Shandael Alaskan Malamutes

The Wolf in Dog's Clothing
Margaret A Cleek, Ph.D


In order to protect our breed, I developed this educational brochure for the Alaskan Malamute Club of America.



  1. Introduction
  2. What is a wolf-hybrid?
  3. How does it differ from a dog and a wolf?
  4. Why does the Alaskan Malamute Club of America care if people breed wolf hybrids?
  5. But aren't Malamutes part wolf?
  6. What is it about Malamutes that makes them good pets?
  7. What is it about hybrids that makes them unsuitable as pets?
  8. I have a friend who has a 78% timber wolf puppy and he's a great pet, so how can you say that they aren't suitable pets?
  9. You guys have a pretty strong opinion...but, if these dog/wolves are such a problem, how come so many people are selling and owning them?
  10. Ok, you guys have got me thinking, where can I find out more?



The Alaskan Malamute Club of America is strongly opposed to the breeding of wolf-hybrids. The Club is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the Alaskan Malamute as a pure breed of dog. Furthermore, the AMCA Code of Ethics dictates that "no member shall be involved in the breeding or selling of wolf-hybrid dogs, and no member shall knowingly sell a Malamute or provide stud service to any person known to breed wolf-hybrids."
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What is a wolf-hybrid?

The wolf hybrid is an exotic wild/domestic cross. It is a mixture of one or more types of wolf with any combination of domestic dog. In the United States there is no recognized standard of type and temperament for wolf hybrids.

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How does it differ from a dog and a wolf?

The dog is a domesticated animal whose genes for appearance, temperament and behavior have been manipulated through selective breeding by man for tens of thousands of years. It is so far removed from its wild instincts that it has lost all fear of humans and in fact is no longer capable of existing without the care and stewardship of human beings. It has been selected for its ability to adapt to the demands of human society and is able to cope with a wide range of living conditions.

The wolf is a wild animal, the product of natural selection. It has an innate fear of humans and is cautious of all unfamiliar situations. It is capable of hunting and fending for itself without the intervention of humans. It has a well-defined social order and behavioral pattern and is not adaptable to situations which deviate from this social order.

The wolf hybrid is a cross of the domestic dog with the wild wolf and thus a blend of wild and domestic genes. There is no way to predict or manipulate how these diverse genes will combine to express themselves in terms of appearance or behavior. One animal may look dog-like but be wolf in terms of behavior. The exact opposite may be true of another animal. Since one cannot calculate how the genetic mix will express itself in a given animal, the terms 75% wolf, 50% wolf etc. are meaningless. Some gene combinations are potentially dangerous: for example the predatory instincts of the wolf combined with the dog's lack of fear of humans.

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Why does the Alaskan Malamute Club of America care if people breed wolf hybrids?

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America is dedicated to the welfare and preservation of the Alaskan Malamute as a pure breed of dog. We are committed to education of prospective Malamute owners and development of responsible ownership of the Alaskan Malamute. We are strongly opposed to the adulteration of the Alaskan Malamute through cross breeding with wolves, and are committed to education to discourage hybridizing.

Unfortunately the Alaskan Malamute is one of the preferred choices for crossing with wolves and it is often difficult for the non-expert to tell the difference between some wolf hybrids and some Alaskan Malamutes. We are concerned that Malamutes are being implicated in incidents involving wolf hybrids. We are also concerned that legislation enacted to control the wolf hybrid may include the Alaskan Malamute if it is erroneously believed that the Alaskan Malamute is part wolf.

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But aren't Malamutes part wolf?


To the untrained eye the Alaskan Malamute may look like a wolf. This confusion is natural when one considers that Malamutes are often used in movies to play the part of a wolf. But the Malamute is not a wolf or even part wolf.

Some unreliable sources report that the Eskimos routinely crossed their dogs with wolves. Given that they had to trust their dogs with their very lives and that crosses were known to be unreliable and untrainable, this is highly unlikely. The Eskimos knew to avoid hybridizing and so should we.

The Malamute may seem to some to have wolf-like behavior. As a natural dog it is more in tune with pack behavior than some other breeds, and they have a well-developed hunting instinct. It also tends to howl and "woo-woo" rather than bark.

The Malamute is a natural dog domesticated for thousands of years. It is a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and the States Kennel Club as well as other registries. It has a recognized standard for type and temperament and reputable breeders strive to maintain this standard.

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What is it about Malamutes that makes them good pets?

The Alaskan Malamute is a domesticated dog that has lived in the company of the Malhemut Eskimos for thousands of years. The survival of the Malhemut people was dependent upon their dogs. The Alaskan Malamute dog is independent, yet loyal and hard working. It is responsive to discipline and direction from people and is highly trainable. Since the Eskimos shared dog teams among members of the village, the Malamute did not develop as a one person dog. Thus they are friendly to most people and unsuitable for guard work. It is very stable in stressful situations and adapts easily to changes in routine and living conditions. It is generally good with children and is an excellent family companion. Because of its size, it may be a handful as a pup, but with consistent kindness and discipline it can become a model citizen upon maturity. Yet the Malamute is not for everyone. Reputable breeders screen potential puppy buyers to make sure that they can provide the proper care and training that the Malamute requires.

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What is it about hybrids that makes them unsuitable as pets?

Because there is no standard for the hybrid, and because the wolf component varies from animal to animal, (some so-called "hybrids" are pure dogs), it is difficult to discuss the "typical" wolf hybrid. In general, the wolf hybrid is a ten-thousand-year step backward in the development of a canine companion to human beings. It is a genetic and behavioral unknown whose wild and domestic nature are always at odds. It has a limited capacity to bond with humans and is often not able to transfer that bond to a new owner. It operates under wolf rules and will not accept the discipline of humans. It is extremely intelligent, but does not accept direction and is therefore difficult to train. It is not equipped to handle the stresses of life in the company of humans and suffers from a vast array of emotional and behavioral problems. Wolf hybrid behavior is unpredictable. The animal may appear domesticated but something may spontaneously trigger throw-back wild behavior. They are not capable of handling the stress of life in the company of humans and may not accept the direction and leadership of human companions. Unstable characteristics include: hyperactivity, compulsive pacing, chewing, scent marking, digging and climbing, howling, fear of strange people and objects, fear biting and diarrhea when stressed, and extreme aggression toward other canines. Its wild instincts coupled with domesticated characteristics make for extremely unpredictable and sometimes dangerous behavior. It is almost impossible to kennel and may become highly destructive. As with many wild animal "pets" it may be appealing as an immature animal, but becomes increasingly difficult to control and unappealing as it reaches maturity.

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I have a friend who has a 78% timber wolf puppy and he's a great pet, so how can you say that they aren't suitable pets?

Several issues may come into play here. Some so-called wolf hybrid owners have good pets because their pets are not wolf hybrids at all, but are pure dog. There is no way for a purchaser to tell what he or she is getting. Many unscrupulous people are selling mongrel pups as wolf cubs. It is estimated that of 500,000 so called wolf hybrids in the U.S., 200,000 are not wolf mixes at all.

Another issue to consider is that like many wild animal "pets", wolf hybrids may be suitable pets as puppies but upon maturity may become untrustworthy and uncontrollable. "Puppy" may be the operative word here and your friend may experience increasing problems as his animal reaches sexual maturity at age 3.

It should also be noted that wolf hybrid behavior differs greatly depending on the percentage of wolf, the combination of genes, the age of the animal, and the conditions under which it is kept. In short, wolf hybrid behavior is highly unpredictable. It is entirely possible that one animal may be capable of limited adaptability as a pet, and another littermate may be totally unsuitable. Even if your friend does indeed have a "great pet", the exception never proves the rule. Due to factors such as stress, escape and subsequent accidental death, and destruction because of owner's inability to handle a sexually mature animal, 90% of wolf hybrids do not make it to their third birthday.

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You guys have a pretty strong opinion...but, if these dog/wolves are such a problem, how come so many people are selling and owning them?

Our point exactly...there is a need for education concerning the care and ownership of dogs and wolf hybrids.

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America wishes you to consider carefully the duties and obligations required of any pet owner. Being a responsible owner means providing a healthy and safe living environment, adequate socialization and training, and a lifetime of care and love. And all pet dogs should be neutered or spayed. Breeding is a lifetime commitment to the welfare of all animals produced and should only be undertaken by those willing to assume this responsibility.

The ownership of an exotic or wild animal carries obligations far in excess of those of the domestic pet owner. The owner of an exotic has to understand and cope with wild instincts and dispositions. Potential liability is great and the hybrid owner has an obligation to protect the public from a potentially dangerous animal. Laws are becoming more stringent; there is a movement afoot to have people prosecuted and jailed for incidents involving injury or death caused by their animals. The breeder of the wolf hybrid must consider if buyers can properly meet the needs of the animals he or she produces.

The romantic appeal of the wolf hybrid is undeniable; to control and be loved by the wild and uncontrollable has a real appeal to some people. But the reality is that the wolf hybrid is nothing like the romantic fantasy you imagine. Zoos and refuges are swamped by desperate calls from people trying to unload an animal that is nothing like their fantasy. Hybridizing is perhaps the worst of a long list of abuses man has heaped upon the wolf.

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Ok, you guys have got me thinking, where can I find out more?

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America would like you to be aware of the following information:

It is very difficult to tell the difference between some dogs and some wolf hybrids. There are morphological and behavioral differences between Malamutes and hybrids which experienced breeders and students of canine behavior can identify. But since some purebred Malamutes can look wolf-like and some hybrids may look like a dog, it takes a skilled observer of both body type and behavior to tell the difference.

There are techniques being developed to distinguish dogs from hybrids, but these techniques are not yet available to the public. We would caution anyone to be sure before calling any animal of unknown origin an Alaskan Malamute.

We are committed to working with Animal Control and Humane Societies to further define the distinction between our breed and the wild outcrosses.

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