I'm fairly new to DMing and so is my group, so we are all on a learning curve together. We're playing D&D 5e.

Last week a fighter in our group tamed a wolf with Animal Handling and then requested that he keep the wolf. I allowed this, but now I'm not sure about how to play the wolf.

Specifically, how can he train the wolf to perform certain actions such as attacking?

What other things might I need to be aware of with a PC owning a "pet"?

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    \$\begingroup\$ How exactly did your fighter "tame" a wolf with Animal Handling in the first place? Unless I am horrendously mistaken, Animal Handling is for calming down an animal and temporarily improving its attitude, not a one-press button that will convert a wolf into a pet. There is absolutely nothing that compels the wolf to follow, why doesn't it simply wander off? \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 7:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik He has the wolf on a rope at the moment and he is feeding it regularly. The wolf was originally chained up, so I don't see an issue with the shackling of the animal. Moreover, I don't see any issue with having him calm the animal down and then keeping it on a rope. He has gained some trust from the animal and I don't see why, so long as he continues to feed it and treat it well, it should not continue to trust him. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 9:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Last week a fighter in our group tamed a wolf with Animal handling" - this could bring round a previously domesticated wolf, but not a wild one, i'm going to call shenanigans on that one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 23:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gburton The wolf was stolen from goblins. At no point did I say it was wild. Considering the great answers given here, I'm going to call not constructive on your input \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 6:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ That fact makes a difference - you might want to mention it in the question. It means the wolf was already domesticated and may have reasons to stick around; it may not know how to be a wild wolf, it may find adventurers more agreeable than goblins, or it may in fact be some other creature in disguise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 0:01

9 Answers 9


The simple answer is that there aren't any right now.

The longer answer is that you guys will have to work together as DM and player to figure out what role this creature has in your party, what it can and cannot do in combat and out, and what kind of action expenditure it should require.

The closest similar mechanics we have right now are the Ranger's animal companion mechanics, familiar rules and mounted combat rules. You should review these sections of the PHB (Beast Master Ranger, Find Familiar Spell, Mounted Combat rules) and either decide to model your creature's behavior directly on these rules or come up with a hybrid of the two.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this because, whilst it advises relying on my own initiative, it provides some useful benchmarks for the mechanics. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 21:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @timster and thats exactly what we have to do in 5e when we want to do things the rules don't currently cover \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 21:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would also strongly recommend that while using the ranger as a baseline for rules comparison you make it nowhere near as useful as the Rangers animal conpanion. Otherwise your PC is getting 2 class benefits from a single class \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or instead of toning down the animal companion, the PC is training both the wolf and himself and his next class will be Ranger from his new love of animals. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zan Lynx
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 0:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Found some real life information that will be handy in choosing how to create some expectations: wolfpark.org/animals/hybrids/sloan-poster/poster07 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:39

Wolf as NPC

Accepting you have ruled the fighter’s successful Animal Handling skill check will make the wolf a friendly ally, you now have a four-legged NPC to role-play. Treat it as any other:

Image how a character or monster…would react to the adventurers. Consider what it cares about. Does it have any ideals, flaws, or bonds? ... Strive for responses and actions that introduce twists into the game.

DM Guide 245

Just because the wolf is friendly to the fighter doesn’t mean it will do anything in particular the party wants. What it does is entirely up to you as DM, based on what kind of wolf you invent it to be.

Take into account the wolf’s low intelligence, its inability to understand language, its alignment and disposition. Consider the fact that one of the characters has handled the creature — it might have any attitude towards other members of the party.

Don’t “give away” class powers

There are no specific rules on how a tamed beast would behave differently than an untamed one. However, there are rules on controlling animals, that are Ranger and Druid powers.

Familiarize yourself with these powers, and make sure that this fighter’s one good roll does not give him a power that rivals the ranger or druid powers. (You wouldn’t give someone the ability to cast spells just because they made one good Arcana roll.)


It is important to understand the fact that even training basic commands to a wild animal is not an easy task, and the adventurers would have to dedicate time every day reinforcing teaching of even basic commands before moving on to the commands that they are looking for.

Until the creature is trained, it won't listen to commands, it is unlikely to do what the player wants, and it may end up lashing out at some party members. It can create a great in game role-playing scenario, and that alone may make it worth justifying limited combat skills and such after the time has passed to allow that form of training to have been completed.

Mechanically, nothing is defined at all, but a series of a few months worth of skill checks to train the animal based on a DC that the DM decides is appropriate for that specific beast to be trained over time would be appropriate. If your DM disallows it, then that is simply the way it is, but most DM's outside of organized play are likely willing to work with you in at least a limited sense if it promotes role-playing and takes work before it has any mechanical merit.

I would say that the first step is to 'tame' the creature so it won't attack players or bolt at the first opportunity. After this, it should have a check/training attempt associated with each trick it is to be 'taught'. "War training" should be separate as well, so they don't bolt in combat. The DC should be based on the DM's discretion, considering the trick and the animal. (War training a rabbit is unlikely.)

As this method would need to consider both active days (perhaps during long rests) and inactive (downtime) days, it is likely in the Player/DM's best interests to look at the downtime rules to design something similar to the crafting or carousing rules in order to better create mechanics for training an animal. It would give a codified way to take care of the process that keeps it from being too bogged down by rolls every day.

The carousing rules seems like a particularly good fit, allowing animal handling to adjust a table for a single roll that has results ranging from the animal leaving/going berserk to becoming a very well trained creature.

The cost of food/shelter for the creature would need to be considered, of course, and will be as important to an animal trainer as they are to a knight with his horse, and this would adjust the normal downtime day costs for the character.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to reference 5e's downtime rules / framework, since that's essentially the approach you're describing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 22:09

After some time and many people asking Crawford about it, he finally gave us his word. And well, it doesn't help much, but now you have something to show your DM. The first twitter is here.

Want your D&D character to have a pet/companion?

Here’s a little secret: you don’t need special rules for this. Through roleplaying and ability checks (most likely Animal Handling or Persuasion), you can have a buddy, as long as your DM is OK adding a creature to the group. #DnD

There was a chain of discussion on his twitter about it, which I will post the most relevants to the discussion

The default assumption in the D&D rules is that you can befriend people and critters you meet on your adventures.

If a class has a special companion (Beast Master, find familiar, find steed, animate dead, etc.), that companion is in addition to creatures you might befriend. #DnD Source

When asked about leveling up (increasing the companion's HP and everything else), he cites the DMG rules on that.

The “Dungeon Master’s Guide” has guidelines for adding class levels to creatures.

Say your wolf friend has been fighting by your side for an adventure, the DM might give the wolf a level in fighter. This is a legitimate use of the DMG rules. #DnD

Want to add class levels to a monster or NPC? Take a look at the section "Monsters with Classes" in the "Dungeon Master's Guide" (p. 283). #DnD Source

He further argues about the "letting other people get animal companions make the beast master useless" later

There are various ways to gain thematic companions in D&D. Here are some of them:

• roleplay

• spells like animal friendship, animate dead, find familiar, and find steed

• the Beast Master

Each way gives a different experience. Choose the one that best fits your story! #DnD Source

So, officially, it's about role-playing accordingly. First you would need to befriend the creature. Then, if you want him to listen to your commands, some kind of downtime training, to be decided by your DM, or making persuasion checks every time. The more friendly you are with the creature, the easier they should be, though. Finally, just use the usual NPC rules for having the companion in the party, giving him experience and even leveling him up.


Your question has two parts:

  1. How do you tame a wild animal?

    Realistically, historically, you breed it for dozens of generations by killing the pups that react with fear-aggression and breeding the pups that react with less fear-aggression. If done well, your grandchildren might have an attack dog.

    But in fantasy, badass dudes train wolves to be their loyal companions all. the. time. So we DMs should model this in our games. I'd say it would take at least a downtime action though!

  2. How do you handle animal companions in a fight if you're not a beast master ranger?

    The rules are silent on this1. There are class features for paladins, wizards, and rangers that cover animals in a fight. And there are mounted combat rules. The best way is to extrapolate from the mounted combat rules:

You have 2 choices.

  1. You can command your animal as your Action. You can tell it where to move and tell it to Dash, Dodge, or Disengage as its Action (beast master rangers also get Attack and Help, but your fighter is not a beast master). It does those things on your initiative.

  2. You can let it do its own thing, on its own initiative. It goes where it wants and does what it wants. Training an animal would mean convincing the DM that the animal has been taught what to do when it's not commanded. E.g. your tame wolf attacks the same creature you attack until it has been injured, then it Disengages and flees to safety.

1 Question 2 is relevant because you can buy a mastiff in the PHB, and people often DO, then wonder what the dog is for, since there aren't really rules for what to do with it. The game's designers have been pretty silent on the answer, so I think people have just been using the mounted combat rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It only takes a few years of direct feeding to tame a wild animal (a number of zoos are full of those animals) in regards to feeding person (not helpful for a party of adventurers) but you mean generations of breeding to produce semi-domestication. It all depends on how the animal is going to be used on the tameness level needed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 2:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ You confused taming (1 loyal individual) with domestication of an animal (a loyal species). \$\endgroup\$
    – fejfo
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re. the footnote, a mastiff can be a mount for a halfling or gnome PC. \$\endgroup\$
    – mdrichey
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:39

What you should consider is that the wolf remains a more or less wild animal. And as such certain characteristics not change.

Wild animals:

  • fear fire; the wolf will have been confronted with fire while being with the goblins but the instinct remains
  • don't know or understand magic and will be distrustful of it. So I'd have the wolf always roll saves vs. magic even if it is helpful
  • back down from fights with foes that are obviously stronger like most magical beasts, dragons etc.
  • shy away from unnatural foes such as undead
  • pack animals might accept some creatures as superior (pack leader) but not all players might be seen as such.
  • might try defend their master from the rest of the party (or other NPCs) if they think they are threatened. For example when wakened for guard duty.

This is just in addition to the problems described by others. Tamed wolfs are not dogs. Dogs watch out for human gestures, eye movement and generally leadership. Wolves don't do that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I'd note that other animals might fear the wolf (like horses, for example) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 21:38

I had a similar issue running the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign (I believe you are running the same one).

One of my players took up a starting language of Wolf at the start of the game, and managed to convince one of the wolves to come along as an NPC (he rolled a natural 20 on Animal Handling very high on Persuasion). Eventually the wolf was killed in battle. However I was the one controlling it the whole time, as he was not a ranger or anything like that.

The moral of my story is that just because there is an animal in the party doesn't mean it has be controlled; it might just be there of its own free will. After all, wolves do have a mind of there own.

Not sure how much my little story helps, but if you wanted to play it similarly, you can always use the NPC playing guide in the DMG or in the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign booklet.


Here is my humble suggestion for handling training as a downtime activity, based on what I have observed in my own game and watching others work this (such as the Sorcerer's pseudodragon on Critical Role)/

A wild wolf would probably work more like a follower with its own initiative and share of XP during encounters. If it sticks with the PC, it is by its own choice. Domesticating such an animal would take at least a year of downtime activity, and constructing a table for effectiveness and reactions would likely make it more realistic if this becomes a downtime minigame for the player.

If the wolf is considered domesticated, then training it would probably require a week of downtime activity for a single command (similar to training a dog). You could add any sort of variety you want, including bonuses and penalties for how the PC has treated the wolf, but it should ultimately come down to a Handle Animal check with a specific DC. Success would allow the PC to teach the wolf a one-word command (sit, follow, attack, hide, sneak, etc.)


When all else fails treat it like he found a magic item that can die, so maybe the fighter just doesn't find anymore magic items for awhile basically. I think having it based off of BM ranger is a extremely low bar to set and isn't relevant unless there is an actual BM ranger in the party. to put it simply the player isn't meta-gaming by trying to invest time to befriend and train a wolf so I wouldn't necessarily punish him either. my best advice would be to see what your player does, wolves can be fiercely loyal companions if you treat them right and bond properly. I think that after some time bonding and training it'd be ok to just let him have the wolf to use in combat, it's really not that bad. the worst thing that can happen is now all your players want pets or the player gets reckless and the wolf gets nailed by something strong and dies


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