THINKING OF GETTING AN ALASKAN MALAMUTE?
* Do not get a Malamute puppy from a pet shop (you will run a high risk of getting a dog with disease and/or temperament problems).
Visit websites such as http://www.stoppuppymills.org/ for an idea of the very real horrors behind pet shop puppies in the USA and before too long, in New Zealand too (unless we can educate the public and prevent the market for pet-shop puppies from developing any further.)
*Be wary of newspaper advertisements unless the breeder can show you health test results, is preferably a member of the Northern Alaskan Malamute Club / Alaskan Malamute Club Inc and the New Zealand Kennel Club, and you can meet at least one parent of the puppies.
* Be 100% sure you can & will share 14 years of your life with this animal.
* Research the breed - read books, the internet, join the club and talk to experienced Malamute owners. It's important that you understand the history of the breed in order to understand their behaviour - they're very different from a Golden, a Shepherd, a Doberman, a Foxy. Whether they're different in a good way depends on your personality and lifestyle.
* If you are wanting a puppy, contact the Club secretary and enquire about any current or upcoming litters of Malamute puppies.
* PRICE - we often get asked "how much will a puppy cost"?
The price does vary slightly from breeder to breeder. Some breeders charge less for 'pet' quality as opposed to 'show & breeding' quality.
Prices would start at $800 - $1,000 for a pet, with some breeders charging $2,500 as a flat rate for a puppy.
Realistically you should plan on paying at least in the $1,000 - $1,500 area for a well breed pedigree puppy with New Zealand Kennel Club registration papers and be able to view health clearances* of the sire & dam of the litter (*hip, elbow & eye clearances minimum).
* If you are wanting a rescue dog, go to the Malamute Rescue page of this website.
* Join the club & attend some events - before as well as after your get your dog. As well as meeting people who can talk to you about the realities of livng with a Mal, you will meet many different dogs and get a feel for which kennels/lines you like.
HEALTH & LIFESPAN
Malamutes generally live for about 11 - 14 years. As with any animal, this depends greatly on genetics, health, diet, fitness etc.
Common health problems in Malamutes include hip and elbow dysplasia and eye problems.
Responsible breeders test both parents for genetic disease before breeding. It is important to research and have some understanding of these diseases before purchasing a puppy, so that you understand any test results that are shown to you by the breeder. Breeders should be happy to talk with you and answer your questions about these issues, and about their dogs' health history. Seek the advice of your vet if you're not confident with judging hip & elbow scores etc.
See the link below on Malamute Health for more information on these genetic diseases.
The King of Dogs - The Alaskan Malamute
Alaskan Malamutes were originally bred to haul heavy sleds across long distances in harsh winter conditions. This necessitated a dog that had tremendous strength, energy, endurance, independence and intelligence. These traits still define Alaskan Malamutes. A first time Mal owner soon learns what this really means. These dogs have extremely high energy levels which require release in appropriate ways. They need to run, play, and bounce around a lot. Without continuous physical and mental stimulation, they become bored and restless. This will certainly result in destructive activities of the dog's choosing, not yours. Alaskan Malamutes can be quite boisterous and even rowdy, especially during their growing years. They will try to challenge the family for the top or "alpha" role. With a large dog (they grow to 65lbs-85lbs and up) this cannot be allowed to happen. The family must learn how to properly deal with this for everyone's sake.
Please remember, the traits that made this breed so well suited to its original role in the Arctic may or may not make it suitable for your home.
(Excerpt from AMCA website - "Is an Alaskan Malamute the right dog for you?")
Visit "Thinking of Buying an Alaskan Malamute?" for the full article, and more.
Also see other Related Links at the bottom of this page.
The Alaskan Malamute was originally bred by the Mahlemut Inuits of the Norton Sound area of Alaska. They were used in hunting seals, were set loose in packs to course the polar bear, and to haul heavy sledges or pack in supplies.
For more details on the history of the Alaskan Malamute see "The Malamute - an Introduction"
and other Related Links at the bottom of this page.
TEMPERAMENT / PERSONALITY
The history of the Alaskan Malamute has molded it's modern-day temperament and personality. They are quite different from your more common breeds, having a higher prey drive, a howl rather than a bark, their fair share of destructive tendencies, and an independent-streak a mile wide. They make wonderful, intelligent companions when their owners take the time to understand them and train them.
Take it from someone with the scarred knees of a quarterback: If a happy malamute ever makes a mad dash toward you, flatten yourself against the nearest solid vertical object. I've been dragged down the back stairs three times, and before I learned never to walk malamutes in icy weather, I hit the sidewalk twice. Oh, and watch out: These dogs have skulls of steel. Knock heads with a malamute, and you see double for three days.
You STILL think you want a malamute? Well, the breed boasts a few angels, but most mals will steal food, raid the trash, chase cats, kill livestock, and kiss the burglar. When mals are shedding, your house looks like the aftermath of a sheep-shearing contest, and, with the possible exception of all terriers, they are the world's greatest diggers and the world's worst obedience dogs.
But as soul mates? As kindred spirits? As an intelligent companion in a partnership of equals, the Alaskan malamute is without peer.
~Susan Conant - "Bloodlines"
They are very beautiful, very striking dogs. Anybody with eyes can see that. However there are many, many people who see their looks but can't see past them.
A dog is not a fashion accessory. Buying a dog is not like buying a car, or a pair of shoes. If you are picturing yourself enjoying the admiring looks of others as you walk your beautiful dog down city streets, or the comments as you sit outside a cafe with your dog, then keep thinking, Think about the hours of obedience training you will have to do, in classes and at home. Think about exercising that dog in the cold and the rain. Think about the mud and the hair through your house. Think about potty-training your puppy and the inevitable mistakes on your carpet. Think about the need for six foot fences to keep him in while you're not at home, and the holes he will dig in your lawn. Think about all of this and make a sensible, ethical, KIND decision on whether you should take responsibility for the life of a Malamute.
Countless numbers of Malamutes are neglected or destroyed due to people buying them on impulse because of their good looks, without preparing and committing themselves to the amount of work that goes hand-in-hand with owning a Malamute. You will be sharing your home with a 30 - 60kg predator. Realise this NOW, and don't abandon your dog when he ceases to be a cute fluffy puppy and starts to howl or dig or jump or pull through lack of exercise and training.
Malamutes vary in size from approx. 30kg - 60kg, depending on which sex your dog is and what lines he is from.
See the Alaskan Malamute Standard for more in-depth information. The Standard is basically a 'blueprint' to the breed - the ideal toward which all breeders should be striving. It will give you a good general idea about physical attributes etc.
COAT CARE & SHEDDING
How much do they shed? Almost their entire undercoat, often all at once. Snowdrifts. Mountains of fur. This big 'blowing of coat' happens spring and autumn, but in our temperate climate they shed liberally year-round.
Regular grooming with an undercoat rake to remove dead hair is an essential but not time-consuming task.
Don't mind dog hair all over your clothes, in your bed and in your food? Great!
Fanatical house-keeper? Don't get a Malamute.
So you want to know HOW MUCH do they shed??
They are bred to be working dogs, to pull sleds in the Arctic for hundreds of miles. They need a lot of exercise. Their needs are on a par with perhaps a Doberman, a Jack Russell Terrier, a Pointer, or a Border Collie. This means that short walks around the neighbourhood on a leash are usually not enough, especially for the energetic young dog.
With sufficient exercise, they make quiet, "couch potato" house pets, and will let you know when they are in need of a run by running laps of the house.
An under-exercised Malamute spends the day destroying things (digging, chewing fences or furniture) or howling.
One of the best ways to exercise your Malamute is to put him in harness and have him pull you on a bike, scooter or three-wheeled rig. There is generally nothing a Malamute loves more than to run in harness, and no better way to properly exercise them.
See the Articles page for ideas on how to train a sled-dog, where to purchase a harness etc.
The Northern Alaskan Malamute Club holds an annual Training Weekend in Taupo, aimed at educating Malamute owners about all working aspects of the breed. There are talks on how to fit a harness, training a dog for weightpull etc, as well as lots of have-a-go exercises like a mock race, weightpull qualifiers and a short packwalk. Keep an eye on the Events Calendar, the Training Weekend is usually held in April or May.
Playing with other dogs, pulling a bike (in harness, not on a collar) or hikes through the bush are all good ways of exercising a Mal. As for running around at the park or in the country, see below.
They can virtually never be let off the leash.
If you have a completely enclosed area with good high fences, then they can stretch their legs. But if they are let off the lead just anywhere, 90% of Malamutes will run. That is what they have been bred for, and generally they do not come back when called. Sleddogs in the Arctic don't require a trained recall, so this is not something which can easily be trained into them. You may see people running their Malamutes off lead, but usually that is not because the dog is trained to come back, it is because those people are willing to gamble their dogs life when it runs onto the road.
They were bred to be stubborn. They were bred to go in one direction for hundreds of miles. Their job was to lean into the harness and pull and run and pull and run. They have zero road sense. They have zero car sense.
If you leave a Malamute or a Siberian Husky loose in your neighborhood, keep the phone numbers for rescue and Animal Control and the road supervisors very close because your dog will go out in the neighborhood. He will overturn your neighbors' trash. He will chase down and kill neighborhood cats, chickens, goats and sheep. He WILL get on the roads.
He may be fine the first time you allow him off leash in the yard. He may come back to you promptly every single time no matter how interesting the smells. That is, until he hesitates, just once, and the car hits him. These are sled dogs. Not porch dogs.
There are a very few exceptions, but on the whole, you can expect your Malamute to live its life out without ever running around the beach or the park off lead.
Can't deal with that? Think that's 'not fair on the dog'? Don't get a Malamute.
The Alaskan Malamute is still a powerful, independent dog, willing to work if necessary; which will, with proper training and firm but gentle persuasion become a good, if not model citizen and member of your family. Some Malamutes have earned the highest degrees in Obedience Trials, but these were unusual dogs with unusual trainers and owners. The average Malamute will do as little as it has to and is generally resistant to �home training�. Considering the size and power of these dogs, you must be willing to take the time, money and effort to properly train and raise your pet or serious and disastrous results could happen. A Malamute that owns a person is not a joy to live with. Their great love of people and disdain for small animals makes them neither a good guard dog nor a reliable companion for the small family pet. There are many more sad stories of disaster than the occasional nice stories of pets �adopted� by Malamutes.
~ Excerpt from "The Alaskan Malamute - an Introduction" (http://www.alaskanmalamute.org/intro.htm) - for the full article see the link at the bottom of this page.
Malamutes can be taught to get along with cats and certain other animals if brought up with them from seven or eight weeks of age. However it is a rare Malamute that would not want to chase and often kill a strange cat, or a sheep, or a rabbit.
We have rehomed rescue Malamutes to homes where they have become great friends with the cat. These cases are more often the exception than the rule, however. A Malamute will never be 100% trustworthy with small animals (including cats and small dogs), and a Malamute owner must never get complacent.
There are those that have adopted rescue Malamutes and not heeded advice about the prey drive of the Alaskan Malamute, and allowed their cats to have access to the area their Malamute was in. These people have ended up with dead cats.
Malamutes living in the Arctic had to be resourceful in their methods of getting a meal. These are dogs that won't usually just chase and have fun with a small animal or with stock, but will genuinely try to make a meal out of it. It is a very deeply ingrained instinct, and their chase-kill response is usually beyond their own control. This means that a Malamute must not be assumed to be trustworthy unsupervised around potential prey (rabbits, cats, sheep etc). It also means that a Malamute must be very carefully and intensively socialised with small dogs, if he is not to see them as prey also.
Do you expect your dog to play nicely every time with the neighbours chihuahua?
Want your dog to get along with your birds / house-rabbits / cats etc?
Do you live on a farm and envisage your dog accompanying you to move the stock or expect him to stay happily on the front porch while you're working in the paddocks?
Then don't get a Malamute.
Malamutes don't guard property (except maybe their own bones and food bowls). The Eskimos were a nomadic people, and actively bred dogs which did NOT guard their property, as they lived in groups and shared dwellings and belongings.
However, there is not many sights as impressive as a Malamute or two gazing silently down at you from a balcony, or watching you through a fence. Their size no doubt helps put some burglars off, even though they don't tend to bark or growl at strangers.
There are many 'kissing the burglar' stories, including the one where the owners came home to find everything in the house had been stolen - except the couch upon which the Malamute was asleep.
* * * * * * * * * *
In summary, Malamutes are a very special, unique breed.
However there is a reason why Northern Alaskan Malamute Club Rescue is now dealing with over 40 dogs per year (and that's probably not even half of the Malamutes in New Zealand needing help).
These are not 'easy' dogs. The dogs being rehomed are ones who have suffered abuse or family tragedy, or dogs whose families have had an unavoidable change of situation, but mostly they are dogs whose owners haven't educated themselves about the breed before acquiring them. ("I can't give him the exercise he needs". "He killed our rabbit/goat/budgie". "I don't have time to groom him", "He's jumping our fences" etc etc).
Where will you be and what will you be doing in 2020 ??
A Malamute can be expected to live for up to 15 years. How old will you and your family be in 15 years? Where will you be in life? Buying a house? Having a baby? Going on your 'OE'? Children leaving home? Retiring? Moving overseas?
Where will the dog be while all this is going on? Can you guarantee to care for him/her throughout all the changes life throws at you, no matter what? Will you always love him for what he is - a sled-dog bred for the Arctic; a beautiful, strong, large dog who enjoys life and living it to the fullest? An intelligent companion with a deep soul who is deserving of a loving home for ALL of his days on earth?
Please be very sure of your answers to these questions before you buy a puppy or adopt an adult rescue Malamute.
If you can answer yes to these questions and still wish to adopt a puppy or a rescue Malamute, then you've come to the right place.
** ARTICLES **Here you will find various articles, many transferred from the club newsletter.
Related Links :
New Zealand Federation of Sled Dog Sports...
THE MALAMUTE - AN INTRODUCTION...
How much do they shed??...
New Zealand Kennel Club - Alaskan Malamute standard...