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The Northern Inuit Dog: Your Complete Guide To The Modern Direwolf - PawSafe

The Northern Inuit Dog: Your Complete Guide To The Modern Direwolf

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

close up of face of pure white Northern Inuit dog

Venturing into the world of dog breeds brings us to the captivating and mysterious Northern Inuit Dog, a breed that has gained fame and intrigue, not just for its striking resemblance to wolves but also for its unique blend of characteristics. 

Known for their role in the popular series “Game of Thrones,” these dogs have a temperament that combines the affectionate loyalty of domestic breeds with the strong, independent nature of their wild ancestors. 

Dr. Frédéric Laugrand’s study provides insightful knowledge into the heritage and practices surrounding these remarkable dogs of the inuits, shedding light on their Spitz-type lineage and sled-pulling capabilities. While not officially recognized as a breed, the Northern Inuit Dog has captured hearts with its versatility, from being a loving family pet to showing prowess as a working dog breed.

So, What Is A Northern Inuit Dog?

The Northern Inuit Dog is a large, wolf-like breed known for its friendly temperament, intelligence, and high energy levels. They require plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and are known for vocalizing through howling. Ideal for experienced owners, they thrive in cooler climates and need space to roam.

The Northern Inuit Dog is a fascinating and enigmatic canine that stands out with its large size and striking resemblance to wolves. This unofficial breed sprang to prominence for its wolf-like appearance and garnered attention from its representation in the realm of fantasy television. 

Despite its name, it is not a breed indigenous to the Inuit people but rather a creation that aims to mirror the wolf’s physical traits while retaining the desirable qualities of a domestic dog.

These dogs showcase a wide range of colors from pure white to black, and their double coats are not just for show; they’re a testament to their resilience in harsh climates. They share many characteristics with their Spitz-type relatives, such as high intelligence, a penchant for howling rather than barking, and a notable double coat that equips them for chilly adventures. 

Owners revel in their diverse temperaments, with some Northern Inuit Dogs showing a more laid-back attitude, while others display the spirited energy of their sled-dog relatives. However, their need for companionship, extensive exercise, and mental stimulation is universal, as is their tendency to form strong, protective bonds with their human pack.

Most famous for playing the young direwolves in HBO’s Game of Thrones, these dogs’ magnificent screen presence has landed them more than one role. A Northern Inuit named Dewey is also one of the leading stars of Outlander, playing Rollo.

Dewey is a sweet boy who works best with loads of positive reinforcement and squeaky toys. This is a prime example of the “mellow” and “low-key” type of dogs Outlander Executive Producer Mathew B. Roberts describes them as.

History of the Northern Inuit: Where do they come from?

standing wolf like northern inuit dog on white background agout wolf color

The exact origins of the Northern Inuit dog are not perfectly clear, but they are interesting. 

The Northern Inuit Society explains that these dogs were inspired by the Inuit people who were reported to mix their spitz-type dogs with wolves to create working dogs.

Some of these dogs made it to England in the 1980s. They appear to have been purebreds and mixed Arctic breeds such as the Canadian Eskimo Dog, Alaskan Malamute, Alusky, and Siberian Husky. 

DNA tests have indicated some wolf ancestry in this foundational stock as well as Samoyed and the rare and protected Greenland Dog, sled dog with spiritual significance to the Inuit people. The puppies were then combined with local wolf-like breeds such as the German Shepherd and more Malamutes and Huskies to create the Northern Inuit we know today.

Over time, breeders of the Northern Inuit began to splinter off into separate groups, forming new breeds from Northern Inuit stock.  These offshoots are the British Timber Dog, The Utonagan, and the Tamaskan

Nowadays, the Northern Inuit Society is working toward making them an established and recognized breed. Northern Inuits are only bred to each other now, with no outcrossing, and any remaining wolf genetics have basically disappeared.

This makes the Northern Inuit an incredibly wolf-like dog, but without the potential behavior or legal issues that sometimes exist in true wolfdogs like the Kugsha.

They are also gaining popularity fast. Official breeders of the Northern Inuit exist now in America, Europe, and even so far as South Africa!

Physical Features of the Northern Inuit Dog

close up of gray Northern Inuit dog white background

So, what does this rare breed look like?

How Big Does the Northern Inuit Dog Get?

The Northern Inuit Dog is a large and athletic breed, with females standing 23-28 inches (58–71 cm) tall and weighing around 55-84 pounds (25–38 kg), while males are even larger at 25-30 inches (58–81 cm) tall and tipping the scales at 79-110 pounds (36–48 kg). Their size is complemented by a double coat and a straight tail that curves when they are excited.

Appearance and Coat Colors

These dogs have a distinctly wolf-like appearance, more so than their cold-region cousins like the German Shepherd or Husky. Their faces can feature a full mask, a partial one, or none at all. They flaunt a variety of colors, from all white to shades of grey, silver, and black, with a dense, waterproof double coat that’s slightly coarse. However, spotty or patchy coloration is seen as a fault. They carry a preference for tails with a black tip, although it’s not a requirement.

Northern Inuit Dogs do shed, particularly with seasonal changes, due to their double coat. They are not hypoallergenic and require regular grooming to manage shedding. For more on their physical standards, check out the Northern Inuit Society of America’s breed standard.

These striking dogs, with their erect, leaf-shaped ears and their oval, slightly oblique eyes in colors like yellow, amber, brown, orange, and blue, present a majestic and wild aspect. Their gait is far-reaching and effortless, a testament to their heritage and built-in athleticism. Despite their formidable presence, they bring a balance of power and grace to any setting.

Temperament and Intelligence of a Northern Inuit Dog

howling white Northern inuit dog on black back ground

Northern Inuit Dogs are celebrated for their even-tempered nature, often being friendly and sociable with a calm demeanor that makes them excellent companions. They typically exhibit a warm disposition towards both family members and strangers, which means they don’t fit the typical guard dog profile but rather the role of a companionable pet. This breed craves human interaction and thrives on being part of the family ‘pack.’

In terms of intelligence, these dogs are known for their smarts and inquisitive minds. They’re quick learners but also have an independent streak, which can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness. The Northern Inuit Dog’s cleverness means they need engaging training sessions that challenge them mentally. 

They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques, with consistent and varied training methods that capture their interest and respect their sensitive nature. Their intelligence doesn’t just call for physical exercise but also activities that stimulate their mind, like puzzle toys or scent work.

Are Northern Inuit Dogs Good for Families?

Northern Inuit Dogs can be fantastic for families. They’re known for their friendly demeanor and often show a great fondness for human companionship, making them less suited for guarding but wonderful as family pets. They’re calm and easy-going, often integrating well into the family ‘pack.’

If you have trouble with these dogs not getting along with others, see our article on how to get two dogs to get along.

Can Northern Inuit Dogs Be Left Alone?

These dogs form deep bonds with their families and don’t enjoy being alone. Leaving them by themselves for long stretches can lead to separation anxiety. It’s important to get them used to being alone gradually and ensure they have enough exercise to keep them content when you’re not around.

Do Northern Inuit Dogs Need a Lot of Exercise?

Northern Inuit Dogs, with their high energy levels, typically need around 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily. This should be a mix of physical activities like running, playing, and brain games that challenge them mentally. Remember, it’s not just about tiring them out physically but keeping their intelligent minds engaged too.

Northern Inuit Dogs are energetic souls that need more than just a stroll around the neighborhood. They’re built for stamina and can get frustrated with short, uneventful walks. Instead, they excel in activities that let them burn off energy and work alongside their human companions.

Sledding is a fantastic way for them to tap into their heritage and work as part of a team, pulling weight and traveling through snowy trails. Canicross, where they can run ahead while tethered to you, is another excellent way to keep them fit and fulfilled.

These dogs are also perfect for people who love the great outdoors. Hiking over varied terrains or going for a run in the woods lets them explore and stretch their legs in a more stimulating environment. And if you’re into cycling, bikejoring is an adventure they’ll love, pulling you along as you pedal through paths and trails.

The key is to offer them activities that challenge them both physically and mentally, ensuring they’re getting the exercise they crave and the bonding time with you that they need.

Is a Northern Inuit Dog the Right Dog Breed for Me?

If you’re a first-time dog owner, the Northern Inuit Dog might be a challenge due to its intelligent but sometimes stubborn nature. They need variety in training to stay engaged and respond best to positive reinforcement—think treats, praise, or a quick game. Always keep training sessions fun and short to hold their interest.

Remember, these dogs can be vocal and prone to howling, which is natural behavior and they should not be punished for it.

Suitable Home

The adaptable Northern Inuit Dog can make themselves at home in various settings, thriving in a loving environment with space to play. They’re better off in homes where someone is frequently present, and while they’re great with kids, their size means playtime should be supervised to avoid any accidental bumps or tumbles.

Raising a Northern Inuit Puppy

For those adorable Northern Inuit puppies, start training and socialization early. They should learn to interact appropriately with smaller animals and get used to different environments. 

Feeding them high-quality, protein-rich puppy food will support their growth, and crate training can help them feel secure, even when alone for short periods. Remember, these dogs are part of your family from day one and will look to you for guidance, care, and companionship throughout their lives.

How Much Does a Northern Inuit Dog Puppy Cost?

If you’re thinking about getting a Northern Inuit Dog puppy, you might be looking at prices typically ranging from $800 to $1500. The cost can vary based on the breeder’s reputation, location, and whether the puppy’s parents are show-quality dogs. Keep in mind, this initial price tag doesn’t include other startup costs like vaccinations, supplies, and training classes, which are all part of bringing home a new pup.

Where Can I Find a Northern Inuit Dog Breeder?

Northern Inuit dog lying in snow

When searching for a Northern Inuit Dog breeder, a reliable place to start is the Northern Inuit Society. They can connect you with reputable breeders who follow ethical breeding practices. The Society is dedicated to maintaining the health and well-being of the breed and can provide a wealth of information for prospective owners.

If you’re considering the rewarding path of adoption, check out the Northern Inuit Society Dog Rescue on Facebook. They specialize in rehoming Northern Inuit Dogs and can guide you through the process of finding a dog that needs a loving home. Whether you’re buying from a breeder or adopting, be sure to do thorough research and choose a path that aligns with your lifestyle and values.

Common Health Problems in Northern Inuit Dogs

Northern Inuit Dogs are generally robust, but like all dog breeds, they can have health issues. The Northern Inuit Society works hard to keep their dogs healthy by advising on care and removing any with serious health problems from the breeding pool.

Large dogs like these can sometimes face hip and elbow dysplasia, where the joints don’t form correctly, leading to arthritis or lameness. It’s important for the dog parents to have their hips and elbows checked to help prevent this problem in puppies.

They might also deal with Addison’s Disease, where their bodies don’t make enough important hormones, or face eye issues like glaucoma. Less commonly, they can experience epilepsy, which causes seizures.

A very rare issue is cryptorchidism, where one or both testicles don’t descend. It’s not life-threatening, but dogs with this condition will need an operation.

There’s also a severe condition called degenerative myelopathy that can cause paralysis in their back legs, but careful breeding practices are helping to minimize the risk of this disease.

And just a few have had dwarfism—where the legs are much shorter than normal—which isn’t typical for the breed.

Life Expectancy of the Northern Inuit Dog

With all the care and attention to their health, Northern Inuit Dogs often live a long life. Typically, they enjoy a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, especially with good care, regular vet check-ups, and a loving home. This means you’ll have plenty of years to enjoy the companionship of this friendly and intelligent breed.

General Care of the Northern Inuit Dog

Northern Inuit Dogs are outfitted with a dense double coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its condition and manage shedding. They do shed moderately throughout the year and heavily during seasonal changes, so brushing a few times a week is recommended to help control loose fur and keep their coat healthy. During shedding season, more frequent grooming may be necessary to keep up with the increased amount of fur.

Housing and Climate

When it comes to housing, Northern Inuit Dogs are not the best fit for small spaces like apartments. They thrive in homes with more room to move around, and a yard is ideal for them to play and burn off energy. These dogs do best in cooler climates due to their thick double coat, which protects them from cold weather. In warmer climates, they need shade, air conditioning, and plenty of water to stay cool.

Is the Northern Inuit Dog Right for Me?

Deciding if a Northern Inuit Dog is the right fit for you involves several considerations. They require a committed owner who can meet their needs for physical activity and mental stimulation. Given their size, energy levels, and exercise needs, they are best suited for individuals or families living in homes with space to roam and explore. They are sociable dogs that do not enjoy being left alone for long periods and can develop separation anxiety if they feel neglected.

These dogs bond closely with their owners and are known for their friendly and gentle nature, making them great companions. However, they are not ideal for novice pet owners due to their intelligence and independent streak, which can make training a challenge. They need an owner who is patient and experienced in positive reinforcement training techniques.

If you have the time, space, and energy to dedicate to this breed, a Northern Inuit Dog can be a loving and rewarding addition to your life. But if you’re not ready for the high level of commitment they require, or if you live in a small space or a hot climate, this breed may not be the best choice for you.


The Northern Inuit is not only a lovely dog, but it is also an easy-going and excellent companion. Although it may need some expert help with training, it is a generally healthy dog closely connected to its family.  

While many wolfdogs and Northern breeds are unsuitable for average households, this might be one wolf lookalike that could make the ideal family pet.


Laugrand, F. and Oosten, J., 2002. Canicide and healing. The position of the dog in the Inuit cultures of the Canadian Arctic. Anthropos, pp.89-105.

“Addison’s Disease in Dogs – Overview.” Vca_corporate,,Clinical%20signs%20of%20Addison’s%20disease%20are%20usually%20vague%20and%20non,symptoms%20may%20wax%20and%20wane. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

Stavinohova, R., Hartley, C., Burmeister, L.M., Ricketts, S.L., Pettitt, L., Tetas Pont, R., Hitti, R.J., Schofield, E., Oliver, J.A. and Mellersh, C.S., 2019. Clinical, histopathological and genetic characterisation of oculoskeletal dysplasia in the Northern Inuit Dog. PLoS One, 14(8), p.e0220761.

Kishigami, N., 1993. Dogs in the Spiritual World of Traditional Inuit Society of Canada: With Special Reference to Dogs in the Traditional Netsilik Inuit Society.

Gerth, N., Sum, S., Jackson, S. and Starck, J.M., 2009. Muscle plasticity of Inuit sled dogs in Greenland. Journal of Experimental Biology, 212(8), pp.1131-1139.

“All about Northern Inuits |.” Northern Inuit Society, Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“Degenerative Myelopathy – Disease Basics.” Canine Genetic Diseases, Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

Dibdin, Emma. “Caitriona Balfe Gets Real About Working With Outlander’s Most Important New Character.” ELLE, 6 Nov. 2018,

“In Game of Thrones Fans’ Pursuit of Real-Life Dire Wolves, Huskies May Pay the Price.” Animals,,wolves)%20and%20an%20arctic%20wolf.

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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.