The Alaskan Malamute is a large dog that was originally used to pull heavy weight long distances for the Inuit Malemut peoples. They may share their ancestors with the Siberian Husky, which is lighter in weight. Besides pulling freight, the Malamute was designed to alert camp sites to large predators and alert hunters to seal blow holes. In the harsh conditions of the Artic, the Inuit often had to keep the dogs on the verge of starvation. The dogs were (and often still are) kept in semi-feral conditions, though they still had to be safe for handling by humans1.
The Alaskan Malamute is the official state dog of Alaska.
Today, the Alaskan Malamute is kept by some as a companion dog. They love to be around people and can adapt to this role. Their fondness of people, even unfamiliar ones, does not make them an ideal watch dog. However, the history of the breed still plays a role in some of its behaviors. The Alaskan Malamute needs sufficient exercise and mental challenge, otherwise they can become bored which can lead to destructiveness and excessive howling. A bored Malamute can turn your yard into a disaster area. They are excellent escape artists. The Malamute is prone to developing food aggression; this is no wonder given the history of constant near starvation, a kind of natural selection for strong defense of available food.
Aggression towards other animals is a major concern. If the Alaskan Malamute escapes, he may molest livestock and wildlife, kill the neighbor’s cats and get into horrific fights with other dogs. Some advise us not to keep a Malamute with another dog of the same sex because the fights can be so severe2, 3. They are dangerous to other household pets, such as cats, rabbits or smaller dogs. It is ideal to separate the Alaskan Malamute from other pets when unable to supervise. Small children may awaken primitive instincts and children can be seriously injured. They are better suited for families with almost adult children. Alaska Malamutes can be loud pets and like to vocalize with howling. They enjoy making noise and “talking”, especially when excited. They often are not suited for community living.
Proper socialization and training should start early for Alaskan Malamutes. Training should include from the youngest puppy days that a human approaching a Malamute’s food bowl only means something more delicious is going to be added – that the food is never taken away. A Malamute who doesn’t trust you around food can be dangerous if he’s found something edible on the ground – whether or not you see he’s guarding something.
Despite being difficult to train, it can be accomplished if the handler keeps them consistently motivated. They are a working breed and they enjoy tasks that give them a job to do. Alaskan Malamutes enjoy regular, vigorous exercise. Their favorite time of year is winter, and they love to romp and frolic in the snow. They have no discomfort with spending a lot of time outdoors in the winter. They should not be kept in hot climates, where they are prone to overheating and can never be really happy.
The Alaskan Malamute has a heavy coat and they need to be brushed several times a week. They have seasonal coat changes twice per year which will produce heavy shedding. Malamutes are prone to medical issues such as anemia with chondrodysplasia, polyneuropathy, hip dysplasia, bloat, and dwarfism4. They weigh between 70-95 lbs and typically live 12-16 years.
In North America, from 1982-2013, Alaskan Malamutes have seriously attacked 13 humans (11 of them children) that resulted in 5 maimings and 5 fatalities.
1. http://articluv.net/malamute-history.htm (accessed February 2014)
2. http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/reviews/alaskanmalamutes.html (accessed February 2014), passim.
3. http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/alaskan-malamute (accessed February 2014), passim.
4. GUIDE TO CONGENITAL AND HERITABLE DISORDERS IN DOGS; Includes Genetic Predisposition to Diseases; W. Jean Dodds DVM, The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, version May 2011. http://www.hsvma.org/assets/pdfs/guide-to-congenital-and-heritable-disorders.pdf (accessed February 2014)