What looks just like a Wolf but has the heart of an angel? The Utonagan!
This dog breed is becoming more popular as its gentle and loving nature is recognized, and its suitability as a Therapy dog (PAT dog), or a companion dog is known.
Sometimes this dog is also referred to as a:
- Utonagan Wolf-Dog,
- Northern Inuit Dog,
- Northern Inuit,
- British Utonagan Dog,
- Chinook Wolf-dog,
- Chinook Indian Dog,
- Twatha Utonagan Dog,
- Tamaskan Dog,
- Finnish Utonagan Dog
- or the Spirit-of-the-Wolf dog
The Utonagan is a beautiful, large dog with wolf-like features. The muscular, and graceful, Utonagan is a relatively new dog breed and as a hybrid dog, it is not yet recognized by the major Kennel Clubs, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC).
A Utonagan dog is intelligent and strong-willed, but not aggressive, and it’s good with children; so when socialized it would make a great family pet for an active family, or an outdoor-loving experienced dog owner. The Utonagan is not a dog breed for first time dog owners!
A Utonagan puppy is simply an adorable big ball of fluff.
A brief history of this dog
It is believed that the Utonagan dog was originally a loyal companion dog for the Chinook Indian people, in America, and due to its resemblance to a Wolf, it was given the Chinook Indian name ‘Utonagan’ dog meaning ‘Spirit of the Wolf’.
In the 1980s, the first pair of Utonagan dogs arrived in the United Kingdom. These dogs looked like wolves and caught the eye of a lady called Edwina Harrison.
Edwina Harrison, continued to breed these ‘wolf hybrid’ dogs and wanted them to maintain their wolf-like features so she intentionally cross-bred them with Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and German Shepherd breed dogs.
She then promoted this new breed of hybrid dogs under the name ‘Wolf-dog’, but this name was not popular with potential dog owners, as it raised concerns about the character of these dogs. She then changed the name to Northern Inuit dogs and then finally back to the Utonagan dog. They are still a pretty rare dog breed.
FACT: Although the Northern Inuit Dog and the Utonagan Dog share the same ancestry they are bred differently.
Edwina Harrison wanted to create the best breed of dog that combined the wild appearance of a wolf with the non-aggressive temperament and character of a domestic dog; and be suitable as a family dog.
The Wolf Dog appearance: What does it look like?
Is the Utonagan dog breed part wolf?
It has been suggested that the Utonagan dog is a wolf hybrid, because of its wild appearance and high prey drive.
The Utonagan has a wolf-like appearance, but it does not share DNA from any distantly related wolf population from ancient interbreeding.
Fact: It is believed that the domestic dog is a genetic divergence from grey wolves and it was humans, possibly nomadic hunters, who domesticated dogs in Europe some 15,000 years ago. Not many domestic dog breeds today have the appearance of what their early ancestors may have resembled, but the Utonagan dog has been bred to keep the similarity.
The Utonagan dog is largely a mix of 5 mixed breed rescue dogs that were rescued in America, and then bred with three popular purebred working dog breeds; the Alaskan Malamute, the German Shepherd, and the Siberian Husky.
All three contributing purebred dog breeds have common wolf-like features and a thick double coat and softer undercoat and tend to have similar coat colors – Black, Gray, White, Tan or Beige.
As breeding continued, the appearance, characteristics and behavior for this breed of dog, the British Utonagan, has remained constant for several generations.
This means that recognition by the major Kennel clubs, such as the AKC, may happen within the next few generations of Utonagan; and dog breed information for the Utonagan dog finally being recognized and breed standard established.
A number of breed clubs have been established, and reorganized, to reflect the different ways and views for developing the breed:
- The Utonagan Association
- The Utonagan Club
- The Utonagan Society*
- The British Utonagan Association
* In 2003, the Utonagan Society split, one half stayed with the original name and the other became the British and International Utonagan Society, which in 2006 changed its name to the Tamaskan Society (and they also changed the name of their dogs to the Tamaskan dog).
What are the main characteristics?
This relatively new Utonagan dog breed form is strong, muscular, and athletic. It inherits agility, power, and speed from its working-dog ancestors; The Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky, and the German Shepherd.
This hybrid dog is strong-willed and is likely to inherit a pack dog instinct, so it will want to be part of a group, or family, all of the time.
It is sensitive, despite its wild appearance, so it will not respond to harsh treatment or separation from its loved ones for any length of time, or it might practice its howling skills! The Utonagan dog is adorable from puppy to through to adulthood.
It will be a lovable giant family pet with a gentle nature. It is not known as an aggressive breed but it has a high energy level and as a very large dog with a prey drive, it is not recommended for a first-time dog owner. In the right hands, it will be adaptable and biddable.
Loyalty and companionship:
As a pack dog, the Utonagan Dog will want to be around people and other animals as much as possible. It is a highly loyal dog and will bond very closely with the one that feeds it, and the rest of the family. It is not regarded as a guard dog by nature but it will become quite vocal if it senses any threat to its loved ones.
The Utonagan makes a reliable and trusted family pet that will watch out for its family and just be there for them.
The Utonagan Dog may look like a wolf and sometimes be referred to as the Wolf-dog, but it not a part wolf. In fact, it is not at all aggressive and can be quite sensitive and gentle at playtime.
It is a giant dog with a fixed gaze but it’s not as fierce as it looks. It is smart and comes from a mix of impressive working dogs and will avoid conflict with other dogs and people once it is behavior trained.
The Utonagan dog is sometimes nicknamed the ‘Ute’ may have been a derivative name from the words ‘Inuit or ‘Utonagan’.
The Utonagan is growing in popularity as a hybrid dog but it is not a registered breed by the AKC or the other major kennel clubs.
This is a lovable big dog that is fun to be with and will be ‘your dog’ as it demonstrates its devotion and loyalty to you on a regular basis.
Breeding has been controlled since the 1980s when Edwina Harrison first started to breed this type of British Utonagan dog.
The breed characteristics and its temperament have been consistent over the last few generations of Utonagan dog; hopefully, with a few more generations of consistency, it will achieve recognition by The Kennel Club in England and even the American Kennel Club. (AKC)
The Utonagan puppy is clever and easy to train!
It’s alert and biddable. However, it is a pack dog and will naturally want to challenge for the dominant position, in the pack. It needs to learn quickly that it is ‘your dog’ and you are the master. Once dominance in your pack is established this puppy will use its energy and drive positively; for playtime, not prey-time!
Power and intelligence:
The Utonagan dog is big and powerful. It has a muscular build and lots of energy, with great stamina, and will want to be kept active. If you don’t keep them occupied they will find their own fun and it can be noisy and destructive fun.
Early socialization and discipline are always recommended with any strong dog breed, especially a Utonagan puppy that will grow into a huge dog. They are naturally gentle and friendly but need behavior training to know just how to behave around strangers, children, and other small animals as they will become big and active.
Utonagan dogs like their ancestors, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and German Shepherd dogs, are pack animals and live to live in groups. They will fit in easily as a family dog and mix well with all active people that can keep up with their high energy level
They have an inherited prey drive so the need to be supervised around young children and smaller animals otherwise they might be tempted to follow their working dog instincts and chase them!
Utonagan dogs are very good-natured and versatile, so they can make great petting dogs (Pat dogs or therapy dogs), their calm character means they will accept patients or clients handing them and patting them for long periods of time.
Some dogs do not like to have their ears or paws touched by a stranger. This is something that should be introduced early in the puppy years as part of the grooming time as it can help strengthen the trust in the relationship between dog and dog owner.
They are good around children and generally have a relaxed nature.
Physical Characteristics of the Utonagan dog
The Utonagan Dog is considered to be large to giant-sized, muscular hybrid-dog breed
Size: Large-sized dog
Height: Up to 25”-33” (63-84cm) for Male and 23”-30” (61-71cm) for Female
Weight: Up to 71-111lb (32-50kg) for Male and 55-90lb (25-41kg) for Female
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Litter size: 4-8 puppies/litter
Coat: Medium length, or longer, dense double coat, the outer coat is smooth with straight guard hairs, while the undercoat has a soft and dense texture.
Coat Color: Usually mixed color from Black, Gray, White, Tan, and Buff.
Coat type: The double coat will self-clean but shed hair easily and is not hypoallergenic.
Tail: It has a characteristic heavy, thick furry tail, set high when moving.
Eye Color: Almond-shaped in wither Amber, Yellow, or shades of Brown, but not Blue!
The Utonagan dog is gentle and family-friendly. It is generally even-tempered but it is energetic and needs to fulfill its high energy needs otherwise it will let its energy level come out in some way: and it may be mischievous.
It is also wary of strangers and may bark from a distance to alert its owner of an intruder.
How should you train a Utonagan dog?
This strong puppy needs to be trained early.
The Utonagan dog has a pack dog mentality and will enjoy being surrounded by people and other animals but it may want to be dominant; this can make them want to take charge and follow their instincts rather than commands, particularly if they don’t see the point of the order.
This must be dealt with promptly otherwise the Utonagan puppy will continue to think that it is the boss and make its own rules.
In order to be able to take this puppy out in public places and socialize with people and other dogs, it needs to know how to behave and what the rules are. This means teaching it the basic commands which it will be expected to heed. It is therefore important to establish who the leader is early with this dog breed.
The Utonagan dog is smart and easy to. It is an active dog that will need a lot of daily exercise and playtime but should be leash trained to ensure it learns about road safety and socialization. The boundaries need to be set early for this dominant puppy and enforced and practiced.
Types of training required: obedience, discipline, agility and socialization
So, if you are not going to use a professional dog trainer:
1) Develop your basic command words: Find keywords such as Stop, Come, Wait, etc. and be consistent each time you use them. Use small treats as a reward in early training, but not too many as this dog should not gain unnecessary weight.
2) Crate – Buy a crate and get the puppy used to go into it. This will eventually become its nest and it will sleep there. You will have to lock the cage in the early days so it knows it has to sleep there and it will be a useful experience when transporting your pet.
3) Potty training – Could be hit and miss for a new puppy who gets easily excited and lacks control, however, products are available, such as mats and odor sprays to attract puppy go to the same spot each time. Practice makes perfect!
4) Walking on a leash – Voice commands and road awareness is important for a Utonagan puppy’s safety, as they love to run and its prey drive may kick in and the chase will begin..
Health problems and health issues
Any dog breed can inherit certain genetic health problems and the big dogs like Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, and Alaskan Malamutes can suffer from hip and joint problems so weight gain must be prevented so as not to aggravate this weakness
Hip Dysplasia – Hip Dysplasia (and elbow dysplasia) – this growth abnormality is common in German Shepherd dogs and Huskies. Hip and elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the joints, where the ball at the top of a limb does not fit properly into the socket and the ligaments attaching it are weak. This allows excess movement of the fitting causing eventual stiffness and pain
Early warning signs are visual stiffness when walking, a reluctance to get up when prompted, and a difference in walking style; limp, or caution. It can occur at any age.
There is no cure only pain management and prescribed anti-inflammatories.
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-volvulus) – this can affect many deep-chested dog breeds if they eat large volumes quickly, drink too much water after eating or even eat too close to exercising.
Epilepsy – a neurological condition, often inherited, causing seizures. Can affect balance and gait and the dog’s general behavior leading up to a seizure; Needs treatment.
Addison’s disease – Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce hormones, such as steroids, particularly aldosterone and cortisol. These steroids play a large role in regulating your dog’s internal organs and body systems so without them the dog’s body will deteriorate.
Von Willebrand’s disease – Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of a specific protein needed to help platelets (the blood cells used in clotting) stick together and form clots to seal broken blood vessels. Excessive bleeding is the result.
Other health issues include allergies and skin conditions and eye disease.
Caring for your Utonagan – what’s needed?
A Utonagan gets its energy and stamina from the various working dogs making up its breed. It will, therefore, require at least one hour a day of exercise in the form of walks or being able to run around or organized playtime. This makes them particularly suited to large space living. Even as a puppy they need lots of daily exercises and being kept active.
Early leash training, and road awareness, is strongly recommended to keep this big powerful puppy safe.
Feed as a large-sized dog, average 4-6 cups of Kibble, specially-formulated dry food, recommended by your Vet.
This dog is easy to maintain and will require brushing twice a week, as it has a non-hypoallergenic thick double coat. A’s it sheds a good brush is required and twice a year they will also shed their undercoat (Best check out what’s recommended on Google or Amazon.)
Bathe when needed, but not too often as their coats contain natural oil, which can be stripped with over-bathing. Certain dog formulated shampoos have a double effect of cleaning the dog coat and protecting it against fleas and insect bites.
Cleaning teeth, nails and ears
Look after their teeth to prevent a build-up of plaque. Chewing breaks down plaque, so use doggie chew-toys, bare-bones and soft toothbrushes and toothpaste. Nails grow quickly due to activity level and need to be trimmed regularly, say once a month, and checked for infection. Their ears still need to be checked for dirt build-up or infection weekly.
What’s life like for a Utonagan dog?
A Utonagan dog is agile, powerful, and can run fast. It needs to use up any excess energy and would suit a big fenced yard to play in and for playtime.
It will not like to be left alone and may suffer from separation anxiety and fill its loneliness with mischief; they may chew things, bark, or howl.
They love family life and the bigger the better as they are extremely sociable and gentle around all ages of people! But as a pack-dog, they will like to test authority and the boundaries set so they must be trained.
Positives and Negatives of ownership
- Cute appearance
- Loyal family pet and companion
- Good with children
- Smart and gentle nature
- Easy to train, loves activities
- Good at canine sports
- Loves outdoor life
- Good as a therapy dog or patting dog
- High energy, high exercise needs
- Not for first-time owners
- Not well behaved if left alone
- Suffers separation anxiety of left alone
- High prey drive could chase small animals if bored
- A moderate shedder needs regular brushing
- Not a natural guard-dog or lap-dog!
Commonly Asked Questions:
Q. How much does a Utonagan puppy cost?
A. From $500-800, from a reputable breeder, however, it’s always best to adopt rather than buy if you can, you may find that it might only cost $100-300. Do your research if you adopt and check the reasons why it is in kennels, its health history, and any characteristics that might give cause for concern.
Food will cost around $50 per month for an adult Utonagan dog, and Vets fees and accessories all need to be factored into the cost of owning your dog.