As a "veteran" owner of several Malamutes spanning 10+ years, I can attest to the wonderful experience of raising these amazing animals.
What word pops on the Internet when you type in Alaskan Malamute or Malamute?
That means that there are a whole lot of folks out there who do not know what they are getting into and turn these dogs over to someone else. As a lover of Malamutes, I strongly urge you to please take your time and think it through.
Much like people, dogs are not disposable, and that is what happens with Malamutes more times than I would like to think on. They are one of the most misunderstood breeds out there. This article will seek to clear up some of that misunderstanding and help readers understand how priceless and wonderful these dogs are!
How Energetic Are You?
As a "veteran" owner of several Malamutes spanning 10+ years, I can honestly say that this is the first question I have for folks who are considering getting one. They are king of the working dogs, and as such have an inbred drive to do something and need that as much as they need sustenance. They need to feel productive.
As an owner of a dog of this breed, you have to be aware of this going in or quickly come to realize it. Otherwise, your experience with them might prove frustrating to say the least!
Alaskan Malamutes Are Social and Engaging Dogs
There are many, many misconceptions about the Arctic breeds, and Malamutes do sometimes get a terrible reputation for doing poorly in families or in certain situations. But I have found this to be completely the opposite. Ours are happiest when anyone is paying attention to them.
Alaskan Malamutes are one of the friendliest breeds I have come across in my many decades of dog worship. And although they are not loyal to one particular person per se, they are great family dogs. They are wonderfully social and engaging.
They're not wolves, but they are highly intelligent.
Another misconception is that the Alaskan Malamute is part of the wolf family. In fact, they were first introduced into the AKC in 1935 and are one of the "natural breeds," meaning that they were not created as a breed, unlike labradors or Dobermans.
Alaskan Malamutes are highly intelligent and social dogs. Above all, however, they need an understanding of their underlying nature and many positive traits. I have found in my dealings with the Malamutes that they constantly surprise me in their abilities, and they mesmerize me with their knack for being part of a unit. Their "work ethic" is unbelievable.
They require a tremendous amount of work and patience! A Malamute, by nature, will try to be a dominant persona. If allowed that privilege, the owner will no longer be the alpha, which is the opposite of what needs to happen. A Malamute needs a strong alpha to depend on, and that alpha must be human. Otherwise, they will test the limits constantly, and once control is lost, it is a difficult thing to get back.
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Alaskan Malamutes Require Constant Stimulation and Feedback
The next question for someone contemplating adding a Malamute to their household would be: How much can you think outside the box? How willing are you to realize that a Malamute needs constant stimulation and feedback from its owner and/or its "pack" (which is the family unit, whatever that is comprised of)?
A Malamute is not a dog who will be content to sit outside unattended for days at a time, although they truly are very independent and self-reliant in many ways. Social interaction is something they crave, and without it, they look for ways to replace that, which may be repugnant to an owner.
At the very minimum, a Malamute must have a large yard and a fenced yard at that. The fence should be quite high, just in case they might be tempted to leap it in a single bound. They need space to run and exercise themselves, as they are by nature extremely active dogs. They are of the working class of dogs, and thus need to have a "work product" on some level each and every day to feel complete.
Can you provide them with the high levels of exercise they need?
Having a companion dog of the same nature has helped ours tremendously. Whereas our yard is not huge by any means, there are many decks and sets of stairs that they can run about on and chase each other over time and time again. They are obviously not kept confined. They can also spend hours wrestling with each other as well, which is a great way for them to get in their need for exercising.
Most Malamutes will still need extraneous help in fulfilling their work needs, however, not to mention their need for human socialization. Walking is a great form and the most basic of all available to any of us. Daily walking or running can be extremely beneficial to the Malamute for burning off excess energy.
Make sure they have demonstrated an ability to play with other dogs.
Taking them to dog parks can also be beneficial. Though with this I would stress here the caveat that the Malamute must have demonstrated the ability to get along with other dogs before turning them loose in a dog park!
They are a pack breed, and sometimes they can be a bit of a challenge when socializing with other dogs—especially if they have not been previously tested in their ability to play, rather than assuming the role of alpha in a situation.
Living With Alaskan Malamutes
Living with Malamutes can be the most rewarding experience in the world. Conversely, it can also be one of the most frustrating ones you will ever encounter if you do not understand the breed.
Knowing the breed is the fundamental basis for a positive and enriching experience for both dog and owner. Knowing the breed's limitations and also its strengths is key to a mutually harmonious coexistence.
I am of the mind that it is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had the privilege to experience, but only because I think that I understand my Malamutes and what they need to be healthy and happy.
Malamutes are notoriously stubborn.
This is a fact I see on a daily basis. Whereas labradors I trained were always eager to please and usually obedient to a fault, Malamutes have a definite mindset of their own. It is not that they wish to be disobedient; it is simply that they will always look for the chink in the armor and try to push their way through something.
However, having a human alpha will prevent this from happening. Being consistent and forthright in dealings with a Malamute is paramount to a good relationship. Sometimes, they just seem to be bored with the routine of doing something time and time again.
With my labs, I could teach commands and have them performing like circus dogs in minutes, but the Malamute has a different approach. They learn basic commands readily enough. But after a few repetitions of these commands, they are quite frankly done with it. If they have demonstrated a sit more than two or three times in a training session, they become "creative" in their own way by doing every command but the sit.