It doesn’t take long for local Chinook
to put its paw print in AKC history book

By Ranny Green

These Chinook puppies have that irresistible – and innocent – look you have to love.

It’s hard to imagine the pride going through a beaming Cheryl Brown’s mind Jan. 13 when working-group judge Dr. Steve Keating, of Dallas, pointed to her 5-year-old Chinook Sandhill’s Ranger for a Group 4 placement at the Sammamish Kennel Club all-breed show in Puyallup.

Brown, of Renton, and president of the Chinook Club of America; handler Laura Pearson, of Snohomish; and Ranger, of course, became a part of history. The breed only became eligible for American Kennel Club group competition Jan. 1 and this was its first group placement in an AKC conformation show.

“That’s something we’ll always be able to claim,” says Brown. Ranger only faced two other male entries in the depleted breed competition earlier in the day, although one of those won the breed the day before at the Tacoma Kennel Club show.

As a nervous mom watching the group judging unfold, Brown says, “Ranger looked pretty average compared to the showy creatures in the ring. I began wondering how long it would take for a Chinook to place in the working group and I guessed about a year.

“It seemed to take forever for Steve Keating to work his way through all the entries, examining each and watching them gait. I felt Ranger was way out of his league and kept hoping he would do as Laura wanted.”

Ranger is ultra friendly and loves attention from everyone, Brown continues. His ring performance was solid, so it then became hang-on time for Brown. As Keating began motioning to four dogs to move forward, Brown thought he was simply pulling them out to form a smaller group to choose from. Then when he motioned Pearson and Ranger to the fourth spot for group, Brown was shocked – and ecstatic. She credits Pearson’s ability to teach the 97-pound, tawny, black-masked dog to gait and stack as the key to its fast-paced progress.

Moonsong Ellie (Ellie), front, owned by Donna Morton of Kent, and Channahon’s Kikiah Tyee (Oscar), owned by Marleen Mandt, of Renton, are off and running in the Northwest Sled Dog Association Crystal Spring race last year.


The breed is not uncommon in this area. New England, the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain states boast the largest Chinook populations in the country, says Marleen Mandt, of Renton. Her dog Channahon’s Kikiah Tyee (Oscar) took best-of-breed at the Tacoma Kennel Club Dog Show in Puyallup a day prior to Ranger’s heroics.

Mandt, a Chinook owner for seven years, credits her involvement with the breed for cultivating many new friendships and activities. “I was looking for a dog that was easy to train and was affectionate. Chinooks can do well with city and country life, provided they receive adequate amounts of exercise. Daily walks or runs are beneficial. And, of course, they are great for busy families who are outdoor oriented.”

Morton guides her dog team down the trail in the Cascade Quest Race in 2011. Oscar is rear left.

Originally bred to pull sleds, the Chinook thrives on work. It needs daily exercise to stay physically and mentally fit, says Mandt. Walks to the park and games of fetch and hide-and-seek are right up the Chinook’s alley.

The Chinooks love to run and pull things. If you’re an avid outdoorsman, there are many types of mushing that you and your dog can participate in – dog sledding, dog scootering, bikejoring, skijouring, carting, canicross and weight pulling, says Mandt. And backpacking, hiking, jogging, competing in agility, rally and obedience, nose work and search-and-rescue are all on the breed’s popularity list. One even participates in a local Reading with Rover program. Unlike some other active breeds, the Chinook has an off switch and loves being on the couch or cuddling with the family, too.

Mandt rates the Chinook as a superb family dog that interacts nicely with children. It is not, however, a protection animal.

Prior to the sled-dog racing season, Morton gets in some dry-land training with Oscar, left, and one of her own dogs.

Asked about its temperament with other household pets, she cites her experience. “When I introduced a Chinook to my cat the dog learned quickly that the cat set forth the house rules – and ever since the Chinooks have respected them. Like most breeds, they should be socialized with cats or other household animals as puppies. They do have a small prey drive.”

While not considered headstrong, the Chinook is intelligent and may walk all over an owner not dedicated to taking control from the outset. Hence, obedience training is highly recommended for the young dog or a newcomer in the home.

Brown’s daughter, Sarah Day, of Auburn, has been around the breed since 1997 when her parents purchased their first Chinook and has owned one since 2000. To establish confidence, she recommends exposing a new dog to different experiences readily. This include types of flooring, shopping centers, puppy classes, dog parks, etc.

She adds, “This is not a breed that does well when left outside alone or contained in a kennel away from its people for long periods of time.”

The Chinook does not bark a lot, but tends to use its voice to announce visitors and express excitement. It has an uncanny ability to solve puzzles, adds Mandt. For example, this includes opening gates and cupboards and finding its way into unusual places to satisfy a curiosity. “Owners may want to consider adding extra locks and security measures to minimize that problem” she suggests.

Photo by Randy Roberts
Laura Pearson, of Snohomish, poses with Sandhill’s Ranger (Ranger) after winning a Working Group 4 at the Sammamish Kennel Club Dog Show in Puyallup Jan. 13. The judge, Dr. Steve Keating, of Dallas, is at left. This marked the first time a Chinook has been awarded a group placement in an American Kennel Club all-breed show.

From a maintenance standpoint, the breed sheds year-round, but blows its coat twice a year, producing heavy shedding. Its heavy double coat requires occasional brushing but doesn’t reflect the matting problem of some other northern breeds.

According to the Chinook Club of America standard, it is slow maturing breed with an ideal height of 24 to 26 inches at the withers from males and 22-24 inches for females. “Bred to combine the power of freighting breeds with the speed of lighter racing sled dogs, he is an athletic, hard-bodied dog showing good forward reach and rear extension in a seemingly tireless gait.”

Tawny is the color of choice, ranging from a pale honey to a deep reddish-gold.

The breed was named after its founder and polar explorer Arthur Walden’s lead driving dog in Alaska. It is one of few original American dog breeds and was developed by pairing a Mastiff-type dog with a Greenland husky as well as German and Belgian shepherds in the early 1900s. By 1965, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Chinook as the rarest dog in the world, which is far from the case today with 850 registered. It was named New Hampshire’s state dog in 2009.

A good chance to see the breed up close and personal will be at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show March 9-10 at CenturyLink Field Event Center.