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The Northern Inuit Dog: The Direwolf You Can Own

Few breeds are more breathtaking or striking than the Northern Inuit Dog. Although they are mistaken for wolfdogs, this canine has been carefully developed away from being a true wolf hybrid. 

To the modern Northern Inuit Dog, wolves are a distant genetic memory. They should no longer appear in any genetic sequencing. 

However, they have retained their wolfish appearance, while the Northern Inuit dog temperament is completely dog-like. This makes them loving companions and devoted family members.

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?

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.

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!

What are the physical features of the Northern Inuit Dog?

Height

Weight

Lifespan

Color

Nose

Eyes

Bitches between 23 and 28 Inches (59 and 71 cm)

Dogs Between 25 and 30 inches (64 – 76 cm)

Bitches between 55 and 84 pounds (25 and 38 kg)

Dogs Between 79 and 50 pounds (36 – 50 kg)

12 - 15 years

White, sable, gray, apricot, black. Masks are permitted on any color except white.

Black, but may have a snow nose in winter

Eye should be oval and any color is permitted, including blue.


The Northern Inuit is described as a medium to large breed. While females are significantly smaller than males, it's notable that the upper limit for a male's height is higher than both the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute.

In general, they overlap with both the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute in terms of size. However, they can be a bit taller and heavier. 

On the other hand, it should be noted that some Malamutes are giants and grow as tall as 35 inches (89 cm) and 190 pounds (86 kg), which would be quite a bit bigger than the average Northern Inuit.

Of course, this breed's most notable characteristic is that they look like wolves, with erect ears and a pointed nose.

They come in a wide range of colors, ranging from white to grey, sable, apricot, and black. They also have a dense, weatherproof double coat. 

They move gracefully, with a ground-swallowing stride. Although these are calm dogs, they have a general athletic build. 

General Care of the Northern Inuit Dog

Hypoallergenic

Shedding

Exercise

Housing

Temperament

Trainability

No

Can shed heavily, especially when molting.

Medium energy dog.

Should be housed indoors with its family. Should be fine with a medium sized yard.

Intelligent, sometimes wilful and deeply attached to the owner.  Has a high prey drive.

Not for inexperienced trainers. Can be stubborn, but will work for gentle handling and positive reinforcement.


Energy

Unlike most wolfish dogs or Northern breeds, the Northern Inuit is created to be a medium energy dog that is not overly demanding. 

They enjoy hiking activities, but owners report that they are happy with two medium walks or one long walk a day. 

Housing

The Northern Inuit is an attached dog that will do best living indoors, close to its owner. That said, this is definitely not an apartment dog and will need space to run, although they are being bred to be more adaptable to small spaces.

Please remember, any dog with Husky heritage may inherit the famous Husky Houdini gene. Thus, owners should be careful to make sure their yards are securely fenced.

Food & Diet Requirements

Like the Tamaskan, the Northern Inuit may be prone to a sensitive stomach. Because of their Northern blood, breeders report that they need high-quality pellets with a large percentage of protein. 

They also suggest that Northern Inuits do well on the raw food or BARF diet because of the number of primitive breeds in their ancestry. 

Always consult your vet about the best diet for your dog, as it will change depending on their age, size, or special needs such as allergies or joint problems.

Grooming

With their double coats, the Northern Inuit is usually a moderate shedder but be prepared for heavy shedding during their seasonal molts. 

Their fur will need regular brushing, and a professional groomer may be required at times.

Their thick coats also make them better suited to cold climates. They need to be carefully monitored in hot areas for signs of heatstroke.

Nails should be clipped about once a month, so invest in a good quality clipper or grinder, and ears should be cleaned and kept dry to avoid ear infections. 

You can also speak to your vet about the best products to keep your dog's teeth clean, as bad dental health can lead to heart and respiratory issues.

Health

Exercise

The Northern Inuit has been bred to be an ideal companion without excessive needs for exercise like the Malamute or Husky. 

Still, their intelligence and athleticism mean that they excel at hiking, cani cross, scootering, or agility. 

Exercising your Northern Inuit is also a great way to help avoid behavioral problems and keep their active minds stimulated.

Prospective Northern Inuit owners should also keep in mind that these are dogs with a high prey drive, given to chasing smaller animals. 

So they may need to stay on leash in areas where they may encounter rabbits or unfamiliar cats. A good no-pull harness can avoid damage to their trachea and thyroid while walking. 

Another point to bear in mind is that a high prey drive also makes a dog more at risk of jumping out of a car at the wrong moment to investigate something interesting.

While dogs should always be properly restrained in a car, a secure crate or seatbelt can help prevent injury when traveling. 

Concerns

Severe Health Problems

Mild to Moderate Health problems

Occasional Health Problems

Hip and elbow dysplasia

Degenerative Myelopathy

Addison’s Disease

Cancer

Cryptorchidism

Chondrodysplasia

Epilepsy

Eye problems

Food allergies

Digestive problems

Glaucoma and other eye issues

 


The Northern Inuit Society (NIS) takes its dogs' health seriously. It has a specialized Health Advisor who supervisors the well-being of Northern Inuits. 

This is done to identify and remove unhealthy dogs from the gene pool as quickly as possible. 

Nevertheless, no breed exists without any concerns. Like any large breed, they are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, and the parents should always be screened for this.

There have also been occasional reports of cancer and Addison's Disease. In this disease, the adrenal gland does not produce enough hormones.

Northern Inuits have also sometimes had eye problems such as glaucoma and less common reports of epilepsy.

Occasionally, one or both testes may not drop. This is called cryptorchidism, and although a dog with this condition will need to be castrated, they should still be able to live normal lives thereafter.

As a result of DNA testing, a small number of dogs have been identified as carriers of degenerative myelopathy

This is a severe disease that causes gradual paralysis of the back legs. Luckily, because of gene sequencing, the NIS identifies carriers of this disease and apply breeding restrictions accordingly. 

Finally, there have been a few cases of dwarfism, or chondrodysplasia. 

Some breeds are bred deliberately with this gene, such as the Dachshund and the Basset. But, it is considered a congenital defect in the Northern Inuit. 

To date, eight dogs have been born some form of this kind of dwarfism.  

What is a Northern Inuit Dog's life expectancy?

As a breed with a strict code of ethics concerning their breeding and health, the Northern Inuit usually has a long life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years.

The trainability of a Northern Inuit Dog: Temperament and Intelligence

The Northern Inuit is widely regarded as an intelligent and inquisitive dog. They are generally friendly and do not make good guard dogs since they seem to love all strangers. 

They are also not given to barking, although they may indulge in a howling session or two. So it is essential to learn how to turn the volume down on your dog

These are dogs that are deeply attached to their pack, and being left alone for an extended period can lead to problems. They are given to separation anxiety and will need sufficient exercise and place training to cope with that. 

Nevertheless, the Northern Inuit is mostly described as a calm dog and an easy-going companion that fits well with families and is usually not overly demanding. 

In general, they make excellent pets. 

On the other hand, although intelligent, the Northern Inuit is not as easily trainable as the German Shepherd or the Labrador. These are quickly bored and sensitive dogs, which will make training for a novice or inexperienced owner difficult. 

Training Northern Inuit needs to be varied and kept short. They will lose interest quickly if asked to do something again and again. 

General dos and don't in training a Northern Inuit through positive reinforcement include:

  • Do keep sessions short, no more than two or three minutes at a time. This can be extended if the dog begins to associate training with positive reinforcement and becomes more eager.
  • Don't set your dog up for failure. If you want to teach your dog to skateboard, don't just pull out a deck and expect them to hop on and do a kickflip. Training should be broken into its smallest and easiest components. Complexity should be increased gradually.
  • Do use positive reinforcement. This can be a combination of whatever your dog responds to best. They may love praise and cuddles, chasing a ball, or getting a treat. Capitalize on what motivates your dog best to shape their behavior.
  • Don't scold, shout or train in a bad mood. A dog like the Northern Inuit will only learn that training is unpleasant and try to avoid it altogether, or become depressed and shut down.
  • Do carry treats or a toy with you throughout the day so that you can reward your dog anytime you see good behavior.
  • Don't lose your temper for bad behavior. When possible, ignore bad behavior altogether, as some dogs thrive on negative attention as much as positive. If not, simply and calmly intervene. Say "nope" and guide your dog back to the correct behavior.
  • Do change the environment you train in. If your dog only ever trains in the kitchen, he won't know to sit or down in the garden or on a walk. It's also a good idea to scatter short, 30-second bursts of training throughout the day to make it part of your life together.

Suitable Home

A Northern Inuit is an adaptable dog that can fit in in most environments. 

They will do as well with children as with a middle-aged couple. Ideally, they should have a bit of space to run around in, and their owners should be home as much as possible as they do not like to be left alone. 

As they can be large dogs, they should be supervised with children, just in case they accidentally knock a child over when excited.

Raising a Northern Inuit puppy

Because they can be hard to train,obedience and socialization of a Northern Inuit puppy should begin as early as possible. 

They should especially be socialized with smaller animals that may engage their prey drive to help minimize that. 

Young Northern Inuits should be fed high-quality pellets with a high protein content formulated for growing puppies; they may need extra joint support amongst other things. 

It is good to crate train and make your puppy accustomed to being alone for short periods from a young age. 

How much does a Northern Inuit Dog Cost?

In the USA, the Northern Inuit should cost anywhere upwards of $ 1000.

However, NIS takes full responsibility for its dogs and has a rescue program if you choose to adopt instead. 

Conclusion

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.


References

“Addison’s Disease in Dogs - Overview.” Vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/addisons-disease-in-dogs-overview#:%7E:text=non%2Dspecific.%22-,Clinical%20signs%20of%20Addison’s%20
disease%20are%20usually%20vague%20and%20non,symptoms%20may%20wax%20and%20wane. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“All about Northern Inuits |.” Northern Inuit Society, nisociety.com/about-the-breed/all-about-northern-inuits. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“Degenerative Myelopathy - Disease Basics.” Canine Genetic Diseases, www.caninegeneticdiseases.net/dm/basicdm.htm. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

Dibdin, Emma. “Caitriona Balfe Gets Real About Working With Outlander’s Most Important New Character.” ELLE, 6 Nov. 2018, www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a24673336/outlander-season-4-catriona-balfe-rollo-dog.

“Get to Know the Amazing Giant Alaskan Malamute.” K9 Web, www.k9web.com/breeds/giant-alaskan-malamute/#:%7E:text=Giant%20Malamutes%20can%20go%20over,and%20he%20lives%20in%20Richmond.

“In Game of Thrones Fans’ Pursuit of Real-Life Dire Wolves, Huskies May Pay the Price.” Animals, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/05/game-of-thrones-dire-wolf-fans-buying-huskies/#:%7E:text=On%20Game%20of%20Thrones%2C%20the,wolves)%20and%20an%20arctic%20wolf.

Reiher, Andrea. “What Breed of Dog Is Rollo on Outlander?” POPSUGAR Entertainment, 5 Nov. 2018, www.popsugar.com/entertainment/What-Breed-Dog-Rollo-Outlander-45448637.