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rec.pets.dogs: Alaskan Malamutes Breed-FAQ
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997
There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
to rtfm.mit.edu under pub/usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list, via
the Web at http://www.zmall.com/pet_talk/dog-fa.../faq-list.html, or
via email by sending your message to with
in the body of the message.
This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.
* Margaret H. Bonham (Sky Warrior Racing Kennels), December 8, 1992
* Stacey E. Curtis, December, 1 1992
* Stephen R. Lee (OooWoo Racing Kennel), December, 1 1992
Updates in 1994 of addresses, CTM. Australia contact added 1995. List
of breeders removed. 10/95: Online Resources added, CTM.
Copyright 1994, 1995 by Margaret Bonham, Stacey Curtis, and Stephen
Table of Contents
* Characteristics and Temperament
* Care and Training
* Special Medical Problems
* Frequently Asked Questions
+ Online Resources
+ Breed Rescue Organizations
+ Breed Clubs
The Alaskan Malamute is a large and powerful sled dog. They can weigh
over 100 lbs and stand up to 30 inches high at the shoulder, though 25
inches high is regarded as the preferred height for freighting. They
are an impressive looking dog, quite beautiful and dignified.
AKC Official Alaskan Malamute Standard
The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes
the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed
otherwise known as _type_. Some characteristics, such as size, coat
quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function
for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye
color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others.
The Standard describes an _ideal_ representive of the breed. No
individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the
breeder to strive towards.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards
at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not
typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the
publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club
for a copy of the Standard.
Alaskan Malamutes originated with a group of native Innuits known as
the Mahlemiut. The dogs of that time were very large freighting dogs
capable of pulling heavy weight in extreme conditions. The Mahlemiut
people mainly inhabited the upper part of the Anvik river in Alaska,
but were spread over a wide region. The Malamute was used to haul food
back to the villages. It was used as a heavy freighting dog, able to
pull a tremendous amount of weight over long distances at a steady
pace. The gold rush of 1896 created a high demand for these dogs.
Today, there are essentially two different "kinds" of Alaskan
Malamutes. One line is referred to as the M'Loot and the other is the
Kotzebue. One difference between these two lines is the size of the
dog. M'Loot Malamutes are larger than the Kotzebue's. In addition,
true Kotzebues have only wolf-gray coats, whereas M'Loots come in a
variety of colors, including wolf-gray, black and white, sable and
white, seal, blue, and white. Kotzebues also tend to be less
aggressive than the M'loot, however they can be more hyper. The
Kotzebue line is essentially due to Arthur Walden, and Milton and Eva
Seeley. In fact, it was Milton and Eva that got the Kotzebue line
recognized and registered by the AKC in 1935. Paul Voelker developed
the M'Loot line. Paul did not register his dogs, but he sold them to
people who eventually did. Amongst breeders, there is some argument as
to which is the "correct" Malamute. In spite of this, Alaskan
Malamutes are credited as one of the few breeds that is very close to
its original form and function.
Characteristics and Temperament
Coat and Grooming
The Alaskan Malamute is a double coated breed. This coat consists of a
woolly undercoat and longer guard hairs. Twice a year, Malamutes
"blow" their undercoats, that is, they shed their undercoats
completely. It is a very intense shedding period that can last up to
three weeks from start to finish. The good news is that this only
happens twice a year. The remainder of the time, Malamutes are
relatively shed free (unlike smooth coated breeds). The bad news is
that the shedding period can be rather messy. The hair comes out in
large and small clumps. Lots of vacuuming and brushing are in order.
It should be noted that some owners that live in very warm climes,
ones that lack "seasonal changes," report some shedding year round in
The Alaskan Malamute is a very clean and relatively odor free dog. It
tends to clean itself like a cat. Even when a Malamute becomes covered
in mud, it will clean itself. Therefore, bathing needs are minimal.
Some owners only bathe their dogs once a year or less.
Other than during coat-blowing season, the Malamute needs very little
grooming. No trimming or shaving of hair is required or recommended.
Occasional brushing to remove dead hair and keep the coat fresh and
shiny is required. Their nails should be checked and clipped
Alaskan Malamutes are a very people friendly breed and demand a lot of
attention. They are often described as "big teddy bears" because of
their love of attention. They are a very pack-oriented breed and
therefore do best when included in the family rather than shut outside
away from the rest of the "pack." Since they are pack oriented,
Malamutes are generally not "one-man" dogs. They are an extremely
intelligent breed that can be very stubborn and easily bored. They are
not typically recommended to a first-time dog owner as mistakes are
easy to make and sometimes hard to correct unless you really know what
you are doing. They can be a challenge to train, due to their
stubbornness. It is said that to teach a Malamute to do something once
or twice is very easy, because they are quite intelligent and quickly
learn new tasks. To get them to repeatedly do something over and over
again is much more challenging, due to their stubbornness and the fact
that they become easily bored. This trait is quite common in all of
the northern breeds. The sheer size of the Malamute can become an
obstacle to novice dog owners. Many Malamutes end up in the pound and
even destroyed because an owner fell in love with the cute puppy but
could not control the large, stubborn, powerful adult.
Owing to their strong pack nature, Malamutes can be more aggressive
towards other dogs than other breeds. Because of this, great care
should be taken on the part of the owner to socialize their Malamute
puppy as much as possible with other dogs.
Due to the character of the Malamute, they should never be actively
trained to be protective, vicious, or aggressive. Their very nature
makes them lousy watch dogs. It is against their instincts to make
them into watch or guard type dogs. It has been tried in the past with
disastrous results. They are a visual deterrent only, as the
uninitiated may be hesitant to approach property or family in the
company of such a large, impressive looking animal. However, Malamutes
are as likely to greet a potential thief as warmly as a trusted family
member. This is part of what makes a Malamute a Malamute.
Barking, Talking, and Howling
Alaskan Malamutes are rather quiet dogs. They generally do not bark at
all. They do tend to "talk," however. The best way to describe the
talking is to recall Chewbacca, the Wookie in the movie "Star Wars."
It is sort of a soft "woo woo woo" sound. Malamutes can howl the roof
right off of your house however. Owners of multiple Malamutes have
noticed that when their dogs howl, they will all stop simultaneously.
Again, this behavior is due to the fact that they are a _very_
Care and Training
Note: Those living in Australia should read the note that follows
these comments carefully.
When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the
puppy's diet has been to date, as well as recommendation as to the
best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog
is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult. You should try
and follow the puppy's diet at the time you collect him from the
breeder as best you can, until the puppy is settled in to its new
environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your
preferences. Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt
the puppy's digestive system and cause gastric distress.
Some people prefer to free-feed their dogs, while others prefer
scheduled feeding times. Certainly while the dog is still a puppy, he
should be fed three times a day or free-fed. Malamutes are not fully
mature until 18 months of age. The diet should be tailored to the dogs
level of activity and eating habits. Some Malamute owners have found
it impossible to free feed their dogs, due to the fact that some
Malamutes will eat all food presented them immediately. This can lead
to a variety of health problems, including obesity and bloat.
As for the type and "brand" of dog food, basically any reputable dog
food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog
healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage
that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In
addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog
foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly
science. The dog food manufactures have done the science part. The
rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry
food twice a day. Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so
on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food
to suit your dogs needs. For working Malamutes, something equivalent
to a Science Diet Performance is in order. For Malamutes that go for
walks and hikes, a Maintenance formula is usually best. Consult your
breeder and veterinarian for advice.
One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food.
Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can
increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible
to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon. Even though
the Malamute is not fully mature until 18 months, most people
gradually switch to adult dog food at the 8-10 month time frame.
Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and
Special note for those living in Australia
In Australia the use of commercial "wet" dog foods as the sole primary
source of food have been found to be linked with hot spots and gastric
distress (including very loose bowel movements) in many dogs of this
breed. Occasional use is recommended. Likewise, kangaroo meat is not
recommended. Many breeders make their own dog food and supplement it
with a variety of vitamins and minerals to ensure a balanced diet. If
you live in Australia, it is recommended that you consult with your
breeder and veterinarian regarding this issue and monitor the dogs
condition closely with whatever diet is chosen.
Alaskan Malamutes are happiest when they can share in family
activities. The best arrangement is one in which the dog can come in
and out of the house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a
dog door is not possible, then training the dog to go to an outside
door to be let out is also very easy to do. Outside, the dog should
have a large, fenced yard. The fence should be strong and at least 6
feet tall. It is also a good idea to bury wire in the ground to
discourage digging out. Malamutes are notorious diggers. It is usually
best to set up a sand box somewhere in a shaded part of the yard and
encourage digging there, if possible. Malamutes should _not_ be
allowed to roam around the neighborhood. If one chooses to kennel a
Malamute, the kennel should be chain link, with a concrete run, and
should be 8 ft wide and 15 to 20 ft long. It should be at least 6 ft
high with chain link across the top of the kennel. It should be in a
shaded location and have an insulated dog house with a door for
shelter from the elements.
Because the Malamute is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very
cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the
elements in the form of a good sturdy house. The house should have a
flat roof, as Malamutes love to lay on top of their houses and observe
the world. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect
for Malamutes that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog
house is usually not necessary.
Training Alaskan Malamutes can be a challenge. With this breed, it is
important to start young. Establish rules of the house early, and make
sure that the puppy knows that you are in charge. For example, if you
do not want the dog on the bed as an adult, do not allow it as a
puppy. The rule of thumb is that if you train a dog to do something,
expect him to do it. Therefore, if the puppy learns that certain
things are allowed, it will be difficult to train them not to do them
as adults. Things that are cute as puppies may not be all that cute
when the dog weighs 80 lbs or more.
Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as
the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog
will respect you and training will be much easier. It is best to
enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten training as
they are commonly known) soon after your dog is hom and has all of
its vaccinations. This training is good for the dog and for you as the
owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and establish you
as alpha very early in the puppy's life, which is extremely important
with this breed. Once you have completed the puppy class, and have
been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience class is
Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely
challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly
in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough
to differentiate situations very well, and will apply different rules
of behavior for different situations. You must stay on top of the dog
and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of
manageable size than with a stubborn adult that has been allowed to
get away with undesirable behaviors for a long time.
It is very important to remember that Alaskan Malamutes are a _working
breed_. They need something to do. Putting them in the backyard and
tossing them a bone and expecting them to be happy us a very bad idea.
They need a lot of exercise and interaction to be happy. The exercise
can come in the form of mushing, which is of course best, or can
easily be in the form of frequent walks, hikes, and playing. The dog
makes a wonderful hiking companion, and with a dog pack, can carry
food and water.
Special Medical Problems
Snow Nose or Bad Pigmentation?
Snow Nose is described as a pink/reddish marking on the black nose. It
is commonly experienced amongst the northern breeds. Snow Nose can
disappear over the warmer months and reappear over the winter months.
There is nothing wrong with snow nose. Bad pigmentation occasionally
occurs within specimens of the breed. The pigmentation area generally
occurs around the face and is best described as being pinkish skin and
it can, in some cases, detract from the dogs appearance. The main
problem with this pigmentation is the threat of sun cancer occurring
to the area as the pink skin is more at risk of sunburn. It is
advisable to cover the affected area with sun screen regularly to
protect the dog from this threat of cancer. It is possible to correct
pigmentation problems with tattooing and there is a relatively new
procedure where a vegetable dye is injected into the area and spread
to cover the pigmentation.
Hot spots look like raw grazed skin. They can also take the form of
loose coat that does not appear to be attached to the skin. There is a
link between hot spots and incorrect diet. Alaskan Malamutes cannot
handle rich and spicy food.
Bloat is a condition that affects all large, deep chested breeds. It
is a potentially life-threatening condition which usually affects dogs
in the prime of life. Basically, the dog's stomach will swell from
gas, fluid, or both (this is acute gastric dilation). Once distended,
the stomach may twist abruptly on its long axis. If it does twist, but
the twist is less than 180 degrees, it is called a torsion. If greater
than 180 degrees, it is called a volvulus. Therefore, the term bloat
can refer to any of these three conditions (acute gastric distortion,
torsion, or volvulus). Acute gastric dilation is not serious, and may
clear up itself in a few minutes. Torsion or volvulus are life
threatening and immediate veterinary attention is required. The chance
for recurrence is around fifteen percent. The cause of bloat is
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and central progressive retinal
atrophy (CPRA) have appeared in a number of breeds, including
Malamutes. Hemeralopia, or "day blindness", has also occurred in
Malamutes. All of these problems are genetically caused. Careful
screening of potential breeding pairs has helped reduce the incidence
of these problem in the breed.
This is another genetic disorder that affects Malamutes. Simply put,
hip dysplasia is a deformation in the hip joint. That is, the head of
the femur does not sit solidly in the acetabulum. The joint lacks
tightness, and the condition results in a painful and often
debilitating life for the dog. Hip dysplasia is considered to be a
moderately inheritable condition. Breeders will usually have breeding
pairs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified prior to
breeding. OFA certification can be given only after a dog is over 24
This is a genetic disorder in the M'Loot Malamute line. It is also
known as dwarfism, although this term is not very descriptive or even
The condition results in delayed endochondral bone formation. In 1970,
the Alaskan Malamute Club of America officially recognized CHD and
began efforts to combat the disease. By the end of that year, it was
proven that the gene for CHD was an autosome recessive (through
repetitive matings of CHD dogs) and mathematical models one which
pedigrees could be tested were established.
A Malamute with less than a 6.25% CHD probability factor is considered
to be breedable. 6.25% corresponds to one carrier as a
great-great-great grandfather . Obviously this is not foolproof, but
the chances of a dog not carrying CHD are improved considerably the
lower the number. CHD probability is computed through the average of
the two parents.
There are various ways to test for CHD including blood tests and
x-rays. This recessive gene seems to affect blood as well, producing a
type of anemia.
X-rays are generally made between the ages of 3 to 12 weeks, if one is
overly concerned about CHD detection. Most Malamute breeders are
satisfied with the CHD rating and no outward signs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
_Is a Malamute part wolf?_
No. The Alaskan Malamute is a domesticated pure bred dog, and has
been for many centuries. They are often mistaken for wolves, and
they are often used in movies to depict wolves, but they are most
certainly _not_ wolves or part wolf.
_How do they handle the summer heat?_
Like any dog, to cope with summer heat the Alaskan Malamute needs a
constant supply of water to drink and shade from the sun. If the
dog is allowed inside then it will find it's own cool room
(probably on the kitchen or bathroom floor if it is tiled or
linoleum floored). Some dogs like having ice added to their water
to help keep it cool. Some also enjoy a children's wading pool
filled with water in the summer time. The Malamute sheds a lot of
coat directly before summer, as soon as the whether starts to warm
up, which also allows them to keep cool. Heavy exercise should be
avoided in excessive heat. Curtail exercise times to be early
morning or just after sunset. Once the dog is acclimated to his
environment, he is usually fine. Malamutes are remarkably adaptable
animals. However, one should never try and push a dog beyond his
capability to cope with the heat. To do so can be disastrous. One
must keep in mind the type of climate the dog is acclimated for and
not look for signs of heat stress. Do not ever lock any dog in a
car in direct sunlight, or in the shade for a great deal of time,
even with the windows down a little for ventilation the heat
generated by the dog is still enough to cause heat stress in
_What are they like with children?_
Due to their gentle temperament the Alaskan Malamute is generally a
very good family dog. They seem to enjoy the company of children,
though common sense must be used when mixing any dog with young
children. They are a very powerful dog and children should not be
left in total control of the dog. Alaskan Malamutes are generally
patient by nature and will tolerate young children fawning over
them, but this should be strictly supervised for the sake of the
dog as well as the child. With these caveats in mind, since
Malamutes love attention, well behaved children get along
wonderfully with well mannered and socialized Malamutes.
_What are they like inside a house, being so big?_
Alaskan Malamutes, aside from the occasional invasion of masses of
fur when they are shedding coat, are excellent house dogs. They are
extremely clean dogs and surprisingly quiet. They are very
sure-footed and in no way clumsy around furniture. They will often
pick out a favorite sleeping spot and stay there for hours.
Favorite spots seem to be tiled and linoleum floors in warm
weather, soft pillows or beds at other times.
_How much do they eat?_
Most Malamutes love food, however they eat surprisingly little for
their size. The actual amount of food will vary depending on the
metabolism and activity level of the dog, and the type of food that
is given. A working adult will eat approximately 4 cups of high
density food per day. Other dogs will generally eat less. Puppies
require smaller, more frequent meals.
_How much exercise do they need, and what kind?_
You should not strenuously exercise a puppy under 6 months of age.
Their muscular-skeleto system is not developed enough yet. Their
play is enough to keep them healthy. You should play with your
puppy and work on some of the basic obedience commands with him, in
a playful way. Once the dog is 6 months old, a kindergarten puppy
training class or a basic obedience class is a very good idea. It
will start you both out on the right foot. You can then more easily
start taking the dog for walks in your area on a leash. By the time
the dog is full grown, at around 18 months, he will be ready for
much longer walks, an hour per day or more. The obedience training
will make the walks much more enjoyable. Alaskan Malamutes also
enjoy jogging, but this should not be attempted until the dog is 18
months old or older. Hiking, with a dog back-pack is great fun. One
can also bike with a dog, with a nifty device known as a
"Springer." Finally, sledding is an excellent form of exercise, and
is what the dog was bred for. The sled dog part of the FAQ for
rec.pets.dogs covers these things in more detail.
_Do they pull sleds very fast?_
The Malamute is a very strong dog, but not as fast as some of the
other northern breeds. Malamutes are not as fast as, say Siberians,
and because of this are not typically used in sprint sled racing or
a race like the Iditarod (although they sometimes are). Endurance
and strength are the Malamute staples, and they are frequently used
for exploratory trips across the North Pole or Antarctica (most
recently, in the Trans-Antarctic expedition) and in weight pull
_How strong are they?_
The Malamute is a very strong dog. They were originally freighting
dogs and as such, are able to pull tremendous amounts of weight.
Just from looking at the Malamute, and the size of his bones and
his stature, it is easy to see that they are indeed very strong
animals. For this reason, many people use them in weight pulling
competitions, where they will pull thousands of pounds.
_Do they shed a lot?_
Malamutes blow their undercoats twice per year. They do not
typically shed year round like many dog breeds. When they do blow
their coat, they loose lots of hair (several grocery sacks full per
_Do they like to fight other dogs?_
No. Malamutes are very pack oriented dogs. As such, they
communicate with other dogs in a variety of ways. An ill mannered,
aggressive dog is not a good team dog and therefore not a good sled
dog. However, poorly socialized and trained Malamutes can be
aggressive towards other dogs. For this reason, it is very
important for a Malamute owner to train the dog carefully and make
sure to properly socialize it with other dogs.
_I've heard Malamutes are dumb. Is this true?_
No! Alaskan Malamutes are extremely intelligent working dogs.
People often mistake the fact that they can be difficult to train
as a sign of stupidity. Malamutes are very clever and easily bored.
The key to training them is to keep them interested and to
challenge their intelligence. A Malamute probably knows what you
want him to do, he just may not want to do it!
_Just how cold can an Alaskan Malamute live in?_
Alaskan Malamutes can work and live in extremely cold conditions,
approaching 70 degrees below zero.
Riddle, Maxwell, and Seeley, Eva. _The Complete Alaskan Malamute_,
1988, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-009-7.
Ross, Diane. _Your Alaskan Malamute_, 1977 William Denlinger. ISBN
Riddle, Maxwell and Harris, Beth. _The New Complete Alaskan Malamute_,
1990, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-008-9.
Coppinger, Lorna and ISDRA. _The World of Sled Dogs_, 1977, Howell
Book House. ISBN 0-87605-671-0.
_The Malamute Quarterly_
Hofflin Publishing Ltd.
4401 Zephyr Street
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
Alaskan Malamute Homepage, kept by Maria Magnusson
* Alaskan Malamute Mailing list: send email to
, with SUBSCRIBE MALAMUTE-L
yourfirstname yourlastname in the body of the message.
* Sledding mailing list: send email to
, with SUBSCRIBE SLEDDOG-L
yourfirstname yourlastname in the body of the message.
Breed Rescue Organizations
_Alaskan Malamute Protection League_
P.O. Box 170
Cedar Crest, NM 87008
This organization is a National Information Network servicing
individuals and Rescue Organizations working for the Alaskan Malamute.
State coordinators provide information from and to a National file.
_Alaskan Malamute Club of America_
Ms. Sharon Weston
187 Grouse Creek Road
Grants Pass, OR 97526
_Siberian Husky and Malamute Club of S.A. Inc_
The Secretary, Cass vanRyswyk
P.O. Box 169
St Agnes, South Australia 5097 Australia
Contact the club closest to you for a list of breeders in your area.
In the US, there are a number of regional clubs, the National club can
help you find the one in your area. Similar systems exist in other
countries. Bear in mind that you need to approve the breeder in the
final analysis for yourself -- being on a list is no a priori
guarantee of reputability.
More detailed tips for locating a good breeder can be found in the
Getting A Dog FAQ.
Alaskan Malamute FAQ
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