They are beautiful creatures, valued by dog lovers for their resemblance to wolves and frequently mistaken by others as Huskies. What is this breed, you ask?
Alaskan Malamutes were bred as the original sled dog, to help pull and freight objects, and have a long and fascinating history from ancient times to modern periods, nearly escaping extinction in the 30s and made a remarkable comeback.
Here in this article contains everything you need to know about the breed’s compelling story. Perhaps you may find a reason to justify getting one as a pet, as well! Read on…
What Were Alaskan Malamutes Originally Bred For?
Alaskan Malamutes, as their name and appearance heavily suggest, were originally raised and bred by early humans as the original sled dog.
They were bred to survive the extreme terrain and brave the elements of the cold climate they originate from, as working and hunting dogs.
Regarding work, we’ve all seen the famous image of a sled dog or a dozen for which was their primary job, all of which most certainly feature a malamute at play. As hunting dogs, they were even used to hunt down polar bears!
Their propensity to work is affirmed by their muscular build as well as dense fur coating, which suggests their willingness to work under harsh cold conditions.
Ancient History of the Alaskan Malamute
This dog has a long history, when it was believed that the first malamutes and their eskimo owners settled in the arctic 4500 years ago.
Since Malamutes have recently been discovered to have a close genetic link with Huskies, it is believed that their ancestors hailed from Eastern Asia before they crossed the landbridge in paleolithic times.
They were basal breeds (compare this to modern breeds), meaning they were bred for a singular purpose in contrast as a multipurpose family pet. Truly, their breed was meant to work alongside humans since ancient times.
Aside from sledding, hunting bears, malamutes were more likely to be used to hunt for seals by finding seal blowholes.
Modern History of the Alaskan Malamute
During the Klondike Goldrush, the breed saw a huge boost in demand as aspiring miners sought the breed for its hardiness and helpfulness, and crossbred it with many other breeds.
After thousands of years of survival and serving their masters, the Alaskan Malamute was only officially recognized by the AKC in 1935. Part of the difficulty lay in being unable to identify which dogs were purebred.
To make things worse, a dramatic turn for the breed occurred during the second World War when the breed nearly saw extinction as a result of serving alongside allied forces as search and rescue dogs.
Other notable accomplishments, in addition to serving as Goldrush and rescue dogs during the war include serving alongside Richard Byrd on his expedition to the South Pole.
Natural Instincts and Impulses of the Breed
Since the malamute has a long genetic history of being raised and acclimated to the harsh cold of its native habitat, its behaviors have understandably evolved to correspond as such.
This means that personality-wise, the breed has a strong sense of independence, as well as intelligence and resourcefulness passed down from its ancestors who needed such qualities to survive.
Some drawbacks of this become obvious through the breed’s constant howling and chewing if they become bored. Some destructive protests have resulted in stuffing ripped out of furniture and massive craters dug in backyards. Oh, and they can escape short fences, too.
Be wary that malamutes, like most dogs, harbor aggression towards dogs of the same sex. They have a tendency to chase out cats, deer and other livestock, and if unchecked can bring serious injury or death to these animals.
The dog may have predatory instincts towards smaller pets, too. As a caution, it’s best not to have smaller pets within accessible distance of a malamute.
Because of this, Alaskan malamutes are understandably a breed best suited for those who love the outdoors, particularly in the cold northern regions as they aren’t suited for hot weather.
An interesting side note: in 2018, researchers from the University of Washington attempted to use motion capturing technology to record and predict the behavior of Alaskan Malamutes. While the usage of the software is limited, it has so far predicted certain terrain surfaces the dog would avoid. (source: NBCnews.com)
What Are Alaskan Malamutes Bred for Today?
Today Alaskan Malamutes are unsurprisingly still bred as sled dogs, for recreational sledding known as “mushing” or as working dogs who help with moving light objects, but the majority are bred to be happy, joyful companions for their human owners.
They are also bred to be show or performance dogs. Their feats are primarily concerned with weight pulling, packing things or agility, which a quick pull of any youtube video would reveal are quite amusing to watch.
How Does Breeding Affect Your Alaskan Malamute Today?
Genetically, the breed is a cousin to the other wolf-resembling breeds in other hemispheres, such as the Russian Samoyed and Siberian Husky of Asia.
Since malamutes have been historically bred to keep its more active, cold-weather habits in check, you may be interested in certain crossbreeds to mitigate those behaviors if you wish, while still keeping its familiar wolvish appearance and friendly temperament intact.
How to Help Your Alaskan Malamute be Used to Today’s Dog Society
If your malamute is acting strangely agitated or even downright inappropriate towards other dogs at the neighborhood park or outdoors, it may possibly be because the dog hadn’t been properly socialized during birth.
Socializing is when your dog is introduced to doggy etiquette of other dogs and gets to learn implicitly through play and interaction the boundaries and rules of the pack. This includes learning acceptable behavior as well as proper methods to express discontent with other puppies.
If your dog seems too old to be taught proper socializing it’s never too late to send it to a trainer who will assist in doing so.
Why People Love to Have Alaskan Malamutes as Pets
The owners who share the strongest affinity and understanding with their malamutes are those who share a similar disposition and love for the outdoors. Their helpfulness and energy just seems to feed off and in their owners, back and forth!
The friendliness in these dogs makes them anything but hostile towards strangers and the neighborhood mailman, so while they may be wanting as watchdogs, are a fearless delight to non-family members alike.
Appearance-wise, malamutes just have an adorable wolvish appearance, whose almond-shaped eyes just appear naturally joyous to human interpretations.
Why Alaskan Malamutes are Not Bred as Service Animals
There are several reasons as to why Malamutes aren’t bred as service dogs.
Due to the temperament of this bred, of which independence was previously mentioned was a strong factor, the dog may not always be obedient to orders or demands. Even respect training may not be enough to quell this instinct entirely, and it’s not worth training the breed just for being a service dog because of this.
The malamute’s aggression is another factor considered. Because of its high prey drive, it will want to instinctively capture and hold an animal within its jaws, and harming other animals or potentially other dogs is unacceptable for service dogs.
Finally, malamutes shed A lot. This can mean a nightmare for any passers-by with allergies.
They like to “blow” their coat, which, much to chagrin of its handlers, will leave a mess of fur and hairs that will regularly need to be swept and vacuumed, which may end up providing more work than the service dog helps with!
While potentially great pets, other breeds such as retrievers, German Shepards, standard poodles, and collies can be much better alternatives as service animals.