How to Care for an Alaskan Malamuteby Judith Willson
Siberian huskies are not the only working dogs from the very north. The Alaskan malamute, probably originally domesticated by the Inuit as a hunting dog, is similar, also taking the role of sled dog just as huskies do. Unsurprisingly, Alaskan malamutes need a lot of exercise. Although Alaskan malamutes can make excellent family dogs, Pet MD warns that they can be hostile to other pets unless they were raised together, and to strange dogs, although they tend to be fine with people. The other important care consideration before choosing this breed is grooming. Alaskan Malamutes were bred as working dogs in a very cold environment and as a result have thick, heavy coats that require more intensive grooming than your average short-haired dog.
Begin training and socialization early if you have a young dog or a puppy. Socialization with other dogs is especially important for Alaskan malamutes, which can be aggressive to other members of the same species but usually not humans. Training classes are helpful for this process, as well as for people new to training dogs. Alaskan malamutes can be fairly stubborn and, of course, they are strong, which could lead to -- among other annoyances -- less-than-enjoyable walks with your dog pulling with determination on the leash.
Walk your dog for at least an hour every day, and ensure that all members of your family spend as much time with her as they can. Being a muscular dog adapted to running long distances, your Alaskan malamute needs quite a lot of exercise. She also needs plenty of interaction with people. If your lifestyle doesn’t permit committing much time to a pet, consider another breed or another type of animal entirely.
Enclose your yard with a secure fence that's at least 6 feet tall, sinking the base into the ground. Alaskan malamutes need long, daily walks but they also do best when they have access to an exercise yard. This doesn’t mean it is appropriate to keep your dog malamute outside, but she will benefit from being able to exercise as she feels the need. A dog door is a good option if you are certain your yard is secure.
Feed a high-quality, relatively high-protein dry dog food. Basically, a good-quality dog food that is not exceptionally low in protein should suit this breed. She will also appreciate a plentiful supply of chews. Alaskan malamutes don’t usually need a special diet, unless elderly, a puppy or ill, in which cases you should ask your vet for a diet sheet.
Provide a zinc supplement, but consult your vet first. Read the packaging on your regular dog food and make a note of its zinc content beforehand. Alaskan malamutes may suffer from zinc deficiency and sometimes need more zinc than is provided in a balanced dog food. However, while the minimum required zinc is higher than for other breeds, the maximum dosage is actually less, which is why it is important to obtain professional advice. The ideal amount of zinc per kilogram of food is about 150 milligrams, and the maximum is 300 milligrams, according to Doctors Foster & Smith.
Brush your dog thoroughly at least twice a week, making sure you brush out any loose fur. Occasionally, you’ll also need to trim long fur around the feet and the dog’s nails. Baths are completely optional unless your malamute gets a sticky substance stuck to her fur. When bathing your malamute, use a dog shampoo and warm -- not hot -- water. Don’t let the dog outside in cold weather until her fur is completely dry, which might take a while with this breed.
Items You Will Need
- Dog harness and leash
- Dog door
- Dry dog food
- Canned dog food
- Zinc supplement
- Pet nail clippers
- Dog shampoo
- During the grooming routine, and in general, look out for any changes in your dog’s body, especially the eyes, ears and hip joints, and in her behavior. Make a veterinary appointment if you notice anything amiss.
- If you are unsure about any aspect of grooming your Alaskan malamute, perhaps trimming the nails or cleaning the ears, ask your vet or a professional dog groomer to show you the procedure. Although regular professional grooming can work out to be rather expensive, one or two visits could be a worthwhile investment.
- Please note that this content is intended as an introduction, not a detailed care guide. Aside from books, good places to find more information on looking after the Alaskan malamute or any other breed include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Kennel Club, your vet and the animal sanctuary or breeder the dog came from.
- Never buy a puppy from a pet store or online. You might be inadvertently supporting puppy mills – which involve the cruel overbreeding of dogs. Always adopt dogs or puppies from animal sanctuaries or reputable breeders in your area. Note that there are charities that specialize in rehoming particular breeds.
- Because of the need for an enclosed exercise yard, this breed is not well-suited to apartment living.
- alaskan malamute image by devilpup from Fotolia.com