Originally bred in New Hampshire, the Chinook was used as a strong freighting dog and sled racer as part of the Working dog group and was eventually brought to Alaska at the height of the gold rush. The Chinook is named after the Native American word meaning “warm wind”.
Once on the verge of extinction as the rarest dog breed in 1965, the Chinook has risen slightly in popularity over the recent years, but to this day remains one of the world’s rarest dog breeds. Today, the Chinook is the official state dog of New Hampshire, giving an ode to its beginnings as one of the only true American dog breeds.
Characteristics of the Chinook
Let’s take a look at the specific characteristics of the rare Chinook breed.
Reaching 22 to 26 inches in height and weighing between 50 and 90 pounds, the Chinook is considered a large dog breed, with the males growing to be larger and more masculine in appearance than the females, who generally appear more feminine even to the untrained eye. The coat of the Chinook requires no trimming but is known for heavy shedding. This plush double coat can be fawn, grey-red, palomino, red-gold, or silver fawn. Your Chinook will require weekly brushing to remove dirt and loose hair. This weekly brushing will help to reduce the immense shedding of the double coat. Sturdy, muscular, and substantial when standing upright, it’s clear why the Chinook was used for sledding and freighting. Its ears are also a unique feature, coming in a variety of shapes and sizes.
How does a dog bred for extreme sports behave as a domestic pet? Actually, very nicely. Chinooks are smart, patient, and devoted companions and are great as family pets. Calm and people-oriented, the Chinook is actually known for its love of children. They are intelligent, polite, friendly, and eager to please, making them polite with strangers and therefore absolutely terrible guard dogs.
Slow to mature, the Chinook dog will act like a puppy for several years and live between 12 and 15 years total. Chinooks are friendly towards other dogs but will instinctively chase rodents and cats, making them unsuitable for households with cats or rodents as pets. Chinooks require daily companionship and, despite their gentle and non-aggressive nature, can actually become destructive out of boredom and loneliness if left alone too often or for long periods of time. For this reason, Chinooks do suffer from separation anxiety, so it is best to bring them along when you travel if at all possible. Chinooks are good with traveling because they are simply happy to be near you, wherever you chose to go. It’s a good idea to provide your Chinook with early socialization and training classes as a puppy to reduce separation anxiety later on. When leaving your Chinook for the first time, try to have another individual stay with them. Return shortly and show your Chinook that you will always come back for them. Once your Chinook understands that he isn’t being abandoned, you can begin to leave him alone for longer periods of time, but never too long.
Caring for the Chinook
Chinooks are a rare, but easygoing breed and are fairly simple to care for. Let’s take a look at the requirements for proper care of the Chinook breed.
Your Chinook will require a high-quality dog food that is appropriate for his age. Chinooks, despite their muscular physique, are actually prone to becoming overweight, and therefore you should avoid feeding your Chinook excess treats and table food, especially table scraps containing cooked bones. If you begin to notice that your Chinook is gaining too much weight, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent obesity, which is common in the Chinook.
Despite their history as sled dogs, Chinooks are not a particularly busy breed. However, they still need regular exercise to remain healthy. While appearing relaxed, Chinooks actually have an abundance of energy and they thrive on exercise and play. It is important for potential owners to know that Chinooks require at minimum 40 minutes of exercise per day, but they will appreciate much more than this. If you are not able to provide that much exercise time to your pet, a Chinook may not be the right dog breed for you. Chinooks will bond with their owners quickly on long walks, hikes, swims, and bicycle rides.
Chinooks can be relatively easy to train using positive reinforcement. They are eager to please their owners and are therefore not stubborn at all. Despite their friendly nature, Chinooks can actually be quite shy and reserved if they are not provided with proper training and socialization as puppies. Enthusiastic and affectionate, Chinooks will often jump up on their owners and complete strangers out of sheer joy, so they must be trained from an early age not to jump on people.
As with all breeds, a Chinook’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, their teeth should be brushed often, and their nails trimmed regularly. Chinooks can be prone to developing hip dysplasia, cryptorchidism (the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum), gastrointestinal disorders (which are generally more common in larger, rather than smaller, dog breeds), and a variety of allergies. Some Chinooks may suffer from a Chinook-specific condition called “Chinook seizures” which are muscle spasms caused by a movement disorder, as opposed to actual seizures.
In addition to these other health concerns, your Chinook, being heavily prone to obesity, should be taken to the vet regularly to check his weight and scan for any other potential problems.
When your Chinook is not groomed properly with regular brushing and cleaning from dirt, skin and ear conditions can become more likely. Should you ever have any questions about your Chinooks health, it is best to contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible.