolf paw is the track size.

Dog’s track size may vary depending on their breed. Larger dog breeds produce larger paw tracks than smaller breeds. But no matter how large a dog is, wolf creates wider and bigger paw prints. Generally, wolves produce paw tracks measuring approximately 4×4 inches.

Although that is not the most accurate method to distinguish wolf paw prints from dogs, it is important to remember that paw tracks longer and larger than 4 inches do not belong to dogs. So, you should be mindful of when setting up a camp in countries with cold weather, including North Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Wolf Vs Dog Paw Shape

Most of you might not be able to distinguish a dog’s paw prints from wolves’ if you will just take a look at its shape. This is because both animals create oval-shaped and four-toed tracks. Despite being almost the same, you may still notice slight differences between the shape of the two animals’ paw prints.

First, paw prints produced by dogs have larger middle toes than lateral toes. On the other hand, wolves’ paw prints have the same sized front and lateral toes. Second, dogs walk like dragging their toenails. Thus, they produce messier tracks than wolves, which usually produce pristine tracks.

wolf paw vs dog paw

Another way to tell the difference between wolf paw vs dog paw is the space between the impressions. While the wolf paws are larger in size, the toes are also more spread apart, whereas the dog’s toes are closer together. The illustration above shows an X in between the wolf paw, while the dog paw is not able to form that same shape.

Behaviour of Wolf Tracks

Dogs tend to wander from one place to another depending on the direction of a smell that caught their attention. On the other hand, wolves do not travel a lot as dogs because they want to maximize their energy.

This is just one of the subtle behavioral differences between a dog and a wolf. It is also a great factor to consider when distinguishing a paw print of dogs from wolves. Typically, dog tracks are wildly scattered. Whereas, wolves produce nearly straight lines of paw tracks.

Aside from that, wolves are traveling in single-file. This means that they tend to place their paws over the tracks made by the other wolves in front of them.

Where Do Wolves Live?

Timberwolves or gray wolves are related to canines. The only difference with regular dogs is that they have bushy, long, and black-tipped tails. They usually have brown to grayish coat color and buffy undersides and markings.

You may be confused with gray wolves as they look much like a large German shepherd. Just like dogs, wolves also have different sizes. Their size depends on their habitat. For example, wolves that live in the south are quite smaller than those in the north.

Compared to dogs, wolves live in packs that are usually composed of nine members. In some cases, a single pack may consist of more than 30 wolves of different sizes. Gray wolves are the most common type of wolf that became one of the compelling wildlife tales in American history.

If you plan to camp in North Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, you need to be extra careful as these areas are usually where wolves wander. In line with that, you need to make sure that you are setting up your tent in a wolf-free area.

In case you see some tracks, you must distinguish if they come from wolves or dogs. When you find that wolves make them, it is recommended to pack your things up and find a new location to camp. You must prioritize your safety as some wolves are territorial.

Physical Differences Between Wolves and Dogs

Dogs and wolves have the same size, shape, and number of teeth. But, if you will take a look at their jaws and skulls, wolves are undoubtedly larger than dogs. Do you know why wolves have larger jaws than dogs? This is because they are able to break and bite even the hardest bone they find in the wild.

When it comes to their facial structure, dogs have larger eyes and rounder faces than wolves. Aside from that, they have short or curly tails along with floppy ears. On the other hand, wolves have sickle-type, longer tails with pointed ears.

In terms of their feet size, wolves have larger feet than dogs. Thus, you can easily distinguish if the paw track you notice on the ground comes from a dog or a wolf.

Wolves also have larger middle and front toes than their side toes. Considering that these wild animals can be found in areas with colder weather conditions, they can flex their longer elbows while keeping their elbows close. Aside from that, wolves travel faster than dogs because of their long legs.

Social Clues

It is important that you consider every piece of evidence, especially when camping in an unknown location. This might be because there are wolves that live in the area and attack you sharply. Aside from knowing the shape and size of the paw prints, you also need to gather as much information about the area as possible before you set up your tent.

First, you need to consider the location’s geography. Some areas where wolves live include the southern locations of the United States. Aside from that, wolves are also present at the Canada border, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and New Mexico.

In addition, you can also get some clues about the area since wolves usually dwell in either urban or suburban locations.


Both dogs and wolves belong to the Canis lupus family. Considering that approximately 99 percent of both animals are the same, they usually look almost the same. According to Dr. Hughes, there are cases where dogs and wolves are used for interbreeding.

As a camper, you need to ensure your safety before staying a night or two in an unknown place. The forest is the habitat of many wild animals, including wolves. Since wolves and dogs are related, they almost look the same. But there are some differences that would help you to determine if camping in a certain area is safe.

You can distinguish a wolf paw from a dog paw by looking at its size and shape. Take note that wolves create larger paw tracks than dogs because of their enormous size. In addition, wolves create almost a straight line of paw tracks.

So, if you see paw prints that look made by wolves, are you still willing to spend a night in that area?