'BAD' Dogs...the Malamute Psyche

Owners that don't take the time to train their dog, then call it "bad" are very frustrating! This happens quite often with Malamutes because many people buy them on impulse and aren't prepared for what a handful they can be. Here is the downside to owning a malamute (to some of us many are charming characteristics - but not everyone). Of course, this is why you work at training your malamute to have manners - so it doesn't acquire all these lovely traits!

  • Malamutes are NOT guard dogs. The only thing they will guard is their food. They will not guard your house, your valuables, your person. They may look intimidating but are almost always people lovers. People who have foolishly tried to make them "guard dogs" usually regret it because the dog then turns on THEM. Trust is everything between you and your malamute. However, they may guard toys, food, treats, water, or their crate (especially from other dogs!) if not corrected properly as a young puppy.
  • A Malamute will hunt and kill, and often eat mice, rabbits, moles, squirrels -even possums and groundhogs in the backyard. Unlike some breeds, when they catch it (and they WILL) they will likely attempt to eat all or part of the critter. If you can't take cleaning up small dead body parts, maybe you shouldn't get a malamute. If foolishly allowed to run free, it may chase and kill deer or other large animals and fight with other dogs. You will not be well liked by animal control or your neighbors without a fence and your Malamute will be killed because they have no road or car sense, whatsoever. A road is like a trail -- and they are more likely to run down it than avoid it.

  • A Malamute is NOT a baby-sitter. If you have children, you must supervise. Malamutes LOVE children - sometimes so much they forget their own size and strength and can easily knock down a small child. They will steal the child's food and clean faces. A malamute socialized to children at a young age can be very trustworthy with his own children, but it's still a dog and needs supervision - to protect it from a poking, prodding child as much as protecting the child from an over exhuberant malamute. Malamutes are usually not good in crowds of screaming toddlers or preschoolers. They may love kids, but a crowd of loud screaming children is unnerving to many malamutes. They prefer calm, gentle children. If a malamute is not socialized to children young, or is very shy or very dominant, it may not be a good candidate for children as it will attempt to dominate them as it would a puppy.

  • They are NOT an obedient dog. People who've had "herding breeds" such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers often think they can easily handle a big dog like a malamute. That is, until it gets "selective hearing" and doesn't listen... Until it gets stubborn and just refuses (by growling or rolling on it's back)...Until it is in the back of the yard and calling nets you a quick glance of "I'm busy"or it raids the kitchen countertop for a snack when he KNEW that was off limits ....He will prefer to pull you down the road rather than walk beside you (and Lord knows without a leash he'd take off after the first squirrel no matter how loud you yell). Have you noticed they rarely use them for Police or Service dogs? It's because they are such independent thinkers. You can teach them to bite, but can't teach them to stop. They like to pull, but not always where you'd want to go. A blind person would likely be led to the cookie store rather than to work because the Malamute thought it was a better place to go. I'm glad mine don't drive! They are not obedient without lots of work and motivation training. If you want a dog that obeys without question, that you don't have to explain "why" to, then this is not the dog for you.

  • This is NOT a dog that will leave a food sitting on the counter or on a low table while you leave the room (or sometimes even with you IN the room). He will get in the garbage, stick his nose in the refrigerator, and mooch incessantly like he's starving. He may fight with other dogs in the household over a crumb. He thinks you are foolish to leave your food unguarded so it must be OK for him to help himself. Malamutes have strong survival instincts - and one of their best motivators is food. They are world-class thieves and collectors of everything from a chip bag from the trash to your freshly laundered underwear. Often they will have a "stash" of stolen things in a favorite spot.

  • Raising your malamute, you don't get a second chance to do it right. The first 6 months to a year are very very important. Though you will be training this dog it's entire life (and doing lots of review work), bad habits and behavior allowed to go on the first year will likely continue forever. A very dedicated second owner may be able to "fix" some behaviors with extensive work, but not necessarily all of them. It's much better to do it right the first time. To "do it right" you must be a prepared owner. A malamute is NOT a good dog to buy on impulse!

  • They NEED to be near the family. A dog left alone for long periods with nothing to do can be destructive, will probably howl, and can get in quite a bit of trouble. Putting him outside doesn't solve the problem either - there he can dig, howl, bark, chew on the fence and escape.

  • Malamutes are natural thieves.  They like to steal anything that isn't nailed down. If one dog has a toy, rawhide, stolen article another will steal it from HIM. A dog that wouldn't dare go in another's crate will sneak in just to steal something - and hoard the stash in his own crate.  The most likely victim of a drive-by thieving is another dog close in rank or one they want to let know they outrank.  Even if YOU leave something interesting on a counter or desk it's fair game to be stolen.  It's kind of funny watching things being stolen back and forth.  It's not your job as human to interfere with dog to dog thievery (unless it's something of YOURS) - this is a great malamute game so don't mess up the rules.

  • Malamutes like to dig. They can be taught to not do this, but it takes work and persistence. If you must have beautiful landscaping, this may not be the dog for you. If allowed to dig they can make craters that are quite large, even pulling up small bushes and trees and plucking the heads off flowers.  A friend's malamute made a den UNDER the dog house larger than the dog house.

  • Malamutes are people lovers, not dog lovers. Unless socialized extensively to other dogs, a malamute will not like your neighbor's, girlfriend's, or other family member's dog just because you do. He will not play nicely with dogs in the dog park. He will not necessarily play nicely with your best friend's dog and may "puff up" and pick a fight if it's the same sex. Play with dogs he likes will be rough, growl, hard (veiled attempts at dominance over the other playmate). He probably will not like most strange dogs he meets unless he played with lots of dogs outside the family as a young puppy and dog. He will fight with a dog that does a kamikaze attack (even a small one). You will be forever on the lookout for these kinds of dogs and their stupid owners. Malamutes dislike when other dogs stare at them (they consider it very rude!). Malamutes tend to be very dog aggressive - particularly to their own sex. A new owner without "malamute experience" should never take on same sex siblings from a litter or even different age Malamutes of the same sex unless you have a way of keeping them permanently apart should it not work out.

  • In the house, they do shed quite profusely a couple of times a year. Combing daily will eliminate much of the hair, but still, if you can't stand dog hair, it might be better to get a short-coated breed. Malamutes are "high-maintenance" and take more work than many people are willing to put into them. They require extensive grooming (lots and lots of combing, foot trimming), especially when shedding... or the services of a groomer several times a year.

  • They don't normally play typical dog games very well. Malamutes that play fetch are not the norm. Most will love chase games, tug games and other "dominance" games - but unfortunately these are not recommended because if you aren't careful and the dog "wins" too often you will lose alpha status. So, you have to be more creative than just typical dog games. Our guys like "hide and seek" - someone hides with a treat and the dog has to "find" the person and gets the cookie when found. Chasing a ball is usually OK if you don't expect him to return it to you each time (Mals are usually good for about 3 returns then they think you're crazy for throwing it away). Naturally, they LOVE all kinds of sledding, skijoring, and "sled dog" activities. It's also quite common for them to "invent" their own games - usually some sort of chase or hunting game. Holly chases tennis balls around the kitchen - pouncing and lunging at them. Star shakes and throws a rope tug up in the air and catches it. Penny likes you to hide treats on your body and to go nosing around to find them (like being a magician - OH, THERE it is!). Hoover just discovered "catching" balls - now he thinks that is the best game in the world! An alpha dog (if you have a pack) will consider it undignified to play at all (at least while anyone is watching!). As for swimming....some love it and you can't keep them out of the water (think of all that hair to dry) and others hate it and want NOTHING to do with it.

  • Thanks to Disney, to many people he looks like a "wolf" or "wolf-dog". You will get really tired of explaining "it's not a wolf" and eventually will even become tired of hearing people ask "does he have blue eyes" (Malamutes don't) or is it a "husky" (a husky is a mixed-breed mutt used for sled racing). People will sometimes cross streets to avoid walking by your big scary dog. On the other hand, you will meet hoards of people who "used to have one" or "have one at home JUST like that". They are unique, noticed, beautiful dogs but you will relish the person that comes up to you and realizes it's a "Malamute". (You could just HUG those people!).

  • They are curious and tend to get into things generating large veterinary bills when they swallow things they shouldn't or cut feet fighting through the fence, or chew up an expensive item in your home. There was a recent "survey" on the malamute list - malamutes had eaten everything from toys to furniture. Just Shadow's list alone is impressive: 3 suits, 2 pair of pant pockets, several tennis balls, 2 pans of brownies, unlimited empty cookie, chip and candy wrappers and stuffed animals, one broken camera (knocked it out of my hands), a shoe, part of a soda can, and that's all I can remember! (there's more). The puppies are setting a new record eating the refrigerator handle, dishwasher dial and vacuum cleaner cord - all because they were "bored". Curiosity is one of their strong traits, but it also gets them into trouble!

  • Malamutes are talkers. They will tell you what's on their mind. They do this by wooing, barking (yes, they do bark), grunting, groaning, growling, singing, whining, screeching, screaming, mooing, and yodeling. Some are never quiet it seems (Holly), others don't have much to say but when they do, you will get NO peace! (Penny did this).

  • While most malamutes are content to remain in a fenced yard, a few are escape artists - usually going under or through fences (Superman is a pro). An electronic "invisible" fence is a big joke to any Malamute - he will take a running start and run right through it. Chaining is never recommended as it can create a type of territorial aggression. A chain is very frustrating for any dog, but particularly so for a malamute.

  • They are very strong. They are persistent. If they think they can intimidate you they will - just for fun! They are energetic and need exercise daily. They have tremendous problem-solving intelligence and may outsmart you quite often. When training you may have to change your techniques quite often to keep him interested. They are con-artists and clowns.

  • Some Malamutes will eat feces - cat, rabbit, and sometimes their own. It's a survival trait and very difficult to eliminate. There are products on the market for this, but most of them don't work very well. The only recourse is keeping the yard as clean as possible.

  • A Malamute OWNER needs a terrific sense of humor, flexibility and a "don't sweat the small stuff" kind of personality. A new Malamute owner must be willing to learn and have the patience to hang in there when the dog is driving them crazy. Poor owners are those that must dominate their dog, bully it and be boss - and you can't tell them anything!