Featured Dog Breed – Alaskan Malamute
Learn more about this majestic breed, commonly known as a sled dog.
Alaskan Malamute Dog
The Alaskan malamute (also called just Alaskan or malamute) is a dog originating in the Arctic of the United States. One of the oldest breeds of sled dogs, it is powerful-looking, strong and well muscled. It can carry heavy weights (up to 20 kg) over tens of kilometers.
His presence, always with his head up, endows some impressive aspects; however it does not conflict with its affable nature. It is playful with its owner, while giving the impression of being a very serious dog to anyone who does not know the breed.
Normal height and weight range are 60-65 cm at the withers and 35-40 kg for males and 55-60 cm and 30-35 kg for females. Its fur has two layers: an outer, thick, rough layer and an oily and woolly internal one. The fur is longer in the neck and shoulders, and on its back and tail. It is the mantle of fur that characterizes it, which may give the impression of its being an “ironclad” of dogs. Unlike other breeds, when it gets wet it is not reduced drastically in size. Its color is predominantly gray, but the standard allows colors from white to reddish sand.
Their ears are triangular, always pointed, and of medium size. The eyes are alive, alert, medium sized and almond shaped.
This is a very ancient breed, and the first sled dog breed. The Alaskan malamute was bred by a tribe of Inuit called Mahlemiut. The meaning of the word mahle is unknown, but it is known that miutan means “village.” Therefore it could be interpreted that the people mahlemiut were from Mahle. Following the phonetic English, the diction is then converted into Malamute.
The area inhabited by the people of the Malamute was the shores of Kotzebue Sound, an area between two major rivers, the Kobuk and the Noatak. Men and women of the tribe of mahlemiut (Malamute) were prized among the other Inuit tribes for their courage, their pride and their skill in hunting and fishing.
These dogs were renowned for their beauty and their characteristics of strength and stamina, which made them optimal elements for the draft. They were generally larger and more powerful than other Nordic dogs, with a wolf-like appearance and a large fluffy tail carried over the back.
According to eyewitnesses’ reports, between 1870 and 1880 the caribou, for some inexplicable reason, changed their usual migration routes, taking away an important source of livelihood from the Malamute tribes. Under these conditions the families could no longer afford to maintain groups of dogs and kept only two or three. There is evidence from the time that men, women and even children helped their dogs to pull sleds. The population began to decline and the same fate befell their dogs.
The Alaskan malamute’s ability to withstand heavy loads is evident when it was elected to conduct expeditions to the polar circle, such as the two that Admiral Byrd made. They were also used as a rescue dog for the injured in the Second World War.
This is a dog with very ancient origins, which have been changed little from its wolf origins. This does not mean it is aggressive. While his appearance and pride can impress the outside observer, it is a playful animal (when invited to do so), loyal to his master and has a great protective instinct with children.
The Alaskan malamute is an outdoor dog that loves the open spaces. If shut behind a fence it is likely to try to find the way out because it loves freedom and will not miss a possibility of leaving in search of an adventure or a career.
Shyness is not usually a good sign but, fortunately, appears to be a fairly rare trait in this breed. If it occurs it may be due to causes beyond genetics. The animal may have had an owner who failed to give it proper socialization, keeping it locked and devoid of psychic stimuli, such as interacting with its own kind and giving very limited human contact. If caught, shyness should be monitored and training provided to overcome the problem, because otherwise their behavior can become unpredictable and therefore dangerous.
On the other hand, given the nomadic lifestyle of the Inuit who share everything, this is not a breed for protection, but it can be a good alert dog that notifies its owner of something strange. It makes a particular sound that is a combination of howling and barking. It’s not a dog to guard and defend because it naturally tends to be friendly with humans.
Because of its ancient beginnings, the Alaskan malamute is a dog with a strong herding instinct and hierarchy, which causes frequent attacks on other animals. In addition, males are very territorial and competitive with each other so it is not advisable to house them together. The females may be simpler to train and adapt better to life at home.
This breed loves human company, and its enormous doses of loyalty, love and willingness to work are what make it a good dog for a home. It is gentle with children, even with strangers, and loves to accompany them everywhere. Due to their independent status, they are reputed to be stubborn and difficult to train among people who do not know dogs. However, there are champion malamutes working with blind obedience.
They are sensitive, affectionate and playful, but able to protect themselves effectively. For a good dog, training and socialization should be balanced, both physically and psychologically, as they have good potential for learning because they are quick to learn and have sharp reflexes.
They are extremely strong dogs with few health problems. But you have to carefully watch its tendency to be overweight due to their genetic ancestors. From generations of very tough work, and due to the extreme conditions they were exposed to, they were forced to consume much food reserves in order to have sufficient heat enabling them to continue their hard work. Now in a house, and not making such tremendous physical effort, it is advisable to be careful not to overfeed.
We must remember that there will be the need to brush often and, though not necessary, weekly changing of newspaper is recommended to ventilate their natural shelter. Do not forget that it is a Nordic dog, accustomed to temperatures reaching even to -45°C.
Still, this dog can be adapted to warm temperatures thanks to its coat, which gives it excellent insulation. Some attention is needed to help it endure this kind of weather, such as sun protection and exercising at cooler periods during high temperatures.
Some people choose to decrease the amount of fur, trimming the excess so the dog will not suffer with the heat, something completely inadvisable in these northern breeds. The reason is that the dog can no longer maintain its normal body temperature and could be more prone to sunburn. It may even cause death from heatstroke.
It is an ideal dog for long runs at a steady and moderate pace, but caution is necessary so that the exercises are performed at temperatures below 15°C. So if you live in a warm place, it is recommended to exercise your Alaskan malamute early in the morning or after sunset.