AKC Working Group
In the annals of dog breeding, the Chinook (which means “warm winter winds” in Inuit) has one of the more dramatic stories. Writer and adventurer Arthur Treadwell Walden first bred the Chinook (a combination of a Mastiff-type dog and a Greenland Husky, plus German and Belgian Shepherds) in the early 1900s on his farm in eastern New Hampshire—making the Chinook one of very few dog breeds actually created in America. By 1925, Chinooks comprised the first sled dog team to get to the top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. Two years later, Walden used 16 of his Chinooks to haul freighting sleds on Admiral Richard Byrd’s first expedition to Antarctica. Sadly, his 12-year-old dog, named “Chinook” and renowned for his talents as a lead dog, wandered away from the camp and was never found. In 1941, Perry Greene, who by that time had become the sole breeder of Chinooks, used a team to travel 502 miles from Fort Kent to Kittery, Maine, in 90 hours—breaking an American record.
By 1965, the Chinook breed had broken another record. With only 125 dogs alive in the country, it was named the Rarest Dog in the World by the Guinness Book of World Records. By 1981, the situation was even worse—only 28 dogs were left in the country and only 11 were able to be bred. The Chinook seemed destined for extinction.
Those who own Chinooks love them for their adaptability, trainability, endurance, and calm, gentle disposition. The UKC recognized the Chinook in 1991. The AKC accepted the Chinook in 2010, and the breed entered the Working Group on January 1, 2013. Since 2009, the Chinook has been the state dog of New Hampshire.
Developed as a sled dog capable of pulling both heavy draft loads and competing in light sled races, the Chinook is a lean, athletic dog that moves with what the AKC calls a “seemingly tireless gait.” Both males and females are slighter than might be expected for such a powerful animal. The male should appear unquestionably masculine, with a bulkier body and larger head than the smaller, less flashy females.
The head is broad and wedge-shaped. The expression should be intelligent and kind. The medium-sized brown eyes are almond-shaped and rimmed in black. Black apostrophe-shaped marks on the inner corner of the eye are especially desirable. The ears should be V-shaped, rounded at the tip, and medium-sized. They can be of any type, including drop, prick, or propeller (sticking out sideways), as long as they remain folded when at attention. Look for a moderate stop with a distinct vertical furrow. The muzzle should be aquiline (slightly curved) and a bit tapered, with solid black flesh at the end of the muzzle. Teeth meet in a scissors or level bite.
The neck is strong and covered in a protective ruff of fur. The back is level, with a slight arch over the loins; the chest is moderately broad and deep. The body is muscular and hard with well-sprung ribs that flatten toward the dog’s hind end. The underline has a moderate tuck-up. Chinooks have well-furred “saber tails”—meaning they’re carried in a graceful curve—that taper to the end.
The forelegs should be straight and well-muscled; the feet are tight and oval-shaped with webbing between the arched toes. The hindquarters should be muscular and moderately angulated. Front feet that turn slightly outward are not a fault, but the rear feet should point straight ahead.
Chinooks have a thick double coat that lies close to the body. The outer coat is straight and coarse and is longer over the neck ruff, shoulders, and withers, and under the belly and tail. The undercoat is short and downy. Winter coats tend to feel softer than summer coats. The coat’s color is tawny (ranging from a pale honey color to a deep reddish-gold) and darker ears and muzzles are desirable. Symmetrical white, cream, or pale gold markings are acceptable on the cheeks, throat, chest, breeches, and underside, but not anywhere else on the dog’s body.
- Height: 24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
- Size: Large
- Weight: 60 to 75 lbs. (male); 50 to 65 lbs. (female)
- Availability: Difficult to find
- Talents: Sledding, carting, weights, jogging, agility, obedience, tricks
Chinooks are shown naturally; coat trimming is severely penalized. Health issues include Chinook seizures, digestive issues, hip dysplasia, cataracts, hypothyroidism, and some allergies. This breed “blows its coat” (sheds heavily) two times a year and sheds moderately the rest of the year.
Pack dogs by nature (they were bred to pull in teams), Chinooks love their families and are especially devoted to children. While some can be reserved with strangers, they warm up quickly, and many Chinooks aren’t reserved at all. They love to work, learn, and please, which makes them easy to train for a wide range of activities, including sledding, hiking, flyball, carting, obedience, skijoring, and agility, as long as the training is consistent so they can learn the rules. Although they love to work, Chinooks mostly love being pets. As a pack dog, a Chinook needs to be around his humans a good deal of time. Chinooks left alone a lot are prone to separation anxiety.
- Children: Excellent with children
- Friendliness: Fairly friendly with strangers
- Trainability: Easy to train
- Independence: Needs people a lot
- Dominance: Moderate (not particularly dominant or submissive)
- Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
- Combativeness: Friendly with other dogs
- Noise: Not a barker
- Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
- Owner: Good for novice owners
- Grooming: Very little grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
- Coat: Medium coat.
- Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
- Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
- Jogging: A good jogging companion
- Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
- Outdoor Space: A small yard is sufficient.
- Climate: Does well in most climates
- Longevity: Moderately long-lived (about 12 to 15 years)