Chinook Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Chinook Dog

The Chinook is a working breed that was developed by an American explorer and dog enthusiast named Arthur Treadwell Walden. Originally from New Hampshire, Walden became a well-known dogsled driver and racer in Alaska. He acquired a Husky cross that he named “Chinook.” Chinook inspired Warner to create a new American sled dog breed, which he did. He returned to New Hampshire and located husky-type dogs with strength, speed and good temperaments. He bred his first litter in 1917, and named the best puppy after his former favorite. This second Chinook is the founding sire of the breed. Chinooks are powerful, large, well- balanced animals that can pull heavy loads while still maintaining speed. They have thick, close-fitting golden coats and are friendly, smart and loyal. Because they were bred to work in teams, Chinooks usually get along quite well with other dogs. They are particularly good around children. Today’s Chinook makes a wonderful pet for active owners who enjoy spending lots of time with their dog in the out-of-doors.

Chinook Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly2/5
Barking Tendencies2/5
Cat Friendly3/5
Child Friendly4/5
Dog Friendly5/5
Exercise Need4/5
Grooming Needs2/5
Health Issues2/5

Chinook – Appearance & Grooming

General Appearance

Bred to blend the power of freighting breeds with the speed of lighter racing dogs, the impressive Chinook is considered to be an “in-between” sled dog. This means that it is neither a full-on sprinter nor a long-distance endurance freight puller. It combines the attributes of both sledding types. These are agile, balanced animals with an easy and seemingly tireless gait. Unlike most other sledding breeds, Chinooks do not have pricked ears, fluffy coats or bushy plumed tails. They range from pale gold to a rich honey color, with dark almond eyes and dense double coats that generally lie close to the body. At first glance, the Chinook looks much more like a slightly longer haired yellow Labrador Retriever than one of the Spitz-type Northern breeds. Males should look masculine, and females should have a distinctly feminine appearance. These gender differences should be obvious to onlookers. Chinooks have webbed paws with thick, well-furred pads, perfectly suited for pulling sleds in harsh frigid climates.

Size and Weight

According to the AKC breed standard, adult male Chinooks should stand from 24 to 26 inches measured at the withers, and mature females should be between 22 and 24 inches in height measured at the same place. The United Kennel Club standard varies slightly, putting mature males from 23 to 27 inches at the withers, and mature females between 21 and 25 inches in height. Chinooks typically weigh between 55 and 90 pounds. The UKC places males at an average weight of 70 pounds and females at 55 pounds. As in most breeds, males tend to be larger than females, although this is not always the case. The foundation sire of this breed, a large mastiff-husky-other mix named “Chinook,” weighed around 100 pounds. Chinooks are stocky and strong, capable of both power and speed. This breed matures slowly. Individual dogs may not reach their full size and weight until four years of age.

Coat and Color

The Chinook has a thick, medium-length double coat that is supposed to be some shade of tawny in color, ranging from a light honey to an orangey-yellow to a reddish-gold. Darker markings on the ears and muzzle areas, as well as on the inner corners of the eyes and on the guard hairs of the tail, are desirable. Other acceptable markings include buff patches on the cheeks, throat, muzzle, toes, chest and belly. There should be no white markings anywhere on the coat of a Chinook.


Chinooks do not require a great deal of maintenance. Their heavy coats should be brushed regularly, probably several times a week, especially if shedding becomes a problem in the home. Chinooks do shed heavily several times a year (this is called “blowing their coats”). They will need extra brushing during those periods. They don’t require frequent bathing, unless they get especially muddy or dirty, which can happen because they do like to dig. Their smooth coats are not prone to matting, as are those of some other double-coated breeds. Because of their thick coats, Chinooks probably aren’t the best choice for people with allergies. Additional grooming will depend on how much time the dog spends outside and the condition of the yard or surroundings. In the show ring, Chinooks are shown in a completely natural condition, with no trimming whatsoever, even of whiskers. Honorable scars are not to be faulted.

Chinook – History and Health


The Chinook was developed as a sled dog by American explorer Arthur Treadwell Walden. In 1896, Walden left his small town at the foot of New Hampshire’s White Mountains and headed to the gold fields of Alaska. He worked an assortment of odd jobs, but his favorite was “dog punching,” which involved hauling freight by dogsled. In 1898, Walden acquired and outstanding lead dog, a Husky cross that he named “Chinook” after the warm winter winds. He returned to New Hampshire in the early 1900s, and disappointed by American sled dog quality, decided to develop a new breed. To start his breeding program, Walden looked for a Husky-type dog with strength, speed, stamina and a friendly disposition.

He acquired a well-bred Greenland Husky female that descended from Polaris, Admiral Peary’s lead sled dog from the first trip to the North Pole. Walden her to a Mastiff cross and in January 1917, three tawny puppies were born, named Rikki, Tikki and Tavi. Walden kept Rikki and renamed him “Chinook” in tribute to his former favorite. Chinook grew to be a large dog with a thick golden coat, drop ears and a dark muzzle. He became a terrific sled dog, earning widespread acclaim for his racing victories throughout New England and beyond. All of today’s Chinooks trace back to this foundation sire.

During the 1920s, Walden continued perfecting his breed and in 1922 he convinced a New Hampshire paper company to sponsor the first Eastern International Dog Derby. Competition in this 123-mile race was keen, but Walden, with Chinook in lead, won handily. Walden began breeding Chinook to smaller, more refined females, in order to get lighter-boned, swifter offspring with Chinook’s intelligence, gentle nature and trademark color. Unfortunately, in 1923, a distemper outbreak in the Chinook Kennel killed Walden’s entire racing team, except for Chinook. Walden took two years off to rebuild a competitive sled team and reentered the racing world in 1925. Walden and Chinook lead the first dog sled team to the summit of Mount Washington in 1926.

In 1927, at age 56, Walden applied to join Admiral Byrd’s Antarctica Expedition. He was designated as the lead driver and trainer of all dogs used on that expedition. Walden and his sixteen dogs, led by Chinook at nearly 12 years of age, were the backbone of the expedition’s transport. Unfortunately, Chinook was lost on the Antarctica expedition. Although his body was never located, reports of Chinook’s death spread quickly, as dog lovers and sledding enthusiasts mourned the loss of one of the greatest sled dogs of all time. At Walden’s request, Route 113A in New Hampshire was renamed the “Chinook Trail” in his honor.

Walden returned to New Hampshire in 1930. Faced with mounting debts, he sold his remaining dogs to his kennel managers, Milton and Eva Seeley. The Seeleys soon became interested in breeding Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes and stopped breeding Chinooks. Fortunately, Walden had given one of his neighbors, Julia Lombard, a few choice puppies to raise for him over the years. Before he left for Antarctica, he gave her two sons and one daughter of Chinook. With these dogs, Lombard founded the Wonalancet-Hubbard Kennel and made Walden her kennel director. Lombard promoted Chinooks as recreational sled dogs, emphasizing their terrific temperaments as much as their working talents.

In 1940, Perry Greene and his wife purchased the remaining 20 Chinooks from Lombard and they became the sole breeder of this increasingly rare dog, because they only sold males or spayed females and never let one person own more than 2 Chinooks at the same time. By 1965, the Guinness Book of World Records reported – for the first of 3 times – that the Chinook was the rarest of all dog breeds in the world. Only 125 were living, and their numbers continued to decline.

By 1966, the Chinook population reportedly was down to 60 and by the early 80’s the population was less than 30.

In 1986, Harry and Katy Gray developed a respected Chinook breeding program. In November 1988, Gray took his Chinooks to Alaska to train for the Iditarod sled race. Unfortunately, he and his dogs were caught in one of the worst Alaskan winters in memory. Up to 212 inches of snow marooned them at their training camp. Running out of supplies, Gray called Stan Victor of Victors Chinooks for emergency help. Victor financed the rescue of Gray and his Chinooks, with Bob Johnson coordinating rescue efforts from Talkeetna. Johnson provided a place for the dogs to stay while they recovered from their ordeal. They didn’t leave Alaska until June of 1989. Almost every modern foundation Chinook was saved by these three men. Without their efforts, the breed probably would not have recovered.

In 1989, the Chinook Owners Association was reinvigorated. The First Chinook Round Up took place in Dayton, Ohio in 1990, attended by almost 50 people and 30 Chinooks from across the United States. In 1991, the United Kennel Club recognized the Chinook. Chinooks were also recognized by the American Rare Breed Association. Chinooks Worldwide, a national breed club, formed in 1993. It later changed its name to The Chinook Club of America and is the official AKC parent club of the breed. Although their popularity has spread outside of the United States, most Chinooks remain in New England. The breed is not yet fully recognized by the American Kennel Club. However, in 2001 the Chinook was added to the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service and subsequently was admitted to the AKC Miscellaneous Class, with a Working Group designation.

With dedication and careful breeding, Chinook numbers have been steadily climbing. In 2007, there were approximately 500 living purebred Chinooks. The Chinook seems to have returned from the brink of extinction. They have regained the size, speed, stamina, temperament and type of Walden’s beloved breed. In June 2009, after vigorous lobbying by middle school students, Governor John Lynch signed a bill designating the Chinook as the official State Dog of New Hampshire. The modern Chinook is a hard-working dog that excels in sledding, packing, skijoring, obedience, agility and herding. But above all else, the Chinook is cherished as a family companion.


Chinooks are a fairly healthy breed, with an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. Breed health predispositions may include cryptorchidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, vitreous degeneration and paroxysmal dyskinesia. Vitreous degeneration is a potentially serious eye condition which can predispose the eye to retinal detachment and blindness. Paroxysmal dyskinesia involves episodes of abnormal involuntary muscle movements that differ from epileptic seizures in terms of what they look like and the fact that affected dogs don’t lose consciousness.

Chinook – Temperament & Personality


One of the most wonderful traits of the Chinook is its gentle, even temperament, making it one of the easiest to own of all sled dog breeds. These calm and patient animals get along famously with children and other dogs. They are neither aggressive nor timid and, as working dogs, are programed to please their people. The Chinook does not make a good guard or watch dog. However, they do make wonderful dogs for high-energy families that have lots of time to spend with their pets. They will not thrive spending most of their time alone or apart from their family. Chinooks need constant companionship, either from other dogs or from their owners. A family that does not allow a dog in the house or rarely has time to train, exercise and socialize with their dog should consider a different breed. The Chinook has no trouble making friends but can be reserved at first with strangers or in unfamiliar surroundings.

Activity Requirements

Originally bred to pull sleds, the Chinook enjoys to work. These dogs naturally like to spend their time engaged in activities with other dogs and people. They need a lot of exercise every day to stay physically and mentally fit. Walks to the park and games of fetch and hide-and-seek are right up a Chinook’s alley. They also love to participate in activities such as backpacking, hiking, jogging, agility, obedience, pulling carts, carrying packs, search and rescue and skijoring. Training a Chinook to pull a wagon full of groceries home from the store or to run alongside a skateboarder to and from school makes for a very happy dog. Very few Chinooks pull sleds on a daily basis. However, there are a number of pulling and sledding competitions available for owners to participate in with their Chinooks, in almost every climate. An owner with a competitive streak makes the perfect companion for these dogs. Chinooks can do well in small homes and apartments, as long as they have ample time and space to exercise every day.


Chinooks are smart, versatile and highly trainable. However, they are strong-willed and can be a bit pushy. Almost every Chinook requires correction in order to avoid taking a dominant position in the household. This breed requires an owner with a firm but gentle hand to prevent personality and hierarchy controversies. Chinooks are high-spirited dogs that need consistent training and discipline in order to establish and maintain proper manners. Training sessions give a Chinook the opportunity to expend some of its excess energy and use its brain power for constructive purposes. Chinooks are very clever, but they are likely to resist authority in favor of their own desires. Training a Chinook requires not just five or six weeks; training needs to continue every day for the rest of the dog’s life.

Behavioral Traits

Chinooks don’t bark a lot, but they can use their voice to announce visitors and express excitement. The breed spends most of its time quietly. Chinooks have an uncanny ability to solve puzzles. This includes opening gates and cupboards and finding their way into unusual places to satisfy their endless curiosity. Owners may find it useful to use extra locks and security measures as one might with an inquisitive young child.

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