we hope that this portrait will help you envision if you and a malamute are an ideal match. If you have further questions we urge you to contact one of the breeders listed on the Polar club website. They are experts, who live with the breed on a daily basis , and have many years experience with the breed -good and bad. A dog of this type should ONLY be sold by breeders with experience , and only to people who are able to sustain the special requirements of the breed.
Describtion A malamute is a working dog - popularly called a sled dog. It is bred to deliver heavy and demanding work for long periods of time in a very harsh environment - and this is still reflected in the breeds independence and physical presence. This is something everyone should seriously consider, before continiung with the thought of becoming an owner of this powerful breed. A malamute can f.ex. as an adult move up to 1 ton - it thinks for itself, can survive extreme low temperatures, and would also like to catch its own food. These powerful traits set high standards to the owners knowledge and attitude, as well as the environment you can offer. Few people have the imagination to see how this power and energy will be displayed - if the breed is not trained and stimulated correctly, and is lacking the proper environment.
Origin of the breed
To understand what makes a malamute special as compared to other breeds, we must know its origin, for through this we will find the reasoning for its physical appearance and its temperament. It is obvious that Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Greenland dog and Samoyeds have something in common, but we have to go back to the time when there was a migration from Asia via the frozen Bering Strait to North America and onwards to Greenland - to understand the difference of the polar breeds.
It was very different climates that met the Inuits who settled in Alaska, Siberia and Greenland - and therefore differing lifestyles for survival. Survival was the ability to adapt to the environment - this also applied to the type of dogs, which were bred over time by selection.
Alaska is one of the harshest areas in the world and extreme hardiness and intelligence were important factors in the fight for survival - both for dogs and people. There was no room for indulgence and mistakes - with these requirements the breed Alaskan Malamute was created.
An example of hardiness is, that in an area like Alaska with temperatures at -50'C, food is sparse. A malamute is therefore developed to work and survive on a very small amount of food; it easily absorbs nutrition from the food. This has also developed stubborness and intelligence which is needed to obtain food in such an environment. Because of the extreme cold, the malamutes build, from lenght of coat, tail and ear size minutely developed to avoid dying of cold/exposure.
Independence. In its original environment a malamute was not dependent on its owners guidance or commands. To survive the dogs at an early age to learn to depend on their own experience/knowledge and make independent decisions. They also learned that when the situation demanded it, it was necessary to refuse to do what their owners asked them to. There are today many stories of dogs, who have saved themselves and their owners from tragic accidents, because they refused to go out on thin ice or into areas with f.ex. glacial crevices.
Stamina is an important survival factor in this terrain, and not least their hunting instinct- as there isn't much food, it is important to catch and eat whatever is there. So only the one who continues to try will have dinner - the one who gives up will not survive. This is one of the reasons not to let your malamute off leash - if he sees the chance to catch a prey, its hunting instinct causes it to try - and it can run far and for a long time.
In Denmark the malamute is mostly a family dog, and is happiest with an octive owner, where it will be used actively in weight pull, trips with a backpack (backpacking), tracking and obedience, and otherwise participates in its owners activities.
If you are interested in this breed you should be very aware that the breeds intincts still are in force, and to date reflect a dog who would be able to survive in the harsh and extreme Alaska.
DKCH My Alaskan Supernova on the Sweedish Polar Distance with Sheeba
Life with a malamute
The malamute is a peculiar breed and not exactly what you would call an "easy family dog"
It feels that it and only it is the center of the universe , and the rest of the world revolves around its need and demands.
A malamute will always be where there is activity -that is beside the owner and in the midst of all family activities. It has a large noisy personality, 'naughty' sense of humor, sharp inteligence and its very own opinions.
Many people are drawn to the beauty of the breed - but are unfortunately completely unprepared for the level of training and commitment, that is required to convert the cute little malamute puppy to an obedient member of the family, who is a pleasure to be with. For this reason there are many malamutes who end up being rehomed or even worse - put down.
This is not a breed for a timid person, nor is it a good choice for those who feel that a dog must be physically dominated, or those who expect unconditional loyalty and obedience, or those who both want to be a malamute owner as well as active in many other activities. This breed requires commitment and lots of time and space.
The ideal malamute owner already enjoys an active lifestyle, and is willing to let their dog take part in the everyday activities. The malamute owner must be able to handle the challenge it is to train a dog who thinks for itself. This a dog who works "with" its owner and not "for" its owner. The ideal malamute owner has the physical and mental surplus to demand a proper conduct with a pleasant tone in set circumstances without seeking confrontation.
The malamute does not exist to please (serve) its owner, and this makes owning and training a malamute to another experience, than you would get with a breed who exerts itself to do what you ask for.
For a malamute it is ALWAYS a weighing of whether it is worth it or not. Even though its intelligence and problemsolving abilities make it easy to train, a malamute is easily bored, if it is asked to do something repeatedly. As an owner you must always be creative and a step ahead.
Its physical strength and size combined with its independent attitude also makes it difficult to handle, unless you put in the time and effort to teach good manners and basic obedience from puppyhood.Don't however think that obedience training is over after this. The malamutes opportunistic being ensures that you have to work at maintaining obedience and manners continously.
DKCH VDHJCH DKV12 PGW12 My Alaskan Winter Dream pulling chains
A malamute weighs an average of 8 kg,when they are 8 weeks, and at about 1 year old a bitch will weigh an average of 30-36 kg and a dog 38-43 kg. They very quickly reach the weight and size of a fully developed adult dog, but mentally this breed is quite slow in developing and this can cause challenges. Many owners are trapped into a false security, and forget to maintain basic manners and training after the first 6-7 months. There is a tendency to equate physical size and fully developed dog. But don't expect to know your malamutes actual personality and behavior until they are fully mature (for females 2 1/2 years and for males around 2 1/2 to 4 years). It is the owners responsibility to raise them through training and guidance to be a canine good citizen. Through training its energy and independence can be controlled, and even though this breed never becomes completely obedient, continual basic obedience and patience from the owner will produce a malamute, who is a pleasure to live with.
If some of what we describe here, scares you, or you have at anytime thought "I will just teach my dog not to do this", please consider again, IFf an Alaskan Malamute truly is the breed for you. Remember, these are the natural traits of this breed, and a part of what makes the breed what it is. On the other hand, if you are drawn to the idea of getting an active family member - with a large personality, extreme intelligence, and a very social attitude, an Alaskan Malamute could be a good breed for you.
A malamute is a life style - not just an accessory.
The malamute is the largest of the polar breeds, developed to pull heavy loads (sleds) over long distances in a harsh environment, day after day. Their size and body mass are developed to optimize strength as well as endurance, which makes the malamute a very strong and athletic dog.
The malamute is therefore a serious working breed, who demands physical and mental stimulation above average. The breed thrives with activities such as hikes, walks with backpacks, sled pulling, bike pulling, weight pull, obedience, rally, agility , shows and anything else that combines either physical or mental exertion together with their owner. It is EVERY day that you must be active with your malamute - not just once in a while.
The malamute who is not given challenges to complete will find their own. Usually, these are not something that pleases the owner. The malamute excels at interior decorating, and can destroy sofas, plaster walls, carpets, panelling, door jambs and other things in amazingly short time. It can change a park like garden into a recreation of a lunar landscape, and can easily dig large craters and eat your prize winning roses.
The malamute is very social. It needs to be an active member of the family, "the flock", and will oftern become extremely destructive or loudly vocal, if it feels isolated or lacking human contact. This is therefore not a breed which can be placed in a remote dog kennel, and be expected to entertain itself for an extended period of time. It is also important to note that this is not a breed which can be activated with dog play in the park and/or throwing of a stick.
As an owner you should be prepared to be active outdoors an average of 1 1/2- 2 hours a day, when you have a grown malamute. And especially in the first 2 years you must work intensively with basic manners and obedience.
The right surroundings for a Alaskan Malamute
As idescribed it is a large and active breed which requires a specific environment. It is basically not a breed suited for apartment living -for several reasons. It is a large dog and its heavy skeleton is not suited to the many daily trips up and down the stairs.
The heavy fur coat also means it prefers to lay outside in the shade and fresh air.When this is not possible there is a higher risk that it will become destructive, and also may start to howl. This, usually, doesn't work too well in apartment buildings.
It is therefore preferable that you live in a house with a garden, which it is possible to fence in minimum 1.80 meters. Also ensure an ground cover it can't dig its way out of. This could be concrete tiles or reinforced metal netting.
Many malamute owners have divided the garden -the nice part for guests and the other for kennel runs for air and play when the dog is home alone. It is completely the malamute owners responsibility to ensure secure fencing. Don't think for a moment that the malamute won't notice that the fence doesn't cover the corner - because it will , and away on adventure is the malamute.
The most frequently asked questions about the breed
Do they require a lot of grooming and do they shed?
The malamute is bred to survive under exteme cold temperatures.To protect itself from the cold the fur is in 2 layers - a layer of soft woolly undercoat meant for insulation, and a top coat of protective, rough water repelling cover hairs. The coat is not long but compact.
For the most of the year the malamute is low maintenance and has an easy coat to maintain. Weekly brushing and a bath once in a while keeps it presentable. A well maintained coat will not "smell of dog" as other breeds have a tendency to.
Twice a year the malamute delivers its very own 'snowstorm' when they blow their coat.
The entire coat is shed, while a new coat comes in, and the amount of lost fur is really amazing. you can bathe the dog, brush it and vacuum the house - and 10 minutes later there is a fine layer of hair again.
So the answer to the question is YES! Malamutes shed. Not all the time, but when they do they do it in a big way. You can't avoid it - you brush every 2-3 days and arm yourself with patience, and wait for the storm to pass - all the while pushing the vacuum cleaner to its maximum capacity, and collect what seems to be enough fur to produce at least a dozen new dogs. Bagless vacuum cleaners and a blower for the coat are highly recommended.
Does such a large breed require a lot of food?
Due to the lack of food in the arctic, a dog who can eat anything when the opportunity is there, have a survival advantage. The malamute can therefore not be called a picky eater.
It needs a small amount of food compared to its size. Even though the actual food requirement is not large, the hunger is constant, as regards amount and type. Hard working malamutes will require more food and in the summer when the breed is inactive- they require considerably less food.
For this breed its more a matter of the CORRECT type of food....in general this breed needs a food with higher fat content - but a lower amount.
Is a malamute a good watch dog?
Since the malamute has developed from a nomadic culture, where only the most personal items were considered private, there was no reason for the malamute to act protectively, or develop territorial instincts. It is likely that a dog who showed aggressivity to people would be seen as a problem and be more use as a fur coat than a sled dog.
The malamute therefore loves people - all people. For most malamutes there isn't anyone who is a stranger - instead it is a new best friend, whom they just haven't met yet. Even though its size and appearance may get a stranger to think twice, you can't expect a malamute to guard over possessions or its owner. It is actually more likely that it will invite the stranger in and show him the cookie jar.
Are malamutes suitable with small children.
Most malamutes love children and the feeling is often mutual. It is however important to remember that malamutes are dogs, who may not necessarily understand that they have to allow for childrens size and behavior. With the malamutes size and strength it can easily hurt a child without meaning to . But it is fine to have children and malamutes together, as long as the rules are well defined and and enforced. And you allow time to train the malamute and include it in your otherwise busy schedule.
My Alaskan Urban Legend
Malamutes and other dogs
Historically the malamute lived in small isolated family groups with a very defined social hierarchy. Because of the frequent lack of food in the arctic areas, it was survival of the fittest. The dogs who surrvived and progenated , were those who had a high enough status to share in the limited food resources. And because of the limited resources dogs from outside the flock would be considered a threat.
Therefore the malamute will have a tendency to be intolerant to bad behavior or pushy behavior from other dogs, and with its size and strength considered, there are not many dogs who should fight with a malamute.
Even though a malamute will not actively seek to start a fight, it will without a doubt finish it. It does not hold back when challenged or threatened. If the other dog doesn't understand the calming signals the malamute is an expert in, but continues its bad behavior, this behavior will be punished and ended finally by the malamute. This often ,incorrectly,seen by malamute owners and other dog owners as aggressive behavior. It is therefore not a breed which is a candidate for visiting dog parks, or for the owner who expects their dog to participate in play without supervision or spontaneous play with strange dogs. It is therefore also not a dog suitable to be walked or exercised by children without supervision.
The malamute can be a challenge in homes with several dogs. For this to be successful, it is a requirement to understand the pack mentality (dynamics), and a very active participation by the owner. Several dogs in the same home is often most successful when there is plenty of room, so every dog can have its personal space. Whilst two malamutes of opposite sex often adore each other, it isn't unusual for the malamute to be less understanding with others of the same sex. It is therefore a necessity to be able to have separate dog pens/kennels.
If a fight occurs, many malamutes will carry a grudge against the other dog, some times life long. Anyone who wants to add a malamute to a family with another dog of the same sex, has to be ready to work extremely hard to get a good relationship established between the two dogs. You have to be prepared for the fact it may not work, and have a plan B ready, if it becomes necessary to physically separate the two for life.
Most malamute owners quickly learn that a malamute thrives best with a partner of the opposite sex - but speak with your breeder . before you decide when and how to best increase the amount of dogs in your pack. It must absolutely be deterred for first time owners to get two same sex puppies at the same time! If you want to increase your pack with more malamutes, it is recommended that you discuss this carefully with an experienced breeder, and that you obtain experience with the breed , one dog at a time.
The malamute and other animals?
Food in the arctic was always scarce. Some times the dogs were left to fend for themselves, and survival depended on the ability to catch and kill their own prey.
The malamute has a well developed hunting instinct, and it is still a strong ingrained instinct in it to hunt everything which acts as prey. Cats, rabbits, other small animals, cattle and some times small dogs acts as - and can by malamutes - be seen as prey. It is normal and expected that a malamute will be attracted to these animals and will hunt and kill them, given the opportunity. Even though the malamute can be trained to live peacefully with a cat, especially if raised with one, it doesn't mean that they won't kill the neighbors cat when it runs through the garden. You can never trust it with other small animals, and if they run loose in the countryside, it is often a death sentence for the malamute, as it will attempt to kill both game and cattle, etc. and that is often punished by death and a case for the police.
This pictures shows our dog Nuna....she caught it herself....we did not shoot it down and ask her to retrieve it....she has perfect hunting skills her self.
Can a malamute be off leash (roam free?)
As decribed above it would be a really bad choice to let your malamute off the leash. If walking with you dog off leash (free) is very important to you, then we must recommend that you choose another breed. It is both irresponsible towards the malamute and other dog owner and small animals. it is not the amount of times that it is ok - it is the one time when it is not.
most owners of this breed find a fenced area where they can let the dogs loose from time to time without interferrence from other dogs.
How much equipment does the breed require?
Again, looking at the breeds amazing raw strength and need for lots of outdoor activities - it is necessary with special equipment - both quality wise something which holds up and for the special activities such as weight pull and backpacking.
Standard equipment for a grown malamute in a normally active home:
Strong collar, martin gale style, so it cant slip over the head - strong leash with double carabine or nylon lead with elastic middle piece - waist belt to attach the lead - weight pull harness for pulling chains - Xback harness for running- special dog back pack. A so called stake out -which you can set in the ground when on hikes. A good bicycle and helmet, and if you get interested a cart or scooter or sled.
Strong comb and brush for the coat, preferably also a blower which can dry a wet coat and blow the loose fur off at shedding time. Good raingear and shoes/boots for the owner, because you will be out on long walks in all kinds of weather.
We hope this portrait has given a greater insight into the breed -so you are better able to judge if this breed will fit into your life, and if you can offer the breed the right environment and living conditions.
Copyright to My Alaskan, breeders of Alaskan Malamutes since 2008