Who can deny the wild and majestic appearance of the Northern Inuit dog? If you’re seeking a large, strong, wild-looking dog that is also friendly and protective, this breed may be just the companion for you.
Since the very first Northern Inuit puppy was born in the 1980’s, this dog breed has been loved and sought after by many canine enthusiasts. The breed has gained even more popularity in recent years, particularly in the United States, due to the cult following of the HBO show Game Of Thrones, in which several Norther Inuit puppies and adult dogs were used. One of the most famous of the dogs used in the show played the direwolf character called Nymera. In 2018, the Starz show Outlander added a wolf-cross dog character, Rolo, which is also played by a Northern Inuit dog.
So, where did this gorgeous animal come from?
History Of The Northern Inuit Dog
Although there are two fairly common origin stories for the breed, the most carefully documented version of the bloodline says that the first NI dogs were bred in the United Kingdom in the late 1980’s by Eddie Harrison.
Several large dog breeds were used in the initial bloodline of the NI dog including the German Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute. The crossbreed was created in hopes of breeding a domestic dog with a wolf-like appearance.
While these dogs do resemble wolves, and some people still think that they have wolf ancestry, according to The Northern Inuit Society, this breed does not contain any wolf blood. The society states that, while it may be possible that the breed had some wolf ancestry many years ago, “if there ever was it would now be diluted to almost 0%.” Still, the Northern Inuit dog is said by many to more closely resemble prehistoric direwolves than any other dog breed.
Currently, the Northern Inuit dog is bred exclusively by The Northern Inuit Society. Until 2014, it was only bred in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, although puppies have been exported throughout the world for decades.
The breed is not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, nor any other kennel club, but it is still considered by many to be a true breed. As it is exclusively bred by the NIS, and only ever bred true, with no crossbreeding, these dogs still very closely resemble the very first of the breed. The NIS is hoping to eventually receive, and is working towards, official recognition by various kennel clubs.
Types Of Inuit Dogs
Although most documentation almost definitely indicates that the NI dog was first bred from German Shepherd dogs, the Husky and Alaskan Malamutes, the other popular story behind the breed is that it originated in Canada or Greenland from breeds like Canadian Eskimo Dogs, Labrador Huskies and the Samoyed.
When you look at the varying range of coat colors for the breed, it’s easy to see how there could be a connection to other breeds like the Labrador Husky or the Samoyed. However, since the only official breeding organization for the NI dog does not offer any information surrounding this alternative bloodline, it stands to reason that the more prominently told story holds true.
Breed Standards For the Northern Inuit Dogs
Northern Inuit dogs have waterproof, double coats that range in length from 3-5 centimeters. They may show a variety of different coat colors including pure white and various sable mixes. Sables may include shades of gray, black, white and apricot. Mask or cape markings may appear on the faces of any color, aside from the pure whites. A graceful transition to white accents are allowed on the face, chest, legs, underbelly and tip of the tail.
The size and shape of an NI dog is similar to that of a Siberian Husky. According to the NIS, the breed standard is a medium sized, athletic-built dog that may reach anywhere from 23 inches to 30 inches in height.
They have slightly dome shaped heads, flat cheeks and a muzzle of equal length to the head. The nose is typically black, but may have some white. The ears are pointed, wide set and erect on the top of the head.
Some flaws that the NIS lists as potentially disqualifying to the breed include:
curly tails, long or single coats, ink markings and black and tan coloring. Whether or not the flaw disqualifies a dog from being considered true enough to the breed depends on the severity of the specific flaw.
Lifespan And Health Concerns
The NIS lists the typical lifespan of the breed to be between 12 and 15 years. Most of these dogs, although prone to some specific health issues, will live long, healthy and happy lives. Because they are only officially bred by one society, and particular checks for known hereditary problems have to be made with the British Veterinary Association (BVA,) the NI dog is generally considered to be a healthy breed.
However, some health problems that have been known to arise in the breed include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, cryptorchidism and dwarfism. The most common of these issues are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and eye problems like Glaucoma. This is why specific tests are done by the BVA for hip, elbow and eye issues on every dog used in the breeding process.
Most large dogs are known to have a tendency towards hip and elbow dysplasia. While great care is taken in breed selection, owners of NI dogs should still take care when exercising and playing with puppies. Preventing undue stress on their joints can play a big part in prevention, as can ensure that neither puppies nor adult dogs become overweight.
Eye diseases like Glaucoma may be a concern with the breed. However, the cases that have been reported have not been determined as having a hereditary or environmental cause.
These and other health concerns are why it’s so important to get dogs only from reputable breeders.
Typical Temperament Of The Breed
Despite having a wolf-like appearance, and often being sought after as a wolf dog, this breed is known for being friendly, loyal and protective. Their friendliness can make them a very good choice for therapy dogs and family pets. However, while their tendency towards loyalty and protection may seem like great traits for guard dogs, the NIS does not recommend them as such due to their overly friendly and curious natures.
However, they can have some less than ideal personality traits too. Look out for clinginess and separation anxiety in the NI dog, which can lead to poor behavior like destructiveness and excessive whining and loud howling. These problems, however, can be worked on with proper training, daily exercise and regularly scheduled playtime.
They are known to be agile and active, and they can exhibit a medium to high sense of prey drive. While the ancestors of these dogs were mainly not bred as hunting dogs, they do have a strong sense of smell, and they can also be easily distracted by sights and sounds. These traits, along with their general sense of curiosity and friendless, are what tend to typically make them poor guard dogs.
Intelligence And Training For the Breed
The NI dog is quick witted and clever, but he can also be stubborn. This combination of traits, unfortunately, can make for a very challenging training experience, especially for novice owners.
The Northern Inuit Society discourages inexperienced owners from attempting to train the breed. They state that even “people who are experienced with the train-ability of a German Shepherd generally find Northern Inuits more of a challenge.” While the breed is intelligent, and they do like to please their owners, they can become impatient when a trainer is not prepared for the long-haul challenge.
Training your NI dog to walk on a lead, let alone to behave off the lead, will be one of your biggest challenges. Because they have such a strong sense of smell, great hearing, and a prey drive, these dogs are curious about every little sight and sound off the beaten track. Your dog is going to want to chase squirrels and rabbits, meet new humans and dogs and may even show a desire to chase livestock. Early and consistent training is essential to keep your Northern Inuit under control.
The NIS is very clear about how difficult it can be to train this breed, but they do offer the encouraging news that many of these dogs have become registered assistant and therapy dogs, and some have achieved top prizes in the Kennel Club Good Citizen Award Scheme.
Feeding Your Northern Inuit Dog
The NIS reports that some of their dogs tend to have sensitive stomachs. The recommended everyday diet for the breed is a raw food diet or a quality kibble with a high protein content. If you are unsure what kind of dogfood to use, consult with a veterinarian. Many veterinarians sell high quality kibble directly from their offices and can recommend an ideal food for your specific dog.
The recommended calories for your dog will depend in part on the dog’s size, gender, age and other factors. On average, you should expect to feed between 700 and 1300 calories-worth of food. If you are not sure how much dogfood, or how much raw food, to give your Northern Inuit dog, consult your veterinarian.
Raw foods should be generally restricted to meat on the bone, eggs, vegetables and fruits. Large dogs breeds, like the NI dog, should be given large bones, such as those of lamb or beef. Deer, elk and moose bones are also acceptable, if they are available. Smaller animal bones, such as chicken or rabbit bones, can be choking hazards. Table scraps, and other human foods, should not be fed to your NI dog. Sugary foods in particular can be very detrimental to any dog’s health.
Although some sources suggest that cooked bones are safer, since they may be softer, the American Kennel Club does not recommend giving any dog cooked bones. The AKC also suggests that you not give poultry bones to your dogs, as they pose a much higher choking risk than larger bones. Uncooked bones also provide more nutrients, so they are in general simply a wiser option.
The AKC recommends allowing your dog to eat off a raw bone for only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. You can refrigerate the bones in the meantime. They also suggest that bones that are older than three or four days should be disposed of.
Some raw fruits and veggies that your NI dog can eat, as recommended by Pet MD, include asparagus, spinach, green beans, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, blueberries, apples and watermelon.
If at any time you are unsure about the safety of a particular food for your dog, be sure to consult either the breeder or your veterinarian.
Exercise And Playtime For NI Dogs
This breed requires a lot of exercise! They are active, curious dogs, and their exercise requirements may be a little too much for some dog owners. But if you enjoy long walks, the NI dog might be perfect for you.
Besides walks, you can get your dog exercising at a dog park, on a hike or even in your swimming pool. Encourage whatever kind of activity your dog seems inclined towards, provided it’s safe. Remember the hip and elbow problems that Northern Inuits are prone to, and avoid anything too strenuous, especially with young dogs that are still developing, or that may put unnecessary stress on their joints.
Ensuring that your dog gets around 60 minutes of exercise a day on average should help your dog stay healthy and happy, and it can also promote good behavior at home. When your dog his exercised, he will sleep better and be less likely to be destructive or overexcited.
Grooming For The Breed
This breed is not very high maintenance when it comes to grooming. However, Northern Inuits do have double coats, which means at certain times of year, they are going to shed a lot. During the spring and fall months in particular, you will need to keep up with regular brushing, around twice a week, to stay on top of the shedding.
Professional grooming will be minimal for this breed. You may wish to take your dog in once a month, or bimonthly, to help maintain a clean, sleek coat.
Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is ideal. If you are not sure how to do this, or you are not comfortable with the procedure, your vet may be able to provide the service. Occasional nail trimming will also be necessary.
FAQs On The Northern Inuit Dog
1. Where can I get a NI dog?
Only breeders that are officially registered with The Northern Inuit Society should be considered safe and reliable sources for adoption. Most of these breeders will have a waiting list. You can find breeder information on the NIS website. In some cases, NI rescue dogs may be obtained from other sources.
2. Is this dog breed right for me?
Dog owners all over the world adore the NI dog, but knowing whether or not this breed is for you will come down to several factors. People with small homes, busy professional lives and a disinterest in active lifestyles will probably do better with a different breed.
3. Are NI dogs part wolf?
Contrary to rumor, Northern Inuit dogs are most definitely pets, not domesticated wolves. There is also no hard evidence to show that they were once wild dogs domesticated by indigenous peoples of arctic regions.
4. Are NI dogs loud?
This dog breed is very social, and they can, as a result also be quite vocal. Howling is a common practice for many NI dogs, but with training, you can get them to stop on command.
5. How much is a NI puppy?
The cost of a puppy will vary, but generally ranges from around $800 to $1000. If you see a dog priced drastically lower than this, you should assume that it is probably not being sold a registered breeder. There is often a long waiting time for these dogs, and you should expect to pay a high price when you buy from a safe, reputable source.