Chinooks

The Chinook resembles a shepherd/husky mix, and indeed, that is probably how he came to be. The Chinook is a rare breed of sled dog who got his start when dog driver Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire, bred a farm dog of unknown heritage with a “northern” husky. They produced a litter of puppies with tawny coats. One of the pups, named Chinook, grew up to father a breed: dogs who had not only his physical characteristics but also his gentle disposition.

Created to be a sled dog, the Chinook undoubtedly still excels at that function, but he is an equally good family dog. In appearance, he stands out for his thick, tawny-colored double coat, dark eyes, prick or floppy ears, and saber-shaped tail. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering bringing a Chinook into your home.

Is the Chinook the Right Dog for You?

The calm and dignified Chinook has plenty of affection for all the members of his family, but he’s best known for his love of children. His large size may give an intruder second thoughts, but he is by no means a guardian breed.

With his heritage as a hard-working sled dog, the Chinook is intelligent and easy to train with positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. If you have an active, outdoorsy lifestyle, this is the dog for you. Chinooks are great companions for hikers and backpackers and of course are naturals at such dog sports as sledding and skijoring. You will also see them performing well in agility, herding, obedience and rally.

The Chinook is easy to groom. Brush him once or twice a week to remove dead hair. He’ll shed heavily twice a year, for about three weeks, and during that time you’ll want to brush him more often to keep the loose hair under control. The only other grooming he needs is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and dental hygiene.

Is the Chinook the perfect dog? Not by a long shot. He needs intense levels of exercise and he is highly intelligent, not always a good thing. A bored Chinook can be more destructive than you can imagine.

The people-loving Chinook needs to live in the house with his family. It’s an unhappy Chinook who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Chinook Puppy

  1. To find links to breeder websites, visit the website of the Chinook Club of America. Choose a breeder who is committed to following the CCA’s guidelines for breeders, which prohibit the sale of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and outline the breeder’s responsibilities to the breed and to buyers.
  2. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Chinooks aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, a Chinook can live 10 to 12 years or more, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
  3. Puppy or adult, take your Chinook to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
  4. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Chinooks

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Chinook has some health problems that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t careful whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia; various eye problems, including cataracts and an eye problem called distichiasis (a double row of eyelashes); and seizure disorders.

At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score, as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia
Medium $1,500-$6,000
Cataracts Medium $1,500-$5,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Chinooks

Pet insurance for Chinooks costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Chinooks are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Chinooks are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Chinook is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.