Life with an Alaskan Malamute
A Malamute owner is a dog owner
- but a dog owner is not necessarily a Malamute owner
Before bringing a malamute into your life, there are certain things you should consider and clarify with yourself and your family.
There are certain decisions, you have to accept and certain things, that requires a "No".
We are the ambassadors for the puppy, and we would hate to watch a puppy lose a game, in which it has no influence on, because a decision is made based on wrong reasons or failed intentions.
The sight of a adult malamute is fascinating, and even bigger is the pleasure of meeting a well behaved, well balanced malamute. This result does not come by it self - many hours of work lies behind.
Originally the malamute has been used to pull heavy freight, and used as a hunting partner in rough nature, where only the strongest, smartest with a strong mindset will survive. Through the years nothing has been changed in the "design" of the malamute.
This you have to have in mind, when considering a malamute - that it is a strong will, quite a portion of stubbornness, independent, selfconfident, smart & cunning, and raw power.
This are the skills needed to survive in the arctic environment - and this is not to be changed.
It is expected, that a huge job of raising a malamute lies ahead. This is where you have to show good leadership to model, sculpt, increase, decrease certain characteristics.
The word "leadership" is used in lack of a better term. It covers: guide, provider, nurse, head-in-charge with veto-rights - and also friend!
Let us clarify: Leadership is not an acceptable way to use violence and abuse to get your way.
Hunting / walking without leash
Underneath the surface of the malamute lurks a strong will for hunting. This - combined with great independence - gives, that not many adult malamutes can be walked without leash.
It is possible in the puppy and youth period, but expect some day the urge for "expedition" and hunting will overcome the obedience training - and a malamute has quite a large radius for action!
Do yourself, your malamute and surroundings the favor of keeping the leash on. It is unforgiveable if your malamute is run down by a car, or hunts down a deer, or the neighbor's pet rabbit.. or..
A malamute uses a very refined "dog language" Many other breeds have lost or decreased the dog language due to breeding programs focusing on other abilities.
One can say, that the malamute "speak" dog language at the same level as an university degree, where many dogs "speaks" dog language at the level of a 7th grader!
An adult malamute will - through his self-assured, independent behavior - be provoked, when a strange dog puts its paw on the back of the malamute "shouting" "What's up? Dude..!"
The malamute would very much like to teach this other dog good manners..!
When looking at this event, it would appear that the malamute is aggressive, dominant and provoking the other dog... when it may be the other way around...
Here you have a very important task as a malamute owner to learn your malamute to tone down this his eager to give this lesson to all the dogs you meet on your way.
Though you should not expect your malamute to get along with all dogs - especially of the same gender...
Socialization of your malamute puppy must start as soon as possible by meeting different dogs, people - adults & children. Experiencing the world - car driving, train, bus, see the city, the beach, the woods...
The puppy will learn to act without problems when meeting many different challenges.
When meeting the world with positive experiences, your malamute will learn to trust you as a good leader - this will strengthen the band between you and your malamute - a great benefit for the future relationship...
Fenced garden and kennel
Do not expect a fancy rose garden! A malamute is very efficient, when digging and decorating..!
Outside space is a requirement - either a well fenced garden or a kennel area. A malamute posses a great urge to explore the outside world. Hence to this the outside space must be well fenced - at least 160-180 cm tall fence.
A kennel area is a good idea, but not a must. This also has to be secured with fence at least 180 cm. Also no chance of digging his way out - preferably tiles.
There must be access to shade or shelter - to keep cool or dry.
A kennel area must safe enough, so you can leave home with the knowledge of your malamute will be there, when you return home.
The malamute needs to be trained to stay in his kennel area alone, so he will not feel abandoned. Otherwise he might start to howl - calling for his pack.. this would not increase the good neighbor relationship...
Children & malamutes
Under the right circumstances, the malamute is very fond of children. There are histories of how the Eskimos used the malamute as babysitter for their children.
But as with all animals and children, it is the responsibility of the adults to ensure a proper behavior from both sides. Infants and small children should never be left alone with an animal.
Don't expect to let the children take a malamute for a walk alone. At the earliest it takes a (bright) teenager to manage the overview and strength to match the power and will of a malamute.
The malamute has a craving appetite. Don't expect to be able to leave anything eatable unattended on the kitchen counter!
Leading back to the malamute's origin, it is wise to eat when possible, because you never know, when the next meal is served - even if it means steeling from the kitchen counter or coffee table.
Quick math: Take the food and the scolding - Don't take the food and have an empty stomach..!
The malamute is constructed to produce his maximum at a minimum intake. This means the malamute does not eat as much as expected for a large breed. Be careful not to overfeed.
A malamute sheds 1-2 times a year. Over a period of 3-4 weeks the wooly undercoat loosens, and thereafter the guard hair..You will know when.. Your fine looking malamute suddenly looks miserable. Have patience - the coat will come back.
Do yourself the favor of grooming your malamute every 2.day. the sooner the coat comes of, the sooner the new coat will grow back. This will decrease the amount of hair inside the house.
Your new best friend will be your vacuum cleaner for a while - may we recommend a Dyson...
The Malamute - for beginners or experienced?
There are pros and cons whether a malamute Is suitable for beginners or experienced dog owners.
As a beginner you are not colored by ideas, opinions and old habits of how to raise a puppy. Beginners are more often willing to learn and listen to advise.
On the other side you may be surprised by the amount of time, costs and work, that comes along being a dog owner.
As a experienced dog owner you are aware of the above mentioned tasks. But you will find yourself surprised of how much different it is to raise a malamute - in contract to e.g. a German Shepherd.. usually you have to forget everything, you know about raising a puppy and start all over.
It takes a great effort for the experienced to admit this fact, and open up to advise from the breeder.
We strongly recommend learning the concept of canine behavior and calming signals. In short terms it is about using clear non-confusing signals using the voice and body language.
A dog can learn the meaning of simple words like "food - sit - stay - come", but a dog is not capable to understand the meaning of long complex sentences "don't you understand, that I don't want you to dig in the flowerbed..?"
it would sound like "blah blah blah.. blah..blah blah.."
Hence you must show your dog what you mean - don't explain..
The dog considers himself and his humans as a pack. The dog should acknowledge his humans as leaders of the pack.
The leadership is not taken for granted, but earned by showing good leadership. A good leader is calm, collected and stands by his decisions - not nervous, quick-tempered and irresolute. Very equivalent to the human world...
There is lots of material written about the subject of canine behavior.
We recommend among others: Roger Abrantes, Anders Hallgren, Turid Rugaas, and Annette Røpke.
A book considered as a "must" is "Alaskan Malamute - yesterday and today" by Brooks & Wallis.
All of the above standing must be taken into consideration, before purchasing a malamute!
When all thoughts have been thought, you will have to decide whether a malamute will fit into your life.
If your are still convinced - all the hard work is worth it all
Over on the other side...
When you and your malamute have "survived" the teenage period - and have reached the other side, you will find yourself standing with a well balanced, well socialized, well integrated and prudent adult malamute, which shows dignity and wisdom.
Then you have a malamute, who just wants to be your friend and be a part of your life.
The adult malamute is still independent, thinking and ready for a challenge. The rules must still be kept at all times - throughout the hole life of your malamute.
It is worth it - the effort will be paid back tenfold..!
Be careful! You may be addicted to the malamutes. You start out with no. 1, and then comes no. 2, and no. 3 - and before you know it...
Formula to succeeding:
Learn and use canine behavior
+ define and keep the rules
+ patience & love
+ ask, when questions
+ still keep the rules
= a dear and true friend for life!