About the Breed
Like all good stories this one starts with ‘Once Upon a Time a lady had a dream’. The lady in question was Edwina “Eddie” Harrison. Some people will tell you she was a wonderful woman who loved her dogs and cared for them well. Others will tell you she kept her dogs in terrible conditions. Perhaps she was a mixture of both and circumstances and ill health meant that at the end she could no longer care for all her dogs as she once had. The one thing that is clear is, without her input, Northern Inuits would not exist today.
Edwina wanted a dog that would resemble a wolf and have the wolfs traits of family pack hierarchy, loyalty and devotion yet retain the trainability and companionship of the dog. With this in mind, in 1988 she started to experiment with many different breeds of dogs including some dogs imported from overseas. Around 1996 Edwina was reported to the RSPCA for keeping her dogs in poor conditions. Her health was failing, she was very ill and no longer looked after her dogs as she once had. Her dogs were consequently shared out between others who knew her but there were no clear records as to exactly which breeds had been used to create the Wolfie looks that can be seen in the breed today.
Some of the descendants from the original dogs were left and the people who owned them around this time changed the name to Northern Inuit dogs and the Northern Inuit Dog Society of Great Britain in 1997 . This continued for a few years but there was disagreement among them as to what the dogs should look like and a few left the Society and renamed their dogs Utonagans meaning ’Spirit of the Wolf’ and created The Utonagan Society. Meanwhile The Northern Inuit Society of Great Britain dropped the ‘of Great Britain’ and became The Northern Inuit Society and remains as such to the present day.
There was still disagreement among those that were left and in 2005 another person left and created The British Inuit Club taking her Northern Inuit dogs with her. There were more splits from around this time and further breed clubs were created in an attempt to breed dogs with a wolf appearance. Those breed clubs remain active to this day.
When the TV series Game of Thrones was first shown, the breed experienced a surge in popularity, as people wanted to find out more about the “Direwolves”. A few of the Northern Inuit puppies that were pulled from the dead “Direwolf” are still alive, but it can be guaranteed that all Northern Inuits are related to those “Direwolves” given the closed stud book operated by the Society and the consequent high level of inbreeding. Since this time, many breeders have become independent in an effort to improve the gene pool and prevent the extinction of the breed that was the original dream of Eddie Harrison.
Today, there are only a few breed clubs who specialise in breeding Northern Inuits, including The Northern Inuit Association, and most of the breeders that are independent of the original society focus on breeding for health, while maintaining the “type” and temperament. The Northern Inuit Association is working together with the other breed clubs to ensure that gene pool of the breed is as diverse as possible.
Like many other breeds, the Northern Inuit Dog is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning to share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
This is no more or less prevalent in the Northern Inuit breed than any other breed. Hip dysplasia can be hereditary or environmental, caused by poor nutrition or even by a difficult birth. All breeding dogs should be hip scored so that the chance of hip dysplasia can be reduced.
Should be viewed in the same context as hip dysplasia above. All breeding dogs should be elbow scored.
Primary and secondary Glaucoma
This is not a breed wide problem, but can be inherited, therefore all breedings dogs should be eye tested. Glaucoma is found in many breeds of dogs so this is not a breed specific disease.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
A test is available through Laboklin or Embark. All breeding dogs who are not clear by parentage should be DM tested. The Northern Inuit Association is working hard to eliminate this disease by DM testing any dogs who are not clear by parentage, before accepting the dog into the breeding programme. DM is found in many breeds of dogs so this is not a breed specific disease.
A life limiting genetic condition which causes limb deformities and severe eye issues. A test has been developed and any dog who is not clear by parentage must be OSD3 tested prior to breeding. The Northern Inuit Association is working hard to eliminate this disease by OSD3 testing any dogs who are not clear by parentage, before accepting the dog into the breeding programme. OSD3 is a breed specific problem (only found in Northern Inuits).
There currently are no conclusive findings on the mode of inheritance but epileptic dogs are never used for breeding and appropriate veterinary care is always advised. The Northern Inuit Association keep records of every dogs’ breeding lines to try to prevent epilepsy being passed down the generations. Epilepsy is found in at least 26 breeds of dogs so this is not a breed specific disease.
Although research has shown there is some genetic link, the cause of Addisons is unknown. It is considered to be an autoimmune disease, and there is some indication that it is on the rise. This rise could be a result of high inbreeding – the Northern Inuit Association have a breeding strategy in place to lower the level of inbreeding so that Northern Inuits will be less susceptible to this type of disease. Addisons is found in many breeds of dogs so this is not a breed specific disease.
Male Northern Inuits can be prone to retained testicles, where one or both testes do not drop. There are no lasting consequences, if the dog is neutered at an appropriate time (for this breed the recommended age is not earlier than 18mths – 24mths of life as they are slow developers). It is proven that this is mainly inherited, although some environmental reasons can be a factor too.
to find out more please visit The Northern Inuit Association website : www.northerninuitassociation.co.uk