Sledog Alaskan Malamutes and Greenland Dogs

 

The Alaskan Malamute is a direct descendant of the Northern or Arctic Wolf and is the largest and most imposing of the UK Kennel Club recognised sled dog breeds. A dog should typically stand 25–28 ins (64–71 cm) and a bitch 23–26 ins (58–66 cm) at the withers with their weight ranging from 85–125 lbs. (38–56 kgs).

Originally used by the Mahlemut indigenous tribes of Alaska, from where their name is derived, they were predominantly used as a freighting dog capable of hauling substantially loaded sleds over considerable distances, for long periods at a time. They could be referred to as the Shire horse of sled dogs.

The owner of an Alaskan Malamute today must be both patient and determined when training, particularly in the early months of a dog’s life, but will find the rewards wholly worthwhile. They are an independent and dominant breed and will challenge their owner so training must be persistent, patient and consistent in correcting the dog throughout it’s adolescence and into it’s maturity at around 3 years of age. This is essential for a dog of this size possessing immense power and strength. 

The Alaskan Malamute is not a ‘one man dog’ showing no particular loyalty to a family member and also does not make for a good guard dog. Although their size and appearance could deter any potential burglar, they should not show aggression towards people. Their dominance however is more apparent with other dogs of the same sex; they may not start any trouble but they also may not back down.

The Alaskan Malamute has a waterproof double coat consisting of a dense, oily and woolly undercoat and a thick coarse guard coat. The double coat traps air close to the dog’s body thus keeping it warm with it’s own body heat in sub zero temperatures. The coat should be regularly groomed to be kept in good condition and this should start from a young age to get a puppy used to it. The coat should be brushed vigorously using either a strong pin brush or a slicker brush against the natural lay of the coat first which enables the brush to reach both coats down to the skin. The coat should then be brushed in the natural direction to finish off. Normally twice a year, the dog will shed it’s woolly undercoat and a rake should be used to remove this dead hair quickly and effectively. This coat shedding will last for around 2 to 3 weeks and bathing the dog at this time can also help, although they are not a breed that needs to be bathed regularly. The quicker the dead hair is removed, the quicker the new undercoat can grow back. The dog’s nails will also need to be trimmed from time to time and the occasional trimming of the hair around the feet may be necessary but the Alaskan Malamute is a natural breed which on no account should have it’s coat trimmed or clipped.

With this coat, which is common to all Nordic dogs, the Alaskan Malamute is equally happy to live inside or outside. However, this decision should be made at a very young age so that the dog can get used to it’s new home, as they will not take kindly to having to change this routine once it is established. Should the decision be made for the dog to live outside, adequate shelter from the elements should be provided to avoid suffering discomfort in the wind and rain, or from heat stroke. Regardless of where they are living, they must have sufficient stimulation to keep them occupied. They are a highly intelligent yet stubborn breed which not only makes them a challenge to train, but also they can become easily bored. This could lead them to become destructive, take to digging or excessive howling. They may of course do any of these to challenge the owner from time to time which must be swiftly and consistently corrected to show the dog who is in charge. They are a pack animal and will respect a hierarchy once it is established.

It is very important that a mature Alaskan Malamute is exercised every day. It is equally important however that a young puppy is not over exercised as the breed’s heavy bone structure can be irreparably damaged by doing this. Instead, a puppy’s exercise should be built up slowly and steadily for as little as 10 minutes each day for one around 3 months of age, as they are already using up considerable levels of energy in play. In the same manner, it is vital not to under feed a puppy as it is this large intake of food at an early age that helps them develop their bone structure. You can always take excess weight off a puppy at a later stage but can never put bone on if it is not there.

STUART WINTERTON © 2003

 
 
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