The harsh Alaskan landscape is dominated by a specific type of dog -- sled dogs. Not all of the dogs native to Alaska are specifically bred for this reason, but three of the four breeds are used for this type of work. In addition, most Alaskan dog breeds have very similar features including tapered heads, sharply pointed ears, and curled tails.
Despite modern technology, dogsledding is still an extremely popular way of transportation around the frigid landscapes. Such a harsh area of the world requires a tough dog, and these native Alaskan dogs certainly live up to their name.
Not all of them are recognized as their own breed by the AKC, but they certainly pull their share of the load in the Alaskan way of life. Here you will learn more about the smart, hard-working, lovable dog breeds of Alaska.
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The Alaskan Malamute stands out as the most iconic of the Alaskan dog breeds, even being named Alaska’s state dog in 2010. These dogs are thought to have come to North America thousands of years ago when hunters crossed the Bering Strait. It is believed that they were most likely bred by the Mahlemiut Inuit people, giving rise to their name.
These hefty dogs were primarily bred to haul heavy packages for long distances. This makes the Alaskan Malamute a fantastic hauler, but they are not generally used for speed. What these dogs lack in speed, they make up with endurance and strength.
On top of hauling, these dogs would help in bear and seal hunts. Though they look intimidating, Malamutes are gentle and affectionate. They are pack animals and thrive in close family units.
Despite their large size, these dogs do not make good guard or watchdogs because of how friendly they are. These big teddy bears still need a lot of activity, however, and do not fare well in hot weather because of their thick coats. An active family in a cooler climate makes a perfect home for these gentle giants.
Height: 24 to 27 inches (males); 22 to 24 inches (females)
Weight: 75 to 100+ pounds
Physical Characteristics: Hefty, sturdy build with a tightly curled tail and thick, dense, double-layered coat that can be white, gray, black, brown, or red.
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Like the Alaskan Malamute, the Alaskan husky was bred for work. However, these dogs feature a smaller frame than the Malamute and are built for speed. Not to be confused with Siberian huskies, the Alaskan husky is a relatively new breed. They are not yet registered and are still considered to be a hybrid dog. Also sometimes referred to as an Alaskan sled dog, these dogs have dominated the sport of sled dog racing.
Alaskan huskies originated from Siberian huskies, which were brought over from Russia by fur trader William Goosak. Once the people of Alaska saw firsthand how well these dogs performed in sled races, they began to breed them with other dogs to achieve the particular qualities they were looking for, such as endurance, strength, and speed. Common crosses included the German shorthaired pointer and greyhound, which is why the Alaskan husky looks rather different than their wolf-like, blue-eyed Siberian cousins.
Because of their hybrid origins, these dogs vary greatly in size, weight, coat color and pattern.
Alaskan huskies are workhorses with loads of energy. They require a home that can give them the exercise they need every day, such as long-distance running or rigorous hiking. They are also very pack oriented and form close, loyal bonds with their people.
If you are looking for an adventure buddy with endless energy to follow you to the ends of the earth, this could be the right Alaskan dog breed for you.
Height: 20 to 22 inches
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized dog with a strong, sturdy build; the double-layered coat can be short or medium-length and can come in almost any color or pattern.
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As its name suggests, the Alusky is a hybrid dog: a cross between the Siberian husky and the Alaskan malamute. This hybrid breed was developed to combine the speed of the husky with the strength of the Malamute, making them a wonderful balance between the two while at work or pulling sleds.
The exact origins of the Alusky are not known, and this breed is difficult to find outside of the arctic regions it calls home. Adopting qualities from both parents, the Alusky is a kind, people-loving dog with high intelligence and energy.
Because of their loving nature towards people, they do not make good watchdogs. They also do not like to be separated from their human family. These happy, lovable dogs do well with a close, active family living in cold-weather regions.
Height: 23 to 28 inches
Weight: 60 to 100 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long, sturdy, strong body with a bushy tail; the double-layered coat varies widely in color and can include gray, black, red, brown, tan, white, and cream.
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Though the Alaskan Klee Kai shares the same striking features as the sled dogs on this list, it weighs no more than 20 pounds. In fact, the name “Klee Kai” comes from the word meaning “little dog” in the Inuit language. You'll find that these dogs come in standard, miniature, and toy sizes that look like smaller replicas of their larger husky relatives.
The Klee Kai was not bred for work, but instead for companionship. A relatively new dog breed, it was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1997 but has yet to receive AKC breed recognition. The breed got its start when one woman, Linda Spurlin, set out to develop a small companion breed after seeing an especially small Siberian Husky in Oklahoma.
To accomplish this goal, Spurlin bred huskies with similar dogs of smaller stature such as the Eskimo dog and Schipperke. Though the Alaskan Klee Kai lacks the size and intense work drive of its husky ancestors, these little pups have plenty of energy.
This Alaskan dog breed is loving, playful, and intelligent but wary of strangers. This makes them loyal family members and wonderful watchdogs. Keep in mind that their wariness of strangers makes socializing and training important tasks throughout their life.
Height: 13 to 17 inches
Weight: 10 to 20 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small stature with thick, double-layered fur that outlines the dog; the coat may be black, gray, or red on the back and around the eyes, with white predominant on the belly, legs, and lower half of the face and muzzle.
From hard-working sled haulers to energetic and loyal companions, Alaskan dog breeds are well equipped for the harsh climate and terrain. Both the large and small varieties among these breeds love to run and make loyal, loving companions.
The striking wolf-like appearance of these breeds appeal to many dog lovers, but be sure to put in the needed research before adopting an Alaskan dog breed. Their intense exercise needs require the right home situation to keep them healthy and happy, and their thick coats make them ill-suited for hot weather climates.