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. Dogsledding is still a popular mode of transportation around the frigid landscape. And such a harsh area of the world requires a tough dog. Alaskan dog breeds are well equipped for the climate and terrain. They tend to be hardy, athletic, and energetic. And they make loving, loyal companions.
Here are four dog breeds that hail from Alaska.
Most Alaskan dog breeds have very similar features. This includes their tapered heads, sharply pointed ears, and curled tails. They also have thick, water-resistant coats and sturdy, muscular builds.
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.
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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. 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. What these dogs lack in speed, they make up with endurance and strength. On top of hauling, the dogs would help in bear and seal hunts.
Although they look intimidating, Malamutes tend to be gentle and affectionate. They are pack animals and thrive in close family units. These big teddy bears still need a lot of activity and don't fare well in hot weather because of their thick coats. An active family in a cool climate would be ideal.
Height: 24 to 27 inches (male); 22 to 24 inches (female)
Weight: 75 to 100+ pounds
Physical Characteristics: Hefty, sturdy build; tightly curled tail; thick, dense, double coat; 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. They have dominated the sport of sled dog racing.
Alaskan huskies originated from Siberian huskies and were bred with other dogs to achieve better speed, endurance, and strength. Common crosses included the German shorthaired pointer and greyhound. Because of their hybrid origin, Alaskan huskies 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 lots of exercise every day, such as long-distance running or rigorous hiking. They are also very pack oriented and form close, loyal bonds with their people.
Height: 20 to 22 inches
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Strong, sturdy build; double coat that can be short or medium-length; can come in almost any color or pattern
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As its name suggests, the Alusky is a hybrid: a cross between the Siberian husky and the Alaskan Malamute. This hybrid dog breed was developed to combine the speed of the husky with the strength of the Malamute.
The exact origin of the Alusky is not known, and this breed is difficult to find outside of the Arctic regions it calls home. Adopting qualities from both its parent breeds, the Alusky is a kind, people-loving dog with high intelligence and energy.
Because of their loving nature toward people, Aluskies don't make good watchdogs. They also don't like to be separated from their human family. These happy, lovable dogs do well with a close, active family living in a cool climate.
Height: 23 to 28 inches
Weight: 60 to 100 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long, sturdy, strong body; bushy tail; thick double coat; varies widely in color and can include gray, black, red, brown, tan, white, and cream
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Although the Alaskan klee kai shares the same striking features as the large sled dogs on this list, it generally weighs no more than 20 pounds. In fact, the name “klee kai” comes from the term meaning “little dog” in the Inuit language.
The klee kai was not bred for work but instead for companionship. To develop the breed, Siberian huskies were crossed with similar dogs of smaller stature, including the American Eskimo dog and Schipperke. Though the Alaskan klee kai lacks the size and intense work drive of its husky ancestors, these little pups still have plenty of energy.
These dogs tend to be loving, playful, and intelligent but wary of strangers. This makes them loyal family members and wonderful watchdogs. However, they do need ample training and socialization to make sure their protectiveness doesn't become problematic.
Height: 13 to 17 inches
Weight: 10 to 20 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small stature; thick double coat; can 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