Thinking of getting a malamute?

History

The Alaskan Malamute is often mistaken for a Husky, but they are larger than most of the other “Spitz” type dogs which includes the Husky. Malamutes are heavy, well-boned dogs that were originally bred by the Mahlemuts, an Inuit tribe to pull heavy sledges through the snow in some of the harshest conditions of the Arctic of western Alaska to help their masters track down food. These dogs were bred to be resilient and strong enough to cope with the harshest Arctic climate and they share the same ancestry as other dogs from arctic regions of the world, namely the Eskimo dogs of Greenland, the Labrador, the Siberian Husky and the Russian Samoyed.

During the 1890’s Klondike Gold Rush, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers who frequently crossbred them with imported breeds with the end goal being to improve the breed and to make up the numbers of dogs available because true Alaskan Malamutes were few and far between at the time. This cross-breeding almost led to the true breed nearly vanishing altogether, but the Inuit tribes continued to breed pure bred Malamutes and later American enthusiasts ensured these dignified, proud looking dogs did not disappear off the face of the planet for good.

The breed was discovered by settlers during the mid eighteen hundreds and there are those who believe that Alaskan Malamutes were used on Peary, Cook and Byrd’s expedition to the North Pole in 1909.

Similar to the Husky, recent DNA analysis shows that the Malamute is one of the oldest breeds of dog on the planet. It was only in 1935 that the breed was officially recognised by the American Kennel Club and they were accepted by The Kennel Club here in the UK a little later in time. In 2010, the breed was named as being Alaska’s official state dog.

The Alaskan Malamute features a powerful, sturdy body built for stamina and strength. It reigns as one of the oldest dog breeds whose original looks have not been significantly altered. This intelligent canine needs a job and consistent leadership to avoid becoming bored or challenging to handle.

Today, Malamutes have become a popular choice of dogs with people both in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They are dominant characters by nature and need to be handled and trained from a young age by an experienced dog owner. In short, a Malamute is not the best choice of dogs for first-time owners. These dogs need to know their place in the pack and who is the Alpha Dog. They are intelligent, strong willed and independent and not generally very quick to respond to commands which is something to bear in mind during their training.

 

Appearance

The Alaskan Malamute is a really big, powerful and handsome looking dog. They are heavily boned which adds to their overall impressive appearance. Malamutes boast large, broad heads with a large muzzle that’s as wide as their skulls. They have almond-shaped brown medium sized eyes although lighter coated dogs have lighter coloured eyes which is acceptable as a breed standard.

Their ears are small in relation to their heads and are triangular in shape with tips that are slightly rounded. They are set wide apart on a dog’s head. Malamutes have strong upper and lower jaws with a perfect scissor bite. Their neck’s are extremely powerful which dogs hold slightly arched.

Their shoulders are well-boned and solid with well-muscled front legs and their bodies are powerful, very muscled with a deep check and straight back that slopes down from their shoulder to their croup. Hindquarters are extremely well-muscled and powerful looking with strong, well-developed back legs that are a good indication of just how much strength a Malamute actually has. Their feet are large and well-rounded with closed toes and well-arched pads.

Malamutes have thickly furred tails that are set high and which curves upwards ever so slightly. When at rest, these dogs hold their tails down, but they carry their tail over their backs when they are being put through their paces.

When it comes to their coat, the Malamute boasts an extremely thick and coarse outer coat with a really dense undercoat which is both woolly and oily offering tremendous protection from the elements. Their guard coat is thicker around their necks getting shorter along the sides of their body.

Malamutes boast a variety of colours which includes the following:

  • A light grey right through to black
  • A gold colour right through to various shades of red and liver
  • Solid white coat

Whatever colour a Malamute is, they always have white on their underbodies, on different areas of their legs and on part of their masks. The markings on their faces can either be mask-like or cap-like with some dogs having a combination of both which is acceptable as a breed standard. Dogs can also have a white blaze on their foreheads and a white collar as well as a white spot on their napes.

 

Temperament

As you can imagine, these canine athletes have a tremendous amount of energy and a desire to be very active. The list of activities you can enjoy with your Mal is vast: sledding, weight pulling, back packing, hiking, swimming (sometimes — most Mals don’t really like the water), agility, jogging, biking, roller blading. Malamutes who do not get adequate exercise quickly become bored and frustrated. They will exhibit all sorts of undesirable, destructive behaviours: excessive digging, howling, self- mutilation, inappropriate chewing, destruction of property.

A Mal’s human family becomes her pack, and she must learn everyone’s place in that pack. An owners’ job is to teach them that their place is at the bottom of the hierarchy. The lessons are quite simple to teach to a young pup and, done properly, will last a lifetime. However, if her family does not understand the need to establish their leadership at a very early age, the Malamute will quite happily assume the dominant (alpha, leader) role in the family. This can lead to problems with dominance aggression and is a leading cause of unwanted Mals being abandoned at shelters.

Malamutes learn very quickly, but when it comes to basic obedience, their favourite question is “why”?. They just don’t believe that they were put on this earth to please people, so owners need to find other ways to motivate their pets. They need to be well-socialised and introduced to as many new people, animals and situations as possible early in their lives to be truly well-rounded dogs.

 

Health

The average life expectancy of an Alaskan Malamute is between 10 to 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

As with many other pure breeds, the Malamute is known to suffer from certain hereditary and acquired health issues which are worth knowing about if you are hoping to share your home with one of these impressive looking dogs. The health problems most commonly seen in the breed are as follows:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Eye Disorders including cataracts
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Epilepsy
  • Auto immune disease
  • Allergies

 

Grooming

Malamutes have very thick and magnificent double coats and are therefore high maintenance in the grooming department. They need daily brushing in order to keep their coats looking good and any shed hair under control. They are heavy shedders which like other breeds tends to happen more in the Spring and then again in the Autumn when Malamutes need even more grooming. It pays to get a Malamute professionally groomed at least 2 to 3 times a year because it makes keeping their coats tidy that much easier in between their visits to a grooming parlour.

Malamutes keep themselves relatively clean as their harsh guard coat sheds dirt quite effectively, so don’t need to be bathed too frequently, if at all. If you do decide to bath your dog, it’s best to leave this up to a professional groomer who would be able to make sure a dog’s coat is thoroughly dried after they’ve been bathed. She must be well combed out first (any mats in the coat will harden after washing and become very difficult to remove), washed with dog shampoo and rinsed thoroughly (rinsing will take several times longer than washing).

Dogs that are walked regularly will naturally keep their toenails trimmed. However, you should check them regularly, especially the dew claws, to help prevent splayed feet and the possibility of injury and infection if the claws are allowed to grow into the dog’s flesh. Mals’ erect ears are not prone to problems; regular checking is generally all that’s needed. Tooth decay and gum disease are leading causes of illness in older dogs, but both can be largely prevented with regular cleaning. Daily brushing, using special “doggy” toothpaste is best, but two or three times a week is usually adequate. Feeding dry food and providing lots of hard chew toys helps, but there is no substitute for regular cleaning.

 

Feeding

Alaskan Malamutes are large dogs and therefore the cost of feeding one is higher than smaller breeds and other large dogs. If you decide to get a Malamute puppy, it’s important for them to stay on the diet they are used to otherwise they might end up with a tummy upset. Breeders normally give new owners a feeding schedule for their puppies and it’s essential these be kept to and to feed puppies the same food. You can change their diet, but this needs to be done gradually when the time is right.

Although not known to be fussy eaters, you should not feed an Alaskan Malamute lower quality dog food because it would not contain the right levels of nutrients to meet a dog’s daily requirements which could result in them developing damaging deficiencies in minerals, vitamins and other valuable nutrients that dogs need to remain healthy.

 

Average Cost to keep/care for a Alaskan Malamute

If you are looking to buy an Alaskan Malamute, you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £250 to well over £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.

When it comes to food costs, this would set you back between £40 – £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Malamute which includes their initial vaccinations, microchip, boosters, neutering or spaying and then their annual health check visits.

Other incidental costs include chew toys (tough Kong toys are the best and are cheaper than replacing your furniture), obedience classes, assorted paraphernalia including collars, leads, bowls, grooming gear, harness, sled, etc.

 

 



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