10 Facts You Should Know About Utonagans (with Pictures)


Taylor A Ritz The unique appearance of a Utonagan is no accident; this dog was bred to look just like a wolf. Originally called the Wolf Dog, this breed was first marketed as a wolf hybrid. Even the name “Utonagan” is Chinook Indian for “the spirit of the wolf.” In reality, this dog contains no wolf genetics.

1. Where Does the Utonagan Come From?

While the origins of many breeds are theories or myths at best, the Utonagan has a very clear and well-known history. The Utonagan was developed by Edwina Harrison in Britain in the 1980s. The goal was to create a dog that strongly resembled a wolf but acted like a sweet, gentle domestic dog. Records indicate that Harrison crossed five mixed-breed rescue dogs with Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, and German Shepherd. In the 40 years since Harrison began the breed, various other breeders have worked to further develop the Utonagan. They selected the best dogs for breeding via vigorous genetic screening, weeding out possible health issues along the way. Though the Utonagan is not recognized by any major kennel club, breeders have managed to achieve a consistent appearance and behavior across multiple generations. Utonagans are currently considered a hybrid breed.

2. What Does a Utonagan Look Like?

Utonagans are large-sized dogs bred to closely resemble wolves. Due to their hybrid status, they can display a wide variety of coat colors. A Utonagan’s fur can exhibit a combination of silver, grey, brown, tan, or buff coloration. The appearance can be grizzled and a mask marking is often apparent on the face. Black, white, or apricot coloration may result in a solid coat. The coat itself is thick and double-layered but not overly feathery. Utonagans often sport a mane during the cold winter months. Utonagans should be strong and muscular in appearance but not heavy in build. Eyes are almond-shaped and range from brown to amber or yellow. 

3. How Big Is a Utonagan?

Utonagans are large dogs, with males slightly larger than females. Individuals range from 23 to 28 inches in height and 55 to 90 pounds. 

4. How Much Does a Utonagan Eat?

While the Utonagan may look like a wolf, in reality, he is just your average large domestic dog. Like all dogs, they require a balanced diet to keep them happy and healthy. Whether commercial kibble or manually prepared at home, diets should be appropriately tailored to an individual based on their age (puppy, senior, etc.) and activity level. Many dog foods have serving suggestions on their packaging, but monitoring food intake and body condition, as well as consulting with your veterinarian, are all simple ways to make sure your dog is receiving the nutrition he or she requires.

5. What Is the Temperament of a Utonagan?

Though they may appear fierce, Utonagans were not bred as guard dogs. In fact, they weren’t bred for any specific working purpose at all, but instead, for their wild look. Utonagans are intelligent, friendly, and alert. Like their parent breeds, they are also active and capable of great endurance. Utonagans can get along with most people and children though they may be wary of strangers at first.

6. How Much Exercise Does a Utonagan Need?

Utonagans were bred from three breeds with amazing athletic ability and stamina. As a result, they require regular exercise to be happy and healthy. Their lineage has lent them to high levels of energy and endurance that must be spent daily. A long, brisk walk or play session in the yard, twice a day, is paramount to burn off the excess energy your Utonagan has and to keep him or her fit and healthy. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog; dogs that are not provided with adequate exercise will become bored and resort to undesirable and possibly even destructive activities.

7. How Do You Train a Utonagan?

Utonagans are moderately easy to train but can be challenging for an inexperienced dog owner. This breed tends to have a personality on the dominant side so a firm and consistent training schedule is vital to success. Socialization from an early age is important for any dog and the Utonagan is no different. Exposing them to as many peoples, places, and situations as possible from a young age will help ensure a well-rounded and calmer adult dog in the future. Your Utonagan may be stubborn, but with a little patience and a bit of determination, training can be a rewarding experience for both of you. 

8. How Long Can A Utonagan Live?

As with any dog, Utonagans can experience health issues. Fortunately, mixed-breed dogs such as these tend to have fewer problems than purebred individuals. Here are a few health concerns Utonagans may be more prone to:
  • Hip dysplasia: an abnormality of the hip joint where the socket and ball do not properly fit together.
  • Addison’s Disease: adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol.
  • Von Willibrand’s Disease: a genetic disorder where blood does not clot effectively.
  • Cataracts: a protein build-up in the lens of the eye that causes clouding.
Overall, Utonagans are quite healthy for such a large dog; they enjoy a life expectancy between 12 and 15 years!

9. How Often Do You Groom a Utonagan?

A Utonagan’s coat is long and double-coated. To deal with shedding, brush at least twice a week but preferably daily. Your Utonagan will likely undergo a heavy shed twice a year as well. Regular brushing can prevent tangles and mats from forming in the dog’s undercoat. Bathe them as needed.

10. Do Utonagans Make Good Pets For a Family?

While they may look wild, a Utonagan is incredibly sweet and loving. They bond quite strongly with their human companions but also require a large amount of exercise to expel their deep well of energy. They get along with other members of the household as long as they have been socialized from a young age. The Utonagan makes an excellent, energetic, loving companion for an active individual or family.

Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.

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