What is this breed like to live with?
Chinooks are considered a “large” breed, which has a double coat for insulation in both cold and hot weather. The coat color can be Tawny, Silver Fawn, Black & Tan or Buff. They shed their winter coat in the Spring and again in The Fall when the Winter coat starts to grow in, so an owner would need to expect required brushing and some “dog hair” around. Mine do not shed too much other than that. I have 3 Chinook females and 1 male who are easily trained, loving and cuddly. They get along with most other dogs, cats (I have 3) and people, but can be a bit cautious with new surroundings, sites and sounds. They really don’t bark much, except for two of them (like mother-like son), who will bark at passers by and visitors when they arrive. They can be very vocal in other ways. We call it the “ROO ROO” of a Chinook. It sounds just like that… kind of a howl with syllables. Chinooks are loyal, playful, silly, like to give kisses to people, but are actually a strong, dignified dog. They are “Pack” animals and love their people, wanting to stay close to them. Of course there is always the exception. Oh, they like to try to sleep on the bed with you.
Do they have any health issues?
Chinooks do have some health issues. Given that they are a rare breed, with only about 1000 Chinooks alive, in the world, the health and genetics that go along with breeding them is of great importance. Some of the most concerning, though infrequent, health issues are as follows:
Hip Dysplasia- about 15-17% of Chinooks are said to be affected to some degree. Luckily, they seem to not be affected physically for a good portion of their lives and those with that diagnosis can remain active and comfortable up to their elder years. We try to have all Chinooks checked for this with hip Xrays at the appropriate age. Those affected are not used for breeding.
Cataracts- Not that common, but are genetically inherited and could lead to vision problems and blindness.
Seizures: There is some seizure-like activity that some Chinooks have displayed. They call it “Chinook Seizures” They are not Epileptic seizures; the dog remains alert, but with uncontrolled movements and tremors. I do not own and have not personally seen a Chinook with this, but there is a YouTube video of a “Chinook Seizure”.
Allergies: Some Chinooks are known to have some food allergies. It may be from the type of dog food chosen by the owner, grains or the protein source (meat source) of the food.
Gastro-Intestinal (GI): Some owners complain of an “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”, which affected their dogs. Usually finding the right food, will alleviate the problem. I feed a “Raw” diet to my dogs and have no problems with this.
Gastric Bloat: is something that can affect large breed dogs, so the Chinook may be at risk for this. It has been shown that it is more apt to occur when large breed dogs are fed a dry Kibble, which expands after they drink water, causing a twisting of the stomach. It is an emergency and life threatening.
How Long do they live?
Chinooks have an expected, average lifespan of 12-15 years, though some have lived a bit longer.
Do they require any special care, grooming, feeding, etc?
Special care may be required if a Chinook developed any certain health issues. In general, they are easy care dogs. Their coat is a “wash & wear” variety. They only need brushing, need no clipping of their coat. Nail clipping, as any other dog. They love cooler weather, so “clothing” is not needed in the winter. If you have a Chinook who has GI problems, you may find yourself trying different diets and ways to treat it. I would recommend and insist on obedience classes for anyone who got a Chinook (or any dog). It is for their safety and happiness, as well as the owners and makes for a closer bond between Chinook and owner.
What attracted you to this breed?
I was first attracted to the Chinook over 20 years ago while in my Veterinarian’s office. There was an old dog breed poster on the wall of the waiting room. The “Chinook” was on it. I was curious and intrigued by this breed of dog which I had never heard of. Plus I thought they were a handsome breed. This was before home computers, so a trip to the Town Library gave me the answers I was looking for, more information about the Chinook, it’s plight, and history. I was hooked and just had to have one. I was attracted by their looks, rarity, temperament, versatility: you can have fun with a Chinook in lots of ways: at sledding, agility, nose work, pulling, herding, skijoring, scootering, hiking (they will carry their own pack), most like the water, the show ring or just playing with the frisbee or cuddling at home. They are like an all-in-one dog to me. They originated in New Hampshire, so they are truly an All American Dog!
What was this breeds original purpose?
The Chinooks original purpose was as a “working dog”, in particular, a sled dog, who could carry loads of freight at a fairly fast pace. This is my current understanding. The COA website (www.chinook.org) and the CCA website (www.chinookclubofamerica.org) has a whole lot of information which will give you a more complete history of Arthur Walden, originator of the breed, “Chinook” Walden’s famous sled dog who the breed is named after, and what they were used for from the start. Chinooks now-a-days, are family pets (considered family members, because they seem more human than other breeds) who have fun with their families at any one of the activities I mentioned above. Oh, and one more thing: “Chinooks are like Lays Potato Chips, You can’t have just one”!