Copyright 1994, 1995 by Margaret Bonham, Stacey Curtis, and Stephen Lee.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club for a copy of the Standard.
Today, there are essentially two different "kinds" of Alaskan Malamutes. One line is referred to as the M'Loot and the other is the Kotzebue. One difference between these two lines is the size of the dog. M'Loot Malamutes are larger than the Kotzebue's. In addition, true Kotzebues have only wolf-gray coats, whereas M'Loots come in a variety of colors, including wolf-gray, black and white, sable and white, seal, blue, and white. Kotzebues also tend to be less aggressive than the M'loot, however they can be more hyper. The Kotzebue line is essentially due to Arthur Walden, and Milton and Eva Seeley. In fact, it was Milton and Eva that got the Kotzebue line recognized and registered by the AKC in 1935. Paul Voelker developed the M'Loot line. Paul did not register his dogs, but he sold them to people who eventually did. Amongst breeders, there is some argument as to which is the "correct" Malamute. In spite of this, Alaskan Malamutes are credited as one of the few breeds that is very close to its original form and function.
The Alaskan Malamute is a very clean and relatively odor free dog. It tends to clean itself like a cat. Even when a Malamute becomes covered in mud, it will clean itself. Therefore, bathing needs are minimal. Some owners only bathe their dogs once a year or less.
Other than during coat-blowing season, the Malamute needs very little grooming. No trimming or shaving of hair is required or recommended. Occasional brushing to remove dead hair and keep the coat fresh and shiny is required. Their nails should be checked and clipped periodically.
Owing to their strong pack nature, Malamutes can be more aggressive towards other dogs than other breeds. Because of this, great care should be taken on the part of the owner to socialize their Malamute puppy as much as possible with other dogs.
Due to the character of the Malamute, they should never be actively trained to be protective, vicious, or aggressive. Their very nature makes them lousy watch dogs. It is against their instincts to make them into watch or guard type dogs. It has been tried in the past with disastrous results. They are a visual deterrent only, as the uninitiated may be hesitant to approach property or family in the company of such a large, impressive looking animal. However, Malamutes are as likely to greet a potential thief as warmly as a trusted family member. This is part of what makes a Malamute a Malamute.
When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the puppy's diet has been to date, as well as recommendation as to the best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult. You should try and follow the puppy's diet at the time you collect him from the breeder as best you can, until the puppy is settled in to its new environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy's digestive system and cause gastric distress.
Some people prefer to free-feed their dogs, while others prefer scheduled feeding times. Certainly while the dog is still a puppy, he should be fed three times a day or free-fed. Malamutes are not fully mature until 18 months of age. The diet should be tailored to the dogs level of activity and eating habits. Some Malamute owners have found it impossible to free feed their dogs, due to the fact that some Malamutes will eat all food presented them immediately. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including obesity and bloat.
As for the type and "brand" of dog food, basically any reputable dog food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly science. The dog food manufactures have done the science part. The rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry food twice a day. Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food to suit your dogs needs. For working Malamutes, something equivalent to a Science Diet Performance is in order. For Malamutes that go for walks and hikes, a Maintenance formula is usually best. Consult your breeder and veterinarian for advice.
One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food. Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon. Even though the Malamute is not fully mature until 18 months, most people gradually switch to adult dog food at the 8-10 month time frame. Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and veterinarian.
Because the Malamute is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the elements in the form of a good sturdy house. The house should have a flat roof, as Malamutes love to lay on top of their houses and observe the world. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect for Malamutes that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog house is usually not necessary.
Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog will respect you and training will be much easier. It is best to enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten training as they are commonly known) soon after your dog is home and has all of its vaccinations. This training is good for the dog and for you as the owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and establish you as alpha very early in the puppy's life, which is extremely important with this breed. Once you have completed the puppy class, and have been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience class is in order.
Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough to differentiate situations very well, and will apply different rules of behavior for different situations. You must stay on top of the dog and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of manageable size than with a stubborn adult that has been allowed to get away with undesirable behaviors for a long time.
It is very important to remember that Alaskan Malamutes are a working breed. They need something to do. Putting them in the backyard and tossing them a bone and expecting them to be happy us a very bad idea. They need a lot of exercise and interaction to be happy. The exercise can come in the form of mushing, which is of course best, or can easily be in the form of frequent walks, hikes, and playing. The dog makes a wonderful hiking companion, and with a dog pack, can carry food and water.
The condition results in delayed endochondral bone formation. In 1970, the Alaskan Malamute Club of America officially recognized CHD and began efforts to combat the disease. By the end of that year, it was proven that the gene for CHD was an autosome recessive (through repetitive matings of CHD dogs) and mathematical models one which pedigrees could be tested were established.
A Malamute with less than a 6.25% CHD probability factor is considered to be breedable. 6.25% corresponds to one carrier as a great-great-great grandfather . Obviously this is not foolproof, but the chances of a dog not carrying CHD are improved considerably the lower the number. CHD probability is computed through the average of the two parents.
There are various ways to test for CHD including blood tests and x-rays. This recessive gene seems to affect blood as well, producing a type of anemia.
X-rays are generally made between the ages of 3 to 12 weeks, if one is overly concerned about CHD detection. Most Malamute breeders are satisfied with the CHD rating and no outward signs.
No. The Alaskan Malamute is a domesticated pure bred dog, and has been for many centuries. They are often mistaken for wolves, and they are often used in movies to depict wolves, but they are most certainly not wolves or part wolf.How do they handle the summer heat?
Like any dog, to cope with summer heat the Alaskan Malamute needs a constant supply of water to drink and shade from the sun. If the dog is allowed inside then it will find it's own cool room (probably on the kitchen or bathroom floor if it is tiled or linoleum floored). Some dogs like having ice added to their water to help keep it cool. Some also enjoy a children's wading pool filled with water in the summer time. The Malamute sheds a lot of coat directly before summer, as soon as the whether starts to warm up, which also allows them to keep cool. Heavy exercise should be avoided in excessive heat. Curtail exercise times to be early morning or just after sunset. Once the dog is acclimated to his environment, he is usually fine. Malamutes are remarkably adaptable animals. However, one should never try and push a dog beyond his capability to cope with the heat. To do so can be disastrous. One must keep in mind the type of climate the dog is acclimated for and not look for signs of heat stress. Do not ever lock any dog in a car in direct sunlight, or in the shade for a great deal of time, even with the windows down a little for ventilation the heat generated by the dog is still enough to cause heat stress in summer.What are they like with children?
Due to their gentle temperament the Alaskan Malamute is generally a very good family dog. They seem to enjoy the company of children, though common sense must be used when mixing any dog with young children. They are a very powerful dog and children should not be left in total control of the dog. Alaskan Malamutes are generally patient by nature and will tolerate young children fawning over them, but this should be strictly supervised for the sake of the dog as well as the child. With these caveats in mind, since Malamutes love attention, well behaved children get along wonderfully with well mannered and socialized Malamutes.What are they like inside a house, being so big?
Alaskan Malamutes, aside from the occasional invasion of masses of fur when they are shedding coat, are excellent house dogs. They are extremely clean dogs and surprisingly quiet. They are very sure-footed and in no way clumsy around furniture. They will often pick out a favorite sleeping spot and stay there for hours. Favorite spots seem to be tiled and linoleum floors in warm weather, soft pillows or beds at other times.How much do they eat?
Most Malamutes love food, however they eat surprisingly little for their size. The actual amount of food will vary depending on the metabolism and activity level of the dog, and the type of food that is given. A working adult will eat approximately 4 cups of high density food per day. Other dogs will generally eat less. Puppies require smaller, more frequent meals.How much exercise do they need, and what kind?
You should not strenuously exercise a puppy under 6 months of age. Their muscular-skeleto system is not developed enough yet. Their play is enough to keep them healthy. You should play with your puppy and work on some of the basic obedience commands with him, in a playful way. Once the dog is 6 months old, a kindergarten puppy training class or a basic obedience class is a very good idea. It will start you both out on the right foot. You can then more easily start taking the dog for walks in your area on a leash. By the time the dog is full grown, at around 18 months, he will be ready for much longer walks, an hour per day or more. The obedience training will make the walks much more enjoyable. Alaskan Malamutes also enjoy jogging, but this should not be attempted until the dog is 18 months old or older. Hiking, with a dog back-pack is great fun. One can also bike with a dog, with a nifty device known as a "Springer." Finally, sledding is an excellent form of exercise, and is what the dog was bred for. The sled dog part of the FAQ for rec.pets.dogs covers these things in more detail.Do they pull sleds very fast?
The Malamute is a very strong dog, but not as fast as some of the other northern breeds. Malamutes are not as fast as, say Siberians, and because of this are not typically used in sprint sled racing or a race like the Iditarod (although they sometimes are). Endurance and strength are the Malamute staples, and they are frequently used for exploratory trips across the North Pole or Antarctica (most recently, in the Trans-Antarctic expedition) and in weight pull competitions.How strong are they?
The Malamute is a very strong dog. They were originally freighting dogs and as such, are able to pull tremendous amounts of weight. Just from looking at the Malamute, and the size of his bones and his stature, it is easy to see that they are indeed very strong animals. For this reason, many people use them in weight pulling competitions, where they will pull thousands of pounds.Do they shed a lot?
Malamutes blow their undercoats twice per year. They do not typically shed year round like many dog breeds. When they do blow their coat, they loose lots of hair (several grocery sacks full per week).Do they like to fight other dogs?
No. Malamutes are very pack oriented dogs. As such, they communicate with other dogs in a variety of ways. An ill mannered, aggressive dog is not a good team dog and therefore not a good sled dog. However, poorly socialized and trained Malamutes can be aggressive towards other dogs. For this reason, it is very important for a Malamute owner to train the dog carefully and make sure to properly socialize it with other dogs.I've heard Malamutes are dumb. Is this true?
No! Alaskan Malamutes are extremely intelligent working dogs. People often mistake the fact that they can be difficult to train as a sign of stupidity. Malamutes are very clever and easily bored. The key to training them is to keep them interested and to challenge their intelligence. A Malamute probably knows what you want him to do, he just may not want to do it!Just how cold can an Alaskan Malamute live in?
Alaskan Malamutes can work and live in extremely cold conditions, approaching 70 degrees below zero.
Ross, Diane. Your Alaskan Malamute, 1977 William Denlinger. ISBN 0-87714-047-2.
Riddle, Maxwell and Harris, Beth. The New Complete Alaskan Malamute, 1990, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-008-9.
Coppinger, Lorna and ISDRA. The World of Sled Dogs, 1977, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-671-0.
Siberian Husky and Malamute Club of S.A. Inc
The Secretary, Cass vanRyswyk
P.O. Box 169
St Agnes, South Australia 5097 Australia
More detailed tips for locating a good breeder can be found in the Getting A Dog FAQ.