Alaskan Klee Kai: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

An Alaskan Klee Kai dog prancing on the grass

mauinow1 / Getty Images

The Alaskan klee kai is a small dog breed originating in the United States that has medium-length, wiry fur and resembles a miniature husky. It does, in fact, have huskies in its ancestry mixed with other breeds to diminish its size. It comes in three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard. With its high energy, intelligence, and alert nature, the Alaskan klee kai can be quite the handful compared to some other dogs its size. Still, it generally is very loyal and bonds closely with its owners.

Breed Overview

GROUP: N/A

HEIGHT: 13 inches and under (toy), 13 to 15 inches (miniature), 15 to 17.5 inches (standard)

WEIGHT: 6 to 12 pounds (toy), 10 to 18 pounds (miniature), 16 to 25 pounds (standard)

COAT: Medium-length, wiry

COAT COLOR: Black and white, gray and white, or red and white

LIFE SPAN: 13 to 16 years

TEMPERAMENT: Alert, loyal, intelligent

HYPOALLERGENIC: No

ORIGIN: United States

Characteristics of the Alaskan Klee Kai

Being energetic and alert are hallmarks of the Alaskan klee kai’s personality. They have playful personalities and tend to love their owners but be wary of strangers. 

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Low
Kid-Friendly Low
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Alaskan Klee Kai

An Alaskan breeder named Linda Spurlin began the development of Alaskan klee kai in the 1970s. Spurlin wanted to create a smaller version of the huskies she was familiar with that had her ideal look and temperament. 

Using selective breeding, she crossed Alaskan and Siberian huskies with American Eskimo dogs and schipperkes. The result was a small dog that still could handle the rough Alaskan terrain and could be a good companion. The name klee kai comes from the indigenous Athabaskan language and means “little dog.” 

The breed is still fairly rare but has gained popularity over the decades. The American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize it yet, but it accepted the breed into Foundation Stock Service (which records breeding) in 2020.

Alaskan Klee Kai Care

As high-energy and intelligent dogs, Alaskan klee kai need lots of physical activity and mental stimulation. They are moderately receptive to training, as they can be both smart and stubborn at times. Furthermore, their grooming is relatively straightforward. 

Exercise

These dogs need an active owner who can give them at least a solid hour of exercise per day. A bored Alaskan klee kai can easily engage in problem behaviors, such as becoming destructive or excessively vocal.

Long walks, jogs, and hikes are ideal, as Alaskan klee kai generally have excellent endurance. Dog sports, such as agility, also can help to challenge them both mentally and physically. And food puzzles can keep your dog busy when you need a break.

Make sure to keep your dog on a leash or in a secure fenced area. These dogs can be difficult to train to come when they’re called. And despite their small size, they have the athleticism to run away quickly.

Grooming

These dogs have a short, dense undercoat and a medium-length, wiry outer coat. They shed a moderate amount, though shedding typically increases twice a year in the spring and fall. Brush at least weekly to remove loose fur and prevent mats; up to daily brushing might be necessary during the high-shedding periods. 

Fortunately, the coat naturally repels dirt and stays pretty clean, so usually only the occasional bath is necessary. Check your dog’s nails once a month or so to see whether they need trimming. And aim to brush its teeth daily.

Training

These bright dogs generally are quick to learn and enjoy mental challenges. However, they also have an independent and free-thinking side to their personality that can complicate training. They tend to respond well to positive and rewards-based training methods. Making training seem like a game to them often is a great way to get results. 

Aim to start training as early as possible with a puppy obedience class. And start socializing your dog when it’s still young as well. Alaskan klee kai can be reserved around strangers and often bark when something is unsettling to them. So providing them with positive experiences around different people and situations can help to build their comfort and confidence.

Alaskan Klee Kai dog with head looking up at the camera

Hyrel / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain 

Side profile of an Alaskan Klee Kai dog

bon9 / Getty Images

Alaskan klee kai dog and puppy
kali9 / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Alaskan klee kai overall are healthy dogs. But the breed still is prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Alaskan klee kais as pets illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available to your dog. And feed a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. Discuss the proper variety and quantity with your vet, as this can vary based on size, age, and other factors.

Most owners feed two measured meals per day. Putting meals in a puzzle feeder rather than a bowl can help to provide your dog with some mental stimulation. As active dogs, Alaskan klee kai aren’t prone to becoming overweight. But it’s still important to measure their food and monitor treat intake to prevent overeating. 

Where to Adopt or Buy an Alaskan Klee Kai

The Alaskan klee kai is a rare dog breed, so it’s not likely that you’ll often come across one at an animal shelter. Still, it’s always worth checking shelters and breed-specific rescue groups to see whether there’s one in need of a home. For a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $1,500 to $3,000, though this can vary widely. Breeders also can be difficult to find depending on where you live. To help connect you with an Alaskan klee kai, check out:

Alaskan Klee Kai Overview

Pros
  • Intelligent

  • Loyal

  • Has the appearance of a husky but can live in a smaller space

Cons
  • Needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation

  • Can be wary of strangers

  • Can be very vocal

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you bring home an Alaskan klee kai, do plenty of research to make sure the breed is right for your lifestyle. Speak to veterinarians, klee kai owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups. Also, try to meet some Alaskan klee kai in person to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Alaskan klee kai good family dogs?

    Well trained and socialized Alaskan klee kai can be good around older children who understand how to behave around a dog. However, these dogs don't tend to be patient with young and/or rambunctious children and consequently might nip.

  • Are Alaskan klee kai good apartment dogs?

    Alaskan klee kai are small dogs that typically do well in apartments. However, as an active breed, it's imperative that they get outside for daily exercise.

  • Are Alaskan klee kai rare?

    The Alaskan klee kai originated in the 1970s, and it's still a fairly rare dog breed today. It can be difficult to find at both breeders and rescue groups, depending on where you live.

Article Sources
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  1. Alaskan Klee Kai. American Kennel Club.

  2. Frequently Asked Questions. Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America.