Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's an Alaskan Malamute, NOT a Husky !

I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to explain that my dog is not a husky. The comment when someone first sees my 120lb, four legged buddy is usually "WOW!! That's the biggest Siberian Husky I've ever seen". Then I have to go in to my routine explanation which gently corrects their error and describes the difference between the two breeds. Without a doubt, there are very strong similarities and your average sled dog aficionado can tell the difference immediately, but it does get a bit frustrating. While both breeds are highly intelligent, Mals are almost twice the size of a husky and much stockier, easier to train, and much, much more affectionate . . . Alaskans also NEVER, EVER have blue eyes. Having owned both Huskies and Malamutes, I can tell you that I am a 14kt gold, card carrying, die hard fan of the Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamutes are a brawny freighting sled dog of Alaska's native Inuit people, bred for endurance rather than speed. Wolf like in appearance, it excels as an adaptable, and highly 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. Of all of the various and sundry dog breeds found today in the United States, the Alaskan Malamute is the only pure, true native canine from North America.

The breed is blessed with a sunny disposition. Happiest when treated as an intelligent partner, the Mal is highly cooperative but never slavish or fawning. He works and lives with you, not for you. The typical Malamute is almost universally friendly to any human being. As the dogs of a peaceful, nomadic people, they do not necessarily guard property and virtually always extend a tail wagging, face licking welcome to strangers; although any aggressive behavior by a stranger directed towards the Mals owner will undoubtedly elicit an immediate, protective reaction. When asked if he is a good watch dog I answer with an emphatic "YES!" "He'd watch someone steal the TV, watch someone take all of the jewelry and valuables . . . " Let's face it, they love people and their size and their previously mentioned wolf like appearance is probably their only intimidating features. Malamutes will develop a deep, complex attachment to their owners, although they are not necessarily one person dogs. They are certainly pack animals and within the human family unit, the Malamute considers himself to be one of the group.

This versatile northen dog is happy to pull a sled, but is equally glad to accompany the backpacker or the casual walker. In cold weather, the Mal makes an ideal running partner. Large and powerful yet remarkably agile, Malamutes sometimes enjoy retrieving tennis balls and Frisbees although they can get bored very easily. 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 almost any activity . . . especially those that might feature something to eat. Malamutes take an alert interest in their surroundings and are excellent company.

Now, not surprisingly, I also get asked plenty of other questions about the Mal . . . after all this is a very exotic looking creature. The next, single most frequently asked question is "does he shed much?". The fact that my yard is loaded with dog hair tumbleweeds and that virtually every bird's nest is lined with Malamute fur might be an indication . . . but I'll delve in to more of that subject at some other time.