Alaskan Malamutes don’t make great service dogs, and it’s mainly due to their nature.
They are incredibly hard to train and also stubborn, which means they are not reliable at following commands repeatedly. This is, of course, detrimental to a service dog career where they must learn how to perform specific actions reliably every day.
Keep reading to learn all about service dogs, how their roles can vary, and why Alaskan Malamutes are not the best fit for this type of job.
- What Is A Service Dog?
- What Qualities Are Needed For A Service Dog?
- Why Alaskan Malamutes Are Not Good Service Dogs
- But Don’t They Have Working Backgrounds?
- Can Malamutes Be Emotional Support Dogs?
- In Summary
What Is A Service Dog?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is ‘a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.’
Interestingly enough, any dog breed can be a service dog.
Examples include alerting people who are deaf, guiding people who are blind, alerting and protecting someone that is having a seizure, and much more.
Service dogs must be under the control of their handler, which means they must be leashed or tethered unless the handler’s condition prevents this.
What Qualities Are Needed For A Service Dog?
There’s a reason why certain breeds like Labradors and German Shepherds are commonly seen in service roles, but what qualities do these dogs have that others don’t?
Most dog intelligence rankings, such as Cohen’s the Intelligence of Dogs, base intelligence on the ability of a dog to learn a new command, and in the role of service dogs, this is very applicable.
Service dogs need to be able to learn new commands and jobs quickly, and repeat them over a long period of time.
Service dogs need to have the enjoyment of working, which comes from a drive to please their owners.
Dogs that enjoy working tend to be those that enjoy learning new tricks and have high intelligence. This one is super important because service dogs typically get assigned to one person for a long period of time.
Service dogs are required to act under certain circumstances.
For example, some service dogs are required to alert their owners if their blood sugar drops too low, and others need to guide their owners through busy cities.
This rapid decision-making requires confidence. A nervous or skittish dog would not be suitable to work as a service dog because they would hesitate to make a decision, which can be the difference between life and death in some cases.
One of the key roles of a service dog is to reduce stress for its owner.
This is why they need to be friendly and able to form a strong bond with their owner. They also need to be very approachable in case they need to alert a stranger about a potential issue.
Focus is crucial for a service dog.
They need to be alert at all times and ready to fulfill their roles, especially for service dogs who work with blind people or alert people to allergies or potential medical emergencies.
All it takes is one lapse of judgment or focus and there could be serious consequences.
Why Alaskan Malamutes Are Not Good Service Dogs
Now you understand what it takes for a dog to be suitable for a service role, let’s see exactly why Malamutes are not suited for this type of work.
Hard To Train
Service dogs need to be easy to train, as this is the entire basis of their work in order for them to fulfill a supportive role.
Alaskan Malamutes are notoriously hard to train as they are very independent and stubborn. This means that they are not particularly interested in pleasing their owners, which makes training via positive reinforcement very difficult.
There’s no doubt that Malamutes are intelligent and can learn to fulfill a specific role, but it’s another thing entirely relying on them to repeat a task daily.
Alaskan Malamutes are similar to cats in personality and choose to do exactly what they want to do a lot of the time.
We already know that Malamutes have a hard time listening to commands, but this also means that they can become easily distracted.
Malamutes also have quite a high prey drive which can make distractions even more likely.
But Don’t They Have Working Backgrounds?
Alaskan Malamutes do have a working background as sled dogs, but this doesn’t translate well into the daily tasks of a service dog.
Service dogs are usually trained to repeat specific tasks reliably, like fetching an item or reminding somebody to take their medication.
Malamutes might be great at pulling a sled with a pack of other Mals for long periods of time, but this is mostly due to an extensive history of performing this role and their strong pack mentality.
What Type Of Service Dog Would A Malamute Be?
It’s very likely that if a Malamute were able to be trained and follow commands reliably they would be used as a mobility assistance dog.
These tend to be larger dogs with lots of strength, like the Great Dane or Saint Bernard, and are used to provide assistance with movement. For example, some people rely on mobility assistance dogs to lean on to move around the house without their wheelchairs.
Can Malamutes Be Emotional Support Dogs?
Emotional support dogs are not service dogs and are prescribed by licensed mental health professionals who have determined that the presence of the dog is needed for the mental health of the patient.
Emotional support dogs do not need to be trained to do a specific role and are instead more like pets that are there for their owners and play a positive role in their mental health issues.
Malamutes could be emotional support dogs, but it depends on whether a licensed professional assesses the situation in the same way. There aren’t really any strict requirements for these types of dogs versus service dogs.
Although every dog breed can be a service dog, there’s a reason why most service dogs share similar attributes, and why breeds like the German Shepherd or Labrador are the most common and breeds like the Malamute and Husky are not.
Alaskan Malamutes are very difficult to train, and it’s hard to rely on them to perform their job over and over without becoming bored or simply refusing to do the work.
This doesn’t mean that Malamutes don’t make incredible companions, it’s just that they are not the most reliable breed when it comes to performing a specific job over and over reliably. Malamutes are much more suited to be Emotional Support Dogs rather than service dogs for this reason.