About our Breed- Working the Alaskan Malamute
“Any man can make friends with any dog, but it takes a long time and mutual trust and mutual forbearance and mutual appreciation to make a partnership. Not every dog is fit to be a partner with a man; nor every man, I think, fit to be partner with a dog”
- Archdeacon Hudson Stuck
In the years since we’ve had the privilege of working with animals, there is nothing that quite tops the experience of having a working partnership with your dogs. Having enjoyed this partnership with different breeds and completely different types of working, I can comfortably say that owning sled dogs has represented, for us, the epitome of that experience. Of all the other types of dogs we have had who have been amazing companions, fantastic pets, and also very hard and devoted workers, none have left us feeling quite so much a full partner, nor reminded us so diligently of our roles in the team. There is nothing quite like the feeling of gaining the trust of an Alaskan Malamute…the bond and communication that comes from it is hard to describe, and we find ourselves feeling very honoured to have been given the chance to experience this with them.
This however comes with all the added challenges of having a breed of dog which can offer you this kind of bond, intelligence and partnership. It is this challenge of owning a working sled dog and learning all there is to know about your own dog as well as developing that partnership that we hope to encourage all new owners to embrace and relish to the full. Working with any animal is a lifelong learning experience, and nowhere have I found this more true than with Alaskan Malamutes. In the short time we have worked with these dogs we have utilized experience from all different types of animal interaction, and at the same time had to chuck out all of our knowledge at other points and learn everything from scratch. There is always something new to learn. If we have a single motto at Flint Sky it is to ‘Know your dog.’ Always gain experience, always take advice…but at the end of the day know your own dog and learn from each other.
To anyone looking to get into the breed – our first and foremost recommendation is to conduct extensive research. You will never fully grasp what living with a Malamute is like until you do it – but the more knowledge you can acquire beforehand the better. Don’t simply meet a few dogs and talk to a few breeders. Talk to as many people as you can, and spend as much real time with the dogs as you can. Get advice on lots of breeders from people with more than one dog, and try to go along to events to see the dogs at work. Most working Malamute owners (in our experience) are very happy to talk to people who are interested in the breed and answer any questions you might have.
We love working with our dogs, and as such that is the heart of our pack and their lines. The fitness, drive and functionality needed for doing the work for which this breed is intended is our primary focus, and we will strive to continue that in any future breeding plans.
Please see link below for the UK Kennel Club Breed Standard:
At Flint Sky we don’t recommend anyone consider an Alaskan Malamute as a new addition to the family without the intention (and hopefully the excited anticipation!) of working with your dog. Whilst these dogs do make great additions to the household and can be very loving and wonderful family members – they simply are, first and foremost – working dogs.
We strongly encourage anyone with an Alaskan Malamute, or with plans to bring an Alaskan Malamute into their family to familiarize themselves fully with what working an Alaskan Malamute will mean for them and their lives – as well as what options are available to them and their dogs where they live. We hope that anyone interested in this breed will be excited to learn all there is to know about owning a sled dog, and as we were told by our breeders when we went to meet our first Malamute puppy – ‘A well exercised Malamute is a happy Malamute’ and by extension…that means happy owners.
It seems that most people new to the breed do come in with an understanding that these dogs require a lot of exercise (a very true statement) but simply going on lots of long walks or jogs will likely not be enough stimulation for a young Malamute. These dogs are intelligent, hardworking and independent minded dogs who need lots of mental as well as physical stimulation. Their stubborn nature sometimes makes this tricky in a normal, domestic environment, so please think long and hard about how you will fulfill this need before considering further. An Alaskan Malamute can be a great pet – but if it is simply a pet that you want, then there are many other breeds which might more happily fill that role.
As with all sports, it is very important that you get not only the correct training and guidance before you undertake it, but also have appropriate kit and equipment for both you and your dogs. See our links page for companies we recommend with owners who are knowledgeable and can help you make the best decision and fit for your dog and sport.
There are many other dog sports that I haven’t mentioned below– and I would suggest to anyone that if it sounds like you and your dog might enjoy it, give it a go! Do keep in mind what the Malamute is like and what it is bred for – some sports simply won’t be for your dog. But there have been plenty of Malamutes who are Pets as Therapy Dogs, that are part of the Dogs Helping Kids programme, who do agility, even retrieving. As always our motto is ‘know your dog’. If your dog loves it, don’t be afraid to do your research, jump in and get to work!
Please see below for more information on the activities mentioned above, and please do lots of research on appropriate equipment and training before undertaking any of these. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you would like further information on any of these topics. If we can’t help you directly – we will try to put you in touch with someone with the appropriate experience who can.
If, however, you are excited to know what new adventures you may be able to have with your dog – and the new sports you may be able to participate in with them, then we strongly recommend you further look into the following areas:
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with decent snowfall in the winter, then you are set to have a great (if long, cold and often including lots of very early mornings!) winter with your dogs. Mushing on a sled with your dog is exactly what they are meant for and with the right training you will have a very contented malamute indeed.
Of course, snow is not something that can be conjured, but don’t let that stop you from working with your dog. The dogs need the same stimulation and purpose they would get from hauling freight through the arctic, even if they live in suburban England.
One very good option that is great fun for you and your dogs is dryland mushing. A three (or four) wheeled ‘rig’ is used in place of a sled and can be used during the colder months of the year. This does require appropriate training, and often permits for the use of trails or land in England – but it is a very exciting and rewarding thing to do with your dog. Training tends to involve very early mornings or very late nights – often in the cold, but it’s an exhilarating way to spend time with your dogs which you both will hopefully come to absolutely love.
This is right up the alley of the Alaskan Malamute and involves doing long, wilderness style treks with your dog while they carry a loaded pack of food and other necessities. You begin at small weights and shorter distances (even your everyday walk can be enriched by their carrying a pack) and build up to some very long, mutli-day hikes carrying up to 30% of the dog’s bodyweight. This can be done just for your own enjoyment, or if you want to participate in a scheme which gives you bench marks to follow and goals and awards to achieve at each level – this can be done both through AMWA (Alaskan Malamute Working Association) and AMCA (Alaskan Malamute club of America).
This is an area that some dogs (and owners) really love, and involves pulling a weighted trolley a short, timed distance. Whilst this isn't a sport all Malamutes enjoy (some prefer working on a team or racing) – some Malamutes absolutely love it as it gives them the opportunity to really utilize their love for pulling. These are freight dogs – so pulling – not speed, is the focus. We recommend you speak to lots of Malamute owners, and attend a few events to see what you think if you are interested in participating (see AMCUK website for more details).
Admittedly, not the strong suit of the Alaskan Malamute, as they are independent-minded and often get bored with more sedate activities, this can still be a very important and rewarding way to work with your dog, especially a young dog in the summer. Personally we recommend all new owners attempt obedience classes with their dog, not only for socialization and training, but because learning new ways to keep them mentally stimulated can be very useful. The summer months will find you looking desperately for ways to keep your young dogs happy whilst not being able to exercise them much, and obedience work can be very useful here. We strongly recommend finding a class/trainer who are familiar with the breed.
Though showing is not for everyone, and does not, unfortunately give your Alaskan Malamute all the physical stimulation it needs, it can still be another good way to work with your dog. Remember that your working partnership with your dog can take on many forms, and getting them out there working with you – including performing in a show ring – will give them a sense of purpose that will help keep everyone happy and contented.
Our dogs love working in harness, so at FlintSky we will not specify puppies as ‘show puppies’ only, but will always look for working homes first and foremost, while reserving show quality puppies for homes which would like to show as well. We feel that the versatility of a working dog in the show ring is an excellent thing to strive for, but it is the working component - and enjoying a pastime with your dog - that we hope to encourage most.