The Wolf Dog trend is hitting and it’s hitting hard. In spite of everything we know about the controversy and legalities of owning a Wolf Dog hybrid, people are still going out of their way to find and raise one of these controversial canines.
But what if there was a totally legal way to own a “Wolf Dog” without all the hassle or upkeep? What if you could raise a dog that looks unbelievably like a wolf without having to deal with the temperamental issues, safety risks and training problems?
Does such a dog exist?
The answer is yes! The Utonagan is one such hybrid that, while rare, is an alternative to his other wolf dog counterparts.
But is he any less controversial? That’s what we’re here to find out.
The Utonagan – A Quick Breed Overview
The Utonagan is not a purebred, and is instead a dog mixed with several other breeds including Huskies, Malamutes and Shepherds.
Height: 23 to 30 Inches
Weight: 55 to 110 Pounds
Coat Type: Dence, Double-Coated, Shedding
Coat Colors: Grizzle, Black, White
Temperament: Even-Tempered, Friendly, Clever, Outgoing, Energetic
Ideal For: Experienced Dog Owners, Active Dog Owners, Active and Experienced Families
Lifespan: 12 to 15 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Addison’s Disease, Eye Issues, Von Willebrand’s Disease, and Epilepsy.
Where Did The Utonagan Come From?
The Utonagan is considered the original Wolf Dog.
Today, most people consider a Wolf Dog to be a hybrid mix between a wolf and a domesticated dog breed. In actuality, the Utonagan is the original Wolf Dog. And no – he’s not a mix between a wild wolf and a domesticated dog breed.
Instead, the Utonagan is a mix between several domesticated breeds that naturally have wolf-like traits. Though sometimes referred to as a hybrid dog, the Utonagan is not technically a crossbreed. (A crossbreed is a dog that has two specific purebred parent breeds).
The Utonagan is more along the lines of a mutt, though he’s more of a designer mutt, with several specifically chosen purebred dogs in his DNA.
We know, it’s complicated.
But how did the Utonagan come to be, and why is he considered so rare?
It all began in the United Kingdom during the 1980’s, when breeder and dog enthusiast Ewina Harrison began mixing several of her own rescue dogs with Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and German Shepherds.
Her goal? To create a dog that resembled a wild wolf but had the sweet, gentle nature of a family pet. And boy did she succeed. The Utonagan looks like a fearsome predator, though he’s really just a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
This is a dog who is social, trainable, and people-oriented.
However, while the Utonagan has gone through several generations of breeding and perfecting, he still has yet to be considered a purebred. For this reason, he is not recognized by most major breed clubs and is not eligible for show.
Of course, unless you were hoping to register your Utonagan with the American Kennel Club for competitions, this probably won’t matter to you.
What should matter to you instead is the controversy surrounding hybrid dogs like the Utonagan and understanding that this breed is still relatively unpredictable when it comes to health, temperament and even appearance.
Furthermore, the Utonagan in particular has some serious health issues that have led to reputable breeders refusing to continue to breed this dog. For this reason, the Utonagan has become a rare breed, and finding one through reputable sources is becoming more and more scarce.
With that being said, it’s important that you take plenty of time and do as much research as possible before deciding if you’re ready and willing to commit to a Utonagan dog’s unique needs and energetic temperament.
Let’s learn more.
The Temperamental Traits Of A Utonagan Dog
Though they look like wild wolves, Utonagan dogs are friendly, social dogs that do well with people and other pets.
His health may not be stellar but his personality certainly is. A mix between social Huskies and Malamutes and intelligent German Shepherds, the Utonagan is a clever, energetic, and athletic hybrid built for both play and work.
This friendly dog gets along with most anyone he meets so long as he is properly trained and socialized. He is also dog-friendly, which means he’ll enjoy playtime with other canines both inside and outside of the home.
The Utonagan is even known for his patience with children. In spite of his large size and intimidating appearance, this dog is a gentle giant with lots of love to give.
For this reason, it’s important to note that the Utonagan is an inside-only dog. He will enjoy playtime outside and does well with a large backyard, but he is not meant to live outside alone in a dog house.
Instead, this guy is happiest inside with his human family.
With that noted, we should also mention that the Utonagan becomes very bonded with his family. This means he can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety and boredom if left alone for too long during the day.
This anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors like chewing, marking, barking and digging. To avoid dealing with these behaviors, you might consider crate training your Utanagan while you are away. It’s also important to refrain from leaving your Utonagan alone for more than five to six hours at a time.
Tips On Training and Socializing A Utonagan Dog
Utonagans are highly intelligent and trainable, though they need training to feel playful and fun.
While the Utonagan is known to be a friendly and gentle dog, he also requires quite a bit of socialization and training at an early age to grow up happy and well-rounded.
Like all dogs, a Utonagan that is not properly trained and socialized by his owners can become fearful, anxious, suspicious and even aggressive. For this reason, we recommend working on socializing and training your Utonagan as early as you possibly can beginning in puppyhood.
How To Properly Socialize Your Utonagan
Socializing a dog simply means you are introducing that dog to as many new experiences as possible while he is young. Making sure first impressions are positive for your Utongagan is an important part of helping him to associate the world around him with safety.
With that noted, it’s best to never force your Utonagan into situations that he is clearly frightened of. Allow him to explore the world at his own pace, but ensure he has plenty of opportunities to do so. Encouraging your Utonagan with treats and praise can also help him along the way.
It is easier to socialize any dog while they are young, as they have yet to develop their ideas about what is safe and what is dangerous in the world. And while puppies are more open to socializing, it’s not impossible to socialize an adult Utonagan.
However, this will take more time and patience, and it may require help from a positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist.
Training A Utonagan
The Utonagan is a mix of several energetic and intelligent purebred dogs. While he is trainable, training can become tiresome and boring if you aren’t careful. If this should happen, it’s likely your Utonagan will become uninterested and distracted.
In order to get the most out of your training sessions with your Utonagan, keep sessions short, game-like and enthusiastic. Use high value dog treats to hold your Utonagan’s attention and make sure you are just as pumped about his successes as he is!
Refrain from punishing or scolding your Utonagan during training sessions. Remember, this is a dog that is very sensitive and a dog that becomes quite bonded to his family. If he feels he has displeased you, he will quickly shut down.
This will not only impact his ability to learn during sessions but it could also diminish the bond built between you and your dog.
Just as with socialization, training your Utonagan can begin from the moment you bring him home during puppyhood. However, you can train a Utonagan at any age so long as you are committed, patient and consistent.
Utonagan Exercise And Mental Stimulation Requirements
Utonagan dogs are energetic and need lots of space and time to explore, play and learn.
The Utonagan does make a great family dog and does well with other pets, but he’s still recommended for more experienced dog owners. Why?
Well, a lot of it has to do with the Utonagan’s energy and intelligence. These are very active dogs that not only require a lot of time, attention and upkeep, but also a ton of exercise and mental stimulation.
Both the Siberian Husky and Malamute were bred for endurance, and these are two of the main breeds in the Utonagan DNA. This means your Utonagan is going to be very active and will enjoy lots of free play time as well as routine scheduled exercise.
The best exercise for a Utonagain will be routine walks every day that are between an hour and two hours long. You can break these walks up, of course, and do one hour in the morning and another hour at night.
When walking your Utonagan, it’s important to use the right equipment. This is a hybrid that is incredibly strong, and while he doesn’t have the highest prey drive, he can be prone to pulling on leash if he gets excited.
PetSafe Front Clip Dog Harness
For larger, more muscular dogs like the Utonagan, we recommend investing in front clip harnesses. These harnesses are designed to clip in the front and reduce pulling by redirecting your dog back to you gently.
These are force-free harnesses as well, which we like because they are safer and more comfortable for the dog. The front clip also makes walking feel more natural and refrains from putting pressure on your Utonagan’s chest, which can trigger his natural instinct to pull.
Along with walks, free playtime will also be good for the Utonagan. This means that this is a dog that will do best in homes with a large, securely fenced backyard. But watch out – the Utonagan has been known to clear fences under six feet in height.
If your Utonagan is highly trained and socialized, he may also be a great candidate for dog parks.
The Utonagan is a dog that is prone to some anxiety issues, especially if he’s left on his own for too long or if he becomes bored. For dogs as clever as the Utonagan, it’s very important to implement mental stimulation in the form of training, puzzle toys, games and obstacle courses.
Investing in dog toys that use treats and challenge your Utonagan can help to keep him busy on days you aren’t around. He will also enjoy it if you take time to set up obstacle courses in your backyard or home.
Keeping your dog constantly trained and taking the time to teach him new cues and tricks can also help alleviate anxiety and help your Utonagan to feel like he has a purpose. In fact, you might even consider giving your Utonagan a job to do around your home like bringing in the paper or fetching the mail.
How To Groom A Utonagan Dog
These guys are heavy shedding dogs, which means they’ll need some consistent brushing.
The Utonagan has a coat that is similar to Huskies and German Shepherds. This means his coat is dense, thick, and double-coated.
His top coat is going to be longer and more rough, while his undercoat is soft, dense and wooly. Some well-meaning owners think they should shave double-coated dogs in warmer months to help keep them cool, but this is actually detrimental to the dog and should not be included in your Utonagan’s grooming routine.
Shaving a double coated dog like the Utonagan can actually lead to an increased risk of heatstroke, sunburn, skin issues and hypothermia (in colder months).
Instead, leave your Utonagaon’s coat as it is and go about grooming using proper grooming tools like deshedding combs and dematting brushes.
The Furminator Deshedding Comb
The Furminator Deshedding Comb is one of our favorites for large breed dogs with double coats. This is a self-cleaning comb that helps reach all the way to the undercoat and removes loose hair and built-up debris.
Using a comb like this not only helps keep your Utonagan’s coat healthy, but it also reduces debris and moisture in your dog’s fur that can lead to bacteria buildup and doggy odor.
Experts recommend that the Utonagan be brushed at least two or three times a week during shedding season, which occurs in spring and fall. Outside of shedding season, the Utonagan will be fine having his coat brushed out once a week.
Along with using the right brush and staying on a schedule to keep your dog’s coat looking and feeling it’s best, it’s also important to stay on top of your Utonagan’s ear health. Like all dogs, Utonagans can be prone to ear infections.
Check his ears often and keep them clean using a quality ear cleaning solution made for dogs. You should also be sure and trim your Utonagan’s nails every few weeks using a nail grinder or nail clipper for dogs.
The Utonagan will also need an occasional bath from time to time, but no more than once every six weeks. When you do bathe your Utonagan, be sure to use dog-safe shampoos and conditioners that are free of harmful ingredients.
Last, try to keep your Utonagan’s teeth clean by brushing them once a day with a dog-safe toothbrush and toothpaste.
Utonagan Health Issues And Lifespan
The Utonagan has been deemed an unhealthy hybrid, and continuing to breed him has become controversial due to his propensity for severe health issues.
When people hear that a dog breed is “rare”, it tends to peak their interest and curiosity. It can feel exciting to obtain something that no one else has, especially when it comes to what many would consider an excotic canine.
However, there are times that a rare breed should be a red flag, and the Utonagan is one such breed that is rare for a negative reason.
Sadly, and as we mentioned above, the Utonagan has been found to suffer seriously from a number of severe health issues. During the mid-2000ths, breeders reported struggling with severe health problems in the mix, with many of these health issues were found to have been exacerbated due to overbreeding.
Because there has always been such a limited number of Utonagan dogs, inbreeding became quite common to maintain breed stock. Unfortunately, this means that severe genetic issues were passed down to puppies. These puppies then developed a much higher rate of health issues as they aged.
It is for this reason that most reputable breeders have opted to forgo breeding the Utonagan dog at all.
This means that, while it is still possible to find a Utonagan puppy, it is going to be difficult. More importantly, the Utonagan puppy you find may not have been responsibly bred.
We will get into the importance of responsible breeding practices and how to go about finding a healthy Utonagan dog further down, but for now let’s take a look at some of the more serious health issues this breed is susceptible to.
The Utonagan’s Average Lifespan Is 12 to 15 Years
The Most Common Health Issues Of A Utonagan Include:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Addison’s Disease
- Eye Issues
- Renal Disease
- Heart Defects
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- And Epilepsy
Tips On Keeping Your Utonagan Healthy
- Get Your Utonagan From A Reputable Source
- Keep Up With Routine Exercise
- Have Your Utonagan Health Screened
- Schedule Routine Wellness Visits With Your Veterinarian
- Keep Your Utonagan On A Healthy Diet
- Invest In Pet Insurance Early On
You And A Utonagan – Is This A Good Match?
Utonagan dogs are a rare mix with some serious health issues, but it is possible that they can thrive with the right owner.
On paper, the Utonagan may seem like the perfect dog. However, it’s important to keep in mind that every dog is not right for every owner, and this is especially true for a dog as large and energetic as the Utonagan.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind when considering a Utonagan dog:
Utonagans Are Best Suited For Experienced Owners
An experienced dog owner is someone who has owned dogs before and understands the basics of canine body language, temperament, exercise needs and overall health. For the Utonagan, the ideal match will be a dog owner that has previous experience with large, energetic breeds like Huskies, German Shepherds or Malamutes.
Utonagans Require Plenty of Exercise and Mental Stimulation
As we’ve covered, the Utonagan is a dog that requires lots of daily exercise and mental stimulation. If you have a busy lifestyle that keeps you away from home or doesn’t allow you to bring your Utonagan with you on adventures, then this isn’t the best dog for you.
On the flip side, if you’re home often and live an active lifestyle rich with outdoor adventures, the Utonagan may be your perfect canine companion.
These Are Not The Best Dogs For Apartment Living
Not only are Utonagans extremely large, they are also extremely energetic. They do not do well in apartments and require lots of room to roam and explore. They will do best in a home with a large backyard or in an environment where they can safely play in lots of open space.
They Can Be Prone To Separation Anxiety and Destructive Behaviors
If their needs are not consistently met, the Utonagan can be prone to some serious separation anxiety leading to destructive behaviors. This can be a problem if you’re renting, so keep this in mind.
Also remember that if you’re committing to this dog, it’s important to have enough time on your hands to ensure you offer him plenty of stimulation to keep him from becoming anxious, depressed and destructive.
Utonagan Dogs Are Riddled With Serious Health Issues
Perhaps one of the most important things you should consider before deciding to commit to a Utonagan is his overall health. It’s a serious red flag when breeders stop breeding dogs due to a long list of serious health problems.
Temperamentally, the Utonagan dog is great. Sadly, you’re sure to fall in love with this hybrid only to watch him suffer from potentially deadly illnesses.
The good news is that there are a variety of other breeds and mixes you can choose from that are similar to a Utonagan, but that don’t have the same health problems, which we’ve listed below.
How To Find A Utonagan Puppy Or Rescue Dog
Finding a Utonagan puppy from the right source will take time and research.
Are you interested in a Utonagan dog? If you are, experts caution you to be extremely careful about the source you go through to obtain one. Remember, these dogs are known to suffer from some serious health issues, and these health issues are only exacerbated by poor breeding practices.
We should also note that many sources claim this hybrid is no longer being bred or sold, though there is a chance you might come across someone selling Utonagan puppies. Before you commit to a breeder, it’s very important you understand the risks.
Ask plenty of questions and request a certificate of health proving the puppies have been screened and cleared of any serious health issues.
It’s also a good idea to get references from the breeder you are looking into. There is no shame in reaching out to past clients and asking questions about the puppies previously sold.
However, because breeding and selling of these dogs is so limited, you may be better off finding a Utonagan dog through a rescue. Some shelters specify in Huskies and Malamute mixes, and these shelters may be your best bet at potentially finding a Utonagan.
On average, it costs around $250 to $500 to adopt a dog through a shelter. You might also be able to get a dog that has undergone behavioral testing and that has already been spayed or neutered, so it’s a win-win.
Other Dogs To Consider Instead of A Utonagan
Since Utonagans have such serious health issues, and since most reputable breeders no longer provide Utonagan puppies, your chances of finding one can be limited.
More importantly, if you do find a Utonagan dog, there is no guarantee that you won’t end up dealing with some of the more severe and costly health issues listed for the breed.
You should also consider the moral implications of choosing to support breeders who breed unhealthy dogs like the Utonagan.
That said, if you love the idea of the Utonagan but don’t love the health issues, you’re in luck. There are plenty of other dogs that are designed to look like wolves and that have many of the same and wonderful temperamental traits as the Utonagan dog.
Some of dogs that would make the best alternative to a Utonagan dog include:
- A Husky German Shepherd Mix
- A Husky Malamute Mix
- A Husky Swiss Shepherd Mix
- A Siberian Husky
- An Alaskan Malamute
- A German Shepherd
We know that the above breeds and mixes may not seem as “exotic” as the Utonagan, but choosing to forgo buying a dog you already know could be extremely unhealthy is sometimes the best choice.
Not only will doing so save you from a serious financial drain, but it will also save you from potential heartbreak in the long run.
So, what do you think now that you know more about the Utonagan dog? Would you still consider trying to find one, or would you prefer to get a canine alternative without so many health issues?
Tell us what you think about the Utonagan dog below in the comment section.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.