The Utonagan dog, also known as the Tamaskan dog, is a sled-dog crossbreed originating in Finland. They are one of the Spitz-type dog breeds that retain a strong physical resemblance to the wolf, and are also often mistaken for the Siberian Husky, which is one of the component breeds in their makeup. The Utonagan dog is classed as a rare breed, and has only recently begun to be recognised as a breed outside of Finland. While they are still a relatively rare sight within the UK, they are gaining in popularity, as people’s understanding and preference for dogs from the working Spitz grouping grows.
The Utonagan dog as a breed in its own right is a relatively recent addition to breed listings, but the Utonagan shares ancestry with some of the oldest known historical dog breeds. Their ancestry generally consists of a mixture of Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute breeding, and they contain both temperament and appearance traits of these breeds, but appearance-wise, they resemble the European Grey Wolf more than any other specific dog breed! They also have shared ancestry with various other breeds, including the German Shepherd, Northern Inuit Dog, and Saarlooswolfhond.
The Utonagan dog was selectively bred in order to produce a dog that possessed all of the best traits of the Husky and the Malamute and other sled dogs, and is valued for its ability to work well as part of a team, aptitude for sled work, and general endurance. While the Utonagan dog can often be seen in Finland partaking in sled dog trials and competitions, they are also incredibly versatile, and can also be found turning their paw to working dog trials, agility events and obedience competitions.
Utonagan dogs are renowned for being lively and intelligent, with superior endurance when running. They are extremely personable and very friendly with people of all ages, both their immediate family and handlers and strangers alike. Their superior scenting ability means that they are good at following a trail and very persistent when they get going, and they also have a reasonably strong prey drive like their Husky and Malamute ancestry.
However, they are also extremely biddable, and can be trained to live happily alongside of other animals such as cats when properly introduced, trained and managed.
Like all dogs with Husky or Malamute ancestry, the Utonagan dog requires a significant amount of exercise and activity every day. They do not thrive if cooped up inside for long periods of time, and while they can live happily in cities and suburbs, plenty of allowance needs to be made to provide for their exercise requirements.
They require several long, energetic walks each day, and as they are built for endurance and long spells of running, a quick spin around the park will not prove adequate to tire them out! They also require plenty of mental stimulation, and if they become bored, they will soon take to making their own entertainment and may become destructive or display behavioural problems.
The Utonagan dog is alert, intelligent and quick to learn, but can prove a handful for the inexperienced trainer. They will quickly develop new skills and become bored easily from too much repetition, so they require a varied and active training regime that keeps them guessing and avoids potential boredom.
They require clear, unambiguous boundaries and firm but fair management, and bad habits or unruly behaviour should be nipped in the bud early on. Adequate socialisation is important for the Utonagan, and it is also vital to train them for good recall from an early age, to ensure that the dog can be trusted not to run off when out in the open.
Due to their strong prey drives, they can pose a threat to smaller animals and pets unless introduced to them when young, and correctly and carefully socialised with them. Generally, providing that this is achieved, the Utonagan can live happily in a home with smaller pets such as cats.
The Utonagan dog is very friendly and personable, and actively enjoys the company of children. They like playing and messing around with kids, and are one of the best dog breeds to introduce children to for the first time, as their temperaments are even and they are honest in terms of the body language and signals that they give off.
They do tend to be fairly dominant dogs, so it is important to ensure that they do not try to herd the children or harass them for treats and table scraps, but other than this, the Utonagan is an excellent choice for fit, active families. The Utonagan enjoys being involved in all aspect of family life, going out with the family, and being included in play in the garden and in the park with the kids too.