If you are thinking of getting a Malamute, Please, Please look into the breed before hand, read everything you can, talk to people that own them, meet some in person. Getting any dog is an important decision, they are living breathing things, with feelings.
When considering a Malamute it is important to bear in mind it's origins, as this, like any breed, can explain alot of their qualities and the reasons behind them.
The Alaskan Malamute originates from the north west coast of Alaska. They were originally breed by the Mahlemut Eskimo tribe, They were valued by the tribes as they performed many useful jobs for them, and it could be argued were essential for their survival. They were primarily used to haul sleds with heavy loads for long distances, back from hunts or hauling goods for trade. While out hunting they would have been involved in the hunt itself as well as hauling the results back to the camps. The dogs would also been used by the tribes to help with protection from polar bears and other predators that may have threaten them. There are also tales of the dogs being taken into the dwellings at night to keep the people warm. The climate of Alaska must also be taken into account, with temperatures dropping to minus 50 degrees at times. These dogs had to live and work in these extreme temperatures.
So what are they like to live with ?
Malamutes are very friendly to all people, They love everybody and feel everybody should love them ! ( This includes the post man, sales men and anyone trying to break into your house ) They are not a guarding breed, and should never be used as such. This friendliness does not necessarily extend to other dogs, especially those of the same sex. Some breed lines are better than others with this. They are also not to be trusted with any small animals (such as Cats, rabbits etc )
Like all dogs if bored they will probably chew and destroy things, You can't blame the dogs, most of the things we've lost should have been put out of reach ! They also chew when teething, so you need to teach them what they can and can't chew, otherwise everything is a chew toy !
Malamutes can also be experts in garden design, the only problem is their idea of the perfect garden and ours have a tendency to be very different ! Random holes in the lawn and few plants seem to be their idea of perfection ( When I say few plants I should mention they seem to like weeds, Ours have never pulled up or otherwise damaged these in our garden ! ) So if you want a garden that looks like a moonscape or battle field Malamutes can certainly help you achieve that look. They can be taught not to dig, or to only dig in a certain area.
Another thing to consider is the fur. It gets everywhere, and I mean everywhere ! So if you mind your carpets turning an interesting shade of white ( and brown, the mud from the landscaping has to go somewhere ! ) they probably aren't the breed for you .( A good vacuum is a must!) Malamutes "Blow" their coats, That means you end up with a bald dog and furry house. When they blow believe me you'll be eating it, drinking it and wearing it ! ( I have a suspicion ours gather up what I brush out and stick it back on while we're asleep, they can't have that much fur ! ) Regular grooming, especially when blowing their coats, will lesson the amount of fur in your house, but nothing will stop it completely ! When buying clothes you'll find yourself considering if it will attract fur or if you can make it out the door without coming into contact with the dogs ( no chance they know when your going somewhere special ! )
Children should never be left unsupervised with any dog and should never be allowed to tease, prod, poke or otherwise annoy a dog. Malamutes are big dogs, and as youngsters are boisterous. Unsupervised Malamutes and young children are a recipe for disaster. Malamutes love children but don't always seem to realise their size, a Malamute, even a young one, running into a child ( or adult come to that !) is not something to be taken lightly ! I've also found to my cost they have very hard heads ! So expect to get the occasional bruise when they turn round quickly and don't quite judge the distance correctly !
Malamutes love food, and if it's not meant for them it seems to taste so much better. ANY food left unguarded where they can get it is ( according to them ) theirs. I once left some chicken on the chopping board when I went into another room ask Matt something, I must have been gone a matter of seconds, I got back to the kitchen to find the chicken gone, Kelt was still at the end of the hall way, he hadn't moved, So where was the chicken ? After checking the fridge, the microwave, the oven I began to doubt my sanity ! All the while Kelt sat in the hall way watching with interest, he then got up and under his paws was the knife that I'd left on the board !, to this day I don't know how he managed to walk past me without me noticing ! So you can't leave any food unguarded, even for a minute. They will also try to mug people, if not by taking food off them, then by looking adoring at them, seeming to say, "do you want all of that ? "
Malamutes are strong dogs, they have to be to pull heavy loads, and they like to pull ! If not corrected from an early age they will take you for a walk, not the other way round ! On a walk I find you have to be one step ahead of them when it comes to spotting squirrels, cats etc. If your not you may well find your arm leaving it's socket or find yourself pulled over. These dogs need exercise ! As adults they will take all you can throw at them and then some ( You must be careful about their exercise when they are young to help prevent future health problems and when old enough build up exercise as you would for yourself) If you're not able to put in the time to exercise them, whatever the weather, a Malamute isn't the dog for you. There are many activities you can do with a malamute see the working page for some ideas !
If a Malamute can be let off lead is something often discussed, There are some that are fine off lead, but even those are rarely able to be taken to the local park & let off, usually they are let off where there are few other dogs and the owner can see for some distance and recall before their dog gets distracted ! Most young Malamutes make you think they will be fine off lead, and that people are exaggerating about recall problems or can't be bothered to train them, but they hit the teenage phase and suddenly all bets are off ! Their independant nature can mean they get "selective deafness" when it comes to recall ! There are sadly lots of untrained & rude dogs about, and many malamutes just don't like rude dogs ! They also seem to attract negative attention from other dogs, So The majority of malamute owners, despite lots of training, can only let them off in safe enclosed areas. This does mean the vast majoriy of the time they are on lead. So if having a dog you have to keep on lead is something you can't live with then Malamutes aren't the breed for you !
I'm sure there are things I forgotten to mention ( if any owners can think of anything let me know ! )
The problems will lessen as they mature so long as you are firm and consistent with them, If you don't want them to do something don't let them. ( e.g. if you don't want them to go upstairs, don't give them the opportunity to learn they can ) They have long memories and if they get away with something once, they will try again and again ! They respond well to reward based training and despite what some people think are not impossible to train, you just have to find out what works for your dog ! Training classes are a must for a young malamute, but please find the right one ! They do not respond well to physical correction, So a knowledgeable reward based trainer is best.
They can learn things very quickly, but their independant nature means they won't always do it ! This has lead some trainers to dismiss malamutes as untrainable or stupid, nothing could be further from the truth, in most cases I think this because the Malamute is more intelligent than the trainer ! Also many Malamutes are natural clowns and like to show us up !
Malamutes often go through a "teenage" stage, when they will apparently forget everything they have previously been taught and generally test your patience ! Keep up with training, with patience and consistancy you will end up with a well behaved dog that is a pleasure to own.
So why have we got Malamutes ? Simply because they are the most wonderful dogs, affectionate, intelligent and beautiful, But you don't get that for free, You and your house pay the price to share your life with these gorgeous animals.
If you want to know anything about malamutes, please do contact us and we will try to help, we are always happy to chat about Mals !
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