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Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Utonagan is a large to giant sized dog working its way towards purebred status bred in England. It was bred to look like a wolf and was originally sold as a wolfdog but in fact there is no wolf in this dog. The fierce wolf looks are also completely misleading as this dog is actually loving, gentle, loyal and makes a great family companion though handles better when owners have some experience. It is also called a Northern Inuit Dog, Wolfdog and Twatha Utonagan and has a life span of 12 to 15 years.
The Utonagan at a Glance
Name Utonagan
Other names Northern Inuit Dog, Twatha Utonagan, Wolfdog
Nicknames Ute
Origin England
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 55 to 110 pounds
Average height 23 to 30 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short or long, thick, straight
Hypoallergenic No
Color Grey, white, black, red
Popularity Not recognized by the AKC
Intelligence Very good
Tolerance to heat Moderate – make sure it does not over heat
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Above average and continuous with heavy blow outs too during seasonal times
Drooling Moderate
Obesity Above average – be sure not to over feed by measuring food and making sure it gets daily activity
Grooming/brushing Average to above average – brush twice a week usually but daily is needed during the heavier times
Barking Occasional
Exercise needs High – active breed that needs active owners
Trainability Moderately easy with experienced handling
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization as sees them as prey
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization as can be wary
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, eye problems, Addison’s disease and von Willebrand’s disease
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care needs and dog insurance
Food expenses $260 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $675 a year for grooming, miscellaneous items, toys, basic training and license
Average annual expenses $1420 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Utonagan’s Beginnings

The Utonagan was first developed in the UK in the 1980s by a breeder called Edwina Harrison, who originally called the dog the Northern Inuit Dog. The dog was created by crossing 5 mixed breed dogs she got from a rescue in America, so their background and origin is not known. They included the German Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamutes. Harrison wanted a dog that was wolf like in appearance but actually with a great temperament, sweet, gentle and loving. It is meant to be a companion mainly, not a working dog like its forebears. While at first Harrison described the dog as a wolf hybrid there is in fact no wolf in the mix. The name Utonagan is Chinook Indian for ‘spirit of the wolf’.

In 1998 the NIS was formed (Northern Inuit Society) to help with the development of the dog. Between 1998 and 2002 it had split into two groups, one still the NIS and the other the NISGB or Northern Inuit Society of Great Britain and two dogs started to evolve, the former’s developed into the Utonagan and the latter stayed with the name the Northern Inuit Dog. The Northern Inuit Society changed its name too to The Utonagan Society. When this happened the NISGB dropped the GB off its name and became the NIS again.

In 2003 the Utonagan Society again became divided and split into two, one stayed with the original name and the other became the British and International Utonagan Society and then later changed it again in 2006 to the Tamaskan Society and changed the name of their dog to Tamaskan. Unfortunately also in 2006 there was some controversy as an unscrupulous breeder started the Utonagan Dog Club after being kicked out from the Utonagan Society for breaking breeding rules. Later she was charged and convicted of various animal crimes and for a two year period was not allowed to own any.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully that club started to fall apart in 2007 as decent breeders removed themselves from being associated with her. They formed the Utonagan Association which closely mirrors the original club the Utonagan Society. The focus is again on improving the dog’s health and promotion. While progress is being made on this it is not yet recognized by any major kennel club in England or elsewhere including the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Utonagan is large to giant sized dog weighing 55 to 110 pounds and standing 23 to 30 inches tall. Males are larger than females usually and it has physical shape that has a lot of German Shepherd in it being lean, strong but larger though they should not be heavy. It has a long and strong neck going into a streamed chest. It has a long rectangular shaped body that has a topline that is quite level. It has strong legs, the front are long and straight and the back powerful. The tail is bushy but not feathered and hangs down when it is relaxed and straight and high when it is alert. It has webbed paws, the front ones are oval and large and the back ones are smaller.

Its coat can be medium length or longer and is usually double with a dense and soft undercoat and straight, smooth outer coat. The longer coated dogs may have some feathering but too much is not desirable. Common colors are grey, tan, browns, black, apricot and white. Its head is in proportion to the rest of it and should not be too broad or domed. The muzzle is a little longer than its skull and the nose is black as are the tight lips. It has almond shaped eyes that can be amber, yellow or ranges of brown, they should not be blue. Its ears are small and the tip is rounded and they are set well apart. There is a well defined mask on its face.

The Inner Utonagan


The Utonagan when bred well should be loving, loyal, gentle and a great family dog with the right owners. It loves to be around people, it is a friendly and social dog but with strangers it is wary and socialization is very important to make sure it does not turn to suspicion. It is happiest when it is with its family, being included with family activities and being given lots of attention. It does not like being left alone at all and can suffer from separation anxiety. It is a versatile dog and should be even tempered. However if it does not get enough time outside with mental an physical challenge it becomes difficult and destructive.

As this dog can have a dominant nature it is best with experienced owners who are able to make it clear they are the leaders not it. The Utonagan was not developed to be a working dog and is not a guard dog. It is alert though and will bark to let you know of an intruder. It is an intelligent dog and enthusiastic though so should you want to train it for a task, in some cases that can be done. Some do howl and its barking is occasional.

Living with a Utonagan

What will training look like?

The Utonagan is moderately easy to train for people with experience but would be a bit harder for those without it. It is a dominant dog and needs owners to be firm and consistent and confident about being in charge. It needs to know you are at the tip of the pecking order and it is below all the humans in the home. Training should be kept fun and made interesting. More shorter sessions over fewer longer ones is always a better approach. Some can be stubborn and the approach should be kept positive. Training and socialization should be started when it is a young age so it learns acceptable ways to deal and react to different animals, people, places, situations, sounds and such.

How active is the Utonagan?

The Utonagan is a very active dog though it is not being developed to be a working dog it still needs an active owner and a good amount of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Owners need to be happy to take it for two long and brisk walks a day and play with it too. It would also enjoy regular time somewhere safe to run off leash. A dog park is a good option, it is also somewhere you can play with it and it can socialize with other dogs. It would also enjoy joining you for hikes, runs, bike rides and so on. If it does not get enough mental activity and physical it can become bored, poorly behaved, destructive and hard to live with. It is not a dog suited to apartment living it needs space and a yard. Make sure that the yard has a high fence or it will get out! Its thick heavy coat means it is also best suited to climates that are cooler.

Caring for the Utonagan

Grooming needs

Taking care of the Utonagan does take some commitment as it does shed constantly and then has heavier seasonal shedding too. Brush at least twice a week or daily if needed and expect to have to clean up pet hair around the home regularly. Avoid bathing with a proper dog shampoo by a schedule. Only give it a proper bath when it really needs one as it can dry out the natural oils it needs.

Other grooming needs include taking care of its nails, ears and teeth. The teeth should be kept clean to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Use a dog toothpaste and toothbrush and clean then at least every other day. Check its ears for infection signs like a bad smell, excess wax, redness and such. If they are fine then give them a wipe clean with a cloth that is damp or with ear cleanser solution. There is no need to push anything into the ears, that could do real damage and hurt them. Then the nails should be clipped when they become too long using canine clippers or scissors. Again take care and learn how to do it properly as half way down are nerves and blood vessels. If you were to cut into them it would cause your dog pain and make it bleed.

Feeding Time

Feed the Utonagan somewhere between 4 to 6 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, and make sure that is in at least two meals. How much it needs exactly will depend on its size, age, metabolism and level of activity. It does like to eat and can easily gain weight so watch how much it eats including treats. Also make sure it has water at all times.

How is the Utonagan with children and other animals?

Utonagans are actually very good with children with socialization and then of course being raised with them too. It is large though so when it is being playful or more energetic and large it can knock over accidentally smaller children. Supervision is therefore a good idea and always teach children how to properly touch and play nicely. As they do have a high prey drive when it comes to other smaller non-canine pets socialization is needed and it may still want to chase small strange animals outside. It generally gets on well with other dogs too, an important part of this dogs development is to remove issues of aggression including that with other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Utonagans live for 12 to 15 years and is fairly healthy but a few issues can include eye problems, joint dysplasia, Von Willebrands, cancer and Addison’s disease.

Biting Statistics

When looking at dog attack reports over the last 35 years against people in Canada and the US the Utonagan is not mentioned but it is a very uncommon dog in those places. Some dogs can be more aggressive than others, and some are built in such a way that any attack can do serious harm. However with this dog aggression is being focused on to remove it so there is less chance of any incident with it. Give it the socialization and training it needs, make sure it is well exercised and stimulated and give it the attention it needs too. While no dog is 100% safe at all times you can help reduce the chances of something happening.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Utonagan is not a common dog and is not one recognized yet as a purebred. There are a few breeders but not all are trustworthy so make sure you do some research. The price of it fluctuates but expect something starting at the $1000 mark. Take care with where you buy from and avoid backyard breeders, pet stores or puppy mills. Mixed dogs are numerous at shelters and rescues so if you are open to them they make a great companion for adoption fees starting at $50 going to around $400.

When you have found a breeder you are happy with there are some things to get for the dog for when it comes home. You will need a crate, bowls, bedding, leash and collar for it and possibly some other things and these costs are start at about $200. When the puppy is with you, you will need to have it examined, have blood tests, be dewormed, vaccinated, micro chipped and spayed or neutered for another starting cost of $190.

There are also yearly costs to be aware of. A good quality dry dog food and treats for your new friend are going to be at least $260 a year. Basic medical and health needs like vaccinations, tick and flea prevention, pet insurance and check ups come to about $485 a year. Other costs like grooming, license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous items are about $675 a year. This is an annual cost of $1420 as a starting figure for owning a Utonagan.


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

There is a lot the Utonagan has to offer the right home and owners but its development is still ongoing and there has been a lot of upheaval and conflict in its breed club so take your time and do some homework. The goals of the breeders are great, a large breed to be a family dog with no aggression, but since it is still being developed it may not be complete there. It is usually a loyal and loving breed but it is dominant and does best with experienced owners who are also active.

Featured Image Credit: Binson Calfort, 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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