Chinook dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Chinook breed gets its name from the first puppy emerged from a husky-farm dog breeding. The breeder needed an enhanced sled dog with a gentle temper, which could work consistently in a group and be very loyal to his owner as well.

Today’s Chinooks are mainly kept as family pets and are happy hiking and jogging companions. They may also work in search and rescue or compete in a wide range of trials, like agility, obedience and other dog sports.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Working Dogs
Height:1 foot, 9 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:55 to 70 pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

The Chinook is still a rare dog breed, given the fact that by the end of the 20th century, it became nearly extinct, and breeding programs nowadays only return about 100 puppies each year. This task is even more difficult, as genetic diseases have to be bred out, so the limited breeding stock is reduced even more.

Though, there is hope, as these intelligent dogs are gaining increasing popularity as family pets, as well as various jobs. This is because the Chinook is a versatile dog, very easy to train, and with a lovely personality. It is a very alert, but calm dog, and would not leave his owner for any reason.

Although Chinooks are very versatile, they still aren’t fit for quite any job. Avoid them if you need a retriever or a water dog, and although they are alert and may be talkative, they aren’t good as watch or guard dogs. They rarely bark, but would «woo-woo» instead as an answer to what you are saying.

It may be difficult to find a puppy because individuals from this breed are rare. You may have to wait between six months and two years to get your desired dog. Of course, prices are also pretty high, ranging from $650 to $1500, depending on the sex, type or lineage. Always make sure you get your puppy from a responsible breeder, who can show you the genetic clearance of his parents. This way, you can help perpetuate healthy Chinooks and breed out the bad genes.

Main Highlights
  • Chinooks are very well-tempered and are gentle and patient even with children they have been raised with. They are rarely aggressive or shy, but may be reserved if they are not used to kids;
  • They are very active and energetic and need 30 to 60 minutes of intense daily exercise. Keep them busy with outdoor activities like jogging or hiking, or by giving them a job, like pulling a wagon, sled or anything that moves and can be pulled. If it’s fun, that’s even better. If left alone with nothing to do for a long time, a Chinook may start digging randomly in your yard;
  • They are very attached to their family and have to be allowed indoors with humans. Of course, they also need to have access to a well-fenced yard to release some of the energy;
  • Chinooks may be a little noisy, but are not necessarily barkers. They are rather talkative, expressing their opinions by “woo-wooing” or whining;
  •  These dogs are very smart and easy to train, but training needs to be very consistent. You must be very sure about what you ask them to do, or they would take advantage of your weakness;
  • Their coat is very thick and would shed twice a year heavily. During the rest of the time, it would shed small amounts daily, so regular daily brushing is a must to remove dead hair. One or two baths a year is more than enough, unless they get really dirty at some point.
Breed History

The Chinook is a pretty young dog breed, being only 100 years old and became almost extinct by 1981. It all began when dog driver Arthur Walden wanted to breed a new, stronger sled dog, so he bred a mastiff-like farm dog with a husky on his farm in New Hampshire. In 1917, his first puppy with the desired outcome was born, and he named him “Chinook”. He soon became Walden’s lead dog and the main reproducer for the emerging breed.

Later, Chinook was also bred with German Shepherd dogs, Belgian Shepherd dogs and Canadian Eskimo dogs to define the breed traits. Puppies that bared the desired temperament and abilities were then bred back to Chinook and so the Chinook breed was finally defined.

By 1928, when Admiral Byrd planned his Arctic expedition, the breed was already becoming popular and he invited Walden and his dogs to take part in it. Chinook, aged 12, was the lead dog, but he got lost and was never found.

A while after the expedition, Walden retired and passed on the mission of taking care of the breed to Julia Lombard and Eva and Milton Seeley, and from them to Perry Greene by the late 1940’s. Greene continued breeding Chinook dogs until his death in 1963.

The Chinook population began to decrease, as Greene was the only breeder of his time, so by 1981 there were only eleven surviving dogs and the breed was considered the rarest, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Several people then began a breeding program to save the breed, of which the most notable were Kathy Adams, Peter Abrahams and Neil and Marra Wollpert. They finally managed to save it, but Chinooks are still hard to find nowadays.

In 1991 the Chinook breed became recognized by the UKC and breeding programs are still running today, as the registered world population is of about 800 dogs, and only an average of 100 puppies are born each year.


Chinooks are large breed dogs, with males standing between 23 – 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing an average of 70 lb, while females are a bit smaller, measuring about 21 – 25 inches at the shoulder and only weigh about 55 lb.

Personality and Character

The Chinook is a dedicated working dog, with a very gentle temper and non-aggressive behavior. He is always very friendly and willing to please, and is usually trained to work in groups, so aggression towards other dogs is usually out of the question. This doesn’t mean, though, that he should not be well-socialized as a puppy. It’s just easier with a Chinook than with other breeds. Without proper socializing, Chinooks may become reserved towards people and dogs they don’t know.

This is a very good watchdog, as it is very alert.

They are very strong and active dogs that should be given a constant job, like pulling a sled or wagon, search and rescue or packing, as they need to be kept busy and release all the energy. A bored Chinook would find himself ways of entertaining that you may not be very fond of, like digging or chewing things.

Chinooks are dignified dogs, despite their gentle personality, and have a mind of their own, so training should be very firm and consistent, yet you need to show them respect. You need to use positive training to get the best results, as shaming the dog could have awful consequences. These dogs are not very suitable for novice owners, and females, rather than males, are usually more likely to be independent thinkers.

Health and Potential Problems

Most Chinooks  are very healthy during their entire life, but there are a few inherited conditions and illnesses a dog of this breed may be prone to. They are hardy and few dogs ever fall ill, still you need to consider these issues when bringing a Chinook puppy home:

  • Cataracts: are usually noticed as the eyes get a cloudy appearance. This is an opacity on the lens of the eye, which makes it difficult for the dog to see. This condition usually appears in old dogs, but sometimes it can be removed surgically to improve his vision;
  • Hip Dysplasia: usually affecting larger breeds, hip dysplasia may also appear in smaller ones. This is a hereditary condition, but it may worsen over time by a series of environmental factors, like rapid growth, jumping or falling from higher places. This condition may not be very obvious, so X-ray screening may be necessary to track it. Arthritis may develop as a dog with this condition ages, so keep a close eye on his joints, especially if you know his parents were also affected;
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: some chronical gastrointestinal issues are common in this breed, like constipation, diarrhea or vomiting;
  • Cryptorchidism: one or both testicles fail to descend into the dog’s scrotum, which should normally happen by the time the puppy reaches two months old. Retained testicles are usually nonfunctional and should be surgically removed, otherwise they may become cancerous;
  • Epilepsy: these dogs may be prone to epilepsy, a disorder that may cause seizures. It is incurable, though it may be kept under control with adequate medication;
  • Seizures: different types of seizures are common in this breed, but they only emerge in later life. They can be kept under control with proper medication, but cannot be cured completely. Make sure your puppy’s parents have genetic clearance for this health issue, as it is inherited and affected dogs should never be bred.

Always make sure your puppy’s parents and better yet, grandparents, have already been tested for any genetic disease they may have. A responsible breeder should always have screening test results available for you to check out and will never breed any dog just to make some profit off of him.

Care Features

Chinooks are active dogs, but are also very loyal, so they would always stay by your side regardless of how much space they are given. This is why a large yard or ranch is not compulsory for keeping a Chinook, but they still need intense daily exercise to get rid of all the energy and keep their mind busy. So, they can also be kept in a small home or an apartment, as long as their exercise needs are met.

Being so attached to their family, Chinooks would get very sad if left alone for a long time, and may even develop separation anxiety. Also, a bored Chinook dog would find himself something to do, so you may find your home almost literally upside down or your lovely flower garden all dug up.

These dogs are usually healthy, with little concern of imminent disease but you still need to make sure your puppy’s parents were healthy and screened for any genetic disease a Chinook may have.

Feeding Schedule

You can save a lot of money by feeding your dog high-quality food that suits his particular needs. Energetic dogs, especially those from working lines, need a high-calorie diet, to help them keep up with their activities. Feeding an adequate diet will prevent them from developing food-related health issues like obesity (which is not a serious threat in this breed, though), allergies, hot spots, etc.

The recommended dry food amount for a Chinook adult is about 3 1/8 to 4 5/8 cups per day, but you might have to adjust it according to your dog’s needs. For example, a dog that needs to lose weight should be fed less than 3 1/8 cups per day, to decrease the calorie intake. Always read the feeding instructions on the food package, as each food brand has its own concentration.

Females that are pregnant in late stages or breastfeeding should be given as much food as they want, to allow for proper development of the puppies and to make sure they have enough milk. Puppy kibble or wet food is best for them during this time, as it holds more nutrients than regular adult food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Chinooks have very dense coats, that shed heavily twice a year, but keep shedding moderately throughout the rest of the time, so daily brushing is a must to remove dead hair and prevent matting. Originating in cold areas, they are not suited for tropical regions, although dogs living in temperate climates are known to have less dense coats. Bathing more than once or twice a year is not usually necessary although they may need a thorough wash whenever they get really dirty.

Coloration may vary from light honey to reddish gold. Some dogs may display buff markings on the throat, muzzle, cheeks, breeches, chest, belly or toes, and some may have dark markings on the ears and muzzle, as well as the inner corners of their eyes.

Teeth should be brushed at least two or three times a week to prevent bacteria and tartar and to avoid gum disease. Trim his nails as needed, usually once or twice per month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally. Usually, you can guess the time to trim them when you hear them clicking on the floor as your dog walks by the house.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Most Chinooks tolerate children very well, even if they didn’t grow up together. Even rough children are ok for them, as these are very patient dogs and won’t get disturbed so easy.

Always supervise young children while playing with the dog to avoid accidental biting because of kids pulling their tails, paws and ears, especially in very young dogs. Teach them never to touch a dog while sleeping or eating, and especially not take away his food, no matter how good friends they usually are. Food is food and dogs never bargain about it!

They also get along very well with other dogs, as Chinooks were initially bred to work in groups. They do need early socialization, but the worse they would usually do is to be reserved towards dogs they haven’t met yet. Very few specimens would act aggressively, but this is never the rule with this breed. Though, unneutered males that are kept together may display signs of aggression.

Chinooks would get along with cats they have been raised with, but socializing puppies from a young age should still not be neglected if you want to be sure they would feel at ease in the company of other pets and people.

These are wonderful dogs, which would definitely become your best friend if you give them the time and attention they need. Always respect them, as they are very dignified, and never try to educate them by shaming. Be very consistent with your dog’s training and be a firm pack leader, to avoid him taking over. Chinooks really have a mind of their own and would always use it whenever they sense their owner is meek.

So, you think you would qualify as a Chinook’s best friend? Do you have the necessary experience for raising such a lovely dog?

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.