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How To Exercise Alaskan Malamute Dogs


The easiest exercise method of all that we probably can ALL participate in on some level would be simply walking our dogs. Be prepared, however, because the malamute will just be getting started when you are thinking it is time to quit!

We went on a walk yesterday with our 4-1/2 month old Griffin and Denaya who is 7-8 years old. We had intended to only walk for an hour and somehow ended up doing an incredible marathon of 7-8 miles. We were wilted by the time we got home but they were quite satisfied. It is frightening to think how much energy they possess as compared to us mere humans!

Photos by Audrey Kirchner Griffin the Malamute

Photos by Audrey Kirchner Griffin the Malamute

Walking is the simplest form of exercise for any of us and obviously comes without the added expense of much in the way of equipment. A sturdy pair of walking shoes, collar and leash should have you at the ready to begin your walking experience with your dog. To round out your ensemble for walking, it is recommended that at all times you carry waste bags for collecting any dog waste product that may occur while on the walk and water of some sort just in case. You never know what you might encounter. Having an expandable water bowl or a bowl that folds down and straps to your belt is a nice addition. I also carry a walking stick simply because where we live, it is an area notorious for loose dogs of all breeds and although I've never had to use the stick, I like having it available to me "just in case".

There are a multitude of opportunities available in every city and town for walking your dogs. You can be as selective as your own neighborhood or as adventerous as you wish by doing actual hikes out in more desolate places. It is recommended on hiking in the wilderness that you investigate though whether it is safe to take a dog on a specific hike as in some national forests for instance, a dog on the trail is a huge threat to everyone and may bring out wildlife that you would be better off not meeting, for instance cougars or bears. In some parks, taking your dog out of the car is prohibited, so again, it is a good idea to do your homework and investigate the area if extremely rural when you plan your hike. A little planning ahead could ward off a potential disaster as many times wildlife will attack on scenting a dog. Checking with the National Park Service or the Forestry Service is also a good idea to see if there are any restrictions for dogs.

There are also numerous books available on most locales detailing some of the best hiking areas and even difficulty of trails. The beauty of today's libraries and/or Internet is that you can find basically any information on any given region in moments. You can research and find out the best city walks to take your dog on or you can research and find the best trails to go hiking in the wilderness with your 4-legged friends. Just be sure that you do pay attention to any disclaimers or safety issues as a dog of any breed caught in a dangerous situation is counterproductive to you having a good exercise experience with your dog!

Always make sure you are aware of the weather and that you are appropriately dressed for your outing. Again, making sure that you have adequate water and/or snacks is a good preparation to make if you are doing any longer distance hiking/walking for both you and your canine friends. We always make sure that we also have a cell phone with us, especially if we are going somewhere off the beaten path so that in the event of an emergency, we could summon help. We also like to carry a digital camera with us as we like to capture our surroundings and the dogs with us; as well it provides a memory of what we did, what we saw, when we were there and how it all went.

Where we live, there is a beautiful set of trails in the Bend, Oregon area and we have frequently taken our dogs there for exercising. You can walk the trails for hours and see many different things at any given time of year. There is also the river, where some folks let their dogs go in for a swim. There is also a huge dog park where many people take their dogs on a regular basis and let them have a free run. We do not frequent the dog park because we found that it was covered in bark and dirt and the nuisance that creates for the woolly nature of Griffin's fur precludes us from doing that since we end up spending hours untangling bark from his fur! However, the dog park is a beautiful park and the dogs inside obviously enjoy it! There are further miles and miles of excellent walking paths, however, for the dogs, complete with doggie waste bags and trash cans all along the way. You can also use the paths for jogging obviously and for biking - with or without your dog. There is also the added benefit of many restaurants that allow you to sit outside and have your companion dog with you as well.

For the most part, if you want to walk your malamute or high energy dog, you can find a place to do that much to the dog's benefit as well as your own, even if it is just a high school track that you walk around. They say walking is the best form of exercise and I always feel refreshed after some time out of doors away from all the pressing matters of everyday life, having the opportunity to clear my head and think of nothing other than my dog(s) as well as a bit of Mother Nature. They enjoy the attention and they enjoy the experience as well.

Griffin at the dog park

Griffin at the dog park

Jogging With Your Malamute

Just like walking your dog, you can accommodate most any area that you can walk your dog to jogging with your dog. However, malamutes in particular are sometimes very distractible, so it is suggested that you always keep your eye on what is going on around you.

I am famous for usually trying to multitask to the extreme, so listening to my IPOD while jogging if I tried it with my dogs would probably be right up my alley IF I was a jogger. Fortunately I am not or I would have more experiences to relate. I have a hard enough go of it at times keeping control of the leash when the malamutes become distracted over something I did not anticipate or see right away. Adding listening to tunes might just be pushing the envelope. For that reason, I always walk without listening to music! If you are in charge of 100 pounds to 200 pounds of dog, I always think it is best to remain focused on that one task for the moment. It is easy to get upended by one dog let alone two of that size simply because you weren't anticipating sudden moves.

If you jog with your malamute or your high energy dog, you are definitely giving them even more of the vigorous exercise that they crave. Again, the simple precaution of making sure that you bring water for them (and yourself) is worthwhile no matter what the weather. Malamutes in particular are quite fast runners although their nature ends up being more of a "digging" and pulling response than some dogs; meaning that they have a tendency to put their shoulders into their running and usually bear down as if they were pulling loads behind them. They do run well but they are sometimes very interested in all that is going on around them, so keeping an eye on them is essential. They also tend to "drift" if not directed firmly to stay to one side or another and can get in the way of the walker's or runner's stride very frequently.

When running with your dog, it is still important to make sure you are responsible in taking care of any dog waste on your jaunt. Dog-friendly places are again extremely good for jogging as usually they provide us all with the supplies needed in case we forgot to bring our own. Having appropriate footwear again is paramount to you having a good experience, and keeping an eye on the dog to make sure it is not excessively tiring or in need of a water break or bathroom break is important.

Also not running at the hottest part of the day can increase the efficacy of running for a malamute simply because they do overheat in the hot part of a day. If it is cool weather, they probably could run forever, but on warmer days, they would be best run early or late. Allowing frequent breaks for water again is a must.

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There are many breeds that I see folks jogging with that do not "require" a leash and even though there are signs posted that the dogs should BE on a leash, they seem to know their dogs will behave and they do. I have yet to see a problem arise from that. However, the malamutes are a breed known for the "prison break" and I would not recommend ever attempting to jog anywhere with them unleashed! In my case, it would be a jogging experience that could go on forever as I would be in hot pursuit of them! I often dream of letting them run unleashed on the beach but think that dream will need to stay just that - a dream! The few instances where they have been off lead, they have shown an ability for sudden speed that I have never seen before; however, the thought of actually staying with us does not appear to have crossed their mind. They are simply long gone and the only way to get them back is to go in pursuit - with a car preferably because we never can catch up to them.

Bikejoring Competition

Public Domain Photo

Public Domain Photo

Bikejoring As Exercise

Another form of exercising them that involves malamutes running is great if you have the ability. It is called bikejoring. This involves having a harness on your dogs and a towline that connects them to the bicycle while you ride it. They run ahead of you connected to the towline and you pedal the bike. The outlay for equipment again would be the bicycle (and most definitely a helmet and some elbow and knee pads - if not a full rubber suit or perhaps a bubble).

You would also need the harness(es) and towline that you can purchase on-line under sledding equipment (see link). It is a great way to exercise malamutes or any high energy dogs; however, the athletic agility that is required is something to keep in mind. It can be a wonderful way to run your dog but it can also be a very dangerous one because the risk of falling to the human involved is great! Again though for someone very athletic, this is a great form of exercise not only for the human counterpart but for the dog as well!

In bikejoring, the most important points would be to know the area that you are planning to exercise in, i.e. the terrain, knowing the amount of traffic at the time you plan to exercise with your dogs and keeping your exercising to times when there are less people/less dogs - at least to start out with.

Training the dog(s) beforehand also is paramount to a good experience and especially learning the most important word - "whoa" or "stop" in some form. Oftentimes when there is a fall, the dog or dogs do not even know that their rider is missing or has fallen and keep running, usually with the bike in tow.

It would be best as well to start with one dog and work up to adding others until expertise at controlling one dog is assured. Once a malamute knows that there is pulling involved, he or she will rise to the occasion and seek to pull you as quickly and for as long as possible.

A good way to teach a malamute to pull a bike before you attempt it with them running full tilt is to have the dog harnessed and on the towline, then WALK the bike behind them teaching them a little at a time in terms of commands. Make clear what you expect. Standard mushing commands can be used or commands that you and the dog understand between you. It does not take long at all for them to master it. Again though, most important command - WHOA.

It can be a great form of exercise but the preparation and training beforehand is essential to a positive experience. The malamute will almost always have a positive experience, however, the training ensures that the human will also! It is a great sport only given the breed, speed and their total involvement can become quickly overwhelming for the novice especially if you fall and are covered in road rash. Always remember that there is roughly at least 100 pounds of torque PER DOG pulling you through space and have a healthy respect for that!

YouTube Video on Bikejoring

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Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on November 10, 2009:

It just somehow happened that we ended up with one and it just has never been the same....for 2 old farts like us, we should NOT be having such big and thoroughly "involved" dogs but the deed is done - we are in dog love and guess it'll always be that way now!

Nell Rose from England on November 10, 2009:

I had never heard the word mamalute before I read your hub but of course I recognised the type of dog. They are lovely. It makes me wish I could have one, but the great outdoors is not the problem, it is the fact that I live up two flights of stairs! But my brother is moving soon....! lol Nell

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