The Utonagan is a unique crossbreed that few people have heard of. They are the result of crossbreeding several wolf-like dog breeds, such as the Alaskan Malamute, Husky, and German Shepherd, to create a dog that resembles a wolf as closely as possible.
Despite having an intimidating appearance, the Utonagan has retained the loving temperament associated with domestic dogs. This has made the crossbreed an ideal family dog that is becoming increasingly sought after.
In our article, we go through everything you need to know about the Utonagan – from their personalities to their grooming and exercise needs. Keep reading to learn about the Utonagan!
In a hurry? Here’s our quick breakdown of the essential facts you need to know about the Utonagan. Be sure to keep reading for more detailed information and facts.
Other Names: Wolf-dog, Northern Inuit dog.
Average Lifespan: 12-15 years.
Average Height: 25-30 inches for males, 23-28 inches for females.
Average Weight: 65-110 lbs for males, 55-95 lbs for females.
Coat Appearance: Long, dense, brown in colour with red, grey, black, and white scattered throughout.
Eye Colour: Amber/Brown (most common), hazel, blue.
Activity Level: High.
Grooming Frequency: Daily brushing required.
Typical Temperament: Loyal, intelligent, loving, gentle, stubborn, independent.
Daily Food Consumption: 3 cups of kibble.
New Owner Friendly: No.
Suitable to live with children? Yes.
Suitable to live with other dogs? Yes, if socialised from a young age (opposite sex is preferred).
Suitable to live with cats? No.
UTONAGAN BREED HISTORY
The Utonagan was first bred in the 1980s in the United Kingdom by Edwina Harrison. She intended to create a dog that closely resembled a wolf in appearance, but still had the temperament of a domestic dog.
She achieved this by crossbreeding several different dogs that already possessed some wolf-like features. These included a Siberian Husky, an Alaskan Malamute, a German Shepherd, and five unidentified rescue dogs.
The result of her cross-breeding was eventually called a Utonagan, meaning ‘Spirit of the Wolf’.
As the crossbreed was created relatively recently, there have been very few generations of them and only a handful of trusted breeders around the world sell them. For that reason, the Utonagan is not a breed that is officially recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Although they are not an official breed, they are understandably popular within the dog community. Owners who value aesthetics will find themselves an ideal dog to show off with a Utonagan, and families looking for a loving and loyal pet will be equally as happy.
If you are intending to adopt the crossbreed, you must be wary of irresponsible breeders. The relative ‘newness’ of the breed combined with their sudden surge in popularity means that unethical breeding took place. Utonagans that were littered with health issues, likely caused through inbreeding, were produced to fill the demand. There is now more awareness of these bad practices within the dog community, but we ask that you do your research before supporting a potentially dangerous breeder.
There is no record of the Utonagan being used for working purposes. Having been derived from three very strong working dogs, there is no reason to believe that they would not be suitable for jobs such as sled pulling.
Their increasing popularity means that more responsible breeders are cropping up and a breed standard is starting to form. In a few years, once a stronger generational line has been established, we may see the Utonagan be recognised as an official breed.
The Utonagan was bred specifically to look like a wolf, and they aren’t too far off!
Utonagans are large dogs that can weigh up to 110lbs (50kg) when fully grown. They have a similarly athletic build to a wolf with powerful legs that allow them to easily run over rough terrain. Their facial structure is also wolf-like, like long muzzles and pointed erect ears.
Their eyes are almond-shaped and are usually amber or brown in colour. They can have hazel or blue eyes as well thanks to the genes of their parent breeds.
Male Average Size: Height = 25-30 inches, Weight = 65-110 lbs.
Female Average Size: Height = 23-28 inches, Weight = 55-95 lbs.
Utonagans have thick, wooly double coats that make them look like they were taken straight out of the arctic. Colour-wise, their coats are made up of various shades of brown, red, black, grey, and white. They can have dark markings around their eyes and nose, and they usually have a white chest that extends onto their front legs and belly.
A Utonagan will have a fluffy tail that hangs low and large paws that are ideal for ploughing through snow.
Overall, a Utonagan looks as close to a wolf as you can get from a dog – the breeders clearly did a good job of replicating their wild relatives!
UTONAGAN GROOMING GUIDE
Utonagans are the result of crossbreeding some of the heaviest shedding dog breeds. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Utonagans require a lot of coat maintenance to keep them looking and feeling healthy.
Utonagans have thick double coats that resemble those of wolves. Their coats aren’t just nice to look at, they also serve very important purposes. The dense undercoat layer that lies nearest to their skin acts as insulation to help a Utonagan regulate its temperature. The topcoat is made of coarser guard hairs that repel dirt and water away from the skin, keeping the dog clean.
These double coats will shed year-round, but shedding will be significantly heavier during seasonal changes when a Utonagan blows its coat. Coat blowing season requires lots of grooming assistance and will leave a Utonagan looking very dishevelled as large clumps of undercoat fall out.
If an owner does not maintain a regular grooming schedule, their Utonagan’s coat will quickly become tangled and matted. Not only does this look untidy, but it’s also painful for the dog as tangles can pull on their skin!
To help with the grooming process, Utonagan owners need to invest in a few grooming tools:
An undercoat rake: Essential during coat-blowing season to remove large clumps of undercoat quickly and painlessly.
A dematter tool: Utonagans have dense undercoats that can easily tangle, even with regular grooming. Dematter tools have lightly serrated blades so that when a tangle does occur, it can quickly and painlessly be cut out of the coat without causing damage.
A pin-brush: Used during daily brushing to remove loose hairs and stimulate the skin underneath.
Although grooming might seem like a chore, it will give you lots of time to bond with your Utonagan.
You should only need to bathe a Utonagan once every 2 months, or as needed if they become dirty. Bathing them too frequently can strip their coats of natural oils, leading to a dryer and duller appearance. You will need to clip their nails regularly as required, and their teeth should be kept clean with daily brushing or dental chews.
Utonagans might look like wolves, but that’s where the similarities stop.
Utonagans are a very people orientated crossbreed. They like to be involved in household activities and will form close bonds with the people they share a home with. This is thanks to their pack nature, likely derived from their Malamute and Husky parents.
A Utonagan needs to find their position within the household pack. Their owners will usually be perceived as the household ‘alpha’, but Utonagans will often challenge this hierarchy to try and become the alpha themselves.
Owners will therefore need to be strict in maintaining the household boundaries and rules that they set. For example, if you decide that your Utonagan is not allowed on the couch, you must stick to this rule at all times. Suddenly allowing them on the couch will lead to them thinking they have authority over you. Once they believe they are the household alpha, you will have a very difficult time trying to get them to listen to you and behave!
This stubbornness can also make them difficult to train, as they will purposefully ignore commands to judge your reaction. This is why we do not recommend adopting a Utonagan to first-time dog owners – they need experienced owners to thrive!
You may have realised by now that Utonagans are very intelligent. They can easily recognise emotions and, once they realise you are the alpha, they will learn a number of tricks and commands in training.
Despite being a sometimes challenging breed, Utonagans are very gentle and loving. It can take some time for them to get accustomed to new people, but they will shower them with affection once they are comfortable. Their loving natures also mean that Utonagans are a great family dog and they will get along well with children. Don’t let their mean appearances deceive you – they are naturally a patient breed!
Utonagans can live with other dogs if they have been socialised from a young age. It is recommended that they live with dogs of the opposite sex to avoid behavioural issues. Utonagans are not a good dog for living with cats. Their high prey drive can cause them to chase after and potentially attack small animals.
Note: If you have any health concerns about your Utonagan, please consult a registered vet.
The average life expectancy of a Utonagan is 12 to 15 years.
It is hard to clearly identify what health conditions Utonagans are prone to because they are not a stabilized breed. We can make predictions based on the health conditions that commonly appear in the parent breeds used to create the Utonagan. Being a large dog breed also means that they are more likely to develop joint conditions in older age.
The most commonly seen health conditions in the Utonagan are listed below:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia – A skeletal condition that causes the hip and elbow joints to deteriorate over time. It is commonly seen in large dog breeds and the first signs usually appear in the later years of a dog’s life.
Chondrodysplasia – An abnormal growth of cartilage that results in disproportionate dwarfism. Typically appears as excessively shortened front limbs. For more information on chondrodysplasia in Alaskan Malamutes, we recommend reading this article provided by the AMCA.
Degenerative Myelopathy – a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs that can eventually result in the inability to move the hind legs, more commonly seen in the German Shepherd.
Obesity – Some of the parent breeds of the Utonagan, such as the German Shepherd and the Alaskan Malamute, are prone to obesity due to their large appetites. Utonagans can also have greedy personalities that may lead to obesity.
The recommended health tests for Utonagans are:
- Elbow and hip evaluation.
- General health check-ups.
We recommend neutering your Utonagan at the appropriate age, and that you vaccinate them against preventable diseases based on the advice of your vet. You will need to protect your Utonagan against fleas and worms routinely using readily available treatments.
UTONAGAN EXERCISE NEEDS
Utonagans are a high energy breed that requires plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy.
This should be no surprise when you look at the breeds they are derived from. The Husky, Alaskan Malamute, and German Shepherd are all working dogs that were bred for their stamina and strength.
A Utonagan will need around 1 hour of physical exercise per day, but they will happily keep going for as long as you will let them. They are well suited for long hikes and walks, runs, long games of fetch, or a run around an enclosed park. As long as they are with you, they’ll enjoy almost all forms of exercise!
As well as physical exercise, Utonagans require mental stimulation throughout the day. This is because they are a very intelligent breed and they can quickly become bored if they’re left with nothing to do for too long.
Mental stimulation is best given in the form of training. Utonagans respond very well to training, no doubt taking after their German Shepherd relatives, and will learn several tricks and behaviours. Inexperienced owners may find training difficult due to the stubborn nature of the Utonagan, but it is important to persevere to set boundaries and teach them basic obedience.
Mental stimulation can also be given with toys and simply by spending time with you and other household members. Utonagans like to feel like they are part of the family so make sure to involve them in your day-to-day life!
If a Utonagan does not get the physical or mental stimulation they require, they will likely develop bad behaviours due to being bored and restless. This may include chewing furniture, excessively barking, growling, and ignoring commands.
It is not recommended to adopt a Utonagan unless you have the time to exercise them every day. It is also advised that you have a large, enclosed yard that they can safely run around in.
The Utonagan is a crossbreed with a short but interesting history. Although their numbers are few at the minute, we can see the Utonagan becoming an official breed in the future if interest continues to increase as it has in recent years.
Do you have a Utonagan? We’d love to hear from you! Send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured on our site.
Header image source – @itsnovaandatlas on Instagram.