Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meet the Breed: Alaskan Malamute

 "How did you start your business?" That is a question we get asked on a regular basis  Our answer is simple: an Alaskan Malamute named Buddy whom we had the privilege of spending 12 years with. He is the dog featured in our Kelly's Pet Care logo and also The Mindful Dog logo. We always wanted a "husky type" dog and after our first dog Scruffy passed in 1995 we found Buddy through The Amanda Foundation. Little did we know then that Buddy would challenge our "lack of knowledge" regarding dogs on a daily basis, forcing us to do all kinds of research on understanding dogs. We also had no clue on how to share our lives with an Alaskan Malamute, a breed, as we would soon discover,  not recommended for the novice dog owner. Yet, over time, his intelligence, unending energy, clown-like nature and extraordinary leadership inspired us to start a dog daycare business. But more importantly, Buddy taught us how to be a good pack leader and how to do it right: through consistency, understanding and  mental toughness. The day we had to let him go (almost six years ago) was a day filled with tears and gratitude to an extraordinary dog who changed our lives forever.

Buddy 1994--2007

ORIGIN: The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, one  whom most experts believe descended from the Arctic Wolf. They were first bred between 2000-3000 years ago by an Eskimo tribe named the Mahlemuts. (That is how the Malamute got its name) The tribe needed a strong dog who could pull heavy loads, hunt large animals such as polar bears and moose, and navigate harsh, bitter, winter conditions (they can withstand temperatures as extreme as 70 below zero). They are cousins with the Arctic breeds Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and the American Eskimo dog.

USES: The obvious is as a sled dog. Because of their size (75-95 pounds aprox.) they could carry heavy loads. They were also excellent navigators due to their exceptional sense of smell (they are able to detect thinning ice through several feet of snow!) They were used for search and rescue during World War I and II. Today, they are still used for sledding, search and rescue, weight pulling and racing but are no longer used for hunting.

HEALTH PROBLEMS: Hip dysplasia, heart disease, bloat, renal atrophy and chondrodysplasia (dwarfism).

IMPORTANT MALAMUTE INFO: They require an owner as stubborn as they are, or they will run the house. They're incredibly intelligent and affectionate. This is a breed that requires a good amount of exercise, or they will entertain themselves by eating your couch, jumping high fences or even digging long, deep trenches in your yard!  They usually are not good with other dogs as they tend to be dominant and many still retain a prey drive for smaller animals. They shed like crazy but are self-cleaning and require a bath only once a year. Despite their dominant nature with animals, they are wonderful with children.

IS THIS BREED RIGHT FOR YOU? We wouldn't trade our time with Buddy for anything, but this breed is not for everyone. It's easy to get seduced by the beautiful little fluff ball that is a Mal puppy. Be forewarned;  If you're looking for a dog that is great with other dogs and easily trainable,  the Alaskan Malamute is not for you. However, if you are up to the challenge, this dog will steal your heart, and reward you with a lifetime of cherished memories.