The Alaskan Malamute

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An Alaskan Malamutes relationship with humans is built on trust. They are family. This working breed are independent thinkers, highly intelligent, physically strong, and can be so animated while expressing themselves such as making demands, lol. Malamutes were bred to hunt, pull sleds, live with their family, and protect their family. While they are typically not good watchdogs, some are known to be weary of strangers and guard their home. It is important to know how to read their dog body language, listen, and act accordingly.

How to Read Dog Body Language

 

 

Typical Natural Characteristics

  • Malamutes have natural predatory behavior which means they enjoy chasing critters (cats, squirrels, deer, chipmunks, and even small dogs, etc.)

  • Some but not all Malamutes can live in a home with a cat.

  • Most Malamutes need to know "what's in it for me?" They are independent thinkers and excellent negotiators, so it is important to be consistent.

  • When training, we like to offer a choice to collaborate with us by making them an offer (super delicious treat) they can't refuse. IF they refuse, we do not push the matter, instead we investigate and address "why?" or increase the value of the treat. They deserve hazard pay when training not to chase squirrels. 

  • Keep training brief (2-3 minutes) with breaks and a variety of yummy treats. Training should be rewarding like playing a fun game.

  • They are a working breed born to pull sleds, enjoy hiking and dog sports.

  • They require mental stimulation (enrichment) to prevent boredom.

  • If bored, they will find their own fun such as chew wood furniture, destroy pillows, dig a hole in your bed mattress or flower bed, and chew on leather sofas. 

  • Some like to dig to keep themselves cool or because it is fun. Give them a designated area with fun objects and natural chews to encourage them to dig here. 

  • They have a double coat of hair and shed year-round.

  • Malamutes typically do not appreciate being grabbed by the collar or strangers leaning over them. It is important to treat each as an individual and be respectful. 

  • Same-sex aggression is common and may develop around 2 years old. 

  • Malamutes will let you know exactly how they feel! It is critical to learn how to read their dog body language.

  • Malamutes love to jump on the bed, sofa, or picnic table to view the world from a vantage point. Alternatively, you can use a Kuranda bed and put a dog bed on top.

  • Malamutes are family and expect to be treated with respect and included in your daily life activities. For example, napping on the sofa while you watch TV, or to hang out with you while you garden or cook in the kitchen.  

  • Rewards based (treats, toys, praise) positive reinforcement works best for the majestic breed. They will want to collaborate with you because good things happen when they choose you!

Admittingly, it is easy to look past a Malamute's incredibly fluffy adorable face to pause and to read their body language. Are they excited, stressed, or both? Either way, they look so darn cute! Please look out for ears pulled back, head looking away, tail down, dilated whale eye, freeze, lip lick, or nervous zoomies because they are communicating that they are not comfortable and need "space" to diffuse the situation. While dogs, in general, are quite forgiving, Malamutes are known to escalate their feelings by expressing themselves quickly with a growl, air snap, or worse a bite. They are simply communicating to us that they are stressed, frustrated, or fearful. 

 

Generally speaking, it is best not to grab a Malamute by their collar, physically restrain (hugged), stare at them or get in their face, or pat them on their heads. Some may learn to tolerate or accept this with their pet parents. Prevention is best until you have time to "know" your dog and build trust. Each Malamute is a unique individual influenced by genetics, experience while in their mother's womb, socialization during puppyhood, health, and experiences. Some dogs feel threatened when being stared at by strangers, camera, or a phone. Some Malamutes are super friendly and affectionate, and some prefer their family over strangers or are picky about who they meet. Do you like everyone you meet?  Are you a hugger or do you like people to respect your "space"? Always give your dog a choice to walk away or say hello at a distance.

This stoic working breed requires mental stimulation, routine, enrichment, nap time, and exercise, especially when they are puppies and teenagers. Some are known to be reactive with other dogs most likely due to fear, lack of confidence, and/or lack of proper socialization. Be thankful for a growl, which is a warning.

 

Malamute puppies may experience growing pains (growing too fast) and become sensitive to touch. Sometimes their raging hormones need more mental enrichment or chewing to help release their stress. As they age, they may experience arthritis and need pain management. We recommend giving Malamutes Glucosamine Chondroitin supplements as young as puppies to help build a solid sturdy foundation. 

 

In a new environment even a potty-trained Malamute will need help learning where it is appropriate to go potty. Some may have accidents inside the house due to stress or anxiety. They are not doing this on purpose. Imagine being so afraid that you loose control of your bladder. Therefore, it is so important to "listen" and observe their behavior. Stress can also affect their tummies. Decompression is so important.

Positive reinforcement (R+) rewards-based training works the best for Mals because they are given a choice to collaborate with you and are rewarded. Make them an offer their taste buds cannot refuse, and you will have their attention! We have used R+ to teach Mals not to chase squirrels, deer, etc. It takes time to change natural behavior, but it can be done! Training builds confidence and a strong bond with their human. If good things happen whenever they collaborate with you, then they will most likely choose you. They feel good and safe with you!

 

If you choose to adopt from CHAAMP, we require a commitment from you and your family to learn R+ and practice it during training and communication with your Malamute.

Rescues have been let down enough by humans,

let's learn together and make their world a better place!

 

Learn more about the Alaskan Malamute:


https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/alaskan-malamute#/slide/1

https://showdogprepschool.com/positive-reinforcement-training-does-it-work-for-the-working-group/

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