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Nicole Cosgrove

June 9, 2021

The Chinook comes from the US and is a medium to large purebred, originally developed as a sled race dog and drafting dog. Its name is Inuit and means warm winter winds. As it was developed in New Hampshire it is that state’s official dog. Today some owners use it for recreational sledding but it is mostly kept as a companion though it does do well in events such as skijoring, agility, obedience and dog packing. It is also used successfully as a search and rescue dog.

The Chinook at A Glance
Name Chinook
Other names None
Nicknames None
Origin United States
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 30 to 90 pounds
Average height 22 to 27 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Medium, dense, thick
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, black and tan, red, gold, tawny
Popularity Not popular – ranked 182nd by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – very clever breed
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in hot climates but not extreme
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can live in cold climates even extremes
Shedding Constant plus seasonal heavy shedding
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight but especially prone, just monitor food and exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate maintenance needs – regular brushing needed
Barking Rare – not prone to barking for no reason
Exercise needs Fairly active – will need a couple of good walks if not being used for sledding
Trainability Easy to train – stay firm and in control
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Low – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization – approachable
Good apartment dog Very good as long as gets enough outside time
Handles alone time well Low – not good being left alone, can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues A healthy breed but a few issues can be hip dysplasia, eye problems, seizures and skin problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance
Food expenses $260 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $235 a year for miscellaneous items, basic training, license and toys
Average annual expenses $980 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Great Mountain Chinooks and the Chinook Dogs Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Chinook’s Beginnings

The Chinook was developed in New Hampshire in the US in the early 20th century. It was bred to have the power of drafting breed but with the speed of the more agile and less heavy racing sled dogs. It is a breed that comes from a dog born in 1917 to a Northern Husky female and sired by a mixed breed that was one of the dogs that went to the North Pole with Peary. They called it Chinook and the farm where it was born belonged to the explorer and writer Arthur Walden. This dog went to the South Pole with Admiral Byrd in 1927 where it died. In his honor part of Route 113A that leads to New Hampshire was renamed Chinook Trail.

The offspring of Chinook looked much like him and they were then the ones bred with powerful freight dogs and racing sled dogs. During the early 1900s these dogs were very successful at setting running times, covering the longest distances and at carrying heavy loads. Walden retired and passed on the care and breeding of his Chinook dogs to Lombard and the Seeleys and then it passed on to the Greenes. But despite its success as a sled dog at one point in the late 1960s they had achieved world record status for being the most rare breed of dog, with not much more than 100 left. By the 1980s they had almost disappeared with only 12 breed-able dogs were left.

New Lease on Life

To try and save it from extinction breeders spread across the US split the breeding stock between them that was left and focused on saving it. Thankfully they were successful but today its numbers are still low and it is one of the rarest breeds still. The Chinook today though is less sled driven and more a companion dog though they still enjoy some doggy sports, carting and sledding too. The UKC recognized the Chinook in 1991, about 100 new puppies are born each year and there are a total of about 800 dogs. There is a cross-breeding program where the Chinook is allowed to be crossed with a dog that was originally involved with its breeding, by the 4th generation of such crossing if the dog meets the Chinook Owner Association’s requirements it can be accepted by the UKX as a purebred Chinook. The dog was recognized as a breed by the AKC in 2013 but is still not recognized by all major kennel clubs. It is ranked 182nd in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large breed weighing 30 to 90 pounds and standing 22 to 27 inches tall. It has a frame that is both compact and muscular with a deep chest. Its have moderate webs and its feet are compact, firm and oval shaped. Dewclaws can be removed. Its tail is thick at the base and then tapers as it goes to the tip. It hangs down when the dog is still and then it lifts it up when it is moving. The tail has a lot of fur with long hairs at the base and under the tail. It has a double coat, the under coat is downy soft and thick. The outer is more coarse and the hair is medium-length and close to the body. Common colors are gold, honey, brown, tan, red with black markings. Some have markings around the belly, chest, throat, toes, muzzle and cheek.

The Chinook has a rectangular shaped head and the skin on it is tight. It has a strong muzzle, wide and large black nostrils and black lips too. Its medium sized eyes are almond shaped and can be dark brown or amber. Its ears drop but it can prick them up.

The Inner Chinook


Chinooks can be good watchdogs as they are alert and will bark to let you know if there is someone approaching or someone trying to break into the home. Some can have some protective instincts so it can act to protect you and the home too, but not all. It is not at all a good dog for new owners though, it really is a dog for experienced dog owners. It is a strong dog but it is usually quite mellow, gentle and sweet. It is very intelligent and it is also very sensitive so it will not be happy in homes where people shout at each other, or at it.

This is a very loyal dog and it is a very responsive dog with the right owners. They vary widely in terms of barking, some are quite quiet and some will vocalize at everything. There may be need to control the barking on command in some cases. It is a hard working breed so to be happy needs either a job to do or regular daily stimulation. It is a friendly dog, very willing and not aggressive. With strangers it can be reserved and it can like that too with surroundings it is not familiar with. Socialization therefore is very important.

The Chinook is a pack animal and needs to be with the family and part of any activity. With them it is affectionate and a mix of playful, lively and dependable and sensible. It does not like to be left alone at all but its company does not have to be you all the time, it would be happy with other dogs. If it feels lonely or bored it becomes destructive and difficult. It is also important to be aware that this breed is slow to mature so can be very puppy like even when physically fully grown.

Living with a Chinook

What will training look like?

Training a Chinook is easy as it is eager to please and intelligent and listens to commands. But it does take a firmness and consistency. With experience a trainer can train it even quicker than many other breeds as it needs less repetition before it understands something. Some Chinooks are more independent minded than others, and you may find females tend to more so than males. This means sometimes you might run into them being stubborn or trying to get their own way. As long as you are aware of this you can overcome it. Offer it encouragement and praise and use treats as a way to motivate but be strong not passive so it knows you are the pack leader at all times.

Another important part of its training is to make sure it is well socialized from a very young age, really it is something to start as soon as you have it home. Because it is naturally shy or reserved it needs to experience different people, places, animals, sounds and so on so that it can adjust to them. This will prevent it from being scared or suspicious or even from being too submissive.

How active is the Chinook?

This is not a dog that is suited for apartment living, it needs space and a yard of at least average size for it to play in. It is a digger though so be ready to allow it some space where it is allowed to, or it will just dig where it wants. It is a fairly active dog so will need active owners happy to commit to daily physical exercise, play time and ready to give it chances at mental stimulation. As well as a couple of good brisk walks a day totaling 30 to 60 minutes a day it would enjoy going to a dog park to play and run safely off leash and socialize. It could also easily join you for jogs, hikes, runs, cycling and such. If your dog is acting out being rambunctious and difficult it is possible it is bored or under exercised.

Caring for the Chinook

Grooming needs

There will be a moderate amount of grooming needed when owning a Chinook. Some trimming will be needed and it will need brushing regularly to keep it cleaner and tangle free. Some find this dog sheds only a little but most find it is a heavier amount. There is seasonal shedding twice a year too that is very heavy too. Be prepared for hair around the home and to have to vacuum it up daily. This is not a hypoallergenic breed so avoid if you or someone in the house has allergies. Only bathe it very infrequently, some even keep it to every 6 months to avoid drying out its skin.

Its ears should be checked for signs of infection once a week, look for redness, swelling, sensitivity and a bad odor. If all clear you can give them a clean which is done not by inserting anything into it but by wiping it using a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball, or a warm damp cloth. Its teeth should be brushed two to three times a week and its nails will need clipping when they get too long. This should be done with proper dog nail clippers and can be done by owners but care should be taken, do not cut into the quick of the nail. This is where there are nerves and blood vessels so you cut ir nick there and there will be pain and bleeding. Have a groomer do it for you or the vet, or have the vet show you.

Feeding Time

How much a Chinook will need to eat depends on its size, metabolism, activity level, build and even health and age. It averages at 3 to 4½ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals at least to prevent problems with bloat. Be aware that some Chinooks who are more independent can have great problems solving skills and will learn how to access things like cupboards so make sure food is out of reach.

How is the Chinook with children and other animals?

When around children Chinooks are friendly, affectionate, gentle and playful when it has been raised with it and when it has received socialization. If it has not had any socialization and is not used to children than there needs to be a careful process of introductions so it can adjust to them in its own time, though usually even Chinooks that are not used to kids are pretty good with them still. Their gentleness means they can even be safe with younger children though supervision may be needed if your Chinook is on the larger end as it might knock them down by accident. Make sure children are always taught how to approach dogs, how to be kind when petting and that there are some things dogs do not like. As the Chinook is a pack dog it would like having other dogs around and is good with them in other situations like at dog parks. It can get along well with other pets especially if it has been raised with them, but it does like to chase rodents and strange cats that might visit its yard.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of a Chinook is around 12 to 15 years. It is considered to be a healthy breed in general but there are some issues that can come up which include eye problems, hip dysplasia, skin problems, epilepsy, cryptorchidism and gastrointestinal issues.

Biting Statistics

Reports that address attacks against people by dogs over 35 years in both the US and Canada, do not mention the Chinook in any of them. This is not an aggressive dog and with proper training and socialization can be taken out with no fear. However that does not mean it would never over react to something, never be startled and react in defense, it is also possible for any dog no matter its breed or size to have an off day. Make sure when you are choosing a breed that it is one you can meet its needs and with the right care and home there is less chance something might happen.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The average cost of a Chinook puppy is around $1000 though it can be more. That price is for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder, and something of show quality from a top breeder is going to cost a lot more and have longer waiting lists too. This is a rare breed still so be prepared for what that means and try to avoid buying from backyard breeders, puppy mills or pet stores as there can be a lot of issues with these lines with health and temperament. These are also not places known to treat their animals well, at best you will have ignorant breeding and at their worst you do not want to be funding that kind of place. Uncommon breeds are not as likely to be found in shelters or rescues, though mixes of them are possible. Prices for these dogs are less, at $50 to $400 plus you have the joy of giving a dog the second chance it has been waiting for.

When you have your dog or puppy you will need to get some things for it at home, like collar and leash, crate, carrier, bowls and bedding and so on. These initial costs will be about $200. You also need to take to a vet as soon as possible to have it checked over, and to have some tests and things done like deworming, shots, spaying or neutering, blood tests and micro chipping. These will cost about $180.

Annual costs are another factor in being a responsible pet owner, if you want a dog you need to be able to afford to care for it. Feeding a Chinook should be done using a good or better quality dry dog food. There are less fillers and more nutrients in the better quality brands so your dog will be full on the good stuff and will be healthier too. Food and dog treats will cost around $260 a year. Then there are medical needs, pet insurance or emergency savings for accidents and long term ailments, and then basic care like flea and tick prevention, checkups and shots are going to be at least $485 a year. Finally miscellaneous costs for things like toys, license, basic training and miscellaneous items come to about $235 a year. This gives a starting figure of $980 a year, but depending on your choices of brands, its health and other factors that could go up.


Looking for a Chinook Name? Let select one from our list!

The Chinook is not an easy to find dog, you will probably have to wait and you will certainly be paying more rather than less for one. It needs active owners and ones who are experienced and comfortable with being firm around it. It also can be heavy shedder so daily brushing may be needed and there will be hair around the home and even on clothing. If you are prepared for that this could be a great family pet, it is a dedicated, loyal, sweet and gentle dog.

Featured Image Credit: Igor Plotnikov, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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