Created in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Chinook dog breed made its name on Admiral Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition in 1928. These days they’re multipurpose dogs who are happy hiking, competing in agility and other dog sports, pulling a sled or other conveyance, and playing with the kids.
Even though these are purebred dogs, you may find them in the care of shelters or rescue groups. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if you want to bring a dog home.
Chinooks are generally sensitive and gentle dogs with a pleasant demeanor. They’re exceptionally smart and loving with their family members, including kids and other dogs. Novice pet parents should beware, though, because these dogs need experienced, consistent training. Although they can adapt to apartment life, these dogs would prefer homes with big yards to run around — and those yards need to be secure. Chinooks are diggers, so make sure your yard’s fence is tough and capable of preventing Houdini-like escape attempts.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:21 to 27 inches tall at the shoulderWeight:55 to 70 poundsLife Span:12 to 15 years
More About This Breed
It all started with a cross between a farm dog and a husky on Arthur Walden’s New Hampshire farm. The litter of tawny puppies, born on January 17, 1917, included a male who grew up to be big-boned, flop-eared, and handsome, with a gentle nature. He was named Chinook, and he fathered puppies who bore his stamp.
Since then, the breed that bears his name has had its ups and downs. It has come close to disappearing several times, but someone has always stepped in to rescue it from the brink of extinction.
That’s not surprising when you consider that inside the Chinook’s plain brown wrapper is heart, strength, intelligence, and a mellow sweetness.
The Chinook was bred for his pulling ability and stamina. Today, his expedition days are behind him and he’s considered the consummate companion: loving, athletic, and versatile. He’s a great choice if you want a jogging or hiking companion; not so much if you’re looking for a retriever or water dog.
And look elsewhere if you want a guard or watchdog. Still, even though he’s not aggressive, his size may be enough to ward off anyone scary.
Chinooks are easy to groom, but they shed heavily twice a year, with light to moderate shedding the rest of the time. Avoid them if you’re looking for a dog that might be hypoallergenic. The Chinook is not it.
True to their sled dog heritage, some Chinooks can be diggers, excavating a nice spot where they can nap. This is an inborn behavior, so be prepared for your yard to have a cratered appearance. Try getting around it by giving a Chinook his own special place to dig.
A Chinook’s vocabulary ranges from silence to woo-woos to excited whining. You may get a quiet one, but more often than not your Chinook will happily share his opinion with you about the day’s goings-on.
The Chinook is a rare breed, and you won’t find one just anywhere. Expect to wait as long as six months to two years before a puppy is available, especially if you have your heart set on a particular sex or ear type (floppy or prick ear). Prices generally range from $650 to $1,500.
- Chinooks have a gentle, even temperament and are rarely shy or aggressive.
- Chinooks should live indoors with their people, preferably in a home where they have access to a safely fenced yard.
- Chinooks can be diggers.
- Chinooks need 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise. They enjoy hiking, jogging, and pulling, whether what’s behind them is a sled, wagon, or person on skis or skates.
- Chinooks are smart and learn quickly, but if you’re not consistent in what you ask of them, they’ll take advantage of you.
- Chinooks are not barkers but can be talkative, whining and “woo-wooing” to express their opinions.
- Chinooks have thick coats and shed heavily twice a year; the rest of the year they shed small amounts daily.
- Chinooks need daily brushing to keep their coats clean, but baths are rarely necessary.
- Chinooks love kids when they’re raised with them, but can be reserved with them otherwise.
- Never buy a Chinook from a puppy broker or pet store. Reputable breeders do not sell to middlemen or retailers, and there are no guarantees as to whether the puppy had healthy parents. Reputable breeders perform various health tests to ensure that their breeding dogs don’t pass on a predisposition to genetic diseases.
- Interview breeders thoroughly, and make sure the puppy’s parents have been screened for genetic diseases pertinent to that breed. Ask breeders about the health issues they’ve encountered in their dogs, and don’t believe a breeder who claims that her dogs never have any health problems. Ask for references so you can contact other puppy buyers to see if they’re happy with their Chinook. Doing your homework may save you a lot of heartbreak later.
When Arthur Walden bred a farm dog with a husky on his Wonalancet, New Hampshire farm, he little knew that the result would be a legendary line of sled dogs.
Walden, who had been a dog driver in Alaska for a time, brought the sport of sled dog racing to New England. One of the puppies from the aforementioned litter, named Chinook after the warm winds that melt Alaska snows, stood out for his good looks, temperament, and working ability, and his puppies followed in his footprints.
When Admiral Byrd was planning his expedition to Antarctica in 1928, he called on Walden and his Chinook dogs for transport. The original Chinook was part of the team.
The Byrd expedition was a success, with one terrible exception: Chinook, 12 years old by then, wandered off and was never found. In the famous sled dog’s honor, the name Chinook Trail was given to a portion of Route 113A that led to Chinook’s hometown in New Hampshire.
Walden retired after his adventures in Antarctica and passed on the job of taking care of the breed to Milton and Eva Seeley and Julia Lombard. Then Perry and Honey Greene took over, eventually becoming the only people to breed the dogs.
Over time, based on their falling numbers, the Chinooks earned the dubious title of world’s rarest breed, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. At one point, only 28 of the dogs remained, and it was then, in 1981, that several people began the attempt to save the breed. They included Neil and Marra Wollpert, Kathy Adams, and Peter Abrahams.
They were successful, but Chinooks are still hard to find. They’re recognized by the United Kennel Club and are in the process of seeking recognition by the American Kennel Club.
Males stand 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh an average of 70 pounds. Females stand 21 to 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh an average of 55 pounds.
The Chinook’s temperament is described as calm, eager to please, and friendly. That said, he’s not necessarily a hail fellow well met kind of dog. He can be dignified and reserved with people he doesn’t know. Females are more likely than males to be independent thinkers.
As with every dog, Chinooks need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Another way to help him polish his social skills is to invite visitors over regularly, and take him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors.
Chinooks are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all Chinooks will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog’s been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Chinooks, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or PennHIP for hips, as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that the eyes are normal.
Because some health problems don’t appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren’t issued to dogs younger than two years old. Look for a breeder who doesn’t breed her dogs until they’re two or three years old. Health problems seen in this breed include hip dysplasia, cataracts, seizures, skin and coat problems, and gastrointestinal issues.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint, potentially causing pain and lameness in one or both rear legs. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Cataracts: A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye that causes difficulty in seeing. Cataracts usually, but not always, occur in old age and can sometimes be surgically removed to improve the dog’s vision.
- Seizures: Chinooks have been known to suffer different types of seizures, and research on the problem is being conducted at the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine. Seizures, which often don’t begin until late in life, can sometimes be controlled with medication, but they cannot be cured. Chinooks who have seizures should not be bred.
- Skin and coat: Some Chinooks can develop dry, itchy skin or hot spots.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Some Chinooks may develop chronic gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.
Chinooks love their people and won’t be happy living outdoors away from them. They’re adaptable to most homes as long as their exercise needs are met.
These active dogs need half an hour to an hour of daily exercise in the form of long walks and opportunities to run in large, safely enclosed areas. Underground electronic fencing is not recommended for this breed since Chinooks are so determined to get where they want to they’ll ignore any shocks.
Train the intelligent and sensitive Chinook with positive reinforcement techniques. He’ll learn quickly if you’re consistent in your expectations. Even more ideal is to work with a trainer to learn how to redirect unwanted behaviors and reward the behaviors you like.
Housetraining shouldn’t be a problem as long as you make it a positive experience and provide your pup with a regular potty schedule and plenty of opportunities to go outside. Crate training is a wonderful tool for housetraining and keeping your young puppy from chewing things he shouldn’t.
Recommended daily amount: 3 1/8 to 4 5/8 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog.
The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.
Keep your Chinook in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Chinook, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
The double-coated Chinook has medium length hair with a thick, soft undercoat and a coarse outer coat. Chinooks who live in warm climates tend to have coats that are less dense than those of Chinooks in colder environments.
The Chinook’s tawny coat ranges from light honey to reddish-gold. The dogs may have black markings on the inside corners of the eyes and dark tawny to black markings on the ears and muzzle. Outer hairs on the tail are sometimes black. Some Chinooks have buff markings on the cheeks, muzzle, throat, chest, breeches, toes, and belly.
Daily brushing keeps the Chinook clean and the shedding under control. Be sure to brush all the way down to the skin. The Chinook rarely needs more than a bath or two a year.
Trim the thick, fast-growing nails weekly, and brush the teeth at least two or three times a week. Daily is better if you want to prevent periodontal disease and bad breath.
Grooming provides you with an excellent opportunity to bond with your dog and to check his overall health. As you brush the coat or teeth, clean his ears and look for sores or other signs of irritation such as redness on the skin, mouth, feet, and ears. Eyes should be free of redness or discharge.
Begin getting your Chinook used to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears.
Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
Children And Other Pets
A gentle and friendly Chinook can be a kid’s best friend if they’re brought up together. If your Chinook hasn’t been socialized with kids, introduce the two slowly and calmly so the Chinook can become accustomed to the child at his own speed.
Regardless, always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any ear biting or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Because he was created to be a sled dog, the Chinook is a good team worker and usually gets along with other animals, cats included, but early socialization to other pets is still important. Males who haven’t been neutered may be aggressive toward other males, especially unneutered males.
Sometimes Chinooks are acquired without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Contact rescue organizations for more information about available dogs and adoption requirements.
- Chinook Dogs Rescue
- Great Mountain Chinooks