Breed Group: Working
Temperament and Behavior
The powerful Alaskan Malamute is characterized by two traits, love of people and love of heavy exercise. They are a large, strong, independent working dog bred for endurance and to have a close relationship with man. They normally enjoy human companionship including children when socialized with them and strangers. As a result, even though they tend to be barky, they make poor watchdogs. Rambunctious as puppies, some never mature into a calm well-mannered adult. But even a calm adult will eagerly throw themselves into any physical activity from jogging to pulling a load many times their own weight. With their sled dog heritage, it is understandable these dogs require several hours of vigorous exercise daily. Exceptionally bright, this is not a dog that you can leave in your backyard all day. If allowed to become bored, Malamutes are known for chewing through drywall, tearing apart sofas and re-landscaping yards. Food is scarce in the Malamute’s harsh Arctic home. As a result, especially unneutered males can be very dominant and possessive of their food. With his hunter/explorer mentality, even extensive socialization may not change his view that any small animal is food, even though you may view it as a pet. They can be so aggressive with other dogs, especially of the same sex, that two dogs of the same sex should never be kept together. Puppies are so powerful and exuberant they should be separated from both young children and the unsteady elderly.
Physical CharacteristicsThe Alaskan Malamute has the square body, curled, bushy tail, and alert ears as do the other dogs in the Spitz family. They weigh between 75 and 85 pounds and stand 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder. They are easily recognized by their distinctive coats, which come in many shades of gray, black, sable, and red with white predominating on the underbody made up of thick hair, 1 to 2 inches long that protects them from the bitter cold. Their coat needs brushing at least several times a week and daily when shedding which is extremely heavy twice a year. As one might expect, they do poorly in hot humid climates.
Trainer's NotesBecause these are large, powerful, dominance-seeking dogs, obedience training while a puppy is essential but rarely easy. The highly intelligent Malamute is capable of deciding what it thinks is best. The complex Malamute has a strong work ethic and is both independent but cautious. Combined with their strong desire to dominate, they will challenge any trainer no matter how skilled, together with family members, and other dogs. They require a firm, direct, experienced trainer who will leave the dog with no uncertainty about who is in charge. This is a breed best left for dog-savvy owners.
HealthThe Alaskan Malamute is healthy large breed dog. Hip Dysplasia, affecting about 1 in 10 dogs, is the most common health problem. Other genetically related health issues affecting the breed include Bloat which is believed to be the second leading killer of dogs. Hypothyroidism, Chondrodysplasia, which affects the growth of the long bones of the leg, kidney problems, and Corneal Dystrophy, which usually becomes apparent in the breed at between 5 and 27 months of age, are also seen. Their average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.
PopularityWith about 2,000 American Kennel Club registrations in a typical year, the Alaskan Malamute ranks 58th in breed popularity.
Breed HistoryThe Alaskan Malamute can be traced back over 2,000 years to the native Mahlemut (notice difference in spelling) tribe in Western Alaska. They were originally bred for strength and endurance and used primarily to pull heavy sleds in the Arctic. In 1935, the AKC recognized the breed. Alaskan Malamutes are still used in search and rescue, recreational sledding, and weight pulling competitions.
Additional InformationThe Alaskan Malamute has played a major role in Alaska’s history. Not only did it help nomadic Arctic tribes survive for thousands of years, it pulled people and supplies across Alaska during the gold rush of 1896. They were also chosen for use in the early polar expeditions of Perry, Cook, and Byrd. Other notable owners of the Alaskan Malamute include Herbert Hoover, Judy Collins, Dom DeLuise, Cheryl Ladd, George Lucas, Robin Williams, Vida Blue, and Lowell Thomas. The National (US) Breed Club is the Alaskan Malamute Club of America.
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