Here is a quick and dirty guide to how to tell if your werewolf might just be a zombie or might just be a dog.
Please note these are not complete lists. These are things that irk me on a deep and profound level, so I could go on about them for quite some time. But this is the short version.
Your Werewolf is a Zombie
Your werewolf is probably just a hairy zombie if…
- They are only remotely powerful/intimidating in groups of 3-10+ and/or massive hordes of 10-80+, and they generally move in groups of these sizes
- A single werewolf is not even a threat at all
- The ONLY thing that makes them scary is they might infect you
- They are extremely easily dispatched
- They turn into a werewolf and never turn human again, and/or the transformation process “could kill them”
- They are an “infestation” or a “plague”
- There are literally entire villages and cities of nothing but werewolves (and all they want to do is kill people)
- They are crazed, extremely stupid, and have not even the remotest vestige of human intelligence at all, they just want to essentially eat brains like a zombie
- They were created by a virus/fungus/some other form of infection, and that is their centerpiece
- They are ugly, mangy things that don’t even remotely resemble wolves. They have no actual wolfish features at all and are largely just mangy/hairy people with gross teeth, or else some kind of big mangy monster with large teeth and generic, gross semi-animal features
- They are all mindless and pure evil/insane and/or becoming one makes you evil and insane
- Being turned into a werewolf is a death sentence
- Characters are relieved to know it’s “just a werewolf” instead of something actually bad
- They look and behave more like zombies than werewolves in general
- They are essentially the first random effortless lowbie encounter/group fight in a video game (or a video game trailer…), often literally
Your Werewolf is Just a Dog
Your werewolf is just a walking dog joke and should just be a “weredog” instead (it’d honestly be infinitely better) if…
- They bark
- They exhibit domesticated behavior (fetching things, easily distracted by things, etc.)
- They are a walking dog joke (bark at mailmen, pee on hydrants, shedding jokes, humping jokes, and whatnot) and other people also make dog jokes about them
- They lack intelligence and revert to simplistic animal behavior, especially silly/harmless animalistic behavior, at the drop of a hat and they might be embarrassed by it in comically endearing fashion (howling at sirens, chasing things, etc., also see above)
- Being a werewolf is just some kind of embarrassment (”I shed and bark at things and scratch and lick my balls :(”) instead of something scary, powerful, and/or potentially a real problem or hardship
- They are just a “good boi” and want “head pats” etc.
- They’re basically just big friendly dog-people
- They resemble a dog instead of a wolf (they have dog fur patterns [spots, merle, brindle…], dog ears [floppy or cut], jowls, etc.)
- They are largely comedy and played as such
- They aren’t even scary at all, nor are they remotely vicious, and if they tried to be everyone would see it as a joke and have to be forced to take it seriously under extreme duress (and then the viewers/readers still wouldn’t be able to because the werewolf is still just a dog joke)
- They are, in fact, so ultimately harmless that other characters refer to them as the walking dog jokes that they are (Fido, Fluffy, etc., tell them to fetch things, the whole nine yards)
- They are literally just someone’s dog on a chain and wear a collar and refer to themselves as someone’s dog
- They may not even be a character at all but are literally just a humanoid dog who never turns human, and/or the human also behaves exactly like the dog-werewolf
If any of these things and especially multiple apply to the werewolf, please just let them be called a weredog instead. I could tolerate that. I’d vastly prefer it. More weredogs, if that’s the way your werewolf must be. Weredogs for everyone. Let’s do it. I’m not kidding! I just don’t want werewolves to be weredogs. Let’s keep them different, please. Wolves are not domestic dogs! They are very different, especially in that wolves are not and cannot be domesticated! There are tons of scientific articles and studies, and more releasing every day, that serve to highlight this!
And if your werewolf/werewolves meet these criteria, that is fine for you, but I’m really sorry, but they are not for me and I would much prefer to not even know they exist. No hard feelings. I don’t want to see your werewolf zombies or your werewolf dogs or your weredogs or whatever. I just don’t even care to consume that kind of “werewolf” media.
I like werewolves to be werewolves. To me:
Your Werewolf is a Werewolf
Your werewolf is probably a werewolf of some form if…
- They are powerful and terrifying as individuals and only that much moreso in groups. Taking down one werewolf is literally the final bossfight and will take all of one’s willpower, intelligence, and abilities; taking down several at once is basically impossible
- What I’m saying is I like them to be among the very scariest of monsters in a setting
- They may be able to curse/infect others, but that is not the centerpiece of their entire being
- Being part of a group/pack and identifying solely as “a werewolf” is also not their entire being (they’re still people, and people have histories and cultures and identities, too! They’re not some alien hive-mind or something!)
- They are still human individuals; being a werewolf is not the entirety of their character or their most important aspect (related to that previous one but also in general)
- They retain intelligence (but perhaps not necessarily the ability to speak) in werewolf form; they will not bash their brains against walls in a fit of rage or go after the mailman or howl at sirens
- They have poise and pride instead of licking their balls or “scritching” or whatever
- They can be vicious, they can be noble, but they are always predatory and scary
- They are taken seriously
- They do not bark or otherwise exhibit domesticated behavior of any kind
- They do not have any obviously non-wolf features (spots, stripes, slit pupils [WHY are slit pupils such a thing now!?], merle, jowls, floppy ears, curly fur, etc.). Weird eye colors are fine and great. A few stranger fur patterns might be fun and interesting (like maybe just a few stripes or something), but anything that makes them too obviously look like just a dog or even a cat really throws me off. My favorite werewolves will always look like wolves above anything else, no matter how odd or stylized or supernatural of wolves they might be. Wolves have their own distinguishing, incredible features and werewolves should have those too; save the rest for other shapeshifters and creatures.
- If they have animalistic behavior, it’s predatory and wolfish, not domesticated
- Being a werewolf is not a convenient button one can push*
- They don’t just walk around, talk, and interact like humans while they are werewolves; they are more animal than human, while retaining their intelligence (they are more likely to go hunt and kill in terrifyingly intelligent ways than play a game of poker, even if they might be capable of the latter)
- They turn into a werewolf and turn human again; they are not always one or the other
- They actually resemble a wolf in at least some fashion (they are not just a bland horror creature with big teeth and mangy hair)
*: Some werewolves in stories are less cursed than others. That’s fine. I do like my cursed werewolves; to me, that’s part of what makes a werewolf a werewolf instead of just a shapeshifter, but I know that not all werewolves in legend were that way (obviously). That’s a personal preference storytelling thing.
Again, as I am fully aware, this is just my opinion. But I was asked, so there it is. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but hopefully this clarifies what I’m talking about.
You can, of course, consult my werewolf facts and related ask responses for more on my opinions and why I hold these opinions. And then I have lots of posts on various tropes and how I feel about those (including dog things and zombie things in relation to werewolves) in this section here.
AND! One more thing! This doesn’t necessarily condemn the werewolf product for me. It just has a 99.99% chance of doing so. Execution is everything. I love Resident Evil: Village/Resident Evil 8 because the hairy zombies are referred to as “lycans” like twice and are just hairy zombies that never resemble wolves or behave as wolves and I can just completely ignore that they’re supposed to be werewolves and overlook that. I love that game. But if there’s this emphasis on big wolfish werewolves being zombies, it honestly makes it worse for me. For instance, I cannot even look at ESO anymore (and that makes me really sad).
And as for the dog jokes… I’ve only ever enjoyed the original Teen Wolf movie insofar as that goes, and some of the things in there still make me groan. But I did enjoy the movie and story enough that I still like it a lot. But will you ever see me watching that Goosebumps movie again? No. I’d sooner hang myself up on meathooks.
I just… would very much love to see werewolves be their own thing instead of zombies or dogs, and if they are just zombies or dogs in a thing, chances are incredibly high that, no, I won’t like it, and I may even have extreme dislike for it.
So let’s let werewolves be werewolves.
P.S.: Another pet peeve is referring to werewolves as just “wolves.” Why? They’re not wolves, they’re werewolves. That’s like calling them “weres.” Don’t dilute them to being one or the other – what makes them so great and so interesting is that they are both and neither at the same time!