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Often mistaken for the Husky, The Alaskan Malamute is larger than most of its other 'Spitz' type dogs. Bred to withstand the harsh Northern climates and weather, this dog is both hardy and beautiful
The Malamute is thought to be a descendant of dogs of the Mahlemut people of Alaska. These dogs relied upon the Mahlemeut and vice versa allowing both to thrive in the inhospitable climate and terrain of these frozen lands.
For a time during the 1890's Gold Rush, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were frequently crossbred with imported breeds. Similar to the Husky, recent DNA analysis shows that Malamutes are one of the oldest breeds of dog, (along with another 13 breeds of dog described as 'ancient breeds'). This means in essence, that these breeds have the fewest differences, at a genetic or phenotype level (the physical traits influenced by environment), from wolves. This does not mean they are wolves or any type of wolf-dog hybrid (as all breeds of dog from the smallest to the largest share DNA with wolves) more that the physical make up of them is simply the best solution to the problem of Arctic conditions, similar to wolf habitats. The Siberian Husky, along with some other northern breeds, did not evolve very much past that phenotype, as other physical traits would not help survive the weather.
The Malamute dog has had a distinguished history, serving in the World Wars as a search and rescue dog as well as pulling sleds for supplies. And has recently been elevated to the status of the 'Official Dog of Alaska'.
Average height to withers: Around 25 inches for males and 23 inches for females
Average weight: Up to 45 kg for males and 34 kg for females
Like all Spitz type dogs, the Malamute has a dense double coat, with a hardy outer layer of hairs and soft, woolly and oily layer of under hairs which can be as thick as thick as two inches.
This breeds ears are small and stand erect, especially when the dog is alert. It may have either brown or blue eyes or a combination of the two, although the darker eye is preferred by breeders as it is thought that a purebred Malamute should never have a blue eye. The eyes are almond shaped. The muzzle is deep and broad, tapering slightly from the skull to the nose. Nose and gums are black but some Malamutes have a snow nose which is black with a pink undertone that can get darker or lighter, depending upon the season
The Alaskan Malamute is a heavy and large dog and was bred for stamina and endurance, rather than the speed for which the Husky was bred for.
The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white with varied markings. There are a wide range of markings. Some Malamutes exhibit a dark grey to buff colored undertone around their trimmings and white areas; presenting with a color-linked gene known as 'Agouti'. The tail very well furred is carried over the back and is used to keep the face and nose warm while sleeping.
The Alaskan Malamute is still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight and also recreational sledding (mushing).
Most Malamutes today are kept as family pets and provided their physical and behavioural requirements are met there is no reason why they should not fit into a family lifestyle. The Malamute has retained its independence and respect a strong owner and leader. With that in mind, they are probably more suited to experienced owners, preferably ones who have experience of this type of dog.
It was bred to be independent and self reliant with a natural intelligence. To succeed with a Malamute the person training it must have an understanding of its background and its requirements and motivation otherwise you will have a struggle on your hands.
Some Malamutes can show a tendency to have a heightened prey drive ,so while Malamutes are, as a general rule, amiable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be observant around smaller animals and children
Malamutes are quite fond of people and for their size, they are aware and alert to their surroundings like household furniture, making them a reasonable choice for a pet provided the owner has the time to spend training, socilaising and time to spend with the dog. They need a considerable amount of exercise and will not be able to tolerate a household which is not able to provide this.
While there is not an excess of information about the general health of Malamutes, they can live healthy lives up to the age of 11-12 years old.
This breed can suffer more than other breeds from Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia (HD) can affect all breeds of dog but is more prevalent in some breeds than others. It is caused by the abnormal formation of the hip ball and socket joint. Normally the ball would form a pivot point in the socket; however, some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition for HD. This means that at birth their hips are normal but as they grow, the hip joint does not grow correctly and as a result the ball no longer fits as it should. After the age of a year or so, the owner can opt to have their dog 'hip scored'. Hip scoring is a method used by vets to determine the degree of HD in dogs and involves the vet assessing a number of criteria during a diagnostic examination. If the dog is then found to have a high probability of HD, remedial action can be taken.
Eye issues are a relatively frequent occurrence so regular eye examinations are a must and the owner needs to be aware that the Malamute can suffer from Cataracts on a more regular basis than other Spitz type breeds of dog.
If you do not like an excess of dog hair in the house then this breed probably isn't for you! Malamutes shed more or less year round, peaking in spring. As such regular grooming is a must and will demand a lot of your time. Another time investment in the Malamutes with the amount of walking and exercising you will need to do, making it a good choice for active and experienced, people.