Is an Alaskan
Malamute the Right Dog For You?
So, you think you want an Alaskan Malamute? This is a very important
decision that must be given serious consideration. Alaskan Malamutes can be
a gift from heaven, or your worst nightmare, depending upon how well
matched your lifestyle and a Malamute's are. This article will give you
some idea of how suited you are to this special breed. Please give the
points mentioned here, and in the other articles in this series, much
thought. They are designed to help you understand what you can expect from
your Malamute and to determine whether this really is the breed for you.
Some General Things to Consider First
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.
Again, please give careful consideration to all the points discussed
Some Specific Considerations
1.What are Your Living Arrangements?
If you rent or share an apartment or home:
How does your landlord/roommate feel about a large, energetic, hairy dog?
Even if your current landlord or roommate would welcome the Malamute, this
may not always be the case. Renting and sharing arrangements tend to
change, and your next landlord or roommate may not welcome such a dog. Most
places do not allow tenants to have pets, or if they do, certainly not dogs
much over 35 lbs. Those that do allow them often charge a lot more rent and
you may not be able to afford it (assuming that you can even find such a
If you live at home with your parents:
Are your parents willing and able to take care of "your" dog? If you are
living with your parents, there is a very good chance that you are out of
the house a good part of the day and many evenings as well. It may be
school, work, social engagements, or whatever, but if you are not home Mom
(or Dad) will be the primary care giver to your Malamute. Since that person
has this major responsibility, he or she should be just as understanding of
what Mals are like and willing to deal with it. Are you sure that Mom or
Dad will want another "child" to raise, one who may mess up the house more
than any human child ever did? Will Mom or Dad be physically able to handle
a dog this large? You owe it to yourself, your parents, and your new dog to
be sure of these answers BEFORE you acquire that Malamute puppy.
If you own your own home:
Do you have a fenced in yard? If not, are you willing to spend the money to
have it fenced in? Alaskan Malamutes are quite suited to life in kennels or
in houses but they will not be able to live successfully in any situation
where they cannot get plenty of exercise. A fenced in yard is the best way
to insure that your dog will have a safe environment to burn off all that
energy, not be able to run away (they do love to run great distances), be
away from the road where it would probably get hit by a car sooner or
later, and reduce the chances of a "dog napper" stealing your bundle of
joy. A fence also gives you an option for letting your dog go "potty" in
the yard if you are not able to take it for a walk. Many people who try to
raise Alaskan Malamutes without fenced in yards find that- a) first the
house gets destroyed, then b) the family and the dog are at odds with each
other, so finally c) the family is searching for a new home for the pup by
the age of 6-9 months after the house has been destroyed and everyone's
nerves and patience have been totally shattered.
Please do not think that you can always "tie the dog to a tree." Doing this
for any length of time, especially if you are not out with the dog, is just
plain inhumane. The dog does not have enough room to get the proper
exercise, it may break loose from this chain, it is in a very vulnerable
position should another dog or human with less than honorable intentions
come by and start to attack it, and your dog will probably get frustrated
quickly and develop the bad habits of barking and digging.
To steal from the poet Robert Frost, "good fences make good neighbors" (and
wonderful places for Malamutes to play inside of.)
2.Do You Have Time for an Alaskan Malamute?
Alaskan Malamutes require a lot of time, energy, and input from their
owners, especially during their growth years. Among the things you will
have to provide on a daily basis for your dog are exercise, play, training,
grooming (brushing and combing), feeding, and socializing. Malamutes will
be fine if their owners are away at work during the day as long as they are
given enough quality time in the evenings and weekends so that these needs
can be provided for. If your lifestyle is one where you are at work all
day, and out again most evenings, the Alaskan Malamute is not the breed for
3. Do You Have Children Under the Age of 5 Years?
This is a very important consideration for parents, especially Mom who even
in these days of liberation is still the one primarily responsible for the
care of the household. A lively, boisterous, growing Malamute puppy can be
devastating to the young child who is knocked over for the umpteenth time.
Small children require a great deal of time and so does a growing Mal
puppy. This is a combination that can be deadly for Mom. Think about it!
Did you plan to have TWO young children at a time, or just ONE?
4. Is Everyone in the Family Comfortable with a Large Dog?
This seems like it should be obvious, but sometimes it isn't! A very common
reason for wanting a Malamute is "My husband/kids love the looks of the
breed and love to play outdoors so we are going to get an Alaskan
Malamute." In reality however, when actually confronted with a live,
active, and growing Mal, the kids (or even Mom or Dad) can be quite
overwhelmed and not feel at ease with the dog. If anyone in the household
is feeling uncomfortable with the dog, a bad situation is bound to arise.
That cute little puppy WILL grow rapidly, WILL get quite large and powerful
and WILL be a lot of work. Everyone in the household (without exception)
must be ready for that.
5. Will Endless Dog Hair Everywhere be a Problem?
Alaskan Malamutes are quite hairy dogs (remember what they were bred for)
and shed it regularly. There is a fine undercoat near the skin and a
longer, coarser outer coat. Indoor Mals shed both coats constantly, but
twice a year have major "blows" when you can actually see the hair falling
off the dog as it walks by. You can expect to constantly find hair
everywhere, even places in your house that you do not allow the dog to
enter. Continuous vacuuming is part of the Alaskan Malamute owner's life.
If anyone in the house has allergies, this hair can be a major problem. If
in doubt, get an opinion from your Doctor as to whether this hair will
create even more problems for the allergy sufferer at home. Having to give
up a dog that your family loves because someone in the family is allergic
to it is too heartbreaking to think about. It is better to prevent the
situation from even occurring.
Why You MUST Seriously Consider All of these Points
Alaskan Malamutes are absolutely wonderful dogs for the right household. A
great many Malamute owners find that they cannot imagine life without one.
However, this breed is not for everyone. It is hoped that that the issues
raised here will get you to think seriously about your decision. In this
modern world where few of us need a team of dogs to pull sleds across the
Arctic for us, it is important to carefully consider where an Alaskan
Malamute (or any dog for that matter) will fit into our lives. Without this
foresight, we are being unfair to ourselves, our families, and the dog.
Please think about these things:
1.A dog is a feeling, living being that does not deserve the poor quality
of life that often accompanies its being placed in the wrong household.
2.You are about to make a HUGE investment of money, time, energy, and
emotion. You will never get these back if things go wrong. 3.Reputable
breeders work hard at producing puppies that will have good temperament,
and good health. They also put much time and effort into finding suitable
homes for their "extended family." You must be certain that you are able
and willing to provide the proper environment for the animal.
Consider a Rescue Dog
OK, you have asked yourself all the questions, done all the reading and
research you can, and are certain that the Alaskan Malamute is the breed
for you and your family but you do wish that you could avoid the problems
with raising a small puppy. There is the messing of the house, the
teething, the potty training, the "growing pains" etc. Perhaps a puppy just
does not fit into your life right now but you know that you could provide a
wonderful home for a dog anyway.
"Rescue" to the Rescue
Taking an adult dog (or older puppy) into your home is not as hard as you
may think. These dogs are usually NOT other peoples problems that they
discarded. There are many good, legitimate reasons why owners may give up
their dogs for adoption. For example, a breeder may have finished a
championship on a dog and feels that this magnificent animal would now
benefit from being a pampered pet for a loving family. Sometimes breeders
keep a promising dog to show then, when the dog does not develop to its
fullest, need to find a suitable home for it to become some family's
special pet. Other times, wonderful show and pet quality dogs get returned
to the breeder because of divorce, illness, or death in the family. Again,
the breeder has a responsibility to find another suitable placement for the
Many clubs and individuals offer placement services for displaced dogs.
This is called "rescue" and these dogs, more often than not, make great
additions to the right family. Rescue dogs are already past the puppy
stages, are often well on their way to socialization, training, and being
housebroken so you are getting a head start. They can range in age from a
little under 1 year old, all the way up to "Lucky" the 9 year old who
needed a home when rescued at a recent puppy mill auction.
The trick when considering an adult is to work through a breeder or club to
be certain that the dog you are adopting will be suited to your lifestyle
and situation. You may go through an extensive interview but remember that
these questions are not meant to annoy or discourage you. They are designed
to assure that you and the adopted dog are compatible. It may help you to
know that the same type of information is also gathered on the dog that is
looking for a home. Think about it, if you have 3 children aged 5-10,
wouldn't you feel better knowing that the 3 year old, 80 pound Malamute you
are adopting has spent much time around children and has proven himself to
be gentle with them?
Don't worry about bonding or the dog getting used to your life. These are
almost never a problem and most rescued dogs will respond with a lot of
extra love for the family that has offered them a good life. There are
countless instances where families that adopted an older dog found it to be
a loyal, loving pet that has fit in well with the family.
The ALASKAN MALAMUTE CLUB OF AMERICA will be happy to put you in touch with
families that have adopted older dogs so that you can see for yourself what
a wonderful option this is. The club will also be more than happy to refer
you to sources for rescued Alaskan Malamutes should you chose to go that
MOST OF ALL ...
BEST OF LUCK WITH WHATEVER CHOICE YOU MAKE!!!