When breeding Alaskan Malamutes, one has to understand how to deal with this ancient breed. While many dog breeds are plagued with modern medical conditions, an Alaskan Malamute breeder needs to deal with a breed that’s closely related to ancient wild dogs.
So for those asking how to breed Alaskan Malamutes ethically, I would say socialization, training, and a lot of exercise are all required in order to breed and raise a healthy bloodline.
Background of Alaskan Malamute Breeding
The Alaskan Malamute is one of the few existing dogs that still looks like its 4,000-year-old ancestor. This is quite a feat! It is named after the nomadic tribe that bred it – the Mahlemuts.
But wait, there’s a lot more to this breed than its age!
Alaskan Malamute breeders know how ancient the breed is. In fact, the Alaskan Malamute is a basal breed. Basal breeds, in simple words, are breeds that have the most minimal genetic dilution. These are ancient breeds that have come this far without much damage or mutation to their original DNA. Alaskan Malamutes happen to be one of them.
The term “basal” itself refers to the base or the bottom of the layer. Alaskan Malamutes form the bottom-most layer of the origin of dogs as a species. They must have formed the foundation or at least contributed to the foundation of the branching out of dogs into the hundreds of breeds we have today.
As a breeder, it is important to understand the people who had a hand in breeding the first Alaskan Malamutes. Inupiaq people belong to the same tribe that Eskimos belong to (if that helps you relate more to them). The tribe originated in Alaska’s Norton Sound region – from where our furry gentle giants – the Alaskan Malamutes also came.
Alaskan Malamutes were mainly bred as sled and hunter dogs in the coldest regions. As explained earlier, the Malamute is a basal breed. It set the ball rolling for other spinoff breeds later on. In fact, a study has shown that the genes of the Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Alaskan Husky have very close similarities with each other. Their genetic makeup also matched with yet another ancient sled dog breed, the Chukchi, in the vicinity, not far from Norton Sound, on the island of Chukotka. Such is the lineage of the Alaskan Malamute with cousins scattered all across the Arctic!
Earlier confined only to the Arctic and colder regions, Alaskan Malamutes slowly but steadily gained popularity across slightly warmer parts of the world too. They make for very friendly and sweet-tempered family dogs and can also double up as guard dogs, which makes them very popular among people with large homes.
The breed is slowly adapting to slightly warmer climates, but it is only advisable to keep them in places where the climate is cold. This factor does obstruct their ability to go around the world. But thanks to movies like Eight Below and Darling Companion, they’ve managed to win hearts across the globe, even if they cannot travel.
Alaskan Malamutes are irresistible. They are gigantic balls of fluff, love, and loyalty.
They have a double coat, of which the undercoat is thick, wooly and has a somewhat oily texture. The upper coat is coarse, to protect them from extreme cold weather. Alaskan Malamutes come in shades of grey, white, red, sable and the likes. The white or black ones are sometimes preferred more. Most Alaskan Malamutes are patterned, either with splashes of contrasting shades near their necks or even a slight rim of color at their collars.
Their almond-shaped eyes are either black or different shades of brown. However, it is believed that the darker the shade of their eyes, the better. They have sharp, erect and alert ears, which are small and triangular. Their furry bushy tail is heavy and holds a lot of volume.
In some Malamutes, the tails can be slightly corkscrewy but the AKC identifies that feature as a fault. In fact, the entire dog is a lot of the heavier side. Alaskan Malamutes can easily weigh up to 45 kg.
The best physical feature on the Alaskan Malamute is probably their sharp, alert face, which starts with a broad head and tapers down, ever so slightly towards the muzzle. This gives them a pointy appearance. Some Malamutes even have a color-shifting nose – which turns lighter or darker depending on how cold or warm it is.
Attacks and Dangerousness
Alaskan Malamutes are one of the top dog breeds that are responsible for killing humans with their fatal bite. Alaskan Malamutes are considered to be a dangerous breed by many since they hail from the mountains and were originally bred to be hunters. While these furry dogs have successfully adapted to humans and have comfortably settled into the life of domestic pets, they have also contributed to the number of deaths caused by dogs.
There hasn’t been much dilution in the gene pool of the Alaskan Malamutes and so they may have retained some of that wilderness within them.
The main cause of aggression in an Alaskan Malamute is the lack of exercise. If not allowed enough space to freely roam and run, the Malamute can get very destructive. So much so, that in the past, these dogs have been known to destroy their owner’s properties and surroundings out of frustration. If not treated like they should be, Alaskan Malamutes can be very dangerous.
To avoid any mishaps, Alaskan Malamute breeders and owners should very careful of a few rules. This breed is particularly possessive about its food and so if bothered while eating (i.e. resource guarding), they can get very aggressive and may even bite. The dog also isn’t a great companion for another dog. To be at the receiving end of an Alaskan Malamute’s steadfastness and love, you must adhere to their needs fully. Training and socialization are mandatory from the youngest age!
Continuing from above, the Alaskan Malamute is a highly active breed. Malamutes were bred to survive in harsh cold weather and extreme conditions. They were brought up to be working and hunting dogs, which could hunt down polar bears, owing to their own huge size. The breed was primarily used to pull sleds and so they require their share of running and exercise. A short walk around the block or a 10-minute game of fetch doesn’t appease the appetite of this giant.
So before breeding Alaskan Malamutes or giving them away to a family, make sure that you have the basic requirement of a large area or a garden in place. Try a volley of games and activities to keep your dog busy and to help him vent his energies. From weight pulling to carting and agility, there are a lot of things you can do with your canine athlete. Make sure you feed them accordingly.
Health Concerns While Breeding Alaskan Malamutes
The average lifespan of Alaskan Malamutes ranges from 10 to 12 years. While it is a fairly healthy breed, Malamutes do tend to face the same bone and joint issues as other larger dogs do.
The breed’s lack of genetic dilution does prevent them from suffering from a lot of complex health issues, but nevertheless, there are some that they simply cannot avoid.
Probably the worst and deadliest of them all, 36% of Alaskan Malamutes are known to die of cancer! And that’s not even the worst part. Most of the cancers they suffer from occur in the later stage of their lives. The old age makes recovery very difficult and the treatment is more painful.
In some cases, the cancers can be cured by surgical removal of the tumor. Early signs of cancer in Alaskan Malamutes include:
- persistent stiffness of the body,
- unusual bleeding or discharges from various parts of the body,
- stinking odors,
- inexplicable weight loss,
- abnormal swellings or knots over the body,
- refusal to eat or difficulty in eating,
- complete loss of interest and stamina,
- incontinence, and
- an overall aura of constant fatigue.
If you see any of these symptoms or notice your dog being different from their usual self, get a test done to verify the cause before its too late.
Alaskan Malamutes are prone to a variety of musculoskeletal problems, including hip dysplasia, glycogenesis, muscular dystrophy, and osteochondrosis. Most Malamutes may have one or multiple problems together. Such structural problems usually happen due to nutritional deficiencies, since these mountain dogs are used to hunting and eating a meaty paleo-like meaty protein diet.
Glycogenesis, for example, is a disorder that is propelled due to the lack of glucose-6 phosphatase. It is largely seen in toy breeds. And, it eventually leads to low blood sugar in dogs (hypoglycemia) and can have very fatal outcomes. Muscular dystrophy is more common amongst terriers and retrievers and it seldom affects the likes of Malamutes. This disorder causes the muscles to meltdown and leads to complete loss of muscle function. Hip dysplasia is a common disorder for most large dogs, including Malamutes and German Shepherds. It is a painful disorder, which causes one of the ball sockets of the joints to be deformed. The OFA grading system is helpful to clear healthy specimens.
A lot of these disorders can be treated or alleviated by medicine or surgery, but they are recurring and can rear their ugly heads again in a few years. So as Alaskan Malamute breeders and owners, you need to be cautious at all times.
The makings of juvenile cataracts are known to be present in Alaskan Malamutes right from the time they are born (see PDF). These are inherited and simply present in both eyes. Juvenile cataracts develop further during the Malamutes growing up years.
The puppies are born normal, with regular eyesight but the onset of cataracts begins when they are around 9 months old. For some lucky Malamutes, cataracts get delayed till the dog turns two, but nevertheless, only a few lucky ones can avoid it completely. Later in life, these hereditary cataracts can cause irreparable visual impairment apart from causing slight aggression issues. These are understandable owing to the dog’s increasing age and inability to see.
A sure shot way to lessen the pain for your dog is to get years of examinations done for the eyes. A regular eye checkup will warn you much ahead of the onset of the cataract, giving you time to prepare your dog for what’s to come. You could also start medications to prevent or assuage the condition a little bit.
Like humans, canines face the same diabetes issues. Except, their bodies are already built in a way that doesn’t allow them to process sugars anyway. Still, dogs with diabetes mellitus cannot digest carbohydrates and sugars well.
Alaskan Malamutes being closely related to wild dogs, they require a high-protein diet devoid of grains and carbs. So they are prone to diabetes more than most other dog breeds. Canine diabetes can show up at any point in time in a dog’s life. It could be in the middle ages or even be passed on genetically.
A sure-shot way of knowing whether your Malamute puppy has diabetes is to keep a check on their food intake – quantity and contents! If the pup tends to eat and drink in copious quantities and yet looks undernourished, there are chances that she or he might have diabetes. Another way of finding out is by examining their stool. If the stool is always too soft, diabetes is a possibility.
In the long run, diabetes in dogs can cause a lot of other issues, lowering their immunity and giving rise to a condition called ketoacidosis. This terrible condition caused by insulin resistance may cause depression, weakness, nausea, and breathing difficulties in the dog.
Follicular dysplasia is something that Alaskan Malamutes tend to suffer from periodically. It is the abnormal growth of hair follicles, causing skin problems. Over a period of time, the hair from the area where the follicle isn’t regulated will start to deteriorate. It will fall off leaving behind scaly and flaky patches of skin. If you notice any difference in the hair growth of an Alaskan Malamute, it is recommended that you speak to a vet and better still, get a biopsy done.
Uveodermatologic syndrome is yet another deadly disease that affects Alaskan Malamutes. It affects the eyes and skin both, causing great distress to the dog. The condition is also very expensive to treat and Alaskan Malamutes stand a high chance of suffering from it.
How To Breed Alaskan Malamutes
Alaskan Malamutes are a healthy and trainable breed. They are easy to handle, easy to bring up as well. Malamutes make for excellent guard and family dogs both, however, they need a colder climate to survive in. So tropical countries or humid environments are simply not okay for Alaskan Malamute breeding.
Having said that, they are adaptable to a lot of other things, like the way you live or how you keep them. They are smart and obedient, and happy dogs overall.
The average litter size of Alaskan Malamutes is between 6 and 8 puppies. Some even give birth to as many as 12 but only in very rare cases.
Alaskan Malamutes are very precious owing to the originality of their gene pool. So the one thing you would want to keep in mind as an Alaskan Malamute breeder is to maintain that chain of genetics. Do not dilute the genes in any way. Try and get the Alaskan Malamute stud and dam tested before you go ahead and have a litter. A genetically diluted litter or bloodline won’t find many takers, so be very sure of how you mate the dogs.
Alaskan Malamutes may face birthing issues sometimes. It may become crucial to go in for a C-section if the puppies are stuck in the uterus. A dog’s uterus is shaped like a Y, the top part of the “Y” is called horns. And there are a lot of situations in which a puppy can get stuck.
For example, if the two puppies come down from each horn and meet at the intersection, they will get stuck and surgery may be unavoidable. Sometimes if the size of the puppy is too large, then too a C-section will be required. Alaskan Malamutes also face trouble birthing if a puppy is underdeveloped or is born still.
A good vet will be able to tell you what the next course of action is. Contact your doctor if the labor stops midway or doesn’t begin when it should.
Difference With Other Arctic Breeds
Alaskan Malamutes are often confused and compared with other arctic dog breeds such as Samoyeds or Siberian Huskies. The reason is obvious: they all look similar to each other.
Owing to their origins in the colder parts of the world, they all have thick fur on their bodies in varying shades of white, brown and fawn. Other physical similarities include almond-shaped eyes, a snout-like muzzle, etc. Their athleticism is quite the same too.
Yet, there are still plenty of differences between these arctic breeds.
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky
Alaskan Malamutes are taller, bigger and broader than Siberian Huskies. Some adult strong Malamutes can weigh up to 100 pounds. On the other hand, the Siberian Husky is small-boned. The Siberian Huskies also have closer set eyes and ears and a narrower loin. It was also bred and brought up in Siberia (well, of course, it was!).
A semi-nomadic tribe called the Chukchi people bred the Siberian Husky. Huskies being lighter in weight, can easily jump across fences while Alaskan Malamutes cannot do that. Siberian Huskies are more agile. You would find an Alaskan Malamute use its strong muscles to dig in rather than attempting to leap over.
Finally, Siberian Huskies tend to get along well with other dogs, while Malamutes have trouble gelling with their own kind.
Alaskan Malamute vs Samoyed
Samoyeds are probably the most affectionate of all arctic dogs. They are popularly also known as Sammys or even Smileys owing to their smiling faces. They too have a double coat and a pointy muzzle for a face, but their facial appearance differs slightly. Sammys are also more sprightly and bright compared to Alaskan Malamutes.
For new dog owners, Samoyeds are ideal while the Alaskan Malamute needs an experienced dog owner. Samoyeds are also easier to groom and manage than the Alaskan Malamute is.
Alaskan Malamute vs Canadian Eskimo Dog
The Canadian Eskimo Dog is neither as heavy nor as well-built as the Alaskan Malamute. It is not as sweet-tempered as the Alaskan Malamute but can adapt to human families. The Canadian Eskimo Dog is said to have originated in 1000 AD, somewhere in Siberia.
The Canadian Eskimo Dog has a lower tolerance to colder temperatures than the Alaskan Malamute does. It also has a lower tolerance to hardships and work, compared to the Malamute. The Thule people, who were extensions of the Inuit tribe, bred the Canadian Eskimos. Therefore, both breeds were brought up by the same tribe in two very different areas of the world.
Alaskan Malamute vs Greenland Dog
The Greenland Dog is genetically similar to the Canadian Eskimo Dog. So much so that they are not even considered to be a separate breed in most countries. They too were brought into America by the Thule people.
The Greenland Dog was bred by the tribe to hunt seals, polar bears and pull sleds – activities similar to the Alaskan Malamute. To a large extent, the Greenland Dog is pretty similar to the Alaskan Malamute in terms of physical built and temperament also. They are not very good first dogs for inexperienced owners.
However, what does set them apart is their genetic make. They have very different genes and belong to different parts of the Northern region.