I remember the first time I saw a Malamute; I told you the story in my “About Me” section. I was so impressed by the size, the stature and the playful nature of these dogs. There was gentleness in the eyes, yet a curiosity and a need to please. I learned quickly that these were not the popular breeds of Huskies that I was more familiar with. These dogs were bigger. Broader. Intelligent. I’m not saying huskies aren’t those things (wink-wink). There are certain characteristics the Malamute is known for. Let’s take a look at them.
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- There are 9 recognized colors: Agouti and White, Black and White, Blue and White, Gray and White, Red and White, Sable and White, Seal and White, Silver and White, and All White.
- Broad head
- Ears are triangular and erect
- The muzzle is bulky
- The coat is thick and coarse and contains a woolly undercoat
- Facial markings are a distinguishing feature: cap over the head and face either unmarked or marked with a bar/mask
- The tail is bushy and full and curled up over the back
- Females weight approximately 75 pounds, and males weigh from 85-90 pounds, and occasionally up to 100 pounds
- Very active. They require exercise and an enclosed area to run around and work off excess energy, or multiple daily walks
- It’s important to socialize them early with other dogs and other household pets to ensure acceptance of other animals. This includes socializing them early to young children
- Possess strength and endurance. These dogs love to work. Let them pull heavy loads and carry things (ex: pull a garden cart, sled full of children in the winter, swimming in the summer)
- They are vocal. They tend to howl or “talk” when communicated to or when they hear certain sounds such as a siren, or child crying. They may also howl when they are lonely or bored
- They love and need to dig! Give them an “ok” place in the yard to do this. Make sure the yard is enclosed and the dog cannot dig under the fence
- They have a tendency to roam. Make sure they have an ID such as collar/microchip and they are trained to stay close to you.
The Alaskan Malamute is a great working dog and a suitable family pet. It is imperative that this dog is socialized immediately with small children and other pets, especially dogs of the same sex. Malamutes may turn aggressive and dominant if they are not properly socialized. Also, they are chewers, particularly when they are puppies. It is important to provide them chew toys and supervise them in order to avoid them chewing up your favorite pair of shoes. They are not known for being great guard dogs, however, their size and stature may be enough to intimidate a potential criminal. They are sweet, loving animals. With the proper attention to training, including commands and leash training, you will be happy with your new best friend.
I think it is vitally important to know the history of any dog you are considering. Whether you are looking for a family pet, or a working dog, having extensive knowledge of the breed and their characteristics are important, especially when deciding if the dog you choose will be a good fit for your family. It is grossly unfair to choose a dog that requires a lot of exercise if you’d rather have a docile lap dog that prefers to stay inside. False expectations of owners lead many to impatience, resulting in giving the dog away or putting it in a shelter, which is heartbreaking for everyone, especially the dog. I’m going to tell you about the Alaskan Malamute, including what they need, what they love to do and what their personalities are all about. If what I tell you sounds like a fit for your family, then great! But, I implore anyone reading this; if you can’t provide room and opportunities for exercise, pulling, and some “work” this is not the dog for you. Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you about the history.
- They are one of the oldest Artic sled dogs
- There is evidence they have been around for 4,000 years, during the Paleolithic Era
- Some historians believe the Malamute is a cross between a domestic dog and wolf
- They crossed the landbridge from Siberia to Alaska with native people thousands of years ago
- They settled in with an Inuit tribe called the Mahlemuts, in the northwestern portion of the Seward Peninsula, known as Alaska
- The dogs were used to hunt seals, chase away polar bears, and pull heavy sleds full of supplies such as food and camping gear.
- The gold rush of 1896 brought an influx of people and their dogs to Alaska. Many dogs interbred with the dogs of Alaska, resulting in mixed breeds. However, The Mahlemut people were a relatively isolated tribe, so the Alaskan Malamute survived the influx and interbreeding.
- Arthur T. Walden established Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire. He began breeding Alaskan Malamutes for the lower 48 states.
- He supplied many dogs for the Byrd Antarctic expeditions in the 1930s.
- Milton and Eva Seeley began a program to reproduce the dogs found in the Norton Sound area of Alaska. This strain of Alaskan Malamutes became known as the “Kotzebue” strain.
- Paul Voelker began breeding Malamutes known as the “M’Loot” strain. These dogs were used during Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition during World War l.
- The Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) was formed in 1935 and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed the same year.
- During World War II, many Alaskan Malamutes were used as sled dogs to pull supplies during World War II. Tragically, many of them were killed after serving their nation on an expedition to Antarctica during World War II.
- A decision was made to place the service dogs on a floating ice patch and blow them up with explosives. This was upsetting to the onlookers, many military servicemen.
- So few dogs remained, and for several years they were no longer recognized. Registration for Alaskan Malamutes reopened in the late 1940s. To date, all registered Malamutes can be linked back to the Kotzebue line.
These dogs are agile, strong, and survived the harsh winter elements and the harshness of humanity. Continue through the blog as I tell you more about this magnificent breed.
- These beautiful, proud dogs all start out as adorable, fluffy and energetic puppies. If you find them in pet stores, they are being bred by irresponsible breeders and may be the product of a puppy mill. It’s important to locate a reputable breeder who is in good standing with the Alaskan Malamute Club of America, and who abides by its code of ethics, which specifically prohibits selling puppies through retail outlets such as pet stores.
- Many behavior or health concerns aren’t always evident in puppies. It’s always the kind and conscious choice to consider adopting an adult Malamute from a rescue group or an animal shelter. Whether you choose a puppy or an adult, take your Malamute to the veterinarian soon after purchase or adoption. Your vet will examine the animal, identify any potential health issues, and provide guidance with health care regime, maintenance and resources for training and socialization.
- Don’t purchase a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds. Also, use caution if the breeder doesn’t require an application to ensure the puppy is going to the best home possible. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you run the high risk of receiving an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult puppy. Additionally, you will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills. Only buy from reputable breeders, please!
Common Health Issues Among Alaskan Malamutes
- Malamutes are a fairly healthy breed, but just like any animal, they do have the potential health issues. One of the major ones, hip dysplasia, is found among the larger working breeds. This is a disease of the hip joint, requiring costly surgery and leads to arthritis. If you purchase your puppy from a breeder, they should provide you with a certificate clearing one or both parents of hip dysplasia from either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip).
- Malamutes can also be affected by a form of dwarfism known as chondrodysplasia. All breeders must have Alaskan Malamute Club of America certification that at least one of the parents of the puppies are free from this condition, or the puppies they produce could be affected.
- They can also suffer from inherited polyneuropathy, a nervous system disorder causing lack of coordination and muscle weakness. There is no screening test for this disease.
If a breeder tells you that they guarantee the puppies are 100% free of any of the above issues, they are either not knowledgeable or they are dishonest. Make sure you only contract with reputable breeders to avoid any misunderstandings. The experience of owning a Malamute should be a rewarding and delightful feeling. The love and companionship between man and his dog is an age-old pastime and one I hope you will enjoy for many years to come.