An Introduction for Prospective Adopters of Rescue Dogs


The heavy—freighting dog of the Inuit people who inhabited the shores of the Kotzebue Sound, the Alaskan Malamute excels as an adaptable, intelligent canine companion. A heavy—boned dog with a bulky muzzle, a broad head, wide—set ears, and a thickly—furred tail carried plume like over the back, the Malamute is one of the most beautiful dogs on earth and, pound for pound, almost certainly the strongest.

        One of the many interesting features of the breed is the natural range in size, color, and markings. The average weight for males is 95 pounds, for females 75 pounds. Many Malamutes, including show dogs, are larger or smaller than average, and bigger is not necessarily better. Most Malamutes are gray with white  trim or black and white, but coats of silver, sable, and red sometimes occur. Patterns of facial markings range from the all— white "open face" to the "full mask"——the combination of a black cap on the head, goggles around the eyes, and a bar down the muzzle. All Malamutes have brown eyes.

        The breed is blessed with a sunny disposition. Happiest when treated as an intelligent partner, the Malamute is highly cooperative but never slavish or fawning. The Alaskan Malamute works and lives with you, not for you. Sometimes aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex, the typical Malamute is outrageously and almost universally friendly to human beings. As the dogs of a peaceful, nomadic people, Malamutes do not guard property and virtually always extend a tail—wagging, face— licking welcome to strangers. These dogs develop deep, complex attachments to their owners, but are not one-person dogs. Adult rescue Malamutes readily bond with their adoptive owners.

        The versatile Malamute is happy to pull a sled, but is equally glad to accompany the backpacker or the casual walker. In cold weather, the Malamute makes an ideal running partner. Large and powerful yet remarkably agile, Malamutes sometimes enjoy retrieving tennis balls and Frisbees. Some Malamutes love to swim; others
have a marked aversion to water. Most enjoy car rides; the breed is not prone to motion sickness.   Virtually all Malamutes find their greatest joy in human companionship and are perfectly content to join their owners in watching television. Malamutes take an alert interest in their surroundings and are excellent company.

        The breed’s double coat consists of a short, dense undercoat and an outer coat of coarse guard hair. Malamutes shed profusely about twice a year. Except at those times, they require very little grooming. Some Malamute owners bathe the dog once a year; some, once a month. Some run a brush over the dog now and then; others groom the dog daily. A few Malamutes have long coats that are unacceptable in the show ring—but spectacular elsewhere. Woollies, as these dogs are called, require frequent grooming to prevent mats. Prospective adopters should bear in mind that even a carefully groomed, relatively short—coated Malamute that is not actively shedding will nonetheless deposit some fur on carpets and in automobiles. This is not the breed for the fastidiously house—proud, or car—proud.

        Still interested? Rescue Malamutes are as varied as the breed itself. Who are these dogs? Where do they come from?

        Because pet shops and irresponsible breeders will sell an Alaskan Malamute to anyone bearing cash or a credit card, Malamutes sometimes end up with people who should never own any dog at all, certainly not a Malamute. Ethical breeders take back the dogs they breed, but other breeders——including backyard breeders and a few show kennels——refuse to take responsibility for dogs they have bred. In brief, some rescue dogs have survived the difficult journey from puppy mills to pet shops to homes in which they were not loved; others were bred by people who fail to take lifetime responsibility for their puppies.

        Some dogs that come through rescue are turned in by owners who realize that a Malamute——or any dog——was a bad mistake. Many of these dogs have simply been chained in back yards, given food and water, but deprived of attention and affection. Some have proven too big and strong for their owners. Owners who are moving, getting divorced, or making other major life changes are sometimes unable or unwilling to include the dogs in their changed lives.

        A healthy, friendly, well—behaved Malamute occasionally appears on the back steps of a kind person who takes in the dog, tries and fails to find the owner, and calls us. Dogs rescued from animal shelters have either been turned in by owners or picked up by dog officers. A typical story is of a healthy, friendly young Malamute found wandering in a schoolyard or turned loose on a highway. The dog as no tags and no identifying tattoo; no one responds to ads about him; no one places a lost dog ad for him.

        Purebred, neutered Malamutes are eligible for American Kennel Club Indefinite Listing Privilege registration. A rescue Malamute with an ILP number may be entered in Obedience at AKC trials. As a competitive Obedience dog, the Alaskan Malamute is sore legendary for crowd—pleasing antics than for good scores. Each year, however, Malamutes earn American Kennel Club Companion Dog, Companion Dog Excellent, Utility Dog, and Tracking titles, and the breed is tremendous fun to work with, if not always a joy to show in the Obedience rings In contrast, the Malamute is easy to train as a well—mannered pet.

        An Arctic dog, the Malamute may live outdoors in a sturdy kennel with a high, strong fence, but Malamutes also make splendid, almost odorless housedogs.  Under no circumstances should a Malamute be allowed to run loose or be kept on a chain, tie— out, or trolley. The indoor dog requires daily exercise on leash or in a completely enclosed area such as a tennis court or a fenced yard; the outdoor dog has an equally strong need for daily companionship and affection.

        The ancestors of today’s Malamute were sometimes forced to hunt, forage, and compete for food. Consequently, Malamutes have a predatory streak and if allowed to run loose in rural areas, will reliably slaughter livestock and wild animals. In urban and suburban areas, a loose Malamute is a menace to cats. Swift, fearless, and powerful, Malamutes have been known to catch songbirds on the wing and, if challenged, to deal harshly with other dogs. Some adult rescue Malamutes get along well with cats and with other dogs, but some must go to homes with no other pets. Furthermore, although the breed boasts a few angels, some Malamutes will raid trash and steal food inside the house. Anyone unprepared to deal firmly and calmly with this wild streak should not own an Alaskan Malamute.

        The prospective adopter who has never before owned any dog should consider a sedate older Malamute instead of a spunky young dog, as should anyone without the physical strength to handle a vigorous youngster. Fortunately, the Alaskan Malamute has a life—span of about 12 to 14 years. Thus a 5 year old Malamute has, on the average, more years ahead of him than does a 5 day old Irish Wolf hound.

        Malamutes can bark, but seldom do. The characteristic vocalization is a long series of woo—woo—woos, but Malamutes also produce yips, growls, rumbles, and an immense variety of wwrrrs and other sounds not readily translated into English. Some Malamutes never howl, others sound a spine—tingling reply to every passing fire engine, ambulance, and police cruiser. The neglected Malamute inappropriately chained in a back yard will loudly and indefatigably protest his situation, but happy Malamutes are exceptionally quiet dogs.

        Some rescue dogs show no signs whatsoever of abuse. In others, the signs are unmistakable. A hand—shy or rear—shy dog expects to be hit and shies away from an outstretched hand. Some of these dogs cringe at the slightest word of correction. One of the pleasures of rescuing such a dog is the privilege of teaching the lesson that, from now on, human hands and voices mean kindness and love.

Alaskan Malamute Rescue of Southern California