What to Know About the Chinook Dog Breed

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 16, 2022
7 min read

Chinooks are rare sledding dogs originating from the state of New Hampshire in the early 20th century. These dogs are the state's official breed. The Chinook is also one of the scarcest Animal Kennel Club (AKC) breeds. 

The Chinook is a rugged, active, hard-working dog that is always ready for an adventure. They are popular for their intelligence, endurance, and eagerness to make everyone happy. They are also calm and people-oriented and are the best friends of children. 

These dogs love to train. You can easily do sledding, agility, and obedience training with them. Chinooks have high energy levels, so you may get tired before them. Like every dog breed, the Chinook also requires a proper grooming routine to stay healthy and prevent potential health issues. 

The Chinook's characteristics and appearance resemble a shepherd and husky mix. Chinooks were specifically developed for sledding and search-and-rescue purposes, but these dogs are equally good with their owners and families.

The average Chinook size for males ranges from 24 to 26 inches and 22 to 24 inches for females. Male Chinooks weigh around 55 to 90 pounds, and females weigh about 50 to 65 pounds. The estimated Chinook dog life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.


Chinooks are muscular and substantial dogs standing as high as a shepherd or husky. Females are a bit smaller. These are tawny-coated dogs with no frills.

They have dark, almond-shaped eyes and floppy ears that enhance their personality. Chinooks also have a saber-shaped tail.


The Chinook temperament is calm and dignified. These dogs have plenty of love and affection for every family member, especially children. They're often seen having a great time with the kids. 

Chinooks are vigilant dogs with high adaptability levels. Their size may look intimidating to intruders and strangers, but they're not guardian dogs. The Chinook dog breed instead is active and likes to live an outdoorsy lifestyle, enjoying different sports. 

The Chinook has a smooth, medium-sized double coat that doesn't require an extensive grooming routine. The Chinook dog shedding levels are moderate throughout the year, so you can easily maintain their coats with weekly brushing. Doing so will also help remove unwanted hairs and dirt from the dog's body.

Chinooks require daily brushing in the shedding season, which occurs twice a year. 

Your Chinook also needs a nail-trimming routine to look and feel good. Long nails can cause problems for your dog when they are walking and running. 

Make sure to brush your dog's teeth daily with pet-specific toothpaste and a soft toothbrush to avoid dental issues.

Chinooks can also be affected by fleas, ticks, and heartworms, leading to different health issues. The Companion Animal Parasite Council suggests year-round prevention of ticks, heartworm, and fleas for all pets.


The Chinook dog breed needs a core set of vaccinations to stay in their best health and prevent multiple diseases. The most common dog health issues include rabies and DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). 

Your vet may also recommend non-core vaccines to protect your pet from less frequently occurring diseases like kennel cough, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, etc.

You need to book regular appointments with your vet to determine the timings and dosage of vaccinations. These factors usually vary depending on your dog's age.


Chinooks have energy levels that keep them happy, playful, and ready for exercise. Sometimes, you may find them more relaxed and mellow in the house, but they are also the best companions for all outdoor activities. 

Since these dogs were bred for sledding, they perform well in sports like skijoring, scootering, and bikejoring. They also enjoy practicing different sports, such as obedience, agility, rally, and tracking. 

Chinooks require a regular exercise routine to stay in a good mood.


Your Chinook needs early socialization and training. These things help them adjust to their new home and behave well when they grow older. You should use positive reinforcement methods to motivate Chinooks during training. 

The Chinook dog breeds are usually reliable off-leash. If you don't train them early, though, young Chinooks may jump when trying to come face to face with their family members. 

Remember that no matter how hard you train this dog breed, they can't be reliable guard dogs.


Many new dog owners struggle to determine: "What is a Chinook dog's most optimal diet?" Expert breeders recommend that these dogs must be given high-quality dog food at every age. 

The right diet for your Chinook usually depends on your dog's age and nutritional needs, so contact your vet to develop the right diet plan for your dog.

Some dog breeds can become overweight because of excessive treats or food. Never give your Chinook cooked bones or any human foods without consulting a vet. 

If you observe your dog gaining weight, consult your vet.

The Chinook is a healthy dog breed, but they are susceptible to specific health issues. These include hip dysplasia, cryptorchidism, allergies, cataracts, gastrointestinal disorders, and a condition called "Chinook seizures".

The Chinook's ears and teeth should also be checked regularly to diagnose any underlying condition.

Hip Dysplasia 

This is a hereditary hip condition in dogs that indicates the dislocation of the ball and socket joint. In cases of hip dysplasia, the bones keeping the dog's hip intact move from their original position and rub against each other. This causes severe pain to the dog and makes it hard for them to sit and walk. 

Hip dysplasia may worsen if not treated promptly, damaging your dog's entire hip joint. Use these symptoms in your Chinook to identify this condition: 

  • Fatigue
  • Less activity
  • Reduced mobility
  • Severe pain when sitting
  • Less thigh muscle mass
  • Increased shoulder muscles


This is the condition in which one or both testicles of the dog don't drop into the ball sack (scrotum). When a male Chinook is born, his testicles are typically present inside his body. Over time, the testicles begin dropping into the dog's scrotum through the "inguinal canal," which is a narrow pathway. 

This process usually takes two weeks, but some dogs may take longer. If the testicles haven't dropped by six months, it leads to several life-threatening conditions in dogs. These retained testicles may become cancerous or twist. 

Cryptorchidism is a hereditary condition, so dogs with this condition should not be bred. 

  • Take your dog to the vet if you can't feel both testicles in your Chinook's scrotum when they're six months old. A healthcare provider will probably remove the retained testicles to prevent them from becoming lethal. The decision for this surgical procedure may vary depending on the suspected location of the testacle.

Chinook Seizures (Atypical Seizures) 

Chinook seizures are not actually seizures, but instead, a type of movement disorder like paroxysmal dyskinesia. These are a group of movement disorders identified by painless dystonic (involuntary muscle contraction, causing twisting or repetitive movements) and choreiform movements (jerking).

Your Chinook with atypical seizures may stagger and look confused for a few seconds and then recover on their own without falling on the ground. Some dogs also have a two-to-five-minute seizure that makes them anxious and unable to stand straight and walk. Other dogs may experience uncontrollable shivering during an episode. 

Your Chinook may also develop a head tremor and become unusually quiet. These episodes usually occur when the dog is about to sleep or waking from sleep. In many dogs, training and excitement are common atypical seizure triggers. 


This is the development of a flimsy, cloudy layer on the dog's eye lenses. This clouding starts developing slowly by affecting the vision in just a tiny part of the eye.

Cataracts may mature over time, though. They can also develop into glaucoma, which is extremely painful. If this happens, your dog has a higher chance of going blind.

One of the most distinctive Chinook traits is their intelligence and energy level. They need intense levels of exercise. When bored, Chinooks can be destructive. 

These dogs frequently shed in the breeding season, so make sure to take care of their grooming needs.

Chinooks require weekly brushing and nail-trimming, along with a daily tooth-brushing routine.

The Chinook was the lead dog of Arthur Treadwell Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire. Arthur was a seasoned dog driver and trainer on the 1929 Antarctic expedition of Byrd. The breed began with one male born in 1917 and later named "Chinook." These dogs were derived from a cross of husky stock and large, tawny mastiffs.

Arthur is famous for bringing sled dog sports to England with the establishment of the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924. However, the "Chinook" failed to win on the Byrd expedition.

In the late 1940s, the responsibility of Chinook crossbreeding was passed down to Julia Lombard and then Perry Greene. Greene bred these dogs in Maine until 1963. After his death, the population of Chinooks became quite scarce.

Expert breeders in Ohio, Maine, and California took the remaining dogs and divided them to protect them from extinction. The Chinooks were registered at the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1991 and the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service in 2001. 

Later, in 2010, they became a part of the AKC's Miscellaneous Class. Finally, Chinooks joined the working group of the AKC after becoming the AKC's 176th breed in 2013.