Alaskan Malamutes are a well-known breed of sled dog and as such, owners can often assume their hard-working nature will make them perfect for service dogs. While Malamutes are strong and active dogs that love to busy themselves with a job, sled work is very different from being a guard or rescue dog and these often require skills and personality traits that don’t always come naturally to Alaskan Malamutes.
So can Alaskan Malamutes make good service dogs? Due to their high prey mentality and slight aggression, they are not the breed that jumps to mind as being naturally suited to the service dog role like Labradors or Golden Retrievers etc, but Alaskan Malamutes may be able to perform certain duties if they are trained well. The best type of service dogs are normally raised this way from an early age by organizations and dedicated dog trainers, so owners of Alaskan Malamutes need to be aware of the patience and perseverance it takes to turn their Malamute into an obedient service dog.
To find out more about what it will take to train your Alaskan Malamute as a service dog and what to expect, read on through the following guide. Taking on this training task won’t be for everyone, but your Alaskan Malamute has many traits that can make him useful in certain areas, so it’s all about how hard you’re willing to work to bring the best out of them.
Alaskan Malamutes as Service Dogs
Alaskan Malamutes are rarely used as service or police dogs because of their independent and slightly disobedient nature. Once they pick up a certain habit such as biting, for example, then it is often difficult to train them to stop compared with other breeds. This trait makes them highly unreliable as guide dogs for the blind, for instance, since they are likely to go their own sweet way rather than obey their commands and prior training.
What Kind of Service Do Alaskan Malamutes Perform?
While their aggressive tendencies and strong will make them unsuited to many of the services other breeds can provide, Alaskan Malamutes can perform practical services as sled dogs and can be trained to put their sledding skills to other uses (more on this below). Aside from using their physical strength to aid owners in yard work and other tasks, Malamutes can also perform well as assistance dogs in a small capacity, specifically in providing joy and comfort to owners with mental health issues.
They can provide great joy to older kids and adults struggling with anxiety disorders and can be a calming effect on people with autism. Overall, they provide wonderful companions but are limited in many service dog skills.
Service Needs Alaskan Malamutes Can Meet
If you play to their strengths of being kind natured and affectionate, well trained Alaskan Malamutes can provide great joy in the following ways:
- Emotional support for mentally ill patients
- Therapy dogs for hospital patients in recovery
- Emotional support for cancer/terminally ill patients
- Therapy dog for schools and children’s care facilities
- Emotional support animal for anxious travelers
- Emotional support for children and adults with autism, anxiety, and depression
They can also provide great practical services for owners by:
- Helping owners lose weight and stay active (like your own fluffy personal trainer!)
- Keeping kids and families fit and healthy
- Learning to pull which can open up many avenues from weight pulling, carting, and racing just for fun or packing, so that your dog can assist you on long hiking trails and backpacking adventures by sharing a little of the load and offering you some great companionship.
Service Traits of Alaskan Malamutes
You can see from many of the following traits that raising your Alaskan Malamute to be a service dog will not be an easy task, but they also have many good points that can make them helpful in other ways. Their playful, affectionate temperament, for example, makes them a great choice for providing therapeutic services, but their friendly nature can be a setback if you’re hoping for a guard dog!
- Strong with great stamina
- Highly active
- Bold and playful
- Independent thinker
- Very sociable
- High-prey instincts
- Likely to attack small animals (not suited to retrieval)
- Large imposing appearance (may deter trespassers)
- Great with families
Alaskan Malamutes as Emotional/Therapy Support Animals
As above mentioned, one service Alaskan Malamutes may be best suited to is in the role of an emotional support or therapy animal. Their affectionate, loving nature can make them ideal for those struggling with mental health issues, as they love nothing more than a cuddle and can be very gentle if they are socialized well from an early age.
Though they can be a little wary of strangers at first, Malamutes can be trained to provide emotional comfort and joy for patients in care environments such as hospitals and health care facilities. Their large size can often make it difficult to be used as support animals on planes and narrow forms of public transport, but there is no reason to suggest Alaskan Malamutes cannot serve as comfort and support providers for those with mental health conditions.
Alaskan Malamutes as Service Dogs Are Not for Everyone
Because they require a lot of patience and thorough training to become service dogs, Alaskan Malamutes are not every owner’s first choice – nor can they be considered a suitable choice for the people who would require their services either. Because of their large size and enthusiasm, they will not be suitable around very young children or the elderly, as they could risk injuring them if they get excitable and knock them over!
The sheer size of fully grown Malamutes (around 25 inches at shoulder height!), they aren’t well suited to going on narrow buses, trains or even down the grocery aisle like most helper dogs. In addition to their presence and independent nature, Malamutes have a tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs and strangers and their high prey drive means that they cannot be trusted around small animals such as rabbits, so other family pets can be at risk when they’re around.
Training Alaskan Malamutes as Service Dogs
For any hopes of successfully rearing a service dog, your Alaskan Malamute will need to be trained from a very young age to help quash some of their more negative traits. They have natural bad habits of biting, barking and digging (which has led to some Malamutes digging an escape route by the backyard fence!). Fortunately, these can be eradicated if you work quickly – the first 6 months are key when it comes to training them out of these bad habits and instilling obedience, though instilling respect is far more important (more on this below).
For this reason, you should ensure you choose a Malamute puppy from a trusted breeder (this is not the kind of dog you buy on a whim!). The more information the breeder can give you about their parents, health history and genetics etc, the more prepared you can be in terms of their temperament and good or bad traits. And to create an obedient service dog of any kind, your Malamute must be trained to respect you before all else, because if they don’t respect their owner they will become more dominant and reckless to the point that they begin to own you!
If training them from scratch seems too daunting a task, adopting an Alaskan Malamute as an adult from a trusted animal shelter can mean a lot of these negative traits have already been worked on and improved – though this isn’t always a guarantee. Second owners may believe they can ‘fix’ bad behaviors, but this is rarely the case without hard work and patience. If you are serious about training your Alaskan Malamute to become a service or therapy dog, contact your local service dog program. These can provide guidance and advice from expert dog trainers about where you can start in training up your Malamute puppy.