The Utonagan – A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

Utonagan - Quick Information

Origin:

America

Description:

Wolf-like,thick coat brown, white or black

Temperament:

Gentle, non-aggressive

Weight:

Between 25-50kg

Height:

60-85cm

Life expectancy:

About 13 years

Litter size:

4-8 puppies

Exercise:

High need for exercise

Training:

Easily trained

Health: 

Excellent

The Utonagan Dog  Overview

The Utonagan is a unique dog. Its name means “Spirit of the wolf,” but it is not supposed to be a guard- or any other form of a working dog! The breed is not at all aggressive – it is actually a gentle “sheep” masquerading as a wolf.   

The Utonagan is an out-and-out companion dog with an excellent temperament. They love children and other house pets.

The breed is a mix of the Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky, and the German Shepherd. They are popular therapy dogs – adaptable and intelligent.

Why was the Breed Created?

For the love of the wolf

The objective of the crossing for Utonagan breeders was to produce a wolf look-alike dog but to keep its temperament sweet and gentle. The breed is not recognized by any major breeding club.

utonagan dog

Utonagan

From mixed breeds

Also known as the Northern Inuit Dog, the Utonagan breed was developed in the 80’s by a single breeder, Edwina Harrison. Five mixed breed dogs were mated with the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky. Later, the German Shepherd was added to give the breed more height, as well as a sleeker look.  

Originally, the dogs were advertised as a wolf hybrid. Breed lines are still being developed today by returning to stock from the original breeder.

General

Powerful and athletic 

The Utonagan dog has a strong wolf-like appearance with a powerful, yet light, build. The breed is still being developed, so there is no exact look – dogs can vary in appearance.     They are a vision of athletic grace with their long legs. Their stamina and strength are apparent.

Coat

Double coat

With hair straight and coarse, the breed has a thick, double coat. Thicker and longer around the neck and tail, the outer coat is waterproof and stiff, but the undercoat is thick and soft. 

In winter, the undercoats on the dogs keep them warm. It covers their whole bodies generously – even the inside of the ears! In summer, the coat is shed and less dense. The dogs are well suited for colder climates.

The dog is wolf-grey, and the face of the breed is usually darker than the coat.

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Ears and eyes

The ears are small and feathered and are usually held erect. The Utonagan can have amber, brown or dark eyes, but the preferred color for breeders are yellow. Blue eyes are a fault in the breed.

Head and muzzle

Dogs in this breed should have a clearly defined mask. The head of the breed is nicely in proportion with the rest of the dog’s body. Muzzles are strong.  It is a little longer than the dog’s skull. The dog’s nose can be either brown or black.  

Tail

The Utonagan may have a straight or a curled tail. It is thick and bushy. Dogs with colored coats should have a black-tipped tail.

Colors

Utonagans might be timber grey, black, white or silver or various combinations thereof.     Ink-marked colors are not desirable in the breed.

utonagan pictures

Very few of these dogs are bred each year.  You must register with a breeder and put your name on a waiting list to be sure to get a puppy!

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Friendly and affectionate 

The breed is well-balanced and people-loving. They are fantastic daily companions: friendly, sociable and intelligent. Although they might look aggressive, they are not. Owners swear by their affectionate and gentle nature. 

Part of the pack

Pack hierarchy is important to them, and they need a firm, strong leader. The dogs like knowing who to look at for direction and guidance of what to do. If there is no obvious leader, they will take on the role for themselves. However, not in an aggressive way!

They form strong bonds with their leader(s). The downside is that they don’t like being alone for too long. If they are, they might turn to destructive behavior and even go on a walkabout.  

They are laid-back with strangers and can handle boisterous children, although they might be a bit too energetic for smaller children.   

Weight

Males may weigh between 32-50kg, whereas females weigh 25-41kg.

Height

Males stand 63-84 cm from their shoulders, whereas females vary between 61 and 71 cm in height.

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The breed is fairly new and has a small population of dogs. Diseases are therefore not well documented.

Potential Problems

Overheating can be a problem in hot weather. The heavy, thick coat of the dog can cause it to get too hot when playing or exercising. Owners should be careful.

Utonagans, due to their relation with German Shepherds, Huskies and the Malamute, might be prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts, heart defects, endocrine issues, epilepsy, Addison’s disease and Von Willibrand’s disease.

Reputable breeders hip score their stud dogs and test their eyes before breeding with them. Be sure to buy your puppy from a breeder with a good reputation.

Stay with me, please

Utonagans should live with a family where at least one person is home every day. They don’t like being alone.  

These are lively dogs and therefore ideal for families or active singles. They might not be suitable for families with small children as they are very energetic and might hurt a small child.

Active dogs

The breed is active and would love a walk or a short run every day. They are definitely not apartment dogs. They would need a yard with a strong fence to hold them in.

Quiet around puppies

Utonagan puppies are sensitive by nature. It is important that your new puppy is not exposed to too loud noises in the beginning. Turn the TV down and the music off. A small Utonagan puppy can be easily stressed.

The breed is expected to live between 9-13 years.

How many?

Utonagan mums deliver between 4-8 puppies. You should puppy-proof your garden by putting away tools and implements. Your puppy might hurt itself in an exploring frenzy.   Utonagan puppies need lots of attention

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Inside and outside

It might be a good idea to introduce these puppies to a quiet playtime (inside) and an active playtime (outside). This will teach your Utonagan puppy to be less rowdy when they are inside.

The breed is an average shedder. It must be brushed at least twice a week in summer, but more frequently during the winter months when its coat is thick.

The breed can be prone to ear infections. Clean your dog’s ears on a regular basis.

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As a lively dog, the Utonagan should respond well to a high-quality dry food, formulated for large and active dogs.   

Obesity

Overall, they are not prone to obesity. They can gain weight after they have been neutered or as they get older. A weight problem can shorten your dog’s life because it put a strain on his heart and other organs. Owners should keep an eye on their Utonagan and his waistline.

Medium to high exercise needs

Regular exercise is a must for this breed. Their energy drive is high. They can be taken for two long walks per day. Be careful not to over-exercise your dog – he can have problems to cool down properly.

Active playtime within a fenced yard is also recommended.  

This breed is easily trained as they are highly intelligent. They are quick to learn, but they require clear boundaries and a firm leader. Training can begin early. It must be consistent and always fair.

Shine in sport

They excel in a canine sport such as flyball, PAT training and in obedience school. They love the attention of a one-on-one training situation.

Training sessions should be short and interesting as Utonagans get easily bored. Positive reinforcement will bring the best out of your dog.

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Leash training

Utonagans love being off-leash! It is therefore important to train them about how you want them to behave when the leash is off.  

Be social

Socialization is important to make your dog confident and outgoing.  Introduce him to lots of new situations, other animals, new people, and noises. It is important to start early, as these are sensitive dogs.  

Healthy dogs

Overall, Utonagans is a healthy breed. If you bought your puppy from a reputable breeder, health problems should not occur. These breeders hip score their stud dogs and test their eyes to rule out hereditary problems. Some ailments from the parent breeds can surface, but it is rare.  

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Conclusion

You would search far to get a more sociable, friendly dog than the Utonagan. The breed is lovely to look at and would be a gentle, friendly companion in any household. The only thing to keep in mind is its high exercise needs – be sure you can provide him with enough running around, walks and playtime.

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