Vet checks ensure a longer life.
Illustrated by Tana HakansonThe Alaskan Malamute is prone to several genetic conditions, including hip dysplasia, night blindness, chondrodysplasia, and hypothyroidism. The incidence of such conditions can be minimised by responsible breeding.
An informed buyer will select puppies whose parents have been certified as free of these condition. Some national breed clubs (depending on the country) will track incidents of genetic conditions and buyers should investigate any patterns before selecting a breeder, who should contractually guarantee their stock is free of genetic anomalies (Siino 1997).
Feeding the Malamute:
Though Malamutes were cherished companions to the Mahlemut Inuits, they were not spoiled by any means. The dogs were fed enough to fuel their rigorous duties in the harsh winters and restricted further in summer when their abilities were in less demand.
Consequently, the Mahlemuts created a breed of dog that could work very hard on very little.
Today we understand the importance of proper nutrients and how they improve the dog's health and well-being. However, just because food is more plentiful today that it was for the Eskimos of five hundred years ago, does not mean the Malamute needs more food.
The Malamute will eat until the food is gone, whether it's a cupful of kibble or someone spilled the whole bag, so the dog's eagerness for food should not be the gauge for how much it should eat.
Obesity is prevalent amongst Malamutes due to overfeeding the large dog, which requires far less fuel than its size would suggest. It's very easy to overfeed a Malamute, and overweight dogs is a common problem for well-meaning owners.
Moderating their food intake will ensure optimum health and longevity (Siino 1997).
Useful tools for grooming a malamute's thick coat.
Illustrated by Tana Hakanson
Basic dog care.
Illustrated by Tana HakansonThough historically given little attention to such things, the Malamutes require regular grooming to maintain their double coats, keeping it free of burs, knots, snags, and (in some places) grass seeds. The Eskimos had little time to devote to pampering their dogs, and the breed evolved without the requirements of extraordinary care. However, it is recommended that Malamutes be thoroughly groomed at least twice a week. Once a day is optimal, but not necessary.
The Malamute's undercoat 'blows' in warmer months, up to twice a year, and ought to be brushed more regularly during this time. Tufts of downy fur will come free to litter the yard and home, and can be difficult to control if not brushed out properly.
During winter this dense undercoat serves to insulate the Malamute as the coarser guard hairs protect it from snow. Malamutes, curled into knots with their tails across their faces, can sleep very comfortably in harsh winter climates
It is important to start grooming your dog early, to get a puppy accustomed to being handled and brushed and combed, and to eventually enjoy the experience, which will make it easier on the owner trying to groom the adult dog. The same can be said for cleaning ears, clipping nails, and the infrequent bath - Malamutes have less natural odour than most breeds and require less bathing.
Clipping Malamute coats is discouraged unless absolutely necessary.
When brushing the Malamute coat, it needs to be done through to the skin, rather than brushing superficially across the coat. This will ensure coat health and free knots, burs, and dangerous foreign objects - such as grass seeds, which will burrow into, and eventually kill a dog if not removed soon enough.
There are many tools available, and though everyone has their favourite recommendation, ultimately it is personal choice as to which you feel is most effective for your dog. But being thorough is key, whether you brush your dog daily, or twice a week (Siino 1997).
Like all breeds of dog, Malamutes also require basic attention to ear, eye, foot, nail, and tooth care to ensure a long-lived and healthy animal. Regular maintenance accompanying routine brushing will reaffirm your position as leader and caretaker. Consistant handling will also ensure the Malamute is comfortable having nails clipped, ears cleaned, and teeth brushed.
Though the Alaskan Malamute is quite at home wherever home happens to be, the dog cannot simply be left to its own devices in a backyard - no matter how large - and be expected to keep itself fit. There is no lazy way out of living with a Malamute.
Bringing a Malamute into your life is a lifetime commitment to activities that involve and engage the dog, lest the dog turn their boundless energy to something more destructive.
Confined to its yard, the Malamute is easily bored and will take to digging, chewing, or in any other way destroying what it can to keep itself occupied. A dog that enjoys daily activity outside its backyard is stimulated and engaged physically and mentally, reducing cases of separation anxiety and home demolition (Siino 1997).
A Malamute that does not get enough exercise is also prone to boredom, which is bad news to furniture, landscaping, garden beds, and neighbours. To entertain itself, a Malamute's destructive habits can become alarming and extreme as holes appear in the yard deeper and wider than a metre, laundry is pulled from clothes-lines, and your favourite sofa is chewed down to the frame. It's in your best interest, as well as the dog's, to ensure your Malamute gets sufficient exercise to keep these destructive behaviours at bay.