Believed to be one of the oldest types of dog, the Alaskan Malamute is a large domestic breed indigenous to upper western Alaska. This breed is descended from the dogs of the Mahlemut tribe of Inuit who made use of the dog initially for use in a utilitarian role and later as a sled dog. Often times mistaken for a Siberian Husky, due to its similar color and markings, the Mal is actually considerably larger with a generally more dominant personality. Typically to slow for professional sled dog racing, this breed is primarily used today in the recreational pursuit of sledding, also known as mushing, as well as for skijoring, bikejoring, carting, and canicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or as show or performance dogs in weight pulling, dog agility, or packing.
The Alaskan Malamute or “Mal” is a large, wolf-like ancient breed of domestic dog believed to be the oldest breed on the North American continent and probably the breed longest associated with man. A theory that is supported by archeological evidence in the form of bone and ivory carvings dated at twelve to twenty thousand years old showing Alaskan Malamute like dogs that are essentially the same as they are today. DNA analysis conducted in 2004 also supports the ancient nature of this breed and its close genetic ties to the wolf, as published in the Science Journal, volume 304, pp. 1160–1164; May 21, 2004 and titled "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog".
“Having demonstrated that modern dog breeds are distinct genetic units, we next sought to define broader genetic relationships among the breeds. We first used standard neighbor-joining methods to build a majority rule consensus tree of breeds, with distances calculated using the chord distance measure, which does not assume a particular mutation model and is thought to perform well for closely related taxa.
The tree was rooted using wolf samples. The deepest split in the tree separated four Asian spitz-type breeds, and within this branch the Shar-Pei split first, followed by the Shiba Inu, with the Akita and Chow Chow grouping together. The second split separated the Basenji, an ancient African breed. The third split separated two Arctic spitz-type breeds, the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky, and the fourth split separated two Middle Eastern sight hounds, the Afghan and Saluki, from the remaining breeds. […] Our results support at least four distinct breed groupings representing separate adaptive radiations.
A subset of breeds with ancient Asian and African origins splits off from the rest of the breeds and shows shared patterns of allele frequencies. At first glance, it is surprising that a single genetic cluster includes breeds from Central Africa (Basenji), the Middle East (Saluki and Afghan), Tibet (Tibetan Terrier and Lhasa Apso), China (Chow Chow, Pekingese, Shar-Pei, and Shi Tzu), Japan (Akita and Shiba Inu), and the Arctic (Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Samoyed). However, several researchers have hypothesized that early pariah dogs originated in Asia and migrated with nomadic human groups both south to Africa and north to the Arctic, with subsequent migrations occurring throughout Asia. This cluster includes Nordic breeds that phenotypically resemble the wolf, such as the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky, and shows the closest genetic relationship to the wolf, which is the ancestor of domestic dogs. Thus, dogs from these breeds may be the best living representatives of the ancestral dog gene pool.”
As stated above, DNA analysis confirms the close genetic ties between the Alaskan Malamute and the wolf. More specifically, the antecedents to the modern day Alaskan Malamute were early domesticated East or Central Asian wolves brought to North America by nomadic hunter gatherers. These ancient domesticated wolves traveled with early man into North America across the Bering Land Bridge from eastern Siberia into Alaska during the later part of the Pleistocene ice ages over 14,000 years ago. Mietje Germonpre, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences states that:
"In shape, the Paleolithic dogs most resemble the Siberian husky, but in size, however, they were somewhat larger, probably comparable to large shepherd dogs,"
This description, given in regards to recently-found dog remains dating back 30,000 years fits the Alaskan Malamute very closely. As noted by the DNA evidence, both the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky share close genetic ties to the wolf and consequentially to each other. It is this close genetic relationship that is responsible for the obvious physical similarities and wolf like traits present in both the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky. The main difference between the two breeds being size; with the Alaskan Malamute being the larger, more heavily boned and powerful of the two with a normal weight range of between 85 and 100 lbs. While the Siberian Husky, a medium sized, smaller boned dog, only has an average weight of between 50-70 lbs. Thus the description given of a Paleolithic dog that closely resembled the Siberian Husky, but was “somewhat larger” would fit the Alaskan Malamute. Though not scientifically confirmed, the Alaskan Malamute may be the oldest living relative of the "First Dog".
Like many of the early tribal groups of North America, dogs became a crucial part of survival by fulfilling a variety of roles. Dogs were used to hunt and track game for food, as companions, as guardians of the home and as early warning systems against competing tribes or predators. Arctic anthropology provides evidence that Eskimo civilizations existed as early as 1850 B.C. at Cape Krusenstern. It is widely accepted that long before the use of sleds, Eskimos had dogs at their sides living with them, hunting with them and protecting them. Due to scarcities of food and the harsh climate of Alaska these early dogs had to be resilient, as natural selection played an integral role in their development. Those dogs that were unable to survive the harsh conditions simply died off, while the fitter specimens lived to pass on their genetics to future generations. It was through this process of natural selection that these early Northern dogs became established types with unique characteristics which, with periodic breeding to the wolf, managed to endure down through the ages.
Early Eskimo life consisted of nomadic travel in extremely harsh conditions as they hunted for food to survive and better land to inhabit. Although, the exact date of conception for the Alaskan Malamute cannot be determined, it is known that around 1000 A.D. the Inuit (the culturally similar indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of Canada, Siberia and Alaska) migrated from Alaska into Northern Canada and brought with them Canadian Eskimo dogs. This suggests that unique types of dog bred to fulfill specific roles within Eskimo society; such as transportation or hauling supplies were in use at this time.
Researchers believe that life in the harsh climate of northern Canada and Alaska would not have been possible without the help of sled dogs. However, the history and early development of dog pulled sleds or dogs for pulling loads is largely conjectural as no exact date can be applied to its first use. In North America archaeologists have found sled parts believed to date back to 1150 A.D. which they attribute to the Thule culture; the ancestors of today’s Inuit. It is likely that these early sleds were made of whale and caribou bones with runners built up from moss and mud made smooth by glazing frozen water. Early harnesses are believed to have been fashioned out of seal skin as were the “tug” lines. The connectors between harnesses, lines, and the sled were bone toggles – no moving parts. Others claim that the first dog sled created was a “komatik”; a primitive Inuit sled consisting of a mid-range floating basket and a piece of wood. Still other research indicates that even prior to the invention of the dog sled; the Inuit may have used dogs to pull a travois; a frame consisting of a platform or netting mounted on two long poles, lashed in the shape of an elongated isosceles triangle to drag loads over land. The frame would then be dragged with the sharply pointed end forward. Whatever their methods, the Inuit were known for using dog power to travel from one place to another and that these early sled dogs were fed the same animals that they helped to harvest.
The Alaskan Malamute is believed to have originated with a group of native Inuits known as the Mahlemiut; the indigenous Inupiat people of Alaska's Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region. They called themselves “Mahlemiuter”, which in their native dialect of Inupiaq Eskimo means 'inhabitants of Mahle'. Today, these people are called the Kuuvangmiut or Kobuk people. Having settled here after the great migration from Siberia to Alaska, the Mahlemiut people mainly inhabited the upper part of the Anvik River and the shores of Kotzebue Sound. This is where the Alaskan Malamute was developed over the following centuries through the process of natural selection and selective breeding for purpose by the Mahlemiut Eskimo. The breeding standard among the Mahlemiuts, for the Alaskan Malamute was to create an effective freight pulling animal, a guard dog, a hunter and a dog capable of surviving the unforgiving climate of the Alaskan Northwest. The result of this century’s long process of natural selection, selective breeding and geographic isolation was the native sledge dog of the Mahlemiuts—the Alaskan Malamute. Traditionally the Alaskan Malamute was used for hunting animals such as seal and ice bear, guarding the home and village and hauling large catches like caribou and huge chunks of whale back to the village for further butchering.
Some discount the northerly Mahlemiuts as the founders of the breed and believe that the Alaskan Malamute may have actually developed in the coastal regions further South. This is based on the reports of early explorers who reported seeing Alaskan Malamutes in these regions. It is not unlikely that there may have been Alaskan Malamutes in the more southern coastal regions of Alaska. As during this time it was not uncommon for men to migrate with their dogs to the locations that provided the most food. For the early Eskimo, Hunting and fishing opportunities where dictated by the weather and it is very likely that during certain seasons or certain years the coastal regions may have had more to offer. This would also account for the known spread of the Alaskan Malamute dog population to both the North and South from the original settlements around Kotzebue Sound.
The Mahlemiut Eskimos had a good standard of life. They worked hard and developed their dogs to a high level of strength, intelligence and reliability. Their survival depended upon it. For the Mahlemiut Eskimos life was a constant move from one location to the next in search of food that could be hunted. It is said that they treated the Alaskan Malamute as a prized possession and fed the dogs as often as they themselves ate on the trail. Which probably helps to explain the amiable disposition of the Alaskan Malamute when compared to other Arctic sled dog breeds. By contrast the norm for many other arctic breeds was a life of being treated inhumanly, underfed and over-worked. This likewise probably accounts for their well known bad dispositions. For the Mahlemiut Eskimos the Alaskan Malamute was as much a member of the family and community as any human. Children and puppies would crawl together on the floor of the huts and it was not uncommon for small children to nurse alongside the puppies from the female bitches. Although, the Malamute Eskimos only bred the best and most promising young dogs and treated them well, shortages of food prevented them from large scale breeding of the Alaskan Malamute. This meant that, although the dogs they had were of very high quality; they did not have many of them. This shortage of dogs even made it customary for the women and children to have to pull alongside the dogs when the Mahlemiut moved from one location to another.
The first written accounts of Europeans reaching Alaska came from Russia. It is believed that while sailing from the mouth of the Kolyma River through the Arctic Ocean and around the eastern tip of Asia to the Anadyr River in 1648. That the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev, was blown off course and carried to Alaska. His discovery was never forwarded to the central government of Russia which left open the question of whether or not Siberia was connected to North America. In 1725, Tsar Peter I of Russia called for another expedition to the territory. The second Kamchatka expedition, as it was called consisted of two ships, the St. Paul, captained by Russian Alexei Chirikov and the St. Peter, captained by Dane Vitus Bering. Together they set sail in June 1741, from the Russian Kamchatkan port of Petropavlovsk. Although, they were quickly separated by inclement weather in route, they continued their journey.
Captain Chirikov aboard the St. Paul was the first to sight the Alaskan coastline of Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska on July 15th, 1741. He subsequently sent a group of his men ashore by longboat, making them the first Europeans to make landfall on the northwestern coast of North America. The following day Captain Bering also sighted the Alaskan mainland at Mount Saint Elias, and after a short landing turned westward toward Russia to bring news of the discover. Captain Chirikov on the other hand stayed a bit longer not beginning his return trip until late October. The decision meant that he would be forced to try and cross the Bering Sea during the beginning of winter. Known as one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world for its shallow depth, volatile weather, extremely cold sea temperatures, and short tight waves that pack more power than deep sea waves; a winter crossing was akin to suicide.
That being said, in November Bering’s ship was wrecked off the Kamchatka Peninsula on the Bering Island in the Bering Sea. Forced to abandon ship, he and his crew marooned on the island, could only watch as the high winds and rough seas crushed his ship into splinters. It was here that Bering eventually fell ill and died while trying to survive the winter on the island with his crew. When winter finally receded the surviving crew members built a small boat from what wreckage could be salvaged and set sail for home in August of 1742. When they reached the shore of Kamchatka Russia, they brought with them word of the expedition and sea otter pelts. It was these pelts, judged to be the finest fur in the world that would spark Russian settlement interest in Alaska.
In the years to follow, groups of fur traders would arrive in Alaska from Siberia on expeditions to harvest this lucrative resource. They called the territory "Alashak" or "Alyeska" which meant "wide land". They began to set up trading posts and by the late 1790’s had established permanent settlements in Alaska. Following the Russians, came the French and English explorers, fisherman, whalers and hunters. Like the Russians, they too wanted to capitalize on the territories valuable natural resources of whale, sea otter, walrus and seal. Wanting to establish their presence, the French Hudson's Bay Company began opening trading posts such as Great Whale River in 1820.
Of much interest to these capitalists were the Mahlemiut Eskimos and the kind and nearly inexhaustible dogs they used as draft animals. The Alaskan Malamute was capable of working under nearly murderous circumstances, tough enough to survive the cold, required very little food and was capable of hauling extremely heavy loads of goods and supplies over long distances. All attributes that made the Alaskan Malamute extremely desirable for work in the fur trade. The foreigners began to acquaint themselves with the local native Eskimos as they had the dogs and the knowledge of how to handle and use them for heavy load sledding. However, white men found it very difficult to purchase Alaskan Malamutes because of their few numbers and the high value placed upon them by the Mahlemiut Eskimos. This also helps to explain the relatively small number of foundation dogs that form the basis of today's Alaskan Malamutes.
However, by the late 1800's over hunting and the introduction of petroleum collapsed the market for furs, whale oil and baleen. With Alaska no longer the profitable endeavor, the foreign invaders left, leaving the bowhead whale, the walrus, and the caribou in a state of near extinction. For the Mahlemiut Eskimo, survival depended upon being able to hunt for food and in this new land without animals, many died of starvation. Adding to the tragedy was the fact that they had no natural immunities to foreign diseases and many more died from epidemics of influenza and measles. It is estimated that the native Mahlemiut population decreased by 50% during this time.
So begins the story of the Klondike Gold Rush, which was fueled by the August 16th, 1896 discovery of rich gold deposits in Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, Yukon by Skookum Jim Mason. This discovery brought renewed interest in Alaska and foreign invaders swarmed the territory once again. The ensuing frenzy of gold rush immigration created a high demand for strong, resilient dogs like the Alaskan Malamute, that were capable of surviving the harsh Alaskan environment while freighting heavy loads of supplies. As such, dog teams became very expensive; it was not unusual to pay $1,500 for a small team and $500 for a good dog or $40,000 a team and $13,000 a dog in today’s dollars. The high amount paid for capable dogs, combined with the fact that they were still hurting from the previous invaders slaughter of their native food source, the Mahlemiut Eskimos found themselves eager to trade or sell dogs in order to survive. This led to the Alaskan Malamute quickly becoming the most prized and respected team dog and freighting animal in the region.
Along with prospectors and hopefuls looking to strike it rich, came imported dog breeds. The shortage of true Alaskan Malamutes and their cost led miners to try and replicate it’s physical attributes and abilities by breeding captured wolves with St. Bernards and Newfoundlands. Unfortunately, this did not create the ultimate sled dog as they had hoped. Instead, these new hybrids were more interested in fighting amongst themselves than working as a cohesive sled dog team. As more and more prospectors and settlers came to the area hoping to strike it rich, any large dog that could pull a heavy load was added to the breeding mix. Government services such as mail had to be upgraded to support this population explosion as well. This further increased the demand for strong, durable sled dogs like the Alaskan Malamute capable of pulling as much as of 700 lbs of mail miles over rough terrain from one mail post to another.
It was also during this time that sled dog racing was becoming a popular sport. 1908 brought the foundation of the Nome Kennel Club; the organizers of the annual 408 mile race from Nome to Candle and back through Alaska - called the "All Alaska Sweepstakes". A win in this event meant recognition, prize money and instant fame within and beyond the region. So popular was this event, that people from all over Alaska and neighboring areas gathered the quickest dogs they could find and packed their sleds to take part, which further hurt purebred Alaskan Malamute numbers. While their toughness, stamina and ability to survive the climate made them highly desirable, by racing standards they were slow. Racers and breeders hoping to keep their resilience but improve upon their speed began crossing them with smaller, faster dogs for racing. This period of interbreeding became known as “the age of decay of the Arctic sledge dog”. Although the Alaskan Malamute breed could have been lost during this time, its natural genetic adaptations to surviving in this harsh climate on meager rations saved it.
The Alaskan Malamute is a product of natural selection in the harsh arctic climate over a number of centuries. Although man wanted to improve upon it by adding in faster breeds from the continental United States, it would not be that easy to undo centuries of survival through natural adaptation. With the cessation of the gold rush and the rampant interbreeding of various dog breeds in an attempt to create the perfect sled dog. The dogs that were left quickly began to return to the Spitz type, to which all Northern breeds belong. Even the first generation of hybrids looked more like the Alaskan Malamute than the other half of their breeding. A short three generations later, all visible signs of these foreign dogs would disappear from the remaining Alaskan Malamutes.
It is theorized that because the Alaskan Malamute is a true Arctic breed with specialized adaptations for cold weather survival, that the hybrids may not have inherited all of its adaptations, making it impossible for them to survive. A good example of this is that many Arctic breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute require much less food to survive in the cold environment of Alaska than other breeds of comparable size. Therefore, it is likely that those dogs that did not inherit this unique quality may well have starved on the rations normally given to a sled dog like the Alaskan Malamute. The previous period of interbreeding may also account for the slight variations in size and color found among the Alaskan Malamute of today. However, these variations should not be considered indicative of impure breeding in the modern dogs, nor should they be considered as a departure from true type.
Entering the 1920’s the future of the Alaskan Malamute was uncertain and its situation was critical. Being the natural survivor that it is, it had managed to survive the age of decay, but its numbers were few. That is, until an important reversal of fortune took place for the Alaskan Malamute. When a small group of fanciers took notice of this remarkable breed and with their help the restoration of the Alaskan Malamute began. Over the next 20 years the Alaskan Malamute would be divided into the three lines that were to be combined later to create the modern day Alaskan Malamute; the Kotzebue line, the M'Loot line and the Hinman-Irwin line.
Eva Seeley and the Kotzebue Line Alaskan Malamutes
The Kotzebue Line started in 1923 when a young teacher from Massachusetts named Eva Seeley happened to read a newspaper article on Gorham, New Hampshire's winter carnival featuring the Chinook Dog Sled Teams of Arthur Treadwell Walden; a Klondike Gold Rush adventurer, dog driver and participant in the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition. Believing that they would be a hit in her local Worchester carnival, she immediately arranged for two teams to appear there. One of the teams was Arthur Walden's. Although, she didn’t know it yet but she would fall in love with these dogs and along with her husband Milton, she would become the most famous breeder of Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies.
Part of the event was giving spectators the chance to ride on a dog sled. When Eva’s turn came to ride the sled across the snow-covered golf course, she rode in Walden’s sled. Unfortunately, the lead dog saw and cat and they took off; sled in tow. With no other recourse, Walden was forced to overturn the sled to stop them, hurting his hand in the process, though he was more worried about whether or not Eva had been injured. His worry, as it turned out was unfounded as Eva was absolutely thrilled. This was the beginning of her love of the native sled dogs and her professional relationship with Mr. Walden.
She and her husband would become regular visitors to Mr. Walden’s Chinook kennel on his 1300-acre Wonalancet Farm and Inn in New Hampshire. They even spent their honeymoon in 1924 at the Inn. Mr. Walden gave them a dog named Nook, the son of one of his Chinook dogs. Eva got to know all the greatest sled dog champions of the period through her relationship with Mr. Walden. Eventually, she and her husband would take over Mr. Walden’s Chinook Kennels.
Several years later in 1928, when Mr. Walden was in New York to speak at a charity event, he learned that Eva’s husband was in poor health. He persuaded them to move to his Wonalancet Farm, to watch over the place while he went on an Antarctic expedition with Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
Since Mr. Walden's sixteen Chinooks would not be enough to supply the expedition. He had to obtain additional dogs from Alaska. These were brought by visitors to his kennel and Inn, among these visitors was another legend in the sport of dog sled-racing, Alan Alexander "Scotty" Allen. As they were sorting through the dogs he brought, he pulled out two dogs that were larger than the other Siberian Huskies and told Eva that "This is what the large sled dog of Alaska should look like" and that he wished he had been more familiar with them when he was running his All-Alaska teams.
Eva found herself particularly attracted to a dog she named "Rowdy of Nome", although his name was hardly indicative of his gentle temperament that belied his wolf-like appearance. Allen said that he had purchased the dog from a Nome couple who had found him and believed him to be stolen. Although, they had kept him as a pet, the dog had a fair amount of sledding experience and was a good teammate with scrappy dogs because of his sweet, gentle disposition. In addition to Rowdy, the Byrd expedition also took with it more than a dozen other large freighting dogs resembling Rowdy. This led Eva and her husband to suspect that dogs such as these existed as a group if not a breed. Fascinated with these large gentle freighting dogs the idea of the Alaskan Malamute as a breed took hold.
With Mr. Walden’s departure to Antarctica, the Seeleys began searching for more examples of these large freight dogs. Luckily their involvement with Mr. Walden and dog sledding had provided them with plenty of contacts in the world of sled dog breeding and racing. On a visit to the Poland Springs Kennel, owned by Elizabeth Nansen, the Seeleys came upon a dog from Dawson in Canada's Yukon Territory named "YukonJad". “Jad” as he was known was owned by Leonhard Seppala; a Siberian Husky breeder and racer, who had acquired the dog for free from its previous owners. Only interested in his Siberians he had no intrest in the slower freighting-type dogs like “Jad”. Knowing that the Seeleys did, he gave them "Yukon Jad". "Jad" with his wolf-gray color would become the foundation sire of the first Chinook Alaskan Malamutes . A large, strong dog like "Rowdy", his erect ears were low-set, and his plume tail, his harsh coat, and heavily boned frame, made him the type of dog the Seeleys wanted to breed. This was the first of what would come to be known as the Kotzebue line of Alaskan Malamutes.
Eva Seeley is also recognized as the person responsible for acquiring American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition for the Alaskan Malamute. Wanting to have “Rowdy of Nome” and her Kotzebue line of Alaskan Malamutes declared as an official breed, Mrs. Seeley turned to the AKC for recognition. The AKC responded with two conditions that needed to be met prior to them granting recognition for the breed. First Mrs. Seeley would have to prove that the breed actually existed. Second, there would need to be a sufficient number of dogs of uniform quality and appearance to represent the breed. Lastly, these dogs could only be shown in a mixed class until the number of dogs was sufficient so as to guarantee the continuity of the breed. In order to meet the first condition, Mrs. Seeley acquired an affidavit from the breeder of “Jad”; a Mr. Frank Gough, stating that he was in fact an Alaskan Malamute and provided a two-generation signed pedigree. To meet the second condition, Mrs. Seeley and other breeders began showing Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds in a mixed class at some of the most prestigious dog shows in the country. In 1935 the AKC, recognized the breed and agreed to grant registration to those Alaskan Malamutes with at least two generation pedigree and Rowdy of Nome was the first Malamute to be registered.
The M’Loot line of Alaskan Malamutes also started in the 1920’s. While Eva Seeley and her husband Milton were acquiring Alaskan Malamutes for their New Hampshire Chinook Kennel, a man named Paul Voelker was doing the same at his Marquette, Michigan, based M’Loot kennel. Voelkers love of the Malamute came from the days of the Yukon Gold Rush. His father, an entrepreneur, seizing upon the opportunity, became involved in the business of purchasing and shipping dogs from the continental United States to Alaska to be used by prospectors. Growing up in the business, Voelker had spent the majority of his life breeding and training the numerous dog breeds his father shipped to Alaska.
Looking for a change, he wanted to breed something unique, something rare, a new type of old dog. Having witnessed the Alaskan Malamute on previous trips to Alaska and believing them to be the oldest breed of dog on the North American continent, he chose to breed the same native Mahlemiut Eskimo dogs his father's earlier exports almost destroyed. He called his new dog a “Malamute”. M’Loot Malamutes as they would come to be known were of varied origin. Some of his dogs were purchased from the Army at Camp Rimini, in Montana, some from Alaska. Others came from dog teams that had been sold to Hollywood for use in movies, a few others from Mackenzie River Huskies in Minnesota and even two females from the litter of an all white Canadian Eskimo dog. He traveled coast-to-coast acquiring Malamutes that he liked for use in his breeding program.
M’loot Malamutes, differed from the Kotzebue line of Malamutes created by Eva Seeley. They were heavier and taller, their chests were narrower, and they had longer ears and pointier snouts than those of the Kotzebue line. Kotzebue line dogs were also uniform in appearance and of a single color, wolf grey. This was a result of a decision by Eva to only allow dogs that were grey and white in color into her breeding program for Kotzebue Malamutes. M’loot Malamutes on the other hand, owing to a genetically diversified breeding program tended to have small variations from one specimen to the next and came in a variety of colors such as silver grey, black and white, pure white and even red. Also, M'Loot Malamutes tended to be a little more aggressive. There was however, some common ground between the two lines as both lines had a thick straight coat, a bushy tail carried over their back like a plume and straight ears.
Like Eva Seeley, Voelker was a skilled sled dog driver and his M’Loot Malamutes excelled as working dogs and received numerous awards for their performances at various events. Four M’loot Malamutes were even used during the second Serum Run to Nome. However, unlike Eva Seeley, Voelkers interest wasn’t limited to just producing solid sled dogs. He spent a great deal of effort marketing and publicizing his dogs as excellent companion animals for the home. Much of the success and popularity of his M’Loot Malamutes can be attributed to the fact that his marketing of the breed placed them in numerous homes throughout North America as pets.As Voelker said:
“The best examples of the greatest breed have become perfect company dogs for the families in different places from the north in Alaska to the states exposed to the sun in Florida, California and in New Mexico in the south”
The popularity of M’Loot Malamutes also led other Alaskan Malamute breeders to use them as the foundation dogs for their own breeding programs. Some of which became quite famous and influenced the Alaskan Malamute as we know it today. Some of these include Ch. Mulpus Brook's Master Otter which was the first Alaskan Malamute to take first group showing and Ch. Ooloo M'Loot; the first bitch in the history of the breed to get a championship title. Both of them were owned by Silver Sled. Other influential dogs included Ch. Nanook II and Ch. Gyana, whose descendants formed the foundation dogs for many Alaskan Malamute kennels and to which many of today’s Alaskan Malamutes trace back to.
In 1950 the AKC reopened the Alaskan Malamute stud book for registration. For owners of M’Loot Malamutes and Hinman-Irwing Malamutes (discussed later) this was a welcomed decision. Prior to this decision they were unable to have their dogs registered as the AKC only recognized the dogs of Eva Seeley’s Kotzebue line. Mrs. Seeley strongly objected to this decision and protested to the AKC as she felt that only her dogs were worthy of being recognized as true Alaskan Malamutes. The AKC responded by requiring that owners of these “new” Alaskan Malamutes would be required to show their dogs until such time as the dog had acquired 10 show points. Mr. Voelker never registered a single dog he owned with the AKC. However, many breeders that had used his M’Loot line as the foundation for their kennels and many owners that had purchased his type of Alaskan Malamute did acquire registration.
Two years later and without providing any forewarning the AKC decided to close the breed to registration. For owners of M’Loot Malamutes that had not yet acquired their ten show points or had recently whelped litters with the intent to show and register them, they were effectively blocked from getting their dogs registered. This also meant that they were useless breeding as the offspring; regardless of their quality, could never be traced back to a registered Alaskan Malamute parent. In order to prevent these kinds of surprises in the future and have more influence on important breed related decisions, the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) was created in 1952, and applied for recognition as the parent club of the breed with the AKC. This was achieved in 1953, when the AKC informed the AMCA that it had been officially accepted as a member. With the formation of the AMCA, breeders of Kotzebue and M’Loot Malamutes; both believing their lines to be the correct representation of the breed struggled within the club to get past their differences. The Alaskan Malamute breed standard of today represents a compromise between the two groups and accurately reflects the current Alaskan Malamute which is a fusion of the two lines.
The Hinman-Irwin Line and Zollers Husky-Pak Alaskan Malamutes
The Hinman-Irwin line, or ‘third strain’ as defined and made famous by Robert Zoller was a very small group of Alaskan Malamute dogs that differed from both M’loot Malamutes and Eva Seeleys Kotzebue line. This line started with two dogs, Igloo and Lynx, which were imported into New Hampshire from the Baker Lake area of Kivalliq Region, Nunavut, Canada by the explorer Dave Irwin. From their mating came a dog named ‘Irwin’s Gemo’, (also known as Gimo, Chimo and Erwin). Gemo would later go on to be shown to Best of Breed at Westminster in Madison Square Garden in 1941. A few purchases and sales later Gemo eventually found his way to the ranch and kennel of Craig Burt in Vermont, where he actively worked as a sled dog. This is where Dick Hinman; friend of Gemo’s owner and former explorer currently working as a barber and dog breeder met the dog. He had made a habit of regularly visiting the ranch to drive the sled dog teams for leisure and adventure. He was so impressed with the attributes, performance and appearance of Gemo that he included him as part of his own Alaskan Malamute breeding program. Although, only a few dogs came from this line, they had a huge impact on the modern day version of the Alaskan Malamute, thanks to their discovery by Robert Zoller.
Robert Zoller first met the Alaskan Malamute while serving in Newfoundland as a Navy officer during World War II. He was so thoroughly impressed with the breed, that upon his return to the United States at wars end, he began contacting breeders. It was 1947, and like most individuals looking for an Alaskan Malamute during this time he was initially referred to the Seeleys’ New Hampshire based Chinook kennel, which at the time was being managed by a man named Dick Moulton. After viewing the Kotzebue Malamutes, Zoller was not overly impressed and felt they were too small. So Moulton told him of some bigger dogs being bred by a man named Dick Hinman in Newbury, Vermont and suggested that he contact him.
Zoller then travelled to Vermont to see Mr. Hinman and his larger Malamutes. Of his meeting with Hinman, Zoller wrote :
"Dick Hinman was a barber and when I got there, he was in the middle of giving somebody a haircut. There weren't many Malamute people in those days, and I guess he was just as happy as I was to talk to someone about them. He sent me around back his kennel where he had these two dogs [the older of which was “Irwin’s Gemo”]. I looked up this hill, and there were two of the most impressive Malamutes I've ever seen in my life. They were chained, and I knew this was what I thought a Malamute should look like. Hinman had a litter and told me that one was the sire of the litter and the other grand-father." —(sic)
An agreement was reached and Zoller purchased a pup from the litter that he would later name “Kayak” and began his own Husky-Pak Alaskan Malamute breeding program. As quoted from Zoller's, “Zoller Files”, his initial discovery of Gemo and ensuing Husky-Pak Alaskan Malamute breeding program was described as follows:
"In Newbury, Vermont, we saw an older dog named Irwin's Gemo that we thought was the best we had run across. Once owned by Lowell Thomas, the famous explorer-newscaster […] We bought his grandson, a puppy we named "Kayak," and we learned these dogs were neither Kotzebue nor M'Loots: there weren't many of them, and some had been crossed with M'Loot-strain dogs. Dick Hinman, the owner, had gotten some of his dogs from Dave Irwin, another explorer […] I began to call these dogs the Hinman-Irwin strain or "the third strain," although actually they weren't a strain at all, just a few individual dogs (or perhaps a family) that were neither Kotzebue nor M'Loot.
Our main asset in those days, I believe, was a rare degree of objectivity. The Kotzebues and the M'Loots had developed fanatical followings who were too busy maligning the other side to really look, listen and learn. We kept open minds and eventually came to these conclusions:
The Kotzebues were good type, mainly because of their heads, muzzles, eyes, ears, expression and good body proportions. They were more uniform than the M'Loots, mostly wolf gray, usually about the same size and structure. Generally they had good rears and bad fronts - chests too wide, out at the elbows. And most of them were much smaller than we believed the original Malamute was or should be.
The M'Loots had better size but some were rangy and lacking in substance. Good fronts, many bad rears, lacking angulation, which produced some stilted gaits. Tendency toward long ears, and long muzzles, with some "snipeyness." Much variation in coats and colors - long, short; from light gray to black and white, some all-whites.
Dispositions differed as well. The Kotzebues were less aggressive, easier to control; the M'Loots prone to fighting, often difficult to handle around other dogs.
In short, the M'Loots were bigger, flashier and more impressive, but they had some rather characteristic faults and I felt they varied considerably in type and in quality. Kotzebues were too small, but they had uniformity going for them, and their main asset was type; as a whole, they more closely resembled the original Malamute as we believe it to be.
We easily concluded that crossing these strains with some skill, to combine their good points and minimize the faults, would produce better Malamutes than by breeding within either two strains.
That "third strain," however, could not be ignored. Kayak, unfortunately, never turned out to be another Gemo. Our second Malamute was one of the better pure M'Loot bitches; she became Ch. Husky-Pak's Mikya of Sequin. Then we really got lucky. Now in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, we found a pair of pups sired by an impressive dog named Alaska (later Ch. Spawn's Alaska). This brother-sister pair that we bought, raised and took to national championships became Ch. Apache Chief of Husky-Pak, "Geronimo," and Ch. Arctic Storm of Husky-Pak, "Takoma." They were the biggest winners of their era and became milestones of breed progress.
Best of all, they had third-strain genes; they were three-quarters M’Loot, one-quarter "other" going back to Irwin's Gemo and Hinman's Sitka. Sitka, incidentally, may have been an even better bitch than Gemo was a dog. I think she deserves a great deal of credit for the quality that resulted later on.
Our pair were as large as the bigger M'Loots but a bit heavier in bone and better proportioned; in body they were almost like king-size Kotzebues. Good coats and coloring and excellent overall balance. Heads were broad and ears were correct size and shape, and set properly on the skull. We knew this combination was superior, and the show results soon convinced a lot of other people.
But we weren't entirely satisfied. We felt a "three-strain cross" would heavy up the muzzles and set the type. We searched for a Kotzebue of adequate size and came up with Toro of Bras Coupe, then owned by Earl and Natalie Norris of Anchorage, Alaska. Fortunately, Toro was in the States being shown by a professional handler. He had just gone BB at Westminster. We brought him to Husky-Pak, mated him with Takoma and produced our "C" litter.
We think this was the greatest litter in the history of our breed. Five were shown, and all became champions. One was Cherokee, and we think he was the best Malamute ever: three consecutive National Specialty Best of Breeds and three consecutive AMCA Dog of the Year awards. There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that he could easily have gone BB at the next two specialties, for five years in a row, had we chosen to keep showing him. But we retired him as a gesture of good sportsmanship.
Cliquot - the dog shown in our official AMCA emblem - was the first Malamute to win both a championship and a CDX. He was also the top winner in New England. Cochise - was the best in California for a time, and the sire of Ch. Snocrest's Mukluk, our breed's first Best in Show. Comanche and Cheyenne, the "C" litter females, were consistent winners, starting with the big 1953 National Specialty where, at fourteen months, they were Winners Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch - to their mother's Best of Breed!”
It was through the efforts of Mr. Zoller and his intentional crossing of the M’Loot and Kotzebue lines with the addition of some Hinman-Irwin line dogs to create his Husky-Pak line that we have the Alaskan Malamute of today. These dogs contributed enoumously to the evolution of the Alaskan Malamute, while producing numerous champions and forming many of the foundation dogs for the breed.
It should be noted that the Alaskan Malamute and sled dogs in general were heavily used during WWI and WWII. During WWI, the French were unable to get supplies to their troops; desperate for a solution, they turned to sled dogs. The French enlisted the help of famous dog driver and sled dog racer, “Scotty” Allan to supply dogs and sleds and to train soldiers in dog driving. A plan was hatched, and dogs were secretly transported from Nome, Alaska to Quebec by rail car. However, there was still one additional problem; getting the dogs across the Atlantic Ocean without alerting German submarines. The dogs would be unable to travel on the deck of the ship as their noise would alert German submarines. However, with some training by “Scotty” the dogs soon learned not to sing or bark while on ship and were subsequently transported via ship, in shipping crates chained to the deck.
Once this secret cargo arrived in France, Allan trained 50 French Mountain Soldiers (Chasseurs Alpins) to handle and drive the dogs. The main difficulty was that the dogs spoke English while the soldiers spoke French, so the soldiers were required to learn to give the dogs English commands. In total the dogs were divided into 60 teams, some for hauling supplies, others for sentry duty and some for Red Cross duty. Less than 60 days after leaving Alaska, teams of dogs with French drivers were hauling supplies and ammunition to areas that had previously been inaccessible.
Amazingly, one group of supply dogs managed to deliver 180,000 lbs of ammunition to a distant artillery battery in only 96 hours. This task had previously taken 2 weeks to accomplish using a combination of men, horses and mules. On another heroic mission, a sled dog team was able to lay over 18 miles of field telephone wire in a single night, which allowed an isolated unit to communicate with headquarters again. Even with the winter snow gone, the dogs still continued their supply missions. In the spring and summer they would be hitched to narrow gauge railway cars so they could continue transporting supplies and ammunition.
Three of these hero war dogs received the Croix de Guerre, one of Frances highest military honors, for their actions in combat. All of the dogs that worked with the French in Europe were awarded a life of leisure at wars end for the heroic and admirable service they provided their adopted country.
In Northern Russia and Siberia, the British Army also employed the use of sled dog teams with Canadian Soldier-drivers. Most often they were utilized on trips to the front lines to recover wounded soldiers and bring them to the rear.
The United States is one of the few nations that did not actively use sled dogs in a combat role to conquer the harsh winter terrain during this war. However, they did maintain sled dogs for transportation in Alaska, as it had been proven that during the Alaska winter, dogs were the only reliable transportation.
WWII saw more widespread use of dog teams for pulling sleds and hauling supplies to remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. Although, no one breed was considered the best, the majority of these missions were accomplished by a mix of Alaskan Malamutes, Mackenzie River Huskies, and some Alsatians. These dogs were not limited to just freighting weapons and ammunition from point A to B. They were also used for search and rescue and served individually in various combat theatres with trained dog handlers. One Alaskan Malamute named “Tipper” served valiantly alongside his handler Marine Cpl Harold “Al” Tesch during some of the heaviest fighting at Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Primarily, however, their service was limited to Alaska, the Northeastern coast of Canada, Greenland, the Arctic Circle and in the European theatre of war. The Battle of the Bulge featured these heroic dogs transporting wounded from the front.
As versatile as they were resilient many of these dogs became accomplished parachutists and just like their human counterparts were able to earn their parachutists wings after five successful jumps. It was noted that "..once suspended under the canopy they seemed to enjoy the ride.... they wagged their tails the whole time and became extremely excited every time they were strapped into their harnesses."
Numerous dogs gave their lives during WWII, so great were the losses to Alaskan Malamutes that post war the surviving number of breeding dogs was dangerously low. This was the primary reason that the AKC choose to reopen the register, even though it was closed a short time later. Following WWII, the United States Military maintained sled dogs for search and rescue missions. The future father of the Iditarod “Joe Redington Sr.” served in post war Alaska with these heroic dogs. He used his dog teams to salvage planes that had crashed in inaccessible remote, mountainous area and to rescue the survivors or reclaim the remains of those that did not survive. From 1949-1957, he and his dog teams salvaged millions of dollars worth of aircraft equipment and rescued hundreds of stranded servicemen in these remote mountainous areas.
Today the Alaskan Malamute is one of the most popular Northern breeds of dog in the world. From humble beginnings as the barely recognized sled and freighting dog of the Mahlemiut Eskimos, it had become the official state dog of Alaska. They are shown in every state and present in nearly every civilized country of the world. They perform in the obedience ring, as service dogs to the disabled, and make excellent companions. Many are still used to fulfill their traditional role as freight and sledding dogs.
Although, they are commonly mistaken for their close relative the Siberian Husky, the larger Alaskan Malamute is the largest and oldest of the Arctic sled dogs. A powerful, well muscled and substantially built dog with great strength and endurance, the Alaskan Malamute is built, not for racing but to haul large loads over long distances. Centuries of natural selection and breeding for purpose combined to create the Alaskan Malamute; a heavily boned dog, with sound legs, a deep chest, powerful shoulders and all of the physical attributes necessary for the efficient performance of its job.
A large dog, the ideal freighting size for males is to stand 25 inches at the withers and weigh 85 pounds; females, 23 inches at the withers, 75 pounds. In judging the quality of a specimen more consideration should be given to type, proportion, movement and other functional attributes than to size. If two dogs appear equal in all other attributes then the one that is the closest to the ideal freighting size is to be preferred. Longer than it is tall, the height of the body from the ground to the top of the shoulders should not exceed the length from point of shoulder to point of pelvis.
The large, broad, deep head should be in proportion to the size of the dog. The skull should be moderately rounded between the ears, while narrowing and leveling out as it approaches the tops of the eyes, finally rounding off with moderately flat cheeks. There should also be a slight furrow (valley) between the eyes. The muzzle is large and bulky in proportion to the size of the skull, wider at the base, the muzzle tapers slightly in width and depth as it reaches the nose. The color of the nose, lips and eye rims in all coat colors except red is to be black. A lighter streaked “snow nose” is acceptable. The lips should also be tight and close fitting. The upper and lower jaws are powerful, broad and have large teeth that meet in a scissors bite.
The medium sized, almond shaped eyes are obliquely placed (outer eye corners higher than their inner ones ) in the skull giving the dog a wolf like appearance when viewed from the front. The overall expression of the dog should be soft and indicate a warm, affectionate disposition. The preferred eye color is brown, with blue eyes being a disqualifying fault. The medium sized, triangular shaped ears with slightly rounded tips are set wide apart on the outside back edges of the skull online with the upper corner of the eyes. This gives the ears the appearance of standing off from the skull when erect. Small in proportion to the head, when relaxed the ears should point slightly forward, but when working, the ears are sometimes folded back against the skull.
The strong neck should have a moderate arch. The deep well developed chest should be approximately one half the height of the dog at the shoulders, with the deepest point lying just behind the forelegs. The back should be straight while gently sloping to the hips. The compact loins are hard and well muscled. The moderately set longish tail should be an extension of the spine and carried over the back when not working. It should not be curled tightly over the back as with an Akita, nor should it be short furred like a fox brush. Malamutes are well known for their well furred, waving plume tails.
The well muscled shoulders slope moderately leading to heavily boned, well muscled forelegs with short, strong and slightly sloping pasterns. When viewed from the front, the forelegs are straight to the pasterns. When viewed from the side, there is a slight slope to the pasterns. The large snowshoe like feet are well cushioned giving a sound, firm and compact appearance. The toes are tight fitting and well arched, with a protective growth of hair between the toes. The pads of the feet are thick, rugged and tough and suit this dog well in its role as a freighting animal. The powerful rear legs are heavily muscled through the thighs; stifles moderately bent; well let down and moderately bent hock joints. When viewed from the rear, the legs should move on line with the movement of the corresponding front leg of the same side, not throwing inwards or outwards. An agile dog for its size and build, the gait of an Alaskan Malamute should be light, steady, balanced and powerful. Above all, the legs of the Malamute must be indicative of its unusual strength and tremendous propelling power, while providing an efficient and tireless gate.
Like all Spitz type or Arctic breeds, the Alaskan Malmaute has a thick double coat with coarse, dense outer guard hairs and a wooly, thick undercoat. Providing excellent insulation from the elements, the dense, oily undercoat ranges from one to two inches in depth. Relatively short to medium in length along the sides of the body, the outer coat is longer around the shoulders and neck forming a pronounced ruff. Longer hair is also present down the back, over the rump and in the breeching and plume. However, the coat is seasonal and will tend to be shorter and less dense during the summer months.
Coat coloration will vary from wolf gray through the intermediate shadings to black, sable, and shadings of sable to red. All white dogs are the only acceptable solid color. For every color combination white coloration should dominate the underbody, parts of the legs, feet and form the predominant markings of the face. White blazing of the forehead and/or collar or white spotting on the nape of the neck is attractive and acceptable. The Alaskan Malamute is mantled, meaning the coat consists of a white background with a second color covering the body, part of the neck, head, tail and legs in the same way as a mantle or blanket would. Uneven coloration, broken colors, splashing or splotching over the body is undesirable.
The Alaskan Malamute is known for its friendly and affectionate nature towards humans. This is a breed that has never met a stranger, tending to greet everyone it comes in contact with as a long lost friend. The Alaskan Malamutes gregarious nature means that they do not make good guard dogs, although their large size and wolf like appearance can be intimidating to strangers. Their friendly and affectionate nature towards all humans also means that they are not considered as a “one man” type of dog.
Another reason that they tend to make poor guard or watchdogs is that Malamutes are considered to be quiet dogs that seldom bark in the traditional sense. However, they can be rather vocal in expressing emotions such as happiness, fear, loneliness or excitement. Emotions such as these are typically communicated with a wide variety of low volume snorts, yips, rumbles, whoo-whoo’s, growls, and howls. There is, however, no 100% rule as a small minority of Malamutes will bark.
Alaskan Malamutes, like the Akita, also tend to be “mouthy” dogs, in that they enjoy carrying things around in their mouths; this may include items such as your wrist. This is not an aggressive act, nor is it intended to do harm and is generally an endearing trait. The dog may take your wrist to lead you to the cookie jar or to their leash if they anticipate going for a walk. This is an instinctive behavior and may be hard to break.
Malamutes are intelligent dogs with incredibly keen memories; a trait that served them well and made them invaluable at following barely visible or totally invisible trails in the harsh arctic climate of Alaska. This tendency to never forget means that great care should be taken during the initial training of the dog. Overly harsh correction can permanently destroy the trust between an Alaskan Malamute and the person giving the correction. Another by-product of this natural intelligence is that Alaskan Malamutes can be incredibly independent; tending to think for themselves with a tendancy to try and test the boundaries to see what it can get away with.
It is imperative that the owner be consistent and firm with training while assuming a strong role as the “leader” or “alpha” in the dog’s life. If the owner is non assertive or a push over and fails to position themselves as a dominant leadership figure in the dogs life, the dog will assume the “alpha” role and rule the home. Alaskan Malamutes that have been allowed to assume the role as “alpha” may act aggressively towards members of the family. These bouts of aggression are intended to keep subordinate pack members (the humans) in check and in their rightful place below him in the pack hierarchy. Dogs that have assumed this role can be difficult to dethrone and may require professional training, rehabilitation or removal to a different household with new humans that are more assertive pack leaders. Clumsy or half hearted attempts by owners to establish themselves as ‘alpha' will tend to be met with amusement, boredom or hostility.
Alaskan Malamutes also tend to learn fast and bore easily, so training sessions need to be kept short, varied, and mentally stimulating. Unlike some breeds that will happily complete the same task over and over again, Alaskan Malamutes may simply stop cooperating, or move on to doing something they find more amusing. Often times this breed is described as bright, but stubborn. This is another reason that structured training for this breed should begin early. With Alaskan Malamutes, positive reinforcement, treats and rewards will achieve much better results than harsh correction and force. Alaskan Malamutes tend to benefit the most from long-term training, provided the owners keep it interesting.
Starting from puppyhood, the rules, boundaries and limitations need to be clearly stated and enforced with firm but positive correction. Commitment and determination are prerequisites for training this headstrong breed; whose ancestors were created to have the inbred determination necessary to push on through the sleet, snow, ice and impossible storms of the arctic north. Such inbred determination is not something that can be turned on and off at the owners request. It should be understood that Alaskan Malamutes can be guided into what you want them to do but they cannot be pushed there.
Those experienced with the breed understand that although the Alaskan Malamute understands and learns tasks very quickly; it may be some time before the dog chooses to comply. As an independent thinker, if they feel what you are asking of them makes no sense or they do not see the purpose in it; they will generally take their time before giving in or may choose to not give in at all. Training should be combined with or geared towards sports for which they naturally excel such as recreational sledding (mushing), skijoring, bikejoring and canicross. It is important to remember that Alaskan Malamutes were bred for centuries to be sled dogs, not to perform monotonous tasks in obedience classes. By working with the breed in a way that suits its purpose, amazing results can be achieved. Many Alaskan Malamutes have gone on to lead successful careers in Agility, Search & Rescue, and as Therapy Dogs.
As an intelligent breed of dog, Alaskan Malamutes need something to keep their mind occupied or behavioral problems associated with boredom are prone to develop. These problems are generally destructive in nature and can include wrecking the inside of the home by chewing on or tearing at furniture and blinds, digging at the carpets, chewing on walls and fixtures etc. As a pack anima, they have a desire to be with the family (the pack); leaving them alone outside for prolonged periods of time or having a yard dog creates stress, anxiety and boredom that generally results in the destruction of gardens and the yard by digging. For Alaskan Malamutes digging is natural; digging for fun and digging holes to lie in and keep cool. Some Alaskan Malamutes will dig more than others. If your Alaskan Malamute is a digger, it’s generally best to try and encourage them to only use a particular area for digging and just give up on having grass or plants there as this behavior can be nearly impossible to break. This can be done by burying treats in their favorite spot and discouraging them from digging elsewhere through correction. Most importantly, keep their life interesting and entertaining by providing plenty of social interaction, exercise and play to cut down on behaviors that humans view as destructive. Alaskan Malamutes were bred to be untiring and inexhaustible workers, as such they require daily exercise. Individuals that are unwilling or unable to provide exercise, interaction and the firm-but-fair discipline that the Alaskan Malamute requires should look for a less demanding breed of dog.
Alaskan Malamutes are known to be very patient with children, but like all large breeds play should be carefully monitored to prevent an over boisterous dog from toppling smaller children.
As a pack animal that was bred to work as part of a team, Malamutes tend to get along with other dogs quite well. As with all dogs, socialization should begin early, in order to expose them to new things, other dogs and other species. Dogs that have not been properly socialized may have dominance issues with other dogs of the same sex. If challenged by another dog, Alaskan Malamutes will fight back. Although, rarely will they kill or seriously injure another dog as they are content to stop once the other dog submits to its authority.
Like many Spitz type breeds, Malamutes can be a threat to livestock. A breed formed through natural selection. Its ancestors were in many cases forced to hunt, forage and compete for food in order to survive. This left today’s Malamutes with a predatory streak, that if allowed to run free in rural areas, will probably hunt and kill livestock and other animals. In the urban setting Malamutes tend hunt other animals, such as cats, rabbits, and squirrels. If socialized between 6 and 12 weeks of age with specific individuals of other species, Malamutes can learn to accept them as members of the pack. This however will not stop them from hunting and attacking other members of the same species encountered outside the home. For example: Your Malamute may get along well with Tinker the family cat; whom the dog was raised with since a puppy but may attack and kill the neighbor’s cat if given the chance. As such, this breed is not recommended for homes that already have small animals in them. The urge to hunt, is in many cases to strong for a Malamute to resist. Malamutes are known for a cat like style of hunting; quiet and stealthy, they keep low to the ground while stalking their prey before finally pouncing on it. Individuals that are not prepared to deal firmly and calmly with a dog that possesses this need to hunt should not own a Malamute.
Alaskan Malamutes are typically clean dogs that do not have the “doggy odor”. This breed is known for grooming themselves in cat-like fashion to remove dirt or mud from themselves. The Alaskan Malamute does however, have a thick double coat of fur: a thick, dense, soft undercoat and a coarse longer outer topcoat, some grooming and ritual brushing is going to be required if you plan on letting them live in the house. The undercoat will shed or “blow out” annually and for females this may happen twice a year. For dogs living in warmer climates there is a tendency to shed year-round. Caring for your Alaskan Malamute will require that you put up with plenty of dog hair on the furniture and carpet, and floating through the air during these shedding sessions that can last three weeks or more. You can reduce the loose hair you find with regular brushing and grooming sessions during these times.
Although, the Alaskan Malamute has been around for centuries and has had the benefit of a widely diversified gene pool it is has been reported to suffer from a variety of congenital health problems. This may or may not be attributed to the narrowing of its genetic lines during the breeds near destruction of the 1920’s and following WWII and the controlled breeding process that followed to restore it. Some conditions are rare, others are more frequently seen and not all are hereditary. The severity to which they affect a dog may also vary greatly from one animal to the next. All can be serious and every Alaskan Malamute owner and prospective buyer should be aware of them. It is also imperative that breeders of these dogs are subjecting their breeding pairs to genetic testing for underlying medical conditions and are able to provide proper supporting documentation such as hip dysplasia certification, Canine Eye Registration Foundation (Cerf) certification and chondrodysplasia certification.
To date, the following conditions have been reported in Malamutes:
A study conducted by J.M. Fleming, K.E. Creevy, and D.E.L. Promislow; titled “Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age-, Size-, and Breed-Related Causes of Death” listed the following as the primary causes of death among Alaskan Malamutes: