Alaskan Malamutes are becoming an increasingly popular breed thanks to their wolf-like resemblance and use in popular tv-shows such as Game of Thrones. They are known for being loyal and loving, but are Alaskan Malamutes good for first time owners? We’ve got the full rundown on the challenges faced by first time Alaskan Malamute owners and the experience you need to be able to care for the breed.
What Makes Alaskan Malamutes Unsuitable for First Time Owners?
Alaskan Malamutes are a wonderful breed to own but many people are surprised to hear how much work goes into looking after them.
The most notably difficult aspect of owning an Alaskan Malamute is training them. We’ve unfortunately heard many stories of first-time Malamute owners being unable to keep on top of training duties leading to unruly and uncooperative Malamutes that are difficult to live with.
Alaskan Malamutes are a breed that highly values the ‘pack hierarchy’ of their household. This is essentially the ranking of the other animals and humans they live with.
Malamutes will regularly test the other members of their ‘pack’ to try and assert dominance by ignoring commands and rules set by their owners. Without a firm owner, Malamutes will view themselves as being the alpha of the household leading to them having little respect for other household members.
As a result, Malamutes need regular obedience training and their owners need to present themselves as strong household leaders. It can, admittedly, be very difficult sometimes, but Malamute owners also need to be able to resist their Malamute’s puppy-dog eyes when they are trying to get their own way.
Another reason that we don’t recommend Alaskan Malamutes to first time owners is that, in general, they are a breed that requires a lot of maintenance.
Alaskan Malamutes have high daily exercise requirements that need to be met to keep both their body and mind healthy. Even for more experienced dog owners, the amount of exercise a Malamute needs can be difficult to fit into a daily routine. We know of some owners who adopted a Malamute to force themselves to do more exercise, but unless you are already active, it can be difficult to stay motivated to keep up with it every day.
Alaskan Malamutes are heavy shedders and need a regular grooming routine to keep their coats looking healthy. On top of that, Malamutes also blow their coat a couple of times a year which can be quite a surprise for inexperienced owners!
Whilst it isn’t impossible for a first-time owner to successfully look after an Alaskan Malamute, we still do not recommend it. For a Malamute to have the best chance of a happy, healthy life they need to be placed with previous owners of similarly large and stubborn breeds that will know how to handle their temperament and maintain their well-being.
When Can I Adopt an Alaskan Malamute?
If you are planning on adopting an Alaskan Malamute, your home and family situation will typically be assessed by the breeder or shelter you are adopting from. This is to make sure that you can provide the Malamute with the care that they need.
They may also ask you questions about how you would handle certain situations, or your experiences with previous dogs you’ve owned. They will be looking out for key indicators that you have the experience needed to adopt a Malamute.
Firstly, you will have ideally already owned another large dog breed. Owning a large dog breed such as a Malamute is a very different experience from owning a smaller breed. They typically have increased food requirements, increased exercise requirements, and will need an owner who can control them when out on a walk. Having previously owned a large breed is a good indication that you will be able to provide basic care for a Malamute.
Secondly, you should have experience in training a dog. This is an absolute must because, as previously mentioned, training an Alaskan Malamute is a lifelong journey that requires a lot of effort from its owners. Breeders or shelter owners will want to see that you know how to be assertive around dogs and that you can hold them to household rules.
Ideally, you will also need to be physically active. Alaskan Malamutes require around 1 to 2 hours of intensive daily exercise but will often want to play for more than that. If you have previously owned an exercise intensive breed, this will be a huge advantage for you.
In general though, if you have previously owned any breed that has required daily walking that you have been able to keep up with, it’ll show your potential to be able to maintain a consistent exercise schedule for an Alaskan Malamute.
What Should You Know as a First-Time Alaskan Malamute Owner?
If you fulfil the above requirements and can adopt an Alaskan Malamute – congratulations! Owning the breed for the first time is bound to come with several initial teething problems, but we truly believe they are one of the most rewarding dogs you can own.
The common difficulties experienced by first-time Alaskan Malamute owners usually surround asserting dominance. Believe us when we say that Malamutes know how to manipulate us into getting what they want.
You are bound to make mistakes and give in to them occasionally as first – we all do! – but try your best to stay consistent in the rules you set. As time goes on, your Malamute will gain more and more respect for you and will become the loveable and well-behaved breed they are known for being.
Speaking from experience, it’s never too early to start training your Alaskan Malamute! Stay on top of it as much as you can, particularly in the early days, until your Malamute has figured out the pack hierarchy within the household.
Finally, keep an eye out for your Malamute testing your alpha status. If you let them get away with bad behaviours, such as letting them up on the couch when they shouldn’t be or giving them your food after they’ve begged, it could lead to them seeing you as lower in the pack. Set clear boundaries, be patient, and watch out for their sneaky attempts to climb the hierarchy ladder!
Alaskan Malamutes are not suited to first-time owners due to their training and exercise needs. If you are sure that you want to own a Malamute in the future, we recommend working up to the breed by owning other, more easy-going large breeds or by looking into dog fostering.
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