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Canadian Eskimo Dog: Sleds Dogs and Hunting Companions To the Inuits - PawSafe

Canadian Eskimo Dog: Sleds Dogs and Hunting Companions To the Inuits

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Canadian Eskimo Dog

The Canadian Eskimo Dog is one of the most iconic Arctic breeds. Often generalized as ‘huskies,’ it is actually a distinct landrace with a heritage spanning millennia. Since there is some confusion around the various arctic and subarctic breeds, you may be wondering, ‘what does a Canadian Eskimo Dog look like?’ And the answer to that is something between a husky and a wolf.  

Commonly called the Eskimo Dog, recent history saw them extensively in expeditions to both the North and South poles by explorers like Peary and Amundson. They are still used to this day for arctic and antarctic expeditions, primarily in tourism.  

Finding a Canadian Eskimo Dog for sale depends on where you are. In the Americas, they are primarily available in Canada. In Europe, you may have more luck with the Greenland Dog, which is genetically the same breed.

This is a primitive and challenging canine and is not recommended for the novice owner. They are comparable in size and temperament to the Malamute dog. Eskimo Dogs are known to be aggressive to other breeds and have a powerful, primal pack instinct.

History of the Canadian Eskimo Dog: Where Do They Come From?

Also called the Canadian Inuit Dog, the established historical account of the Canadian Eskimo Dog suggests that the breed dates back to around 2000 BC. Experts believe the breed represents a pure bloodline dating back as far as 1000 years to the Thule people.

Their Inuit name is simply “Qimmiq” or “Kimmit,” which merely means “dog.” This speaks of a time when the indigenous people didn’t know other types of dogs existed.

The large Eskimo Dog originally accompanied their human companions from North-East Asia to North America in the early pre-Inuit migration. Their fate and future were bound to that of the people they accompanied.

They were made to pull loads of up to 80 kg per dog, covering distances over fifteen miles per day in extreme weather conditions. The trek may have seen them travel as far as seventy miles per day on a good day. 

Furthermore, they played a crucial role in hunting, assisting hunters in finding seal breathing holes in the icy arctic circle and keeping polar bears at bay.

By the 1920s, an estimated twenty thousand Canadian Eskimo Dogs lived in Northern Canada, still fulfilling the same role amongst the Inuit people as their ancestors had for millennia past. The snowmobile, widely adopted in the 1960s, created a drop in their numbers as they lost their primary function.

A darker side to their decline came by way of government instruction. The RCMP, acting under direct order, was assigned with the systematic mass slaughter of Inuit dogs. The final assault came with the appearance of southern dog breeds and the Siberian Husky, wiping out small populations of Eskimo Dogs susceptible to disease. Crossbreeding also played a role in dwindling their numbers further.

By the early 1960s, only one stud of the breed was still registered with the CKC, and the breed was officially declared extinct. In response, a team supported by the Canadian government sought to prevent this culturally and historically significant Inuit dog’s complete loss. 

William Carpenter, Bill Thompson, John McGrath, and Brian Ladoon set out to scour even the most remote areas to find any remaining purebred specimens. Their mission successfully managed to initiate a comprehensive breeding program, reinvigorating the Eskimo Dog and establishing a thriving population.

The fight for survival is not yet won for this ancient dog breed. At the time of writing, there are just shy of 300 registered Canadian Eskimo Dogs. Attempts to further improve the breed’s prospective future currently rely on the FCI recognition granted in 2018.

What are the Physical Features of the Canadian Eskimo Dog?

The Eskimo Dog’s frame hints at its historic function as a rugged working dog accustomed to the harsh cold. 

Its long, waterproof outer coat is variable in color and covers a thick, woolly undercoat. Like others of its type, it has pricked ears and a tail that curls over its back. 

The Eskimo Dog stands about 20 to 27 inches (51 to 68.5 cm) and usually weighs between 65 and 105 pounds (30 and 47.5 kg). The breed is not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Still, the Canadian Kennel Club places it in the working-dog group.

They are of a moderate to large size for a spitz breed. The males boast a noticeable mane with a thick neck and broad chest, while females have a shorter coat and significantly smaller. 

Compared to most modern breeds, their evolution has not been as directly interfered with. Hence, they have some variations in features such as their color, coats, and size. Eskimo Dogs from one area may look quite different from those found 100 miles away.

Both genders have a thick and very dense coat. The coat is notable for its stiff, guard hair contrasted by an insulating and waterproof dense undercoat. There is a stark contrast in the summer and winter coats’ length and density.

The Eskimo Dog has no specific color or pattern. Any are allowed, so long as the bloodline is pure. However, blue eyes like those often seen in the Siberian Husky is usually a clear sign that it is not purebred.

General Care of the Canadian Eskimo Dog

Canadian Eskimo Dog’s General Care
SheddingModerate to heavy shedding during warm weather
Exercise40 minutes/day, hard work. 
HousingNeeds space. Can survive in freezing temperatures. Not suited for warm climates.
TemperamentHigh prey drive. Strong pack instinct, tendency towards aggression to other breeds
TrainabilityTest boundaries, contest leadership in pack. Hard to train.


This is a very energetic breed, requiring a lot of space and firmly regimented exercise routines. It will thrive doing what it was meant to do, which is sledding and hunting.


The Canadian Eskimo Dog requires the sense of purpose it gets from scheduled and routine work. While they like to play, they need a home that can give them a job to do. They do not do well with dogs they do not see as part of their pack. 

The Eskimo Dog can be kept in a kennel environment, given they are not isolated from other Eskimo Dogs. They can live outside in frigid temperatures as well. If kept indoors, they should be crated or provided with a lot of stimulation to be kept from being destructive.

It is recommended that Eskimo Dogs are fenced off from each other when left unsupervised.

Food & Diet Requirements

The Canadian Eskimo Dog thrives on a high protein diet. Due to their high energy levels, you may choose to supplement their diet with meat, bone meal, and animal fats. Their digestive system may struggle to digest grains.

With the help of a veterinary nutritionist, the Eskimo Dog may do well on a BARF diet.


According to the Canadian Kennel Club, routine brushing with a good slicker brush is fine during the summer. Still, they will need a blowout when shedding.

The CED makes a special allowance for the breed as a primitive working dog instead of a pet. By these standards, their upkeep is recommended with consideration for their inherently less domesticated traits and needs. 

Grooming could be perceived as hostile by an Eskimo Dog should they not be approached respectfully and confidently. It is recommended that one come to them from the front while speaking to them in a calm and measured tone of voice.

The Canadian Eskimo Dog is particularly prone to interpreting direct eye contact as a threat or challenge. The physical proximity involved in grooming means that unintentional eye contact could lead to aggressive outbursts.

They require more space and time to get used to the idea of grooming than most dogs, regardless of whether they were desensitized from a young age.



The Canadian Eskimo Dog may not require the duration of exercise that many other high-energy Arctic breeds do. Instead, you can opt for a high-intensity, work-based workout lasting between forty minutes and an hour.

Keeping in mind their aggression and propensity to challenge pack members for dominance, it is crucial that group exercise that these dogs be exercised by experienced adults. Alternatively, the Eskimo Dog can be exercised on its own or with members of the opposite gender.

Severe Health ProblemsHip and elbow dysplasia
Gastric torsion
Mild to Moderate Health problemsHeat intolerance, arthritis.
Rare Health ProblemsCataracts or other eye problems

Generally considered a healthy breed, the Canadian Eskimo Dog is not particularly predisposed to any health issues. 

As with many large breeds, it can suffer from both hip and elbow dysplasia. Breeding adults should always be screened for this, just in case.

Gastric torsion, a condition common in arctic breeds, is a life-threatening condition where the stomach bloats with gas and twists around itself, blocking the gas from escape. This condition requires emergency surgery. Eskimo Dogs are at risk of this since they tend to gulp their food down. For this reason, you may want to slow them down with a slow-feeder

The Canadian Eskimo Dog may also be susceptible to more common canine ailments. As with other Arctic breeds, it can struggle with heat in warmer climates. The Eskimo Dog may also suffer arthritis as it gets older.

What is the Canadian Eskimo Dog’s Life Expectancy?

The Canadian Eskimo Dog is an ordinarily healthy breed and usually lives between 10 and 15 years.

The Trainability of a Canadian Eskimo Dog: Temperament and Intelligence

The Canadian Eskimo Dog is not considered an ideal breed for any advanced training purposes. As a primitive breed, they still have instincts that may seem wild compared to modern, docile dogs.

This does not mean they are unintelligent, but rather that they are independent and strong-willed. Even an expert trainer may struggle to shape their behavior.

Furthermore, they are poorly suited to training outside of specific work tasks such as sledding. This problem is aggravated by the presence of other dogs, even those from their pack. 

Many sources recommend taking a firm approach to basic training and using restraining collars as part of a strictly regimented training routine. However, this contradicts the CDC’s information suggesting that the breed is not suited to even basic training.

Ultimately, achieving the desired level of basic training will require professional guidance, patience, and reduced expectations.

Socializing a Canadian Eskimo Dog puppy may help them deal with some of their aggression towards other dogs. Still, owners should always be cautious and aware that this dog is more wolf than pet. Nevertheless, for those who know how to handle them, the Canadian Eskimo Dog forms an intense bond with its owner and handler.

Sociability with Other Pets

As mentioned, the Canadian Eskimo Dog can be notoriously aggressive to other dogs, even those in its own pack. As for any dogs it views as an outsider, they are known to be incredibly hostile.

Regarding other pets, they are subject to a keen hunter instinct. In the Canadian Eskimo Dog’s case, this instinct is powerful, making them a terrible breed to keep around other pets or livestock. 

When it comes to a Canadian Eskimo Dog’s pack, the aggressive behaviors form a natural part of their pack dynamics. While things may get rough, and injuries will likely be sustained, they use aggression to create a natural hierarchy, the same way wolves do. 

They are best kept with a number of their own breed and separated but kept within view of each other when not under supervision.

Suitable Home: Are Canadian Eskimo Dogs Good Pets?

The Canadian Eskimo Dog would make a good pet for experienced sled dog owners who live in a cold climate and need reliable working dogs. 

They are not recommended for homes with small children since their rambunctiousness might lead to accidental injury. They also cannot be kept in a home where they have access to other pets. The Eskimo Dog wants to live in a pack, despite its tendency to squabble.

It is essential to keep in mind that they require a cold climate and a diet rich in protein. 

It will require special pens, which need enough space not to confine the dogs to unsuitably small areas.

This is a breed for the owner dedicated to providing it with all of its many needs.

How Much Does a Canadian Eskimo Dog Cost?

In Canada and Alaska, prices range between $800 and $1200.


The Canadian Eskimo Dog is one of the most historically significant dog breeds still alive today. Their ten millennia-long companionship shaped the outcome of one of the earliest migrations to continental America by mankind. 

They have outlived almost all the other Native American breeds, and they are in desperate need of owners who can both understand them and preserve their way of life.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.