Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Utonagan
Average Cost to keep/care for a Utonagan
The Utonagan was named after an ancient Chinook Indian tale which means "spirit of the wolf". The very first pair of dogs were introduced into the UK during the late 1980's and although still rare, the breed is gaining recognition here in the UK albeit slowly. Bred to look like wolves, but with the character and temperament of a domestic dog, the Utonagan is often seen being used as PAT therapy dogs in schools, hospitals as well as hospices and are known to be highly adaptable and intelligent.
The Utonagan is a relatively new breed and as such these attractive wolf-like dogs are still being developed. They are a cross between Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and German Shepherd Dogs and as previously mentioned the first pair were only introduced into the UK in the late eighties.
Over the last ten years these handsome dogs have gained a little more recognition mainly due to the breed becoming more established. They were bred to be companion dogs that boasted very wolf-like looks, but with the characteristics of an adaptable, highly intelligent and biddable domestic dog. The result is a dog that's highly intelligent and very adaptable with the elegant appearance of a wolf and today many Utonagans are regularly trained and used as PAT therapy dogs in all sorts of situations which includes in hospitals, hospices and schools which is proof of just how adaptable and biddable they are.
For the moment, the breed is not recognised by The Kennel Club (July 2016) and anyone wishing to share their home with a Utonagan would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list as so few puppies are bred every year.
Height at the withers: Males 63 - 84 cm, Females 61 - 71 cm
Average weight: Males 32 - 50 kg, Females 25 - 41 kg
The Utonagan is still a breed that's very much in development. As such dogs can differ in appearance quite a bit. However, all dogs are very wolf-like and they typically have powerful, athletic and graceful bodies. Their heads are wedge-shaped with dogs having yellow to amber or brown almond shaped, medium sized eyes. Utonagans always have a keen, intense and intelligent look about their eyes which adds to their wolf-like looks.
Their ears are quite small in relation to the size of a dog's head and are triangular in shape being slightly rounded at the tips and set well apart on a dog's head. Dogs carry their ears erect and facing forwards. They have black noses and black eye rims which enhances a dog's eye shape and their intense look. The Utonagan has a strong, powerful jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their forequarters are graceful and athletic with dogs having straight front legs that are close together with their feet turning a little outwards. Their necks are long, strong and a little arched. Toplines are level although they have a slightly sloping croup. A dog's withers are pronounced and well-muscled while bellies are nicely tucked up and taut adding to an Utonagan's overall graceful appearance.
Their tails are long which dogs carry down when resting, but higher when they are moving or excited. They are covered in thick, dense hair but without any feathering. Feet are very cat-like and compact with firm pads and strong nails.
When it comes to their coat, the Utonagan boasts having a close, tight, straight coat that's quite different during the warmer summer months than it is in the wintertime. During the colder winter months, dogs have profuse undercoats that cover their entire bodies which includes on the insides of their ears. However, during the warmer summer months their coats are very noticeably less dense. Their necks are well covered in hair forming a slight ruff which frames a dog's head. The accepted colours for a Utonagan include the following:
The Utonagan is an intelligent, friendly dog and one that boasts a well-balanced, even temperament. As such they are known to be wonderful family pets and companions, loving nothing more than being in a home environment and involved in everything that goes on around them. They are particularly good around children and when well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other pets and animals too. They are never happier than when they live with other dogs because they have a very strong "pack" mentality which is deeply embedded in their psyche.
However, they need to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household which means they need to be handled and trained with firm, fair and gentle hand. These dogs thrive on knowing who they can look to for direction and guidance or they might take on the role of the more dominant dog. With this said, the Utonagan is not known to have any aggressiveness about them.
They form strong bonds with their owners and in particular with the person who usually takes care and feeds them. The downside to this is they don't like to be left on their own for any length of time. As such, they are best suited to families where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out of the house so a dog is never left to their own devices for too long.
It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life.
They can be a little boisterous at times, especially when young, but with the right amount of socialisation and training, the Utonagan is a well-behaved and obedient dog and one that excels at all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like agility and flyball. They are also often seen being used as PAT therapy dogs which shows just how adaptable and biddable a Utonagan can be when well-handled and trained.
They are not the best choice for first time owners because these smart, quick thinking dogs need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of this type of high energy dog. They are best suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who enjoy having an intelligent canine companion at their side.
The Utonagan is a highly intelligent dog that's quick witted character. They learn things quickly with the downside to this being they are just as fast to pick up bad behaviours and habits too. As such, they need to be well socialised from a young age and their training has to begin early too. It has to be consistent and always fair, so that dogs understand what their owner expects of them.
Utonagans are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things, but they need to be handled with a firm yet gentle hand. In the right hands, they excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact they have with their owners when they are competing.
The key to successfully training a Utonagan is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions that much shorter which helps keep a dog more focussed on what they are being asked to do bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored. They are sensitive dogs by nature which means they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods, but they do respond well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these clever dogs.
Utonagans are known to be very good around children thanks to their gentle, placid natures. However, because of their large size and the fact they can be quite boisterous at times, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together and they generally get on with other animals they have grown up with. However, a Utonagan would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Utonagan is between 10 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Utonagan is such a new breed that more information is needed to know if these handsome dogs are affected by any hereditary and congenital health issues the breeds used to create them often suffer from. With this said, breeders should have their stud dogs hip scored and eye tested before using them in a breeding programme. The conditions that more commonly affect the Utonagan parent breeds include the following:
As with any other breed, Utonagans need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Utonagan boasts having a close, tight, straight coat that's a lot more profuse during the winter months than it is in the summertime. They are quite high maintenance on the grooming front in the winter, but less so during the summer. As such they need to be groomed more frequently over the colder months and only need a twice weekly brush when the weather is warmer to remove any loose and dead hair from their coats.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Utonagan is a high energy, intelligent and often boisterous dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. They need a minimum of 60-minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in a safe and secure environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Utonagan would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these athletic, high energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
However, because they have such dense coats, the Utonagan can easily overheat if they are given too much exercise when the weather is warmer and ideally they should only be walked when the temperature is cooler which is typically earlier in the morning and then later in the evening during the summertime. With this said, Utonagan puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Utonagan puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Utonagan, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Utonagan in northern England would be £19.49 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £45.91 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Utonagan and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Utonagan would be between £70 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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