Don't Buy a Chinook

The Negative Traits of Chinooks

My job as a Chinook breeder is to make sure that every pup I place goes into a home where it will live for at least 14 years or more then the family will come back to me looking for another Chinook pup. So I need to make sure that the Chinook is the RIGHT dog for your family. This means knowing the negatives of the breed as well as the positives.  Consider me as the Devil's Advocate in persuading you to not get a Chinook.


Don't Buy a Chinook If . . .
. . .  you want to go to the bathroom by yourself.  Chinooks are very people oriented.  They need to spend time with their human pack and do not do well as outdoor-only dogs.  I don't mean to say that the Chinook should never be left alone -- all dogs need to learn how to behave when they are alone -- but they are no the kind of dog that can be left in a kennel.  Yes, your Chinook needs to learn to be alone while you go to work each day but it will want to be with you in the evenings and on weekends when you are home.  and nothing is more fun to a Chinook than coming along for the ride while you go to the grocery store and dry cleaners or for a ride in the country.  Most are very good travelers.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . . you don't want to be smarter than your dog.  Chinooks are the Einsteins of the dog world and smart dogs can be a challenge.  Smart dogs figure out alternative ways to go from Point A to Point B.  They enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to open the gate even if they have no desire to ever leave home.  You must keep smart dogs entertained and busy or they will find trouble.  At minimum basic training is a must.  I ask everyone getting a pup from me to not only take it through basic obedience training but to take another class when the dog is between one and two years old.  Give your Chinook a job where it needs to use its brain and you will have a happy life.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you don't want to train your dog.  Chinooks must be trained or they can be obnoxious.  Overly harsh training methods will not work; the dog will shut down and ignore you or do the dead dog act.  Positive training with food rewards is usually successful, especially when coupled with consistency.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . .
. . .  you have allergies to dogs and have never met Chinooks.  Find a Chinook owner near you and visit to see how your allergies will react.  If you have an allergy to dog hair, dander or saliva, you will most likely have trouble with Chinooks.  I personally am allergic to dogs but take care to keep their hair away from my face and some modicum of control over the dust bunnies that appear during shedding season.  Your Chinook will lick you and shed both hair and dander so visit another Chinook owner and spend time with their Chinooks to see how well you can tolerate exposure.  One of the saddest things I ever had to do was pick up a beloved Chinook pup being returned to the breeder because one of the children in the family had a severe allergic reaction.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . .
. . .  you don't like dog hair.  Chinooks are not heavy shedders on a day-to-day basis but do shed, what many call "blow coat" twice a year.  All of a sudden you will be asking, "Where did all this hair come from?"  You never know just how much hair they really have until they shed for the first time.  for three weeks your dog will look a bit ragged as little fluffs are shed.  The heaviest shedders are un-spayed females who shed in sync with their heat cycles.  Hair will collect on the dog bed, your bed, your gray wool suit as you rush out the door to an important meeting, and everywhere except on the dog.  The good news is that it is only for about three weeks in the spring and a shorter period in the fall.  And you will be lulled into a false sense of calm because your pup will not do a full shed until the spring after it is a year old.  By this time you are in love with it and will find a way to cope with all the hair.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . .
. . .  you like to have an exceptionally clean house at all times.  Chinooks do not come with their own private housekeeping service.  They will jump on you with muddy paws, shed hair, dig holes in the yard, and rub up against your white couch.  Puppies will pee on the carpet right in front of the door just before company is due to walk in.  If you want the perfect dog of any breed, you should probably buy a stuffed one.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
 . . .  your idea of exercise is flicking the remote control for the television.  Though they do not have an exceptionally high exercise requirement, they do need to have time to burn off excess energy.  A tired Chinook is a better behaved Chinook as tired dogs fall asleep instead of getting into trouble.  A walk around the neighborhood, a game of fetch, a hike in the hills or a trip to the dog park are all good activities.  Give your Chinook a job to do such as pulling a cart with your children riding in it or hauling wood to the woodpile.  Remember that if you don't provide an outlet for excess energy, your Chinook will find one and it may not be what you had in mind!

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . .
. . .  you want an instantly mature and mellow dog.  Chinooks retain their puppy-like exuberance for a long time.  As I write this my 12-year old Chinook has just jumped over a 32" toddler gate meant to keep her in the other room.  She still bounces and yelps at mealtimes, if she sees a new box of bones, or if she thinks she will be able to go sledding or for a ride in the car.  Chinooks take a few years to grow up.  This doesn't mean that your two year old will still be peeing on the floor but he or she could very well still be clumsy, goofy, and downright silly for many years, possibly even forever.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you want a guard dog.  A Chinook will usually love everyone in the world, especially those who offer a pet or treat.  Yes, Thunder barks when people come to the door (if he is awake!) but his tail is also wagging a hundred miles an hour in anticipation of meeting a new friend.  A friend recently told me about coming home at 3 am after being gone for five weeks.  He came into the house, brushed his teeth, and got into bed with his wife.  In the morning he and his wife were awake and talking in bed for a while before their Chinook woke up and noticed that he was there despite having spent the whole night on the floor next to the bed.  A Chinook is not property protective though if the boogie man were to come after you and your children, your Chinook would defend you to the point of death.  However remember they will show a burglar where the family jewels are hidden if the burglar offers to scratch a spot that itches and no one is home.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you are attracted to them simply for their appearance.  Chinook pups change quite a bit as they mature.  right now I live with one that was born nearly chocolate colored with a black mask and one that was born a light honey color all over.  The one that was born light colored is now darker than the other.  Chinooks have a variety of looks and it is not easy to predict what you will get as an adult, especially details like ear carriage. A puppy with both parents down-eared may have ears that are pricked and vice versa.  The beauty of a Chinook is its temperament and personality, not its appearance (though I consider them to be absolutely beautiful).

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you believe that dogs should run free.  Though not as prone to wandering as most other Northern breeds, no dog can be trusted to safely run free outside of your fenced property when unsupervised.  A Chinook still has the herding instincts of it's ancestors and a country-living free-running Chinook will find livestock to chase and herd.  IN every state that I am aware of, it is legal to shoot and kill a dog chasing livestock.  Not to mention, the possibility of death or injury from car accidents, other dogs, or wild animals.  With training your Chinook can be trusted to stay with you on hikes and safe areas but training is required along with maturity.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you cannot afford the cost of its upkeep.  Though basically healthy, they are large dogs and will eat up to four cups of premium food a day as adults and will require more if fed a lesser quality kibble.  Shots, worming, and spay/neuter, annual check-ups, and training classes all cost money.  The initial purchase price is just a small part of what the Chinook will actually cost.  Though they are easy keepers compared to many other dogs their size, there will still be on going costs and you need to be prepared.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you lack leadership skills.  You must be the head of the household with your Chinook  If you give a Chinook an inch, they will take a mile and come back for another. Chinooks are generally too smart to engage in out and out dominance battles. Instead they sense power vacuums, and exploit them.  If you are unable to be firm (kind, but firm) about the rules of your household, and to enforce them consistently, you will find that the ruler of your house has four legs and is red.  They don't have a mean bone in their bodies, but they are opportunistic and stunningly smart.  If you aren't in charge, they will be

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you simply must have a pup today!  Breeders have personal lives too and most have other jobs and responsibilities in addition to breeding Chinooks and raising litters of pups.  Plan on talking to several breeders and asking about what their future plans are.  Be prepared to wait six months or longer to find a breeder who is planning a litter, then you'll need to wait for the pup to be safely conceived, delivered, and old enough to leave Mom Dog.  You will find that your Chinook is more than worth the wait.

Don't Buy a Chinook If . . . 
. . .  you cannot commit for the next twelve to fifteen years to having this dog as your constant companion.  Chinooks are typically long lived for their size compared to other large breeds.  No dog deserves to be dumped because the owner changes his or her mind or decides the dog causes too much mess, or has fleas.  Should you ever have a problem such as disease or death that requires help, please contact your breeder right away or Chinook Rescue which can be found at www.chinook.org.  If you have any trouble training or managing your Chinook, help is available as well.  Your breeder will promise you to take the dog back at any time during its lifetime but the breeder also wants to know that you are committed to the Chinook for as long as it will live.  Your life will be the richer for it.

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Copyright  Ginger Corley, Rain Mountain Chinooks, 1988 to present.  No material may be reproduced without permission, though permission is usually granted.
Logo by Susan Fletcher, Frontier Chinooks, used here with permission and much appreciation.